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9 Introduction This synthesis is based in part on TRB State of the Art Report 9 (Ivey and Scott 2004). This report also takes advantage of decades of research regarding utility pole safety, particularly the FHWA report by Zegeer and Parker (1983), which focused on the cost-effectiveness of counter- measures for utility pole crashes. This synthesis report also summarizes the survey results from 46 responding STAs. The Utility Pole Problem A collision between a vehicle and a utility pole often has a very serious outcome (Figure 1). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) (2018) analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), initiated in 1980 (NHTSA 1980), and concluded that in 2017, the latest year for which data are available, the nation recorded 37,133 total highway fatalities, and 7,833 of these deaths were related to fixed-object crashes. A total of 914 crashes involved utility poles. IIHS (2018) based these figures on fatal crashes when the most harmful event coded was a crash with a fixed object, regardless of whether the first harmful event also was designated as a crash with a fixed object or instead represented another type of crash, such as a collision between two motor vehicles that in turn led to a crash into a fixed object (NHTSA 2018). In 2000, utility poles ranked fourth among the causes of all fixed-object fatalities, but by 2005, utility poles had jumped to second place, where they remained in 2017 (Table 2). Although STAs have made roadside improvements, the fatalities associated with all fixed objects remained relatively stable or even increased for some years. In 2017, utility pole fatalities accounted for approximately 12% of fixed-object deaths (Figure 2), with the number of fatalities consistently remaining between 900 and 1,020 per year for the past 10 years (2008â2017), as shown in Figure 3. State and local transportation agencies are responsible for maintaining the highway rights- of-way under their jurisdiction and for preserving the operational safety, integrity, and function of the highway facility. This responsibility generally entails developing or adopting clear zone policies as well as working with UOs to ensure that the roadways and roadsides are reasonably safe for everyday travel. FHWA is also a stakeholder on matters of utility pole safety and has developed guidance to address this safety concern. Federal regulations in Section 645.209 of Title 23 of the Code of Federal Regulations (23 CFR 645.209) read as follows: When the transportation department determines that existing utility facilities are likely to be associated with injury or accident to the highway user, as indicated by accident history or safety studies, the transportation department shall initiate or cause to be initiated in consultation with the affected utilities, corrective measures C H A P T E R 1
10 Utility Pole Safety and Hazard Evaluation Approaches Figure 1. Collisions with utility poles, often with resulting serious injuries or fatalities for vehicle occupants (Image: Delaware DOT). Object Struck 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 Total Percent of Total Fixed-Object Crashes Tree 3,604 3,514 3,611 3,801 3,691 18,221 47.74% Utility Pole 913 953 926 897 914 4,603 12.06% Traffic Barrier 610 609 657 653 688 3,217 8.43% Embankment 397 401 377 412 358 1,945 5.10% Ditch 257 252 268 275 277 1,329 3.48% Culvert 237 218 239 256 244 1,194 3.13% Bridge Pier 140 160 134 176 139 749 1.96% Fence 178 156 174 162 176 846 2.22% Building 155 141 135 146 175 752 1.97% Traffic Sign Support 111 129 117 144 130 631 1.65% Wall 136 137 121 117 153 664 1.74% Guardrail End â 110 99 118 113 440 1.15% Other 501 728 769 807 775 3,580 9.37% Total 7,239 7,508 7,627 7,964 7,833 38,171 100.00% Table 2. Fixed-object fatalities 2013â2017, by type of object struck (IIHS 2018).
Introduction 11 Figure 2. Fixed-object fatalities, by type of object struck, 2017 (IIHS 2018). 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1,000 1,100 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 Fa ta liti es Year Figure 3. Utility pole fatalities 2009â2017, by year (NHTSA 2018). to provide for a safer traffic environment. The corrective measures may include changes to utility or high- way facilities and should be prioritized to maximum safety benefits in the most cost-effective manner. The scheduling of utility safety improvements should take into consideration planned utility replacement or upgrading schedules, accident potential, and the availability of resources. It is expected that the require- ments of this paragraph will result in an orderly and positive process to address the identified utility hazard problems in a timely and reasonable manner with due regard to the effect of the corrective measures on both the utility consumer and the road user (CFR 2011).
12 Utility Pole Safety and Hazard Evaluation Approaches Report Objective The objective of this synthesis report is to summarize the strategies, policies, and technolo- gies that STAs and UOs employ to address these safety concerns. Information gathered for this synthesis included how STAs and UOs identify, analyze, and successfully address potential utility pole hazards. The synthesis report encompasses the following information: â¢ Strategies used by STAs and UOs to identify poles in high-risk locations and areas with poles that may need corrective actions â¢ Methods to improve roadside safety by addressing utility location â¢ A review of policies regarding utility placement and accommodation â¢ Countermeasures employed by STAs to mitigate safety problems at identified high-risk loca- tions, including underground utility cable runs, mechanisms for pole placement and reloca- tion on STA rights-of-way, STA evaluations, and resolution approaches for utility facilities posing hazards â¢ Strategies for data collection (e.g., crashes, pole location, CMFs) for pre- and post-evaluation of utility pole siting â¢ Existing and emerging technologies and materials (e.g., energy-dissipating, redirective, and yielding pole devices) to reduce crash severity and/or frequency â¢ Impediments to responding to potential utility pole hazards â¢ Dedicated or available funding sources for addressing potential utility pole hazards, such as federal, state, local, or private funding â¢ Successful programs implemented by STAs and UOs. Agency Surveys The survey sent to STAs represented a major source of information for this synthesis report regarding how such agencies identify and solve utility pole safety problems. For example, STAs hold responsibility for maintaining roadways and roadside conditions, which impact the like- lihood of a vehicle leaving the roadway and potentially striking a utility pole. STAs are also accountable for working with utility companies and executing written agreements with those companies about the placement of utilities within the highway rights-of-way. UOs not only install and maintain utility poles located in state-owned rights-of-way but also repair poles damaged by vehicle strikes, weather, and other events. UOs must coordinate these efforts while maintaining electric and communication services for their customers. A separate survey, created specifically for this investigation, was distributed to major UOs in an attempt to gain insights into some of their activities to improve utility pole safety. Initial surveys were sent to selected UOs, and contacts were initiated with a few that reported ongoing utility pole safety activities and were willing to provide input for this report. Interactions with STAs and UOs also led to the development of nine case studies (five from STAs and four from UOs) that represent some of the most comprehensive practices and projects on utility pole safety that are currently underway in the United States. These case studies are described in Chapter 9 (STA Case Examples) and Chapter 10 (Utility Owner Case Examples). Literature Review To supplement the practitioner surveys and follow-up phone and email exchanges, a detailed review was conducted of the published and unpublished articles, reports, and other documenta- tion related to utility pole safety. Guidelines on the placement and handling of utility poles in the
Introduction 13 highway rights-of-way also are evaluated in the review. This part of the synthesis report literature review focuses on issues such as the following: â¢ Policy details regarding the distance of poles from the road and other pole-placement criteria or regulatory guidance â¢ Specific roadway treatments that STAs routinely employ to reduce utility pole crashes (or decrease the risk of such crashes) â¢ CMFs that STAs apply when determining the costs and benefits of various strategies â¢ Utility company policies and practices for selecting sites where poles will be installed â¢ New or innovative technologies and strategies used by STAs and UOs for decreasing the risk of crash frequency, the severity of crashes involving utility poles, or both â¢ Details on various types of utility pole crash countermeasures. The synthesis reportâs detailed literature review also emphasized finding literature on strate- gies in use by STAs and UOs and on data collection practices and safety impacts (i.e., CMFs) of various pole safety strategies. The review and compilation of these information sources contributed to the development of this synthesis report. The report discusses the results of past research, agency practices and policies, and utility pole safety program activities. The rest of this synthesis report is organized as follows: â¢ Chapter 2: Historical Perspective â¢ Chapter 3: Summary of STA Survey Responses â¢ Chapter 4: Factors Associated with Utility Pole Crashes â¢ Chapter 5: Identification of Utility Poles in High-Risk Locations â¢ Chapter 6: Countermeasure Cost-Effectiveness â¢ Chapter 7: Current Countermeasure Practices â¢ Chapter 8: Safety Devices â¢ Chapter 9: STA Case Examples â¢ Chapter 10: Utility Owner Case Examples â¢ Chapter 11: Conclusions â¢ References and Bibliography â¢ Glossary â¢ Abbreviations â¢ Appendices: â Appendix A: State DOT Utility-Related Websites, 2019 â Appendix B: Summary of Survey Results â Appendix C: Countermeasure Cost-Effectiveness Summary â Appendix D: FHWA Program Guide: Utility Relocation and Accommodation on Federal- Aid Highway Projects â Appendix E: Utility Pole and Tree Safety Case Studies â Appendix F: Example of Recommended Crash Reduction Program and Roadside Safety Treatments â Appendix G: Examples of STA Guidelines with Safety Implications