The National Academies

NCHRP 17-97 [Active]

Strategies to Improve Pedestrian Safety at Night

  Project Data
Funds: $500,000
Staff Responsibility: Inam Jawed
Research Agency: Toole Design Group, LLC
Principal Investigator: Kristof Devastey
Effective Date: 10/1/2021



In 2019, there were 6,205 reported pedestrian deaths in traffic crashes on the nation’s roadways (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Report: DOT HS 813 021), accounting for 17% of all traffic fatalities that year and representing a 30.3% increase in pedestrian fatalities over the past 5 years. Approximately 75% of these fatalities occurred at night. In fact, during the 2008-2017 period, nighttime crashes accounted for more than 90% of the total increase in pedestrian deaths. Research indicates that nighttime pedestrian collisions have an 83% chance of being fatal at intersections without street lighting and a 54% chance at those with street lighting. Even when the collision is not fatal, injuries sustained by pedestrians at nighttime tend to be much more severe than those incurred during daylight time. While visibility is obviously the single most important factor impacting pedestrian nighttime safety, there appear to be a host of other factors whose interplay may also have a role in exacerbating the issue. These factors also need to be understood fully to help develop an effective strategy for improving pedestrian safety at night.


Much of the research to-date on pedestrian nighttime safety has focused essentially on vehicular headlighting and reflective clothing with the general conclusion that increased headlight sight distance and clothing conspicuity help improve pedestrian safety outcomes. Some studies have identified vehicle speed, limited-access roadways, and alcohol use by pedestrians and/or vehicle drivers as some of the major factors impacting pedestrian safety. However, these studies used data prior to 2004 for their findings, which may not fully explain the steep rise in nighttime pedestrian fatalities in the past decade. Driver and pedestrian distraction and changing vehicle body types have also been suggested as possible contributors to the recent increase in pedestrian fatalities, but the available data is not conclusive enough to establish meaningful correlations.


Existing common strategies are often limited in their applicability due to funding restraints, technical limitations, policy shortcomings, or other factors. Research is needed to support transportation agencies’ data-driven decisions aimed at improving pedestrian safety at night. For example, in situations where lighting is not feasible due to funding issues or other practical reasons, agencies need a menu of alternative multidisciplinary strategies that can help improve pedestrian safety.




The objectives of this research are to:


1.    Establish root causes of pedestrian traffic crashes at night;


2.    Identify, and evaluate the effectiveness of, existing and emerging strategies for improving pedestrian nighttime safety;


3.    Propose effective, economically-viable strategies to mitigate nighttime pedestrian crashes; and


4.    Develop guidance for implementing the proposed strategies.





The research plan is to be executed in three phases and comprises, at a minimum, the tasks outlined below. Authorization to proceed to the next phase is contingent upon successful completion of the previous phase and approval/acceptance of the required deliverables.


Phase I


Task 1. Conduct a critical literature review that will (a) discuss root causes of nighttime pedestrian traffic injuries and fatalities, (b) evaluate research addressing issues that impact pedestrian safety at nighttime, (c) identify gaps in the current state of knowledge on this specific topic, and (d) assess existing strategies to mitigate nighttime pedestrian- involved crashes, with particular attention to their limitations and shortcomings. Conduct a review of practices used by transportation agencies to identify and select strategies.


Task 2. Develop a plan for collecting and analyzing data for identifying the root causes of nighttime pedestrian crashes and systemic risk patterns.  The plan should propose the timeframe and jurisdictions for the data. The holistic data analysis will consider all likely contributing roadway context and environment; road user behavior and characteristics; vehicle, human factor, transportation inequities; and post-crash care factors. This is not an exhaustive list, and there may be other less apparent factors to analyze.


Task 3. Develop a technical memo that details the results of Tasks 1 and 2, and a proposed work plan for Phase II that includes the data collection plan and data analysis approach. Hold a virtual meeting with the NCHRP to discuss the outcomes of Tasks 1 and 2 and the draft data collection and analysis plan.


Phase II


Task 4. Collect data related to nighttime pedestrian crash analysis, as approved in Phase I.


Task 5. Analyze data collected in Task 4 to identify root causes and systemic patterns of nighttime pedestrian crashes and safety outcomes. The patterns may reveal factors most prevalent in those crashes. It is more likely that a combination of factors, rather than a single factor, plays a major role in the occurrence of those crashes. This task will identify all such situations and scenarios.


Task 6. Develop an interim report that details work performed in Phase I and Phase II, and a work plan for Phase III. The work plan will include recommendations for the content and format of the guidance to be developed in Phase III.


Phase III


Task 7. Propose solutions based on the identified patterns to mitigate nighttime pedestrian crashes. These strategies need to be practical, economically viable, readily implementable, and they also need to apply safe system approaches. Develop guidance that will help agencies diagnose nighttime pedestrian safety issues and determine the most appropriate strategies to mitigate nighttime pedestrian crashes. The guidance should be user-friendly and infographic-based.


Task 8. Prepare a final report that documents results, summarizes findings, draws conclusions, presents an implementation strategy for the study results, and makes recommendations for additional research. Prepare a PowerPoint presentation and other print or digital communication materials (e.g., social media materials, articles) that may be used to present the results of this research.


Task 9. Conduct at least two webinars/presentations for relevant stakeholders, such as state DOT, FHWA, industry personnel, and AASHTO committees (e.g., AASHTO Safety Committee, AASHTO Technical Committee on Non-Motorized Transportation). The targeted stakeholder groups will require prior approval of the NCHRP.




Phase I


1.    Presentation to the NCHRP via a web-enabled virtual meeting to discuss the proposed data collection and analysis plan for Phase II


2.    Technical memo presenting results of Tasks 1 and 2 and a plan for collecting and analyzing data


Phase II


1.    An interim report consisting of the following items:


a.    Results and findings of the Phase I work


b.    A discussion of data analysis examining root causes of nighttime pedestrian traffic injuries and fatalities and providing a candid appraisal of existing and emerging crash mitigation strategies and research on issues impacting pedestrian nighttime safety


2.    Work plan for Phase III


Phase III


1.    A final report that documents results, summarizes findings, draws conclusions, presents an implementation strategy for the study results, and makes recommendations for additional research


2.    Documented guidance for diagnosing nighttime pedestrian safety issues and determining the most appropriate strategies to mitigate nighttime pedestrian crashes


3.    At least two webinars/presentations for relevant stakeholders


4.    A draft TRNews article highlighting the products of this research and their implementation strategies


Status: Research in Progress


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