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Intersection Safety Needs Identification Report

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Executive Summary

The National Agenda for Intersection Safety (Agenda), published in 2002, was intended to be a living document.  This Intersection Safety Needs Identification Report reflects the progress that has been made in improving intersection safety since then.  Intersections are recognized as an important safety emphasis area.  AASHTO and 41of the states have specifically included intersections in their strategic highway safety plans.


The Objective of this report is to identify needs in developing and achieving safety performance through enhanced activities that can reduce crashes and their impacts—specifically the fatalities and serious injuries associated with intersection safety within their jurisdictions.

1. Intersection Design Options

1.1 Access Management

  1. Continue research on the safety and cost benefits of access management techniques.
  2. Conduct outreach and education on the safety and cost benefits of access management techniques. 
  3. Increase implementation of access management techniques. 

1.2 Roundabouts

  1. Consider roundabouts as viable alternatives for new and redesigned intersections.
  2. Conduct outreach to overcome opposition by state and local officials who are unfamiliar with the safety and operational benefits of roundabouts.
  3. Educate engineers on how to properly plan and design roundabouts, including avoiding past design and construction errors.
  4. Educate and familiarize road users about roundabout usage and benefits.

1.3 Alternative Intersection Designs

  1. Consider alternative designs at intersections with safety and/or operational problems.
  2. Perform outreach to inform transportation agencies and the public of the benefits of alternative intersection designs.
  3. Provide education on the selection, evaluation, and design of alternative intersections.
  4. Continue to evaluate the safety implications of alternative intersection designs.

1.4 Rural Intersection Safety

  1. Promote programs and action plans that encourage proactive, systematic application of low-cost treatments rather than focusing only on the locations where high numbers of severe crashes have occurred.
  2. Develop a best-practice guide for rural, low-volume intersection improvements, for use by local county engineers and managers of tribal lands, national parks, and others who implement safety improvements.
  3. Promote the continued funding of high-risk rural roads, including rural intersection treatments, into future reauthorization legislation.

2. Traffic Control

2.1 Signal Timing

  1. Develop best practices and policies and procedures for calculating, installing, verifying, and updating signal phasing and timings that enhance safety.
  2. Increase research to identify the safety aspects of operational improvements.
  3. Perform regular maintenance and assessments of signal timings.
  4. Develop a regular maintenance program for traffic signal equipment.
  5. Develop best practices for implementation of emergency vehicle pre-emption.

2.2 Red-Light Running

  1. Identify and mitigate the number of correctable red-light running (RLR) intersection problems based on unintentional red-light runners. 
  2. Consult stakeholders early in the process to obtain acceptance in the decision to use red-light cameras.
  3. Provide state and local jurisdictions with up-to-date information on the issues of deploying a red-light camera program. 

2.3 Advanced Technologies

  1. Continue to support collision-avoidance programs, including establishing a gap acceptance countermeasure and developing the violation countermeasure.
  2. Convene a panel to identify additional needs for these technologies. 
  3. Continue public-private partnerships to develop the systems for communication between the roadway infrastructure and the vehicles, and conduct field testing.

3. Intersection User Issues

3.1 Pedestrians and Bicyclists

  1. Increase the use of pedestrian and bicycle design guides, such as the Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities and the Guide for the Planning, Design, and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities, as well as the NCHRP Report 500 volumes that address pedestrian (Volume 10) and bicycle (Volume 18) safety.
  2. Train designers to advance their knowledge, skills, and abilities regarding intersection accessibility and safety, especially the accessibility needs of the elderly, blind, and disabled.  Current resources may include Special Report: Accessible Public Rights-of-Way Planning and Design for Alterations, prepared by the Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee and the Accessible Sidewalk Video series from the U.S. Access Board.
  3. Conduct pedestrian mobility and safety audits for all users at intersections, similar to the AARP audits conducted in 2008.  Encourage local agencies to share with lay volunteers and the general public safety resources such as the Pedestrian Mobility and Safety Audit Guide (from AARP-ITE) or the Walkability and Bikeability Checklists (from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center [PBIC]), to perform safety scans of local streets and neighborhoods.
  4. Implement public information and education campaigns for pedestrians and bicyclists on how to safely cross intersections.
  5. Implement public information and education campaigns for motorists on how to drive safely around pedestrians and bicyclists, including intersections that have bike lanes.
  6. Use walking speeds appropriate for the local population when timing traffic signals.

3.2 Motorcyclists

  1. Implement design and maintenance practices to address road surface conditions and road debris (e.g., reduce uneven road surfaces, avoid materials that create slippery surfaces for motorcycles, patch potholes promptly, remove debris and clean fluid spills promptly, etc.).
  2. Establish a working group to review design and signing guidelines to identify any appropriate changes that would better accommodate motorcycles.  This may include signage to communicate hazardous road and construction conditions.
  3. Review motorcycle crash data to identify any high-incident intersections, roadway hazards for motorcyclists, patterns in primary contributing factors, and a 4E (Engineering, Education, Enforcement, and Emergency Medical Services) action plan with priority safety countermeasures.
  4. Continue driver training and testing for motorcyclists, but ensure adequate coverage of issues related to intersection safety, especially watchfulness for vehicles at intersections and evasive maneuvers if a vehicle pulls in front of a motorcyclist’s path.
  5. Implement public information and education campaigns regarding motorcycle safety, targeting motorcycle drivers on key topics (e.g., helmets, speeding, alcohol, clothing that increases conspicuity, etc.) as well as reminding drivers of other vehicles how difficult it can be to see a motorcycle.

3.3 Motorists

  1. Encourage young driver training programs and older driver safety courses to include lessons on intersection safety.  Course material should reflect factors that contribute to the age group’s increased risk and what drivers can do to counteract these factors, and should include testing driving skills and safety knowledge at intersections.
  2. Perform public information and education campaigns for young and older driver groups on their risks at intersections and changes they can make to minimize their potential to be involved in a collision.
  3. Increase use of the Design Handbook for Older Drivers and Pedestrians (FHWA, 2001), which is currently being updated and should be available in 2009. This handbook contains numerous design recommendations by intersection design elements (e.g., curb radius and channelization) specifically regarding older drivers and older pedestrians.  After the release of the updated handbook:
    1. Widely disseminate the handbook among state and local street and highway agencies, especially since the original handbook was underutilized by the transportation engineering profession.
    2. Support the professional development and training of transportation engineers in the knowledge, skills, and abilities presented in the handbook.
    3. Work with and educate elected officials on the value of key laws and programs that address young and older driving populations.  This may include graduated driver licensing for young drivers and minimum vision, physical, and cognitive skills for older drivers.

4. Intersection Program Issues

4.1 Road Safety Audits at Intersections

  1. Review current road safety audit material to evaluate whether the information is appropriate for intersections. 
  2. Review existing NHI and FHWA road safety audit training courses to evaluate whether adequate coverage is given to the topic of intersections.  Create a renewed focus in promoting and providing intersection safety audit courses. 
  3. Promote the use of intersection safety audits by publishing success stories where implemented recommendations had an immediate and noticeable reduction in crashes.  Include a safety audit category as part of the National Roadway Safety Awards.

4.2 Crash Data and Reporting

  1. Continue the dialogue and collaboration between users and collectors of crash data to better integrate the needs of each onto crash report forms.
  2. Maintain strong funding and support for the state Traffic Record Coordinating Committees.
  3. Develop outreach and education between traffic engineers and police officers to further communicate the necessity for accurate, timely, complete, consistent, accessible, and linked crash data. 
  4. Encourage state and local jurisdictions to standardize their crash data collection based on ANSI D16.1 Standard, the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria (MMUCC).
  5. States and local jurisdictions should standardize the collection of roadway inventory and traffic elements critical to safety management based on the Model Minimum Inventory of Roadway Elements (MMIRE).

4.3 Intersection Design Standards, Guidelines, Policies, and Practices

  1. Utilize NCRHP Report 500 guides (especially Volumes 5 and 12, which are specific to intersections), the Intersection Safety Strategy brochures, and FHWA’s Desktop Reference for Crash Reduction Factors to select cost-effective countermeasures that can be incorporated into the intersection design process early to avoid later expensive retrofits.
  2. At the release of the Highway Safety Manual, convene a panel to review national design and signing guidelines for potential revisions to incorporate the latest intersection safety information in the manual, NCHRP Report 500 guides, and FHWA’s Desktop Reference for Crash Reduction Factors.
  3. Develop and package training that emphasizes new design standards, guidelines, policies, and practices that have been established nationally and internationally in the past few years.
  4. Identify and promote key personnel to assist agencies (e.g., peer-to-peer) in reviewing and updating intersection design standards, guidelines, policies, and practices to incorporate current knowledge on safety performance.

4.4 Multidisciplinary Nature of Intersection Safety

  1. Organize a national 4E coalition to establish a multidisciplinary discourse to monitor the progress on intersection safety and identify programs that organizations are willing to collaborate on.  Participating agencies should represent not only federal agencies but also national organizations representing cities, counties, police and sheriff departments, emergency medical services  providers, etc.
  2. Develop and implement multi-disciplinary intersection safety action plans.
  3. Develop a startup kit and program materials for state and local agencies.  Material should help in the organization and structure of multidisciplinary teams that address local intersection issues.
  4. Contact existing state and local 4E teams that address intersection safety within their communities to learn if the teams are meeting objectives.  This can include existing NHTSA Safe Community Programs or SHSP implementation teams.  Possible team objectives to assess include:
    1. Sharing information during meetings, via an email list serve, or on a web page regarding project and program implementation to encourage agencies to coordinate resources.
    2. Discussing observations, findings, and patterns of circumstances and contributing factors that lead to severe intersection crashes, allowing agencies to develop response plans.
    3. Sharing crash information about problem locations (e.g., locations with high total crash frequency, severe crash frequency, crash rates, etc.) to develop a coordinated response.
    4. Discussing agencies’ needs (e.g., selection of corridors where emergency vehicle preemption is added, locations to focus RLR enforcement, etc.).

4.5 Marketing Intersection Safety

  1. Create a 5-year plan to develop and broadcast education messages.  This should include working with Congress to identify dedicated funding in the next transportation reauthorization.
  2. Establish a coalition of safety partners to create and maintain an on-line clearinghouse of intersection safety education materials.
    1. The clearinghouse should be easy to locate, accessible, and maintained with current information.  Material in the clearinghouse should address multiple audiences, including the public, and specific audiences such as elected officials, high-risk drivers, and young or aging drivers.  The material should also consider the unique needs of different locations (urban versus rural) and types of traffic control (i.e., signalized, unsignalized, and roundabout).
    2. To use available resources effectively, work with the PBIC and others in the FHWA Office of Safety to jointly market intersection safety educational materials along with pedestrian safety intersection materials.
  3. Create new or enhance existing NHTSA Safe Community Programs to address local intersection safety problems.  Provide support and information to elected officials, agencies, and the general public.
  4. Fund local agencies for intersection safety marketing to develop grass-roots support for intersection programs and raise awareness.
  5. Identify an “intersection safety champion” to promote intersection safety programs and countermeasures and raise safety awareness.
  6. At statewide, regional, and national meetings and conferences, provide an intersection safety message.
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Page last modified on September 4, 2014.
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