When Managing Pavements, Manage Friction As Well

Pavement Preservation Journal, Winter 2012, Volume 5, Number 6

By Shakir Shatnawi, Ph.D., P.E.

Recent advancements in automated pavement condition surveys have made it easy for pavement engineers to collect pavement distress at highway speeds, and efficiently record pavement surface conditions such as rutting, cracking and faulting.

One area that has not been given adequate attention by some public agencies is pavement friction management.

According to the Federal Highway Administration’s Technical Advisory T5040.38 (Google “TA T5040.38”) dated June 17, 2010, the main purpose of pavement friction management program is to “minimize friction-related vehicle crashes by ensuring that new pavement surfaces are designed, constructed, and maintained to provide adequate and durable friction properties, identifying and correcting sections of roadways that have elevated friction-related
crash rates, and prioritizing use of resources to reduce friction-related vehicle crashes in a cost-effective manner.”

Friction relates to skid resistance, and has a significant relationship with accidents, especially during wet weather

Friction is one of the major factors that affect the number of collisions in a certain segment of highway. Research
conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board and FHWA indicated that about 70 percent of wet pavement crashes could be prevented or minimized by improved pavement friction. Fig. 1 illustrates the relationship between wet crashes and surface friction as measured at 50 miles per hour (Schulze et al., 1976).  Table 1 shows a strong relationship between friction and crash rate (Wallman and Astrom, 2001).

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