New Energy-Absorbing High-Speed Safety Barrier

John D. Reid, Ronald K. Faller, Jim C. Holloway, John R. Rohde, Dean L. Sicking

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


For many years, containment for errant racing vehicles traveling on oval speedways has been provided through rigid, concrete containment walls placed around the exterior of the track. However, accident experience has shown that serious injuries and fatalities may occur through vehicular impacts into these nondeformable barriers. Because of these injuries, the Indy Racing League and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, later joined by the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), sponsored the development of a new barrier system by the Midwest Roadside Safety Faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to improve the safety of drivers participating in automobile racing events. Several barrier prototypes were investigated and evaluated using both static and dynamic component testing, computer simulation modeling with LS-DYNA (a nonlinear finite element analysis code), and 20 full-scale vehicle crash tests. The full-scale crash testing program included bogie vehicles, small cars, and a full-size sedan, as well as Indy Racing League open-wheeled cars and NASCAR Winston Cup cars. A combination steel tube skin and foam energy-absorbing barrier system, referred to as the SAFER (steel and foam energy reduction) barrier, was successfully developed. Subsequently, the SAFER barrier was installed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in advance of the running of the 2002 Indianapolis 500 race. From the results of the laboratory testing program as well as analysis of the accidents into the SAFER barrier occurring during practice, qualification, and the race, the SAFER barrier has been shown to provide improved safety for drivers impacting the outer walls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-64
Number of pages12
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number1851
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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