Everything you Need to Know About Vehicle Barriers

vehicle barrier guide

Whether you need to enhance security at a building or increase safety at a specific locale or job site, you will need vehicle barriers to help you achieve your goal. We will cover the different types of vehicle barriers and what they can do for you. 

What Are Vehicle Barriers? 

Vehicle barriers refer to any device that causes cars to slow down, usually purposefully but not necessarily. They are most often used in areas with high pedestrian traffic, especially when children and seniors make up a large portion of that pedestrian traffic, such as school zones. However, you can find them in many places, including highway mediums, parking lots, railroad crossings, commercial districts, private communities, and construction sites. 

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What Is The Most Common Barrier Used For Driving?

The most common barrier used for driving is a speed bump. A speed bump is a device that can be placed in specific areas of a school zone, parking lot, or private property. It will create a 6-inch barrier that will force cars to slow down to 2 – 10 MPH. While common, these barriers don’t provide the stopping power necessary for more substantial security concerns. That’s why manufacturers create several different options to suit a wide range of functions. 

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How Does A Crash Barrier Work?

The crash barrier works by first capturing the driver’s attention and then forcing them to slow down before reaching the barrier to avoid damage to the vehicle

Drivers can’t miss crash barriers since they usually come in bright colors and use reflective materials to make themselves as noticeable as possible. They also sometimes come with signs to ensure drivers know they need to slow down. 

Manufacturers make crash barriers to damage vehicles if they come into contact with it at a specific speed. For that reason, you will find crash barriers made out of metal or placed so that the vehicle will need to drive over it. 

How Are Crash Barriers Made?

Crash barriers are made based on their purpose. Generally speaking, people make crash barriers to prevent collisions or mitigate traffic. Of course, some crash barriers can work in both situations. 

The most robust barriers tend to fall under the collision prevention category. Some are even so strong they can stop heavy-duty military vehicles. However, most store owners wanting to prevent a car from crashing into their storefront don’t need something that strong. 

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) tests both high-speed and slow crash barriers to provide a K-rating. You can choose from K4, K8, and K12 crash ratings for low-speed crash barriers, with K12 offering the most protection. 

What Happens If You Hit A Barrier?

If you hit the crash barrier, you can expect to experience damage to your vehicle. The stronger the crash barrier, the more damage you will experience. Speed bumps and speed humps can lead to damage to the tires and your car’s shock system. Larger crash barriers can lead to completely totaling your vehicle and even damage to you and anyone else in the car. 

What Are The Different Types Of Vehicle Barriers?

There are a large number of different vehicle barriers on the market that fall into the three following categories: active vehicle barriers, passive vehicle barriers, and hybrid vehicle barriers. How do you know which one will work best for your situation? First, you need to know the different types and their most common uses. 


Active vehicle barriers open and close. Some examples include:

  • Wedge barriers

Wedge barriers use a wedge-shaped plate to pop up and stop traffic when necessary. They can be used to both prevent collisions or control traffic. 

  • Beam barriers

Beam barriers use a beam to block a road during certain situations, such as a train approaching. Most beams move up and down, but alternative options are also available. They are mostly used to control traffic. 

  • Bollards

Bollards are tall cylinders that emerge from the ground when necessary. They can act as both crash prevention and traffic control. You may find bollards used to facilitate traffic stops or permanent (not active) bollards in the median of the highway. 

  • Mobile

Mobile barriers fit on the back of a truck and travel to where they are needed. When at the desired destination, the mobile barrier will open and help control traffic in the area. These barriers often come in handy at construction sites that only need a temporary solution. 

  • Portable

Portable barriers act similarly to mobile barriers since they travel to the necessary job site. However, instead of attaching to a truck, these barriers are placed on the road. 

Related Link: What Is a Wedge Barrier and When Is It Used?


Unlike active vehicle barriers, passive vehicle barriers do not operate automatically or manually. Instead, they are permanent. They are primarily used for security on a premises as opposed to traffic control since they don’t have controls to put them away when not needed. For example, a passive barrier can be placed in front of a storefront to prevent cars from crashing into it. 


Hybrid vehicle barriers refer to semi-permanent barriers with qualities that apply to both active and permanent vehicle barriers. For example, a hybrid may include both a passive wedge feature and an active beam feature, allowing you to decide how to use it. These can come in handy when you need different solutions for medium-length projects that may have different needs. 

What is ASTM F2656?

ASTM F2656 refers to the testing of low-speed crash barriers. It places the barriers against a 5,000 lb. vehicle going 10 – 30 MPH. As part of the testing, testers provide a penetration rating that indicates how far the vehicle made it past the barrier. 

Wedge Barriers

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