The National Academies

NCHRP 05-21 [Active]

Safety and Performance Criteria for Retroreflective Pavement Markers

  Project Data
Funds: $675,000
Staff Responsibility: William C. Rogers
Research Agency: Texas A&M Transportation Institute
Principal Investigator: Paul Carlson
Effective Date: 9/1/2015
Completion Date: 6/30/2018
Comments: Project underway


Retroreflective pavement markers (RPMs) have been used throughout the world since they were patented in the United Kingdom in 1934. Their use was called into question by NCHRP Project 17-28, Pavement Marking Materials and Markers: Safety Impact and Cost Effectiveness, which was completed in 2004, and summarized in NCHRP Research Results Digest 305. The research, using the number of crashes in California by severity per unit of time and distance, produced results that were controversial among many researchers and practitioners: “no statistically significant relationship was found between safety and the retroreflectivity of pavement markings and markers.” While the research limitations have been pointed out in numerous areas, the only conclusion that can be agreed on by all is that more research is needed, particularly, on the interaction between the driver and roadway environment. One effort to address the issue was SHRP 2 Safety Project S08D, Analysis of Naturalistic Driving Study Data: Roadway Departures on Rural Two-Lane Curves (http://www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/171254.aspx). The Naturalistic Driving Study (NDS) is the largest driving study ever undertaken and has produced unparalleled data from which to study the role of driver performance and behavior in traffic safety and how driver behavior affects the risks of crashes. The NDS data record how drivers really drive and what they are doing behind the wheel. In S08D, NDS and the Roadway Information Database (RID) were used to develop relationships between driver, roadway, and environmental characteristics and risk of a roadway departure on rural two-lane curves on paved roadways. The results of the research, based on driver performance rather than crash analysis, strongly suggest that the use of countermeasures such as RPMs that better delineate the curve may provide better advance information for drivers to perform safely. Research is needed to further analyze the performance of RPMs on driver performance at night, especially by drivers 60 years of age or older, on all roadways.

The objective of this research is to develop a guide for transportation practitioners that describes and evaluates the safety benefits, as shown by driver performance or other methods, of Retroreflective Pavement Markers (RPM), both raised and recessed, for nighttime driving, particularly during wet weather. The guide should address criteria and information for use and placement of RPMs which may include, but not be limited to the following:
  • 2-lane rural, urban multi-lane, limited access, and other roads in urban and rural areas
  • Tangent and horizontal curve sections
  • Use of RPMs in conjunction with other types of roadway delineation devices, roadway surface treatments, and lighting and their impacts on driver performance
  • The visibility needs of drivers, particularly those 60 years of age or older
  • Various types of RPMs, i.e., recessed, raised, snow-plowable, etc.
  • Development of performance measures and minimum RPM performance level

A kick-off teleconference of the research team and NCHRP shall be scheduled within 1 month of the contract’s execution. The work plan proposed must be divided into tasks, with each task described in detail. The tasks must be divided into two phases. Phase I will consist of information gathering and planning tasks, culminating in the submittal of an interim report. The interim report will describe the work completed in the Phase I tasks and provide an updated work plan for the Phase II tasks and an outline of the guide. The cost of Phase I shall not exceed $75,000. The updated Phase II work plan should address the manner in which the proposer intends to use the information obtained in Phase I to satisfy the project objective. A face-to-face interim meeting with NCHRP will be scheduled to discuss the interim report. Work on Phase II tasks shall not begin until the updated work plan is approved by NCHRP. The project schedule shall include 1 month for NCHRP review and approval of the interim report. The final deliverables will include the guide plus a final report that documents the entire research effort and other deliverables as described in the research plan. Deliverables should also include an executive summary that can be used to present key issues and conclusions to critical stakeholders. Proposers may recommend additional deliverables to support the project objective.
STATUS: Project underway.

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