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FHWA Home / Safety / Intersection / Strategic Intersection Safety Program Guide

Strategic Intersection Safety Program Guide

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Publication No. FHWA-SA-09-004

FHWA Contact: Lawrence J. Brown, HSSD, 202-366-2214

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2. Establishing A Strategic Intersection Safety Program

The strategic process described in this Guide for improving safety at intersections can assist in the development and implementation of an effective and efficient intersection safety program. Key elements of a strategic intersection safety program include:

A strategic process of this type typically leads to a balanced and cost-effective cyclical process of planning, implementation, and evaluation that addresses specific intersection safety and operational concerns at the highest-need locations.

The process described here provides a logical planning approach that helps justify and coordinate intersection safety improvement initiatives within jurisdictions of any size. At the State level, for example, this process can be used to develop an intersection safety emphasis area for the SHSP and to develop action plans to implement the SHSP. This would serve as a major planning resource for implementing intersection safety projects through the transportation planning process. Figure 4 shows the relationship of an intersection safety portion of an SHSP to a typical overall transportation planning process in a State. It shows various safety improvement programs that may serve as resources for an intersection safety program. It also illustrates the relationships between the various plans, which can aid agencies in the coordination of their programs. The process can be important in integrating State and local intersection safety initiatives into long-range and short-range project planning and decision-making.

Figure 4 is a diagram illustrating the relationship of a Strategic Highway Safety Plan to other planning documents, such as the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), and metropolitan transportation plans.  Each type of plan or program is represented by a colored box, and arrows going from one box to another are used to illustrate the relationships.
Figure 4. SHSP Relationship to Other Planning Documents(1)

Role of an SHSP in a Strategic Intersection Safety Program

The State SHSP development process considers any road safety programs, regardless of jurisdiction, that may affect the statewide strategic safety goals.
"4Es" of Road Safety Programs:
  • Engineering
  • Enforcement
  • Education
  • Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
Federal guidance for the SHSP development is presented in Strategic Highway Safety Plans: A Champion's Guide to Saving Lives.(1)

A State's Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) should serve as a resource for any intersection safety program developed by a State or local agency. It is a strategic safety plan that can and should provide focus, coordination, and support for all road safety programs within a State or local agency. Importantly, a SHSP can include and coordinate safety programs in each of the 4Es (engineering, enforcement, education, and EMS). Therefore, any intersection safety program, whether at the State or local level, can and should help achieve the intersection safety goals in an SHSP because they would be part of the safety program and goals for the State.

An SHSP is a cooperatively coordinated statewide safety plan that provides a comprehensive framework with specific data-driven goals and objectives for reducing fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads. The development of an SHSP is a Federal requirement for State DOTs. The goals, objectives and emphasis areas outlined in the SHSP must be developed in consultation with public and private safety stakeholders at the Federal, State, and local levels.(1) The collaborative process allows for all highway safety programs in the State to align, focus, and leverage resources for defining and addressing safety challenges indicated by data analyses.

All 50 States and the District of Columbia have developed an SHSP using processes approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).(1) This guide presents a summary of the overall strategic safety goals and strategic intersection safety goals as well as intersection improvement strategies found in the SHSPs. This summary, shown in Tables 1 through 8, illustrates the level of emphasis States have placed on intersection safety in their SHSPs. Such information can be useful for State and local agencies that are creating or updating their intersection safety programs.

Figure 5 shows the logo of Maryland’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan.  The logo says “Destination Saving Lives” around an outline of the state of Maryland.  Incorporated into the outline, in the lower left corner, the profiles of two faces are artistically represented.
Figure 5. Logo of Maryland SHSP

Intersection safety programs should be updated periodically. For example, States may modify the emphasis areas and goals in their SHSP to reflect changing needs or because their original goals have been met. As SHSPs are modified, overall intersection safety program goals may need to be updated to reflect SHSP modifications. As of 2008, 45 of the 51 SHSPs included a strategic overall fatality reduction goal in the form of either an anticipated reduced fatality rate or a specific reduction in percentage or number of fatalities. Such goals typically reference a goal year or a time period over which the anticipated reduction will be achieved. Two States do not present an overall fatality-reduction goal, but present a fatality-reduction goal for each emphasis area in their SHSPs. One State indicates a goal of achieving zero fatalities without a target date. The remaining three States use a goal of fatality and/or injury reduction, but do not indicate a specific anticipated number, rate, or percentage for reduction. In addition to fatality-reduction goals, some SHSPs contain either injury-reduction or crash-reduction goals. Table 1 presents a summary of overall SHSP strategic safety goals, most of which are anticipated to be achieved in part by intersection safety strategies either described in the SHSP or in other intersection safety programs.

Table 1. Crash Severity Levels Considered in Overall SHSP Goals
Crash severity levels considered Number of SHSPs Percent of all SHSPs
OVERALL SHSP GOALS 45 88.2
Reduce fatalities 45 88.2
Reduce fatal crashes 3 5.9
Reduce serious, disabling, or
incapacitating injuries or
injuries requiring hospitalization
10 19.6
Reduce all injuries 7 13.7
Reduce all injury crashes 1 2.0
Reduce all crashes 2 3.9


Most SHSPs make intersection safety a focus area, or discuss strategies and countermeasures within other emphasis areas for improving intersection safety. SHSPs often present specific strategic intersection safety goals, identify the State's intersection safety needs, and/or guide investment decisions to achieve significant reductions in intersection-related fatalities and serious injuries. Some SHSPs specify the intersection safety projects they plan to implement, but more often SHSPs discuss the need for action plans and potential strategies and countermeasures to address strategic goals, while specific projects are defined when developing the action plans that implement the SHSPs.

Fifteen States include strategic intersection safety goals in their SHSPs. Table 2 presents a summary of the strategic intersection safety goals included in the State SHSPs.

Table 2. Crash Severity Levels Considered in SHSP Intersection Goals
Crash severity levels considered Number of SHSPs Percent of all SHSPs
INTERSECTION GOALS 15 29.4
Reduce fatalities at intersections 6 11.8
Reduce combined fatal and serious injuries at intersections 2 3.9
Reduce combined fatal and serious injury crashes at intersections 3 5.9
Reduce combined fatal and all injury crashes at intersections 2 3.9
Reduce all injuries at intersections 2 3.9
Reduce all crashes at intersections 2 3.9

In State SHSPs for which a strategic intersection safety goal is not specifically given, the overall strategic goal may be applied proportionally to the strategic intersection goal. For example, if the overall strategic goal is to reduce fatal and serious injury crashes by 20 percent over the next five years, the strategic intersection safety goal could be to reduce fatal and serious injury intersection crashes by 20 percent over the same time period. In cases where the overall goal is to reduce a specific number of crashes, the intersection goal can be to reduce a percentage of that number of reduced crashes equal to the percentage of total crashes that occur at intersections.

Typically, States identify between four and eight emphasis areas in their SHSPs. Currently, 25 States have identified intersection safety as a specific emphasis area in their SHSPs. Additionally, 15 States include intersections as a specific subcategory in another emphasis area.

Most SHSPs identify and categorize their various safety programs into emphasis areas. Intersection safety is an emphasis area in about half of the States' SHSPs. Most of these States outline specific intersection improvement strategies for addressing the types of intersection crashes that are overrepresented in the data. In addition, intersection improvement strategies are often included in other safety improvement emphasis areas such as for pedestrians, older drivers, commercial motor vehicles, motorcycles, aggressive driving, distracted driving, impaired driving, speed, EMS, occupant protection, roadway departure, work zones, and data management. Consultation and coordination between the various emphasis areas is important to the successful development, planning, and implementation of safety projects and to achieving the strategic goals for the intersection safety program. Coordination between participating agencies also helps create the support required from all stakeholders to successfully address the jurisdiction's intersection safety needs.

Table 3 presents a summary of the emphasis areas in SHSPs that address intersection crashes with intersection-related strategies or countermeasures. Of the 51 State SHSPs available in 2008, 25 SHSPs include an emphasis area for intersection safety improvement. Fifteen additional SHSPs list intersections as a subcategory under another emphasis area. Therefore, a total of 40 SHSPs have a specific intersection emphasis area or emphasis-area subcategory. Twenty-five SHSPs include intersection safety strategies in other emphasis areas such as pedestrians/bicyclists, older/restricted drivers, aggressive driving/speeding, railroad-highway grade crossings, and locations with potential for crash reduction. Few SHSPs include no strategies specifically related to intersection safety improvements.

Table 3. Intersection-Related Emphasis Areas Included in SHSPs
SHSP emphasis areas addressing ntersection crashes Number of SHSPs Percent of all SHSPs
Specific intersection safety emphasis area 25
49.0
Intersections as a subcategory in one other emphasis areas: 15 29.4
Serious crash types 6 11.8
Infrastructure/ roadway/ environmental 9 17.6
Intersection strategies or countermeasures in other emphasis areas:a 25 49.0
Pedestrians/bicyclists 17 33.3
Older/restricted drivers 7 13.7
Aggressive driving/speeding 7 13.7
Railroad crossings 5 9.8
Building safer roadways 1 2.0
Continuing successful safety programs and initiatives 1 2.0
Design, construction and maintenance 1 2.0
Locations with potential for crash reduction 1 2.0
None of above 4 7.8
a Some SHSPs present intersection-related strategies in more than one emphasis area.

Although the level of detail and the content used to discuss intersection safety initiatives may vary between SHSPs, an SHSP that includes an intersection safety emphasis area helps provide a focus and framework for improving intersection safety on a comprehensive, coordinated basis.

Figure 6 shows the cover of NCHRP Report 501, Integrated Safety Management Process.
Figure 6. Cover of
NCHRP Report 501

Several documents that are relevant to, and can assist in, intersection safety program development include:

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Page last modified on September 4, 2014.
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