Less-sharp Guardrails Can Save Motorcyclists

Test of guardrail

Photo: Jan Wenäll

Test of guardrail

Photo: Jan Wenäll

Crash tests involving motorcycles and guardrails have been conducted in Sweden for the first time. The results are striking – motorcyclists can look forward to safer guardrails, as demonstrated by four crash tests that the Folksam insurance company has funded at the VTI crash safety laboratory in Linköping.

“Folksam’s tests using just motorcycles and guardrails are the first ever conducted in Sweden, and they pave the way for us to continue with such work”, says VTI research engineer Jan Wenäll.
VTI has collaborated on two projects focusing on improving motorcycle safety. In the first project, VTI worked with the Swedish Motorcyclists Association (SMC) and the Swedish Safety Barrier Association (SVBRF) to conduct a literature study with a view to mapping guardrail function during motorcycle accidents. In the second project, which was initiated and led by Folksam, four full-scale crash tests were conducted with different barriers mounted on the guardrails.

The results of the two projects led to a final test in which the top of the guardrail was protected with a simple prototype covering made of plastic, which proved to work exceptionally well.

“Even though this is just a relatively simple prototype, I believe that this is the first time that we’ve really had a workable idea for how we can effectively reduce the injuries sustained by a motorcyclist who collides with a guardrail”.

The explanation of the positive result is that there are fewer sharp or protruding elements on which to get snagged or injured. The motorcyclist slides along the guardrail rather than getting snagged on it. This is still dangerous, but less dangerous than getting snagged.

The principle is to cover the sharp metal edges presented by the post tops and top side of the barrier. This can be done in many different ways; the use of plastic tubing is one way an existing barrier can be easily modified.

“I have observed that many motorcyclists who are killed in accidents are battered on the top side of the barrier, and that their arms and legs are at risk of getting lodged in the back of the barrier or tangled up in the posts”, says Wenäll.

VTI’s crash safety laboratory is usually used to conduct approval testing of guardrails in accordance with European standards, in which tests involving motorcycles have not yet been fully incorporated. The experience gained from the motorcycle testing at VTI can also be used in ongoing international standardization efforts.

See the video – Crash test with motorcycle towards barriers

The video shows crash tests with a motorcycle impacting barriers, the tests was run at VTI crash laboratory in April 2015 as a part of a Folksam project where this insurance company studied motorcycle accidents. In the various tests, different kind of motorcycle protection systems was installed on a traditional W-beam and sigma post barriers.

Image of Jan WenällContact:
Jan Wenäll
VTI, Sweden
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