Finite Element Modeling of Occupant Injury Risk and Crash Performance of W-Beam Guardrail Barriers in Roadside Crashes


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Virginia Tech


This thesis presents the results of a research effort aimed at investigating the crash performance of w-beam guardrail barriers in vehicle-roadside crashes using the finite element method. The developed roadside barrier models can be used to assess the occupant injury risk, vehicle performance, and damage to guardrail barriers during a roadside accident. The finite element models of w-beam guardrail barriers may also help evaluate the crash performance of the w-beam barriers with minor damage in vehicle-barrier crashes. Thus, the results can be used to develop repair guidelines to assist highway personnel in identifying levels of minor barrier damage and deterioration.

Finite element models of the weak post w-beam guardrail barriers were developed and simulated using LS-DYNA. The simulation results were validated against full scale crash tests of pickup trucks and passenger cars impacting w-beam guardrail barriers. The maximum dynamic deflection of the guardrail, exit velocity and angle of the vehicle, and occupant injury risk were calculated and compared to the tests. Kinematics of the vehicle and guardrail were assessed qualitatively as well as quantitatively. The analysis showed that simulation results were in good agreement with test data. Additionally, the models were validated against pendulum tests conducted the Federal Outdoor Impact Laboratory (FOIL). Simulation results of pendulum tests showed that the test section taken from the current full scale models performed very similarly to that in the real pendulum tests.

The developed finite element models were subsequently used to examine the crash performance of weak post w-beam guardrail barriers with minor damage under vehicle impacts. Only rail/post deflection based minor damage to weak post w-beam guardrail barriers was considered in this study. Simulations were completed to obtain the damaged profiles of the guardrail systems; the damaged weak post guardrail barriers were impacted by the pickup model at mid-span for the second time. The impacting vehicle remained stable in all of these simulations. No conclusions could be drawn however whether these second impacts could have resulted in rail tearing or rupture.



Guardrail Barrier, Finite element method, Pendulum Test