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FHWA Home / Safety / Intersection / Intersection Safety Issue Briefs

Intersection Safety Issue Briefs

Issue Brief 9

Pedestrian Safety at Intersections

November 2009

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Safety is important for all roadway users, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Safety has established a goal of reducing pedestrian fatalities and injuries by 10 percent by the year 2011.1 Although intersections represent a very small percentage of U.S. surface road mileage, more than one in five pedestrian deaths is the result of a collision with a vehicle at an intersection. Annually, an average of 4,852 pedestrians died in traffic crashes during the 10-year period between 1998 and 2007. During the most recent five-year period (2003-2007), an average of 85 fewer pedestrian fatalities (4,767) have resulted. During the same analysis periods for intersections, an average of 1,134 and 1,140 pedestrians, respectively, have been killed. The percentage of pedestrian fatalities that occurs at intersections ranges from 22.0 percent to 24.8 percent between 1998 and 2007. The average over this 10-year period is 22.4 percent and, for the most recent five-year period, the average has increased to 23.0 percent (See Figure 1 and Table 1; all statistics based on Fatality Analysis Reporting System).

Graph depicting intersection and pedestrian fatalities and pedestrian fatalities at intersections for the period 1998-2009.
Figure 1: 1998-2007 Intersection and Pedestrian Fatalities and Pedestrian Fatalities at Intersections

Table 1: Intersection and Pedestrian Fatalities, 1998-2007
empty cell 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Intersection Fatalities 9,240 8,924 8,689 8,922 9,273 9,362 9,176 9,238 8,850 8,657
Pedestrian Fatalities (Overall) 5,228 4,939 4,763 4,901 4,851 4,774 4,675 4,892 4,795 4,699
Pedestrian Fatalities at Intersections 1,173 1,087 1,094 1,109 1,173 1,182 1,097 1,141 1,137 1,143
% Pedestrian Fatalities at Intersections 22.4 22.0 23.0 22.6 24.2 24.8 23.5 23.3 23.7 24.3

Table 2 provides an overview of pedestrian fatalities at intersections as they relate to the age group of the pedestrian in the United States. As shown, the older population is over-represented relative to intersection fatalities by a factor of more than 2 to 1. In fact, the age 75 to 84 age group is over-represented by a factor of 3 to 1. All of the age groups under age 44 are underrepresented relative to pedestrian fatalities at intersections and have a ratio under 1.0 relative to their age group.

Table 2: 2007 Pedestrian Fatalities at Intersections, by Age Group, in the United States
Age Age Group Percentage of U.S. Population Number of Pedestrian Fatalities at Intersections Percentage of Pedestrian Fatalities at Intersections Over-representation Factor
<15 20.3 67 5.9 0.29
15-24 14.2 109 9.5 0.67
25-44 28.0 244 21.3 0.76
45-64 25.0 356 31.3 1.25
65-74 6.4 156 13.6 2.13
75-84 4.5 155 13.6 3.01
85+ 1.7 50 4.4 2.57
Unknown -- 6 0.52 --
Total Pedestrian Fatalities at Intersections -- 1,143 100.0 --
Total Pedestrian Fatalities -- 4,699 24.3 --

Pedestrian Safety Problems at Intersections

Pedestrian safety problems can occur at intersections for a variety of reasons, including the following:

Photo of a vehicle encroaching on a crosswalk where pedestrians are present.
Figure 2: Example of erratic compliance

Pedestrian Safety Countermeasures

To address pedestrian safely problems at intersections, the following section provides possible pedestrian safety countermeasures within the following categories:

While this section provides general countermeasures, specific countermeasures should be identified based upon detailed analysis of the pedestrian crash reports.

Crosswalk Improvements

Research reveals that just providing crosswalks at pedestrian crossings with uncontrolled approaches is not always adequate:

Pedestrian Safety at Midblock Crosswalks/ Crossings of Uncontrolled Intersection Approaches

The following treatments can be used to improve pedestrian safety at midblock crosswalks or crossings of uncontrolled intersection approaches:

Photo of a midblock crosswalk that crosses a median, which serves as a refuge.
Figure 3: Unsignalized, midblock, ladder crosswalk. Usage of "State Law Stop for Pedestrian within Crosswalk" (R1-6) sign in median

Image shows four signs that use a combination of words and images to convey to drivers that they should either yield to or stop for pedestrians. Two signs indicate that yielding or stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk is State law.
Figure 4: Unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk signs

Intersection Design/ Physical Improvements

Intersection Operations

If a location cannot be made safe for pedestrians, install barriers such as fences or shrubs to discourage pedestrians from crossing at unsafe locations; these must be designed so they do not create visual screens that could cause additional safety concerns.

Signal Hardware/Technology

Pedestrian Countdown Displays

Provide pedestrian change interval countdown displays (use requirement anticipated in next MUTCD NPA Section MUTCD Section 4E.07 Countdown Pedestrian Signals). These displays count down the seconds of flashing DON'T WALK left before the pedestrian signal changes to solid DON'T WALK.

Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS)

2003 MUTCD: Section 4E.06 Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS)

The installation of APS at signalized locations should be based on an engineering study, which should consider the following factors: (1) potential demand for accessible pedestrian signals; (2) a request for accessible pedestrian signals; (3) traffic volumes during times when pedestrians might be present, including periods of low-traffic volumes or high turn-on-red volumes; (4) complexity of traffic signal phasing; and (5) complexity of intersection geometry. When using APS, the pedestrian signal must be visible and any push buttons must be accessible with audible locator tones for people with visual disabilities. See Figure 5.

Photo of a woman touching an accessible pedestrian signal call box.
Figure 5: Example of APS

Animated Eye Pedestrian Signal

Animated eyes are intended for use at pedestrian crosswalks as a supplement to conventional pedestrian signals. Animated eye displays may encourage pedestrians to look for turning vehicles traveling on an intersecting path by including a prompt as part of the pedestrian signal. The prompt is a pair of animated eyes that scan from side to side at the start of the WALK indication.11

Pedestrian Intervals and Signal Phases

MUTCD NPA Section 4E.10

The pedestrian clearance time should be sufficient enough to allow a crossing pedestrian, who left the curb or shoulder during the WALKING PERSON signal indication, to travel at a walking speed of 3.5 feet per second and make it to at least the far side of the traveled way or to a median refuge. A walking speed of up to 4 feet per second may be used to evaluate the sufficiency of the pedestrian clearance time at locations where equipment such as an extended push button press or passive pedestrian detection has been installed to provide slower pedestrians an opportunity to request and receive a longer pedestrian clearance time.

The Three E-Approach: Engineering Alone is Not Sufficient

Improved pedestrian safety at intersections requires coordination among enforcement authorities, professional engineers, media, education experts, and vehicle designers to reduce both the number and severity of pedestrian collisions. Pedestrian safety cannot be improved by traffic engineering alone; it is a partnership between the driver, pedestrians, parents of young children, schools, police departments, and others.

From an enforcement perspective, motorist compliance with traffic control devices, posted speeds, and pedestrian safety laws needs to be ensured. Pedestrians need to understand and obey intersection traffic control.

All partners need to develop a sustained and comprehensive intersection safety public awareness campaign that reaches both motorists and pedestrians. Pedestrians need to know how to make themselves more visible during evening and nighttime hours. One way to do this is to wear retro reflective clothing and accessories. See Figure 6.

Computer-generated image whereby pedestrians at varying distances wearing retroreflective clothing are highlighted based on how far away they are from the headlights of an oncoming vehicle.
Figure 6: Poster distributed by FHWA

Sample Pedestrian Safety Programs/Tools

FHWA Pedestrian Road Safety Audit Guidelines

A road safety audit (RSA) is a formal safety examination of a future roadway plan or project or an in-service facility that is conducted by an independent, experienced multidisciplinary RSA team. All RSAs should include a review of pedestrian safety; however, some RSAs may be conducted to improve an identified pedestrian safety problem. The pedestrian road safety audit guidelines and prompt lists developed for the FHWA provide transportation agencies and teams conducting an RSA with a better understanding of the needs of pedestrians of all abilities. http://drusilla.hsrc.unc.edu/cms/downloads/PedRSA.reduced.pdf.


Desktop Reference for Crash Reduction Factors, Publication No. FHWA-SA-07-015. A crash reduction factor is the percentage crash reduction that might be expected after implementing a given countermeasure at a specific site. FHWA has developed a set of resources to assist practitioners in identifying and deciding upon specific countermeasure treatments. These resources are developed around FHWA's Office of Safety focus areas of intersection safety, pedestrian safety and roadway departure safety. http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/tools/crf/resources/fhwasa08011/.

FHWA's Pedestrian and Bicycle Intersection Safety Indices

The primary objective of this study was to develop safety indices to allow engineers, planners, and other practitioners to proactively prioritize intersection crosswalks and intersection approaches with respect to pedestrian and bicycle safety. The models in this study use easily collected, observable characteristics of an intersection to produce safety index values. Practitioners will be able to use these models on a small or large scale to determine where best to focus efforts to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/pedbike/06130/06130.pdf.

PEDSAFE: The Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System

PEDSAFE is intended to provide practitioners with the latest information available for improving the safety and mobility of pedestrians. The online tools provide the user with a list of possible engineering, education, or enforcement treatments to improve pedestrian safety and/or mobility based on user input about a specific location. http://www.walkinginfo.org/pedsafe/.

Toolbox of Countermeasures and Their Potential Effectiveness for Pedestrian Crashes

This tool identifies potential solutions for use by safety practitioners. This matrix is particularly helpful as a resource of potential engineering countermeasures, which may be implemented at a location to address a particular pedestrian crash type. http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/tools_solve/ped_tctpepc/ped_tctpepc.pdf.

FHWA Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis Tool (PBCAT)

PBCAT is a crash-typing software intended to assist state and local pedestrian/bicycle coordinators, planners, and engineers with improving walking and bicycling safety through the development and analysis of a database containing details associated with crashes between motor vehicles and pedestrians or bicyclists. http://www.walkinginfo.org/facts/pbcat/download.cfm.

ITE/Partnership for a Walkable America Pedestrian Project Awards

ITE, in cooperation with the Partnership for a Walkable America and a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, conducted a Pedestrian Project Award Program in 2003. More than 106 submittals were received in six categories: safety, facilities, education, policy, partnerships, and elderly and mobility impaired. Each submission, including the program description for both the winners and all nominees, has been digitized and is included on http://www.ite.org/activeliving/index.asp.

AASHTO Guide for the Planning, Design and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities, AASHTO, Washington, DC, 2004.

Florida Department of Transportation Pedestrian and Bicycle Research. http://www.dot.state.fl.us/Safety/ped_bike/ped_bike_reports.shtm.

Alternative Treatments for At-Grade Pedestrian Crossings. ITE, Washington, DC, 2001.

Design and Safety of Pedestrian Facilities: An ITE Recommended Practice. ITE, Washington, DC, 1998.

National Traffic Safety Administration Fact Sheets: Pedestrians. http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810994.pdf.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. http://www.walkinginfo.org/.

Pedestrian Mobility and Safety Audit Guide. AARP/ITE, 2009. http://www.ite.org/PedAudits/AuditGuide.pdf.

U.S. Access Board, Public Rights-of-Way Webpage. http://www.access-board.gov/prowac/.


1 FHWA Pedestrian Forum Newsletter, winter 2009.

2National Pedestrian Crash Report, NHTSA, 2008.

3Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Q&A: Pedestrians, December 2000.

4Evaluation of Operational and Geometric Characteristics Affecting the Safety of Six-lane Roadways, Florida Department of Transportation, Tallahassee, FL, January, 2007.

5 Zegeer, Charles V. et. al. Safety Effects of Marked vs. Unmarked Crosswalks at Uncontrolled Locations. Executive Summary and Recommended Guidelines. FHWA RD-01-075, February 2002.

6 MUTCD Section 3B.16.

7MUTCD Interim Approval for Optional Use of Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (IA-11), FHWA, July 16, 2008.

8MUTCD (NPA) Chapter 4F. The NPA is a Notice of Proposed Amendment. While not yet part of the new MUTCD, it has been published to the Federal Register, comments have been received and, at the time of this Safey Brief's authoring, are still being considered.

9MUTCD Section 4E.07.

10MUTCD (NPA) Section 4E.10.

11MUTCD Section 4E.04.

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