The National Academies

NCHRP 17-12 [Completed]

Improved Safety Information to Support Highway Design

  Project Data
Funds: $199,982
Research Agency: Northwestern University
Principal Investigator: Ronald Pfefer and Timothy Neuman
Effective Date: 1/30/1995
Completion Date: 12/31/1997

Improved safety information is essential to making effective design decisions and formulating sound policies for the design of vertical and horizontal alignments, cross sections, roadside treatments, and traffic controls. Research identified improved means to collect, manage, and use crash, inventory, traffic, and other data to design safer highways.

Crash data have traditionally provided the basis for determining locations and causes of highway network safety problems. Aggregate analysis of crash data also provides the basis for defining general safety issues and developing design criteria to enhance safety. Inventory data exist in most transportation agencies to cover a diverse set of roadway elements, including alignment, pavement type and condition, traffic-control devices, roadside features, and access points. Unfortunately, the crash and inventory data upon which design decisions are based are often inaccurate (e.g., poorly located), fragmented, missing, inconsistent, incorrect, and/or unlinkable. The emergence of new technologies such as global positioning systems (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS), hand-held computers, electronic clipboards, digital imaging equipment (e.g., digital video and digital orthophotography), multimedia software, and bar code and magnetic strip readers has opened new opportunities to acquire, store, access, and use pertinent information on crashes, roadway features, traffic, and environmental conditions.
Comprised of staff from Northwestern University; CH2M Hill, Inc.; and several resource consultants and advisors; a research team led by the Traffic Institute of Northwestern University, Inc., of Evanston, Illinois, provided (1) a comprehensive review of the critical safety data needs for highway design purposes; (2) an assessment of methods to gather and use data; (3) an evaluation of emerging technologies for collecting, processing, storing, and accessing data; and (4) conceptual designs for a design decision support system (DDSS) for safety that would be possible with improved safety information. The project incorporated new technologies into safety concepts for DDSS that can be integrated into computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) systems or other design tools like the FHWA's Interactive Highway Safety Design Model (IHSDM).

A summary of the project findings was published in NCHRP Research Results Digest 239, "Improved Safety Information for Highway Design." The full final report was published as NCHRP Report 430, "Improved Safety Information to Support Highway Design."

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