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FHWA Home / Safety / Intersection / Intersection Safety Needs Identification Report

Intersection Safety Needs Identification Report

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Intersection Safety Categories and Associated Strategies
3. Intersection User Issues

3.1 Pedestrians and Bicyclists

Exhibit VI – Intersection and Pedestrian & Bike Fatalities, 1998 - 2007

not applicable 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
Ped & Bike Fatalities 1,400 1,334 1,320 1,466 1,407 1,390 1,350 1,409 1,390 1,394

Issues.  In 2007, 13 percent of intersection fatalities were pedestrians, and bicyclists accounted for another 3 percent.  Exhibit VI shows the preliminary 2007 FARS data.  Pedestrians and bicyclists are a subset of intersection users, requiring special attention in the design, operation, and enforcement of intersections.  Complicating the issue, pedestrians can have a wide variety of needs that require specialized solutions (e.g., elderly, blind, or persons in wheelchairs), and bicyclists have a wide variation in experience, skills, and knowledge on how to negotiate an intersection safely, with or without separate bike lanes, making it difficult to safely accommodate all users. The needs of some pedestrians may compete with what is best for motorists (e.g., increased crossing times for elderly pedestrians can affect intersection operations; blind individuals may have troubles negotiating a roundabout) and even other pedestrians (e.g., gently sloped curb ramps for elderly and persons in wheelchairs do not provide a distinct edge to help blind pedestrians identify the edge of a road).

Recommendations

  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 thePublic 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 by ITE 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 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

Exhibit VII – Intersection and Motorcycle Fatalities, 1998-2007

not applicable 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
Motorcycle Fatalities 626 658 759 843 907 1,120 1,127 1,288 1,380 1,456

Issues.  In 2007, motorcyclists accounted for nearly 17 percent of all intersection fatalities, up from 8 percent in 1998.  Exhibit VII shows the preliminary 2007 FARS data.  Of the fatal intersection crashes involving motorcycles, 46 percent of crashes were the right-angle crash type, and other turning-related crash types were also common.  Although many factors contribute to right-angle and turning crashes, the conspicuity of the motorcyclists (or a driver’s ability to see and recognize an approaching motorcycle) is known to be a significant contributing factor.

The second most common crash type was a “Not Collision with Motor Vehicle,” which consists primarily of collision with a roadside fixed object, overturn, rollover, or fall off the motorcycle collision.  These collisions can often be related to debris or road surface conditions that can cause a motorcyclist to lose control.

Regardless of the crash type, other common factors contributing to the frequency or severity of motorcycle crashes may include speeding, lack of helmet use, alcohol impairment, and motorcycle driver training/skills.

Recommendations

  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 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

Issues.  Younger (< 21) and older (> 64) drivers are overrepresented in fatal crashes, accounting for approximately 23 percent of all drivers involved in a 2007 fatal crash.  Their involvement increases to more than 27 percent of all drivers involved in fatal intersection crashes, illustrating that safely navigating an intersection can be especially difficult for these two age groups.
Intersections tend to be one of the more-complex areas of the transportation system.  Motorists may have to simultaneously process guide and warning signs as well as identify messages conveyed by traffic control, position their vehicles in the appropriate lane, and recognize and judge the speed and position of conflicting traffic.  While this can be a difficult task for any motorist, it can be especially difficult for these two age groups.   Young drivers’ inexperience and risk-taking behavior, especially when combined with distractions such as peers riding in the vehicle or using cell phones, can lead to collisions and near-miss incidents at intersections.  While drivers in the 64–and-above age group are more experienced and take fewer risks, changes in physical abilities (e.g., deteriorating eyesight, restricted range-of-motion, reaction time, etc.) and cognitive skills (e.g., recognition and decision making) increase their risk of being involved in a collision.

Recommendations

  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, 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 element (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 under utilized 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.
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Page last modified on September 4, 2014.
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