Improving safety barriers to reduce road deaths and serious injuries

While conventional road safety guardrails have effectively reduced fatalities in road accidents, they have not prevented increasing cases of serious injuries.

Swinburne’s Dr Shanqing Xu, Professor Dong Ruan and Associate Professor Hing Ho Tsang have received $358,980 funding from the Australian Government’s Road Safety Innovation Fund to assess standard barrier systems and optimise emerging safety roller barrier technology – a potential game changer for road safety.

A safety roller barrier (SRB) is a steel rail safety barrier consisting of vertical steel posts that support a series of yellow ethylene vinyl acetate rollers.

Evidence shows that SRBs have simultaneously reduced fatalities and serious injuries owing to its unique mechanism of impact protection. However, thorough understanding of this technology is still very limited.

Swinburne will work with industry partner KSI Global Australia to optimise their safety roller barriers.

“Our project will systematically assess standard systems and new road safety barriers by using advanced impact testing and finite element modelling,” says Dr Xu.

Finite element modelling is a widely used method for numerically solving engineering equations. It analyses multilayered complex shape structures, including quasi-static, dynamic and fatigue loadings.

The shape and configurations of individual structural components in the SRB system, including rollers, posts and guardrails as well as the post spacing, will then be optimised.

The combination of all the components will then be assessed to create a new roller barrier system with enhanced safety performance.

“We expect the new designs developed in this project will contribute significantly to the reduction of fatalities and serious injuries in vehicle crashes on the road,” says Associate Professor Tsang.

“This is aligned with the Government’s targets to reduce rates of death and serious injuries on roads by at least 50 per cent and 30 per cent respectively by 2030.”

The project will develop technical know-how to enable Australian researchers and companies to play a leading role in cutting-edge road safety technology and products.

It will also provide technical data for safe application of the SRB system and facilitate the development of a national standard for this emerging technology.

“I am grateful for any improvements we can make to the product because ultimately this will mean more safety roller barriers on our roads, which will dramatically reduce fatalities and serious injuries,” says spokesperson for KSI Global Australia, John Wheatland.

“The new knowledge gained in this project will promote an understanding of the SRB technology and offer intellectual and commercial opportunities in Australia and globally,” adds Professor Ruan.

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