Date of Award

5-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Engineering

Advisor

Wagner, John

Committee Member

Huey , Cecil

Committee Member

Burg , Timothy

Abstract

Each year, the total number of vehicles, motorists, highway infrastructures, and distance traveled by drivers increases on a global basis. This rise in personal and commercial ground vehicle usage brings with it the advantages of the modern age, but it is not without societal cost. Vehicular incidents result in tens of thousands of deaths each year in the United States alone. For this reason, research has been performed to advance driver safety while simultaneously providing wildlife with means to avoid animal-to-vehicle collisions (AVC). In this thesis, two solutions are proposed: a driver education program with classroom experiences, in-vehicle resources, and innovative assessment tools; and a redesigned Jersey highway barrier which offers driver notification and animal egress when wildlife cross roadways.
Vehicular crashes accounted annually for 41,338 and 37,648 fatalities between 1994 to 2009 in the United States and European Union, respectively (ECRS, 2012), (FARS, 2012). In general, the skills and experiences of novice drivers do not favorably compare to motorists with significantly greater driving time and life experiences. A safe driving program tailored to young drivers and their at risk behaviors has been collaboratively developed by Clemson University and the Richard Petty Driving Experience. This program educates novice motorists using both in-vehicle and classroom modules based on critical vehicular scenarios identified from accident databases. Appropriate attitudinal behaviors when operating a motor vehicle, general information for car maintenance, and vehicular control strategies are introduced during the classroom and in-vehicle roadway events. During the safe driving program, students participate in four modules: braking to realize proper stopping technique, obstacle avoidance curriculum to facilitate proper lane selection and collision avoidance, tailgating to learn about following distance, and loss of control to react when a vehicle is about to become laterally unstable. Students are evaluated using both in-vehicle instructor metrics and the objective based questionnaires which assess critical driving skills and attitudinal knowledge, respectively. The assessment results from twenty-six driving classes consisting of 662 drivers, whose ages primarily ranged from 15-20 years old, were analyzed. Overall, the participants demonstrated a nearly proficient safe driving skill level at the completion of their respective programs as evidenced by 71.3%, 79.1%, 81.4%, and 80.6% scores during the braking, obstacle avoidance, tailgating, and loss of control modules, respectively. Further, the students displayed while an average 16.4% increase between the pre-and post-test scores on general automotive safety knowledge.
Barriers are commonly used on roadways to separate vehicles traveling in opposing directions and to protect against possible head-on collisions. However, these barriers may interfere with wildlife passage such that animals become trapped on the road. Typically, small animals cannot find safe passage across all traffic lanes due to the presence of solid barriers and eventually die if struck by a vehicle. The occurrence of animal-to-vehicle collisions also presents a dangerous scenario for motorists as a driver may intuitively swerve to avoid hitting the animal. In this study, a redesigned Jersey style barrier, named the Clemson smart portal, will be presented and discussed. This roadway barrier features a portal for small animal travel, along with a mechatronic-based warning system to notify drivers of animal passage. The smart barrier concept empowers the animals to cross the roadway through the portal, while a sensor detects their presence and activates a strobe light to alert motorists. Laboratory tests have successfully demonstrated this new barrier's capability to detect animal presence for various scenarios.

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