UW Researcher Shows Wyoming Gravel Roads Need New Safety Standards

Nov 5, 2020

Wyoming has about 12,000 miles of gravel roads.
Credit Roads&Bridges

Researchers at the University of Wyoming are studying the safety of gravel roads in the state.

Gravel and dirt roads make up 35 percent of the nation's highways, but UW researcher Ahmed Farid said they aren't included in the national Highway Safety Manual.

Engineers use the manual to assess road safety and minimize the number of accidents. It takes into account the width and condition of the road, the amount of traffic, and the environment around the road.

Because there is no chapter for gravel roads, Farid applied the manual's technique for paved two-lane highways. He estimated the number of accidents on gravel roads in Laramie county from 2009 to 2018.

"I mean there were 211 accidents reported and I estimated only 87 accidents using the manual's methodology," he said. "That's about two and a half times the one I've estimated."

Farid said the Highway Safety Manual is not applicable to Wyoming's gravel roads, which run for about 12,000 miles and make up 90 percent of the total road mileage across the state. 

"I recommend that extensive data of Wyoming's gravel roads be collected and processed to develop mathematical models of our state," he said. "Of course, I would suggest that the future edition of the manual include a new chapter focused on gravel road safety."

An updated manual is scheduled to come out in 2021.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu.