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Ongoing Safety Research

Intersection Safety

A strategic goal of FHWA is to work closely with all safety partners to heighten driver awareness about highway safety measures. Safety is a shared responsibility, and all drivers need to recognize, understand, and take advantage of the safety features that are built into roadways.

Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety

Livable communities that support bicycling and walking are a high priority of the U.S. Department of Transportation. A livable community is one that provides safe and convenient transportation choices to all citizens, whether it's by walking, bicycling, transit, or driving. Each year, thousands of pedestrians and bicyclists are killed on our roadways. Pedestrian and bicyclist safety improvements depend on an integrated approach that involves the four Es: Engineering, Enforcement, Education, and Emergency Services. The FHWA's Office of Safety develops projects, programs, and materials for use in reducing pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities.

Roadway Departure Safety

Of the 35,092 people killed on U.S. highways in 2015, almost 17,000 died when their vehicles left their lanes and crashed. In some cases, the vehicle crossed the centerline and was involved in a head-on crash or opposite direction sideswipe. In others, the vehicle encroached onto the shoulder and beyond to roll over or impact one or more natural or manmade objects, such as utility poles, bridge walls, embankments, guardrails, parked vehicles, or trees.

Older Road Users

FHWA's Office of Safety is committed to providing for the needs and capabilities of older drivers and pedestrians using the Nation's highways. Research indicates that practitioners will encounter challenges when making decisions concerning the safety needs of older drivers. Problems associated with their vision, fitness and flexibility, attention span, and reaction time when driving and walking must be considered.

Human Factors

Researchers at Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center conduct human factors work in several major safety areas: connected vehicles (including vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure systems), vehicle automation, distraction, signage, and intersection safety. Researchers examine drivers' capabilities and limitations behind the wheel. Other topics of study include older drivers, traffic management centers, user characteristics, and visibility.

Highway Safety Information System

Highway engineers and administrators are continually faced with decisions concerning the design and operation of the highway system. An important part of the decisionmaking process is the potential impact on the safety of the highway users. Informed decisionmaking requires an understanding of how safety is affected by the geometric design of the roadway, the selection and placement of roadside hardware, the use of traffic control measures, the size and performance capabilities of the vehicles, and the needs and abilities of the users. This understanding can be developed through sound analysis of information about crashes, roadway geometrics, traffic control devices, traffic volume data, and the location of hardware and obstacles on the roadside. These data must be present in computerized files and easily linked so that data can be rapidly assembled and prepared for analysis.

Updated: Monday, December 7, 2020