UFTI Professors Receive FDOT Funding to Enhance Road Ranger Deployment and Safety

Have you ever seen a traffic crash on the highway? Or maybe just someone with a flat tire? In many cases you will also see a freeway service patrol vehicle assisting motorists, known as Road Rangers here in Florida. They are a free service provided by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and can assist drivers in ways such as: providing fuel, tire changes and other types of minor emergency repairs.

On any given weekday in Florida, Road Rangers assist more than 1000 motorists, incident responders, and transportation agencies on Florida freeways. In 2013 alone Road Rangers made 374,971 assists and since the program’s inception in 1999 they have made over 4.3 million assists. [Source]

According to a 2012 FDOT study, it is estimated that the benefit cost ratio of the entire Road Ranger program is 6.68. [Source] But what additional benefits does the program provide besides the assistance of disabled or stranded motorists? According to the FDOT, the program contributes to the:

  • Reduction in secondary crashes
  • Reduction in the duration of incidents
  • Removal of road debris
  • Reduction of congestion produced air pollutants
  • Increased safety at incident scenes

“That’s why the Road Rangers work,” says Trooper Darin Haughie. Trooper Haughie has been a member of the FHP for seven years, working primarily in Miami-Dade County and often works side by side with the Road Rangers. “The longer the crash the more people look and get distracted and that causes more crashes,”

Despite the success and benefits associated with Road Rangers, funding constraints prevent them from being deployed on all Florida highways. In fact, most deployment decisions are made by local transportation officials. Given their value, it makes sense to deploy Road Rangers in the most efficient way possible. That is why the FDOT has funded a new research project entitled: “Warrants, Design, and Safety of Road Ranger Service Patrol”. It is headed by two University of Florida Transportation Institute (UFTI) Professors, Dr. Yafeng Yin and Dr. Siva Srinivasan.

“Service patrols are a valuable part of traffic incident management (TIM) strategies nationally and Florida’s Road Ranger Service Patrols have been a model for other states,” says Dr. Grady Carrick, an FHP retiree who now works as a Transportation Operations, Safety, and Research Consultant. “Nationally, there is no methodology to support expanding Freeway Service Patrols, so this research is groundbreaking.”

The project has set out to accomplish three objectives:

  1. Develop a set of criteria which will establish when Road Ranger Service Patrols might be warranted
  2. Develop a tool that guides the deployment of Road Ranger Service Patrols in terms of beat configuration, hours of operation, and the number of vehicles that might be required
  3. Understand the characteristics of Road Ranger crashes and identify practices and procedures that have the potential to mitigate identified dangers for Road Rangers

Safety is another aspect of the project that is important both in Florida and nationally.

“All incident responders are presented with the challenges and hazards of working around moving traffic, for Road Rangers those dangers are amplified since they often operate as single responders removing debris or helping stranded motorists.” Srinivasan explained.

Since October 2014, two Road Rangers have been struck and killed while working at incident scenes. And every year, dozens of Road Rangers and/or their vehicles are involved in non-fatal crashes. Along with developing innovative deployment strategies, the project will analyze the characteristics of Road Ranger crashes so that policy, procedures, and training can be implemented to address the risks.

About the Principal Investigators:

Dr. Yafeng Yin is an Associate Professor and the Director of Transportation Research Center at the Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure and Environment in University of Florida. He works in the areas of analysis, modeling, design and optimization of transportation systems towards achieving sustainability and economic efficiency, and has published over 70 refereed papers in leading academic journals. Dr. Yin earned his Ph.D. from the University of Tokyo, Japan in 2002, his master of engineering and bachelor of engineering degrees from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China in 1996 and 1994 respectively.


Phone: 352.392.9537 x 1455
Email: yafeng@ce.ufl.edu

Dr. Siva Srinivasan has been a Professor in University of Florida’s Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering since 2005. He holds a Bachelors of Technology in Civil Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, as well as a Masters of Science in Engineering and Doctorate in Civil Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. Before coming to UF, Dr. Srinivasan served as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Transportation Research at The University of Texas at Austin


Phone: 352.392.9537 x 1456
Email: siva@ce.ufl.edu