Rut depth, which is a measure of pavement surface deformation in the wheel paths, can affect roadway safety because the ruts accumulate water and increase the possibility of vehicle hydroplaning (which results in the tire skimming over a film of water, greatly reducing braking and steering effectiveness). Because of its potential impact on vehicle control, rut depths are regularly measured on many highways to determine if pavement rutting has reached critical values that would require resurfacing or other pavement treatments. Virtually all states measure rut depth using automated equipment that seeks to determine the difference in surface elevation of the pavement in the wheel path relative to the pavement that is not in the wheel path. The critical values of rut depth can vary from one highway agency to the next. Usually, rut depths are considered unacceptably high when their values reach between 0.5 and 1.0 inches, indicating that corrective action is warranted.
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