Analyzing the influence of median cross-section design on highway safety using vehicle dynamics simulations

Jason S. Stine, Bridget C. Hamblin, Sean N. Brennan, Eric T. Donnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Although vehicle dynamics simulations have long been used in vehicle design and crash reconstruction, their use for highway design is rare. This paper investigates the safety of highway medians through iterative simulations of off-road median encroachments. The commercially available software CarSim was used to simulate over one hundred thousand encroachments, representing the entire passenger vehicle fleet and a wide range of encroachment angles, departure speeds, steering inputs, and braking inputs. Each individual simulation output was then weighted using data from previous studies to reflect the probability of each specific accident scenario occurring in a real-life median encroachment. Results of this analysis illustrate the relative influence of median cross-section geometry on the resulting accident outcomes. The simulations indicate that the overall safety of a highway median depends on the occurrence of both vehicle rollover and median crossover events, and the cross-section shape, slope, and width are all shown to greatly affect each of these incidents. An evaluation of the simulation results was conducted with vehicle trajectories from previous experimental crash tests. Further assessment of the aggregate simulation results to actual crash data was achieved through comparison with several databases of crash statistics. Both efforts showed a strong agreement between the simulations and the real-life crash data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1769-1777
Number of pages9
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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