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Tired of traffic backups caused by accidents? Wishing for someone, somewhere to devise better ways to keep traffic moving?

Asad J. Khattak, the Batten Endowed Chair in Transportation Engineering in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at ODU, has been awarded a $169,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to research the occurrence of secondary traffic incidents along the highways of Hampton Roads.

Secondary incidents, or accidents happening within a certain time and distance of a major traffic accident, can cause even more stoppage, and even endanger the lives of rescue workers. Khattak is the editor for the Journal of Intelligent Transportation Systems, and one of the Batten College's pre-imminent researchers in the field of transportation systems and planning.

During the next two years, Khattak plans to define secondary incidents, analyze the factors and causation behind the incidents, and devise ways to predict, and ultimately minimize traffic delays.

"The research will provide a tool that allows VDOT to predict primary incident durations and the probable occurrence of secondary incidents in real-time," Khattak said. "I would like for the tool to be used to better plan for secondary incidents and disseminate better information to the public and more effectively manage incidents."

Partnerships with this study include VDOT, the Smart Traffic Center, the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, and the Virginia Transit Research Council.

Khattak's research in other studies has already shown that:
*Roadway and other accidents cause 30 to 50 percent of the congestion in U.S. urban areas.

*Up to 20 percent of primary traffic incidents result in secondary incidents, both in same-direction and opposite-direction lanes because of rubber-necking.

*Reducing the time it takes to clear a primary incident is likely to reduce the chance of a secondary incident. In Hampton Roads, incidents requiring emergency response usually last 20 to 35 minutes before traffic flow in normalized.

*A study in California found primary incident duration was reduced from 41 to 29 minutes after an incident management program was initiated.

By using the analysis of certain "hot spots" along Interstates 64. 264 and 664, Khattak hopes his groundbreaking research will be the cornerstone of future traffic studies in a region that has a rapidly growing population. He also teaches courses on transportation planning, intelligent transportation systems, and safety.

This article was posted on: October 31, 2007

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