The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that over 35,000 Americans died in automobile accidents on the U.S. highway system in 2015, which was the largest annual percentage increase in almost five decades. Unfortunately, it seems the totals for 2016, which are still being compiled, will follow suit with even more fatalities.
One of the biggest causes of highway deaths is roadway departure crashes, and transportation officials are working to address the issue with countermeasures to improve the safety of highway drivers and passengers. High friction surface treatments (HFST) may be the solution they are looking for.
What Are High Friction Surface Treatments?
High Friction Surface Treatments are coatings that are added to roadways to increase the safety of their travelers. HFSTs are typically made up of a durable, polish-resistant aggregate (most commonly used is calcined bauxite) that is applied and bonded to the roadway using a strong polymer resin binder. Using HFSTs significantly increases the pavement friction or “traction” on roadways helping motorists maintain better control of their vehicles in both wet and dry driving conditions.
High friction surface treatments are used in areas that have higher numbers of crashes, including:
- Horizontal curves
- Intersections and ramps
- Bridge decks
- Sections at steep grades
- School zones
- Bus and bike lanes
HFSTs are applied to pavement either manually or, more commonly, by using a dispensing vehicle.
What Are the Benefits of High Friction Road Treatments?
The use of HFSTs can increase the safety of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians in the areas where they are applied. Additionally, they provide the following benefits:
- They reduce crashes, injuries, and deaths. States that have performed testing on high-crash areas treated with HFSTs report significant reductions in crashes involving injuries or fatalities.
- They are less expensive than realignment or other improvements. It is notably less expensive to use HFSTs to increase the safety of roadways than to have to realign or otherwise reconfigure them to prevent crashes.
- They are long-lasting and durable. The expected lifecycle of HFSTs is about ten years, which shows that they are a long-term and durable solution to problem roadways.
- They are customizable for different locations. The components used in HFSTs can be adjusted for different uses and in areas with severe climates.
- They produce measurable results. Several states have produced very favorable results when using HFSTs on their roadways. One significant study from Kentucky showed that the number of crashes experienced on 26 different horizontal curves was reduced from an average of 6.2 to 1.9 accidents per year.
- They have little to no impact environmentally or on traffic. Installing HFSTs takes a relatively short amount of time and they have very limited environmental impacts – especially when compared to road realignments.
Why Choose High Friction Surfacing Over Conventional Pavement or Asphalt?
Drivers will notice that there is an increase in the amount of “grip” that they feel when moving from traditional asphalt onto roadways that are covered with a high friction surface treatment. Additionally, HFSTs are an improvement over traditional surfaces because the high friction materials are resistant to polishing and abrasion, further reducing the chances of skidding and hydroplaning.
High friction surface treatments are an innovation that can reduce accidents and save lives.