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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
FHWA Highway Safety Programs

About Intersection Safety

"A photograph of a car on its side in front of a stop sign"
Source: Ekspansio, E+, Getty Images

Intersecting roadways are necessary to connect people driving, walking and bicycling from one route to another. However, where roads intersect and paths cross, the resulting conflict points create circumstances where crashes can occur. In fact, each year roughly one–quarter of traffic fatalities and about one–half of all traffic injuries in the United States are attributed to intersections. That is why intersections are a national, state and local road safety priority, and a program focus area for FHWA.

FHWA is committed to the vision of zero deaths and serious injuries on our Nation's roadways. Making intersections safer is a critical and essential step toward realizing that vision.

 

This page presents annual statistics for intersection related traffic fatalities. This data is extracted from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis and Reporting System (FARS). To explore this data further, access the FARS Query Tool. The FHWA Safety Program includes crashes where any one of the following are cited in the FARS crash record:

  • Intersection
  • Intersection–related
  • Driveway access
  • Driveway access–related

Improving Intersections for Pedestrians and Bicyclists

When designed with pedestrians and bicyclists explicitly in mind, all types of intersections can facilitate safe, accessible, convenient, and comfortable walking and bicycling. The purpose of this guide is to inform the state of the practice concerning intersection planning and design to implement solutions that help achieve the goal for zero fatalities and serious injuries while also making roads better places for walking and bicycling. The following material serves as a supplement to FHWA's series of intersection informational guides and makes direct connections to other FHWA bikeway and pedestrian facility selection guides.

 

Unsignalized Intersection Crashes

"Photograph of an unsignalized intersection (Stop sign)"
Source: FHWA

Unsignalized intersections are the most common type of intersection in the United States and can be:

  • Stop sign–controlled – at least one approach to the intersection is controlled by a stop sign.
  • Yield sign–controlled – at least one approach to the intersection is controlled by a yield sign.
  • Uncontrolled – none of the approaches to the intersection are controlled by a regulatory sign or traffic signal; typically found on very low–volume roads in rural or residential areas.

Fatalities at Unsignalized Intersections

Year Total Traffic Fatalities Total Traffic Fatalities Involving an Intersection Total Traffic Fatalities Involving an Unsignalized Intersection Pedestrian Fatalities Involving an Unsignalized Intersection Bicyclist Fatalities Involving an Unsignalized Intersection
2016 37,806 10,414 7,116 1,011 205
2017 37,473 10,482 7,136 1,021 204
2018 36,835 10,148 6,801 1,036 220
2019 36,355 10,273 6,977 1,048 214
2020 38,824 10,626 7,089 895 204

 

Signalized Intersection Crashes

"A photo of a signalized intersection at night"
Source:fstop123,Getty Images Plus

Traffic signals are often chosen for operational reasons, and may involve trade–offs between safety and mobility. Signalized intersections represent about one–third of all intersection fatalities, including a large proportion that involve red–light running.

Fatalities at Signalized Intersections

Year Total Traffic Fatalities Total Traffic Fatalities Involving an Intersection Total Traffic Fatalities Involving a Signalized Intersection Total Traffic Fatalities Involving Red-Light Running at a Signalized Intersection Pedestrian Fatalities Involving a Signalized Intersection Bicyclist Fatalities Involving a Signalized Intersection Pedestrian and Bicyclist Fatalities Involving Red-Light Running at a Signalized Intersection
2016 37,806 10,414 3,298 826 793 205 46
2017 37,473 10,482 3,346 922 826 204 51
2018 36,835 10,148 3,347 871 817 220 57
2019 36,355 10,273 3,296 856 848 214 62
2020 38,824 10,626 3,537 1,053 779 204 57

 

Wrong–Way Driving Crashes

A wrong–way driving crash is defined as one in which a vehicle traveling in a direction

"A photo of a Do Not Enter sign and Wrong Way sign"
Source:Pedro Freithas,iStock/Getty Images Plus

opposing the legal flow of traffic on a high–speed divided highway or access ramp collides with a vehicle traveling on the same roadway in the proper direction. This definition is typically limited to controlled–access highways and associated ramps, but excludes crashes that result from median crossover encroachments. Wrong–way driving crashes involve high–speed head–on or opposite direction sideswipe crashes, which tend to be more severe than other types of crashes.

 

Wrong-Way Driving Fatalities

Year Total Traffic Fatalities WWD Traffic Fatalities
2016 37,806 451
2017 37,473 458
2018 36,835 445
2019 36,355 TBD
2020 38,824 TBD

While wrong–way driving, as defined here, is not "intersection–related" in terms of where the crash occurs, it is appropriate to consider it under the umbrella of intersection safety because it originates with an improper maneuver at an intersection. However, the fatalities attributed to wrong–way driving are calculated separately from those for intersections.

Last updated: Thursday, November 17, 2022