Pavement Surface Characteristics

For safe and comfortable driving four aspects of the pavement surface are important;

  • The friction between the wheels and the pavement surface,
  • Unevenness of the road surface,
  • The light reflection characteristics of the top of pavement surface, and
  • Drainage to water.


Friction between the wheel and the pavement surface is a crucial factor in the design of horizontal curves and thus the safe operating speed. Further, it also affects the acceleration and deceleration ability of vehicles. Lack of adequate friction can cause skidding or slipping of vehicles.

  • Skidding happens when the path traveled along the road surface is more than the circumferential movement of the wheels due to friction
  • Slip occurs when the wheel revolves more than the corresponding longitudinal movement along the road.

Various factors that affect friction are:

  • Type of the pavement (like bituminous, concrete, or gravel),
  • Condition of the pavement (dry or wet, hot or cold, etc),
  • Condition of the tyre (new or old), and
  • Speed and load of the vehicle.

The frictional force that develops between the wheel and the pavement is the load acting multiplied by a factor called the coefficient of friction and denoted as f. The choice of the value of f is a very complicated issue since it depends on many variables. IRC suggests the coefficient of longitudinal friction as 0.35-0.4 depending on the speed and coefficient of lateral friction as 0.15. The former is useful in sight distance calculation and the latter in horizontal curve design.


It is always desirable to have an even surface, but it is seldom possible to have such a one. Even if a road is constructed with high quality pavers, it is possible to develop unevenness due to pavement failures. Unevenness affects the vehicle operating cost, speed, riding comfort, safety, fuel consumption and wear and tear of tyres.

Unevenness index is a measure of unevenness which is the cumulative measure of vertical undulations of the pavement surface recorded per unit horizontal length of the road.

An unevenness index value less than 1500 mm/km is considered as good, a value less than 2500 mm.km is satisfactory up to speed of 100 kmph and values greater than 3200 mm/km is considered as uncomfortable even for 55 kmph.

3.Light Reflection

  • White roads have good visibility at night, but caused glare during day time.
  • Black roads has no glare during day, but has poor visibility at night
  • Concrete roads has better visibility and less glare

It is necessary that the road surface should be visible at night and reflection of light is the factor that answers it.


The pavement surface should be absolutely impermeable to prevent seepage of water into the pavement layers. Further, both the geometry and texture of pavement surface should help in draining out the water from the surface in less time.


Dr. Tom V Mathew (IIT Bombay)

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