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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Office of Safety Research and Development

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Safety Research and Development is helping to reduce highway crashes and related fatalities and injuries by developing and implementing safety innovations in a nationally coordinated safety research and development program.

This research program emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration and strong stakeholder involvement to support FHWA’s overall strategic priorities. The Office of Safety Research and Development works closely with FHWA’s Office of Safety and the Resource Center Safety and Design Technical Service Team to develop research agendas and implement them through practical tools and guidance for practitioners.

The Office of Safety R&D is composed of three teams of research engineers, scientists, and psychologists.

Office of Safety R&D Teams

Team Responsibilities

Human Factors Team

The primary goal of the Human Factors Team is to improve the understanding of how road users perceive, process, and respond to the roadway environment to improve highway safety through better roadway and countermeasure design.

Roadway Team

The Roadway Team works to help keep vehicles on the roadway, and to minimize the consequences of conflicts of vehicles and non-occupants on roadways and intersections. 

Safety Data and Analysis Team

The central objective of the Safety Data and Analysis Team is to support good safety resource allocation decisions through the collection of consistent, high-quality data, the development of analytical tools to transform data into actionable information, and the formal evaluation of the effectiveness of potential safety improvements. Identifying and using emerging data relevant to safety and emerging analytics is included in this team's efforts.

For more information on the Office of Safety Research and Development, visit the Safety R&D program page, the Safety laboratories page, and the data centers page.

The Safety Research and Development Program

Research Focus Areas – The research focus areas of the Safety R&D program reflect current FHWA strategic focuses.

  • Safety Data and Analysis – Support safety resource allocation decisions through consistent high-quality data collection and analysis, analytical tool development, and evaluation of safety improvements.

  • Human Factors Research – Examine drivers’ capabilities and limitations when interacting with the vehicle and the roadway to inform better roadway design. Other research topics include distraction, vehicle/roadway automation, signing design/evaluation, vulnerable road users (VRUs), and traffic management centers.

  • Intersection Safety –Increase our understanding of intersection safety and establish short- and long-term strategies for safety improvements. The research involves designing and evaluating nontraditional intersections and interchanges and developing systems to improve safety in or near intersections. The research effort also explores using state-of-the-art computing technologies such as edge computing for real time detection of traffic events, and real time decisionmaking for improving safety starting with signal-controlled intersections.

  • Pedestrians and Bicyclists Safety – Foster professional awareness of pedestrian and bicyclist safety issues, develop and evaluate countermeasures, and provide engineering resources for practitioners at national, State, and local levels.

  • Roadway Safety – Conduct research that emphasizes two fundamental objectives: keeping vehicles on the roadway and minimizing the consequences of leaving the roadway. Roadway safety studies are conducted in five focus areas: roadway departure, speed management, intersection, safety and design, visibility, and intelligent transportation systems (ITS).

  • Speed Management – Research to develop and test engineering approaches to speed management and to encourage wider adoption of travel speeds appropriate for the class of road, roadway design, and travel conditions.

  • Equity – Research to improve equity in providing safety.

  • Safe System Approach – Focusing on improving safety for all road users.



  • Federal Outdoor Impact Laboratory

    • The Federal Outdoor Impact Laboratory (FOIL) is a crash test research facility used to support FHWA’s Safety Research and Development programs and other Federal security initiatives.

  • Geometric Design Laboratory

    • o    The mission of the Geometric Design Laboratory (GDL) is to provide technical support to the Office of Safety Research and Development. The GDL role includes providing  end users’ support of the Interactive Highway Safety Design Model (IHSDM) --a suite of software tools for the safety evaluation of highway geometric design alternatives and other highway safety quantitative evaluation tools, including the Highway Safety Manual (HSM) and SafetyAnalyst.

  • Human Factors Laboratory

    • Human Factors Laboratory is used to further the understanding of roadway user needs so that those needs can be incorporated in roadway design, construction, repair, and improvement.

    • The Human Factors Virtual Reality Laboratory (VRL) allows the Human Factors Team to study pedestrians' and cyclists' behavior. VR headsets place participants in immersive, computer-generated, 3D environments with which they can interact. The VR Lab provides the capability to study a broader range of pedestrian and driver behaviors using a variety of scenarios, without placing subjects at risk.