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Objectives: Previous research conducted in the late 1980s suggested that vehicle impacts following an initial barrier collision increase severe occupant injury risk. Now over 25years old, the data are no longer representative of the currently installed barriers or the present US vehicle fleet. The purpose of this study is to provide a present-day assessment of secondary collisions and to determine if current full-scale barrier crash testing criteria provide an indication of secondary collision risk for real-world barrier crashes. Methods: To characterize secondary collisions, 1,363 (596,331 weighted) real-world barrier midsection impacts selected from 13years (1997-2009) of in-depth crash data available through the National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) / Crashworthiness Data System (CDS) were analyzed. Scene diagram and available scene photographs were used to determine roadside and barrier specific variables unavailable in NASS/CDS. Binary logistic regression models were developed for second event occurrence and resulting driver injury. To investigate current secondary collision crash test criteria, 24 full-scale crash test reports were obtained for common non-proprietary US barriers, and the risk of secondary collisions was determined using recommended evaluation criteria from National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 350. Results: Secondary collisions were found to occur in approximately two thirds of crashes where a barrier is the first object struck. Barrier lateral stiffness, post-impact vehicle trajectory, vehicle type, and pre-impact tracking conditions were found to be statistically significant contributors to secondary event occurrence. The presence of a second event was found to increase the likelihood of a serious driver injury by a factor of 7 compared to cases with no second event present. The NCHRP Report 350 exit angle criterion was found to underestimate the risk of secondary collisions in real-world barrier crashes. Conclusions: Consistent with previous research, collisions following a barrier impact are not an infrequent event and substantially increase driver injury risk. The results suggest that using exit-angle based crash test criteria alone to assess secondary collision risk is not sufficient to predict second collision occurrence for real-world barrier crashes.


Traffic injury prevention





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Civil and Environmental Engineering