Researchers Focusing on Safer and More Economical Road Surfaces

As your Oakland car accident law firm, The Brod Law Firm knows that collisions are often the result of a number of complex factors. An important part of our practice is reconstructing crashes to determine what happened. Often, a negligent driver is the primary cause of a crash. However, many other factors can contribute to the occurrence of an accident and the severity of any injuries. The Oakland Tribune recently interviewed a researcher who is studying an important element of safe driving – the quality and condition of the road itself.

Eighty-five year old Carl Monismith has spent his career studying pavement. Monismith recently retired from his role as director of the University of California Pavement Research Center. During the years following World War II, the highway system was in poor shape and the state assigned the program the task of testing pavement materials to help improve a highway system. The state Department of Transportation wanted to find a way to design and maintain road surfaces resistant to rutting and other decline. The program was boosted in 1989, with a National Strategic Highway Research Program that led to a $9.5 million asphalt testing project, and in 1994, with Caltrans’ interest in an accelerated pavement test program.

The Center uses two heavy vehicle simulators to run real wheels across pavement samples. Those machines allow the researchers to better understand the various substances that compose our roadways. Other pieces of equipment at the Center focus on the impact that water has on samples with results ranging from deformed to nearly-perfect surfaces. As Monismith notes, pavement failure stems from decay over time rather than a sudden event and the project seeks to mimic those conditions.

One study found involved apply a thin, porous layer or pavement on top of denser layers. This allowed rain to percolate through part of the road surface, causing the water to run off to the side or recharge the underlying ground water. The resulting surface helped to reduce decay and prevented hydroplaning. Additionally, skid resistance on the layered materials did not drop as quickly as it did on denser pavements and water did not tend to settle into ruts in the surface.

Aside from the on-road safety, the Center is also working to help with environmental matters. The researchers are looking at ways to recycle materials, improve fuel economy, and reduce road noise. One scientist at the Center’s Davis branch shared early results finding that, especially on high-volume roads, smoother roads can result in lower fuel consumption and reduced environmental impacts that more than compensate for the material costs. That branch’s director has also reported on improved pavements that allow air to escape, reducing the noise associated with highway traffic and thus decreasing the need for expensive sound barriers.

The Center has helped the industry shift from materials lasting 10 to 20 years to those lasting 40 to 50 years. This can make the use of polymers covering the surface much more cost-effective, especially when applied strategically. Overall, the goal is to provide materials analysis systems allowing road construction bodies to make choices that suit the road’s expected use and allow the road to last longer.

Good roads keep drivers safe, save communities money, and can make travelling more enjoyable. Our team encourages efforts that help reduce the number of collisions on Northern California roads.

As always, we are here to help accident victims of car accidents in Oakland and throughout our region. Please call so we can discuss your unique case and help you get all the compensation that you are owed.

For more details on the Pavement Research Center, visit their website.