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Road Management & Engineering Journal
Copyright © 1997 by TranSafety, Inc.
July 20, 1997
TranSafety, Inc.
(360) 683-6276
Fax: (360) 335-6402

Study Shows Problem of Vehicle-Wildlife Collisions Increasing
Over-Application of Pavement Crack Seal May Be a Hazard to Motorcyclists
Legal Problems: The Liabilities of Roadside Maintenance
Utility Company Must Keep Stored Poles Outside Roadside "Clear Recovery Area"

Over-Application of Pavement Crack Seal May Be a Hazard to Motorcyclists

Highway maintenance crews frequently seal joints or repair cracks in a paved roadway with asphalt cement, a pliable material that is replacing previously used hard, brittle pavement-repair materials. Recent complaints suggest that when asphalt cement applications become too wide, the crack sealer may cause motorcycle tires to skid and could result in injury to motorcycle riders.

An article entitled "Falling Through the Cracks" in the December 1995 issue of American Motorcyclist described a crash in which strips of asphalt cement crack sealer contributed to the death of an experienced motorcyclist. This is a summary of that article.

Mark Loggains was 33 years old on June 24, 1995, and he was a long-time motorcyclist. He joined other cyclists for a tour of the bridges of southwestern Ohio. Riding in the evening rain, Loggains drove onto a recently repaired section of highway. His rear tire broke loose in an area where strips of asphalt cement ranging from 4.5- inches to 9-inches wide had been used to seal the pavement. The bike went down, spun, crossed into the opposing lane of traffic, and struck a tractor trailer. Loggains died in the crash.

Loggains' fellow motorcyclist believed slippery asphalt cement sealer caused the crash; and, according to the article, some highway experts agree. Sean Maher of the American Motorcycle Association's (AMA's) legislative affairs office has been working to make state highway departments aware of the dangers of over-applications of asphalt cement.

Maher talked with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), since many states follow ASTM standards in setting roadway repair procedures. ASTM officials agree that asphalt cement can be slippery. Their opinion is that it will cause problems only when it is misapplied.

Maher also talked with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Recognizing the hazard, the FHWA sent an alert letter to their field representatives in all fifty states informing them of the potential danger to motorcyclists caused by wide patches of asphalt cement.

Motorcyclists had specifically complained to the AMA about dangerous asphalt cement repairs in the states of New York, California, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Utah. Maher wrote letters to each of these states, and he received responses from several.

New York issued a stop-work order on all crack-filling projects while asphalt cement repairs were inspected. The New York Department of Transportation's chief engineer and assistant commissioner wrote, "Early indications suggest most of the problems relate to over-application--that is, the bands of crack-filler material were installed too wide, too long, and too thick. The material 'gives' with increasing thickness, and if placed too thick could cause the loss of traction that you report." He added, "If in the future we find correctly sealed cracks objectionable, we will explore more costly methods of crack sealing in order to provide a more stable riding surface for motorcyclists."

The California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) promised "additional emphasis" on crack-sealing issues. CalTrans emphasized, "Sand is often applied to reduce the 'grabbing' effect that can occur when a sealed pavement joint or crack is traversed by a motorcycle." Utah and Pennsylvania promised "ongoing tests concerning crack-sealing material and construction issues." In Ohio, where Mark Loggains died, the Ohio Department of Transportation has set its standard for applications of asphalt cement to be "no more than 5 inches wide."

AMA requests that motorcyclists who have problems with hazardous asphalt cement pavement sealing contact the department of transportation in their state. AMA would like to receive copies of such letters to state officials. The copies should be sent to: AMA Government Relations Department, 33 Collegeview Road, Westerville, OH 43081-1484. The telephone number is: 614 891-2425.

Copyright © 1997 by TranSafety, Inc.

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