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FHWA Highway Safety Programs

Intelligent Transportation Systems Safety

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) improve transportation safety and mobility and enhance American productivity through the integration of advanced communications technologies into the transportation infrastructure and within vehicles. ITS encompasses a broad range of wireless and wire line communications-based information and electronics technologies. ITS applications focus on both the infrastructure and vehicle as well as integrated applications between the two.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s role is to assist states with ITS deployment. Overseeing ITS efforts across the USDOT is the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS-JPO), which collaborates across modal administrations to coordinate and plan multimodal ITS technology research, deployment, and evaluation programs.


ITS and the Safe System Approach (SSA)

With the inception of the Safe System Approach (SSA), as adopted by the National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS), there is a need to explore how each element of the SSA (Safe Roads, Safe Vehicles, Safe Road Users, Safe Speeds, and Post-Crash Care) interacts collectively, and how technology could play a more significant role in improving road safety and saving lives every day.

As communities start to change their street design approach by implementing Complete Streets, it is more important than ever for technology to be included. Technology could bridge the gap where road safety infrastructure and behavioral countermeasures are falling short. ITS can provide another layer of protection to the lives of the traveling public and vulnerable road users.

Below are a few examples of how technology is used within each of the SSA elements:

Safe Roads

In 2021 the City of Bellevue, WA, began applying traffic conflict analysis, that leverages cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and video analytics (which offers predictive insight into when, where, and why crashes are most likely to occur) to its high-injury network corridors, integrating conflict analytics into the road safety assessments (RSA) it conducts to identify and prioritize projects.

Safe Vehicles

Many Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) – pedestrian detection/avoidance, lane departure warning/correction, traffic sign recognition, automatic emergency braking, and blind spot detection – assist drivers daily with maneuvering, intersection movement, left turning and merging as well.

Safe Road Users

In the City of Marysville, Ohio, part of the Smart Mobility Corridor, intelligent infrastructure has been enabled to improve safety for vulnerable road users in real time with GPS coordinates, utilizing thermal cameras to track pedestrians. ITS monitors and analyzes camera metadata and broadcasts personal safety messages (PSMs) to connected vehicles and generates Basic Safety Messages (BSMs) for non-connected vehicles that can be used on dynamic message signs.

Safe Speeds

Many agencies already use Reduced Speed Zone, Work Zone Warning, Dynamic Speed Harmonization, and Curve Speed Warning Systems. Agencies can also make more use of speed safety cameras (SSCs) as an effective and reliable technology to supplement more traditional methods of enforcement, engineering measures, and education. SSCs use speed measurement devices to detect speeding and capture photographic or video evidence of vehicles that are violating a set speed threshold. SSCs can be deployed as: Fixed units—a single, stationary camera targeting one location, Point-to-Point (P2P) units—multiple cameras to capture average speed over a certain distance and Mobile units—a portable camera, generally in a vehicle or trailer.

Post-Crash Care

The ability to clear incidents quickly while providing safety to on-scene responders and travelers is one measure of the success of a Traffic Incident Management (TIM) program. The successful on-scene activities are supported by integrated interagency communications and technology when adequate warning is provided to motorists approaching the incident queue and positive traffic control is provided at all incident scenes on a 24-7 basis: Advanced Traffic Management Systems and Advanced Traveler Information Systems.

More information related to ITS and the SSA can be found at


ITS and Roadway Safety

Technology must be part of the conversation amongst planning, operations, infrastructure, construction and safety staff for roadway departure, intersection, speed management, pedestrian and bicyclist safety improvements as a minimum. Infrastructure safety countermeasures and technology deployment complement each other and enhance mobility for all road users.

The Office of Safety has many Proven Safety Countermeasures (PSCs) that are technology based. Those PSCs are:

There are other technology-related strategies under Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) that aim to get the most performance from existing transportation facilities but that also improve roadway safety. For more information on the connection between traffic operations and safety, visit: Operations and Safety: Making the Connections (

Connected vehicles and automated vehicles are ITS also and have a safety impact on the transportation network. In recent years, the deployment of connected vehicles has been more widespread and autonomous vehicle pilot efforts are also part of the ITS community conversations. There are agencies that have developed connected-vehicle corridors by deploying roadside transceivers along selected roads. Information gathered from the connected vehicle is sent to a roadside signal controller or other “Smart” infrastructure. “Smart” infrastructure can then send back information to drivers on signal phasing and timing. Emergency vehicle preemption, transit signal priority, and intelligent traffic signal systems are among the most deployed or planed applications for connected vehicles.

To learn more about technology resources and information, visit the Smart Community Resource Center (SCRC). The SCRC was designed to connect States, Tribal governments, and local communities with resources that can be used to develop intelligent transportation systems and smart community transportation programs.

To learn more about how ITS has been shown to improve safety, please visit the Spotlight on ITS for Roadway Safety, where you will find success stories across the country. If you are looking to better understand the issue of pedestrian fatalities and how ITS can be a valuable tool towards reducing them, visit ITS for Pedestrian Safety.

Deploying safety technologies will be critical to our success in more rapidly reaching zero fatalities and serious injuries.


Federal Funding Available for ITS Safety Efforts

There are federal funding opportunities for agencies and communities to deploy lifesaving technologies. Some of those grant programs include but are not limited to:

Check out the DOT navigator, which is a resource to help communities understand how to apply for grants, and plan for and deliver transformative infrastructure projects and services. Agencies can also dive into the DOT Discretionary Grants Dashboard, which is designed with all communities in mind. The Dashboard identifies grant programs with rural and Tribal set-asides or match waivers available.


ITS Research

Overall, ITS technologies can enhance road-user safety through connectivity-based systems and applications. Researchers identify challenges to driver, pedestrian, and other road-user safety, and they conduct evaluations of potential ITS technologies targeting these challenges.

The CARMA Program is leading research on Cooperative Driving Automation (CDA), leveraging emerging capabilities in automation and cooperation to advance transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) strategies.

Check out the FHWA Turner Fairbank Highway Research Center’s Office of Operations Research and Development that has a mission to advance the body of knowledge and technology to address transportation goals.


ITS Training

Are you wanting to know the basics of ITS? Then the ITS: What, Why, and How course (previously called ITS awareness) is for you. It introduces fundamental ITS information. It explains how ITS technologies have been used to address transportation challenges since the 1940s and goes on to present the broader context in which ITS applications are developed, deployed, and operated.

Are you a transportation professional interested in incorporating ITS into safety planning and want to know the benefits of ITS? Then register for Improving Highway Safety with Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). The course provides public and private sector transportation practitioners with a contextual deep dive into the ITS technologies that have been used to address transportation safety challenges and how an agency can incorporate use of those technologies into their transportation safety planning processes.

If you are looking for tools to develop the key aspects of a request for quote (RFQ), request for proposal (RFP), invitation for bid (IFB), or goods contract advertisement to ensure a successful ITS procurement, then register for the ITS Procurement course!