Protecting the Safety of Drivers Inside and Outside the Vehicle

When we talk about the safety of our roads, many of us think of travelers inside vehicles. But road safety also includes travelers outside vehicles. Pedestrians, bicyclists, children being pushed in strollers, and people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices are all at risk when traveling along roads, parking lots, crosswalks, and garages.

In 2018 alone, more than 6,000 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes—the most deaths since 1990. It’s obvious thatWoman in crosswalk more needs to be done to raise awareness of the dangers to pedestrians, as well as provide solutions that will help increase the safety of all travelers—both inside and outside the vehicle.

October is Pedestrian Safety Month, and our counterparts at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are working hard to increase promotion of safe pedestrian and motorist behavior. But safety is a year-round priority, so NHTSA continually provides safety tips, educational material, leadership, and expertise to communities across America related to safe behaviors on our nation’s roads. NHTSA also conducts public awareness campaigns, such as Everyone is a Pedestrian, raising awareness of the dangers to pedestrians.

And at the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint Program Office, we are committed to researching and accelerating the deployment of ITS technologies that reduce crashes and save lives. For several years now, we have been researching technologies that provide collision alerts to both drivers and pedestrians in parallel. Some of these technologies are already being deployed in regions throughout the United States.

For example, there are applications that warn transit bus operators when pedestrians, within the crosswalk of a signalized intersection, are in the intended path of the bus. There are also mobile apps that help pedestrians with disabilities cross signalized intersections more efficiently and safely using their smartphones. Communications technology allows messages to be exchanged in real time between pedestrian smartphones and adaptive traffic signal control systems at intersections, providing information on the pedestrian’s presence and sufficient time needed to safely cross.

Critical to these systems is the capability for the vehicles, roadside infrastructure, and pedestrian smart devices to communicate. Advanced communications technology enables real-time exchange of vital information that systems can use to interpret and predict pedestrian and vehicle movement—resulting in crashes avoided and lives saved.

At some point in our lives and daily commutes, we are all pedestrians. It is all of our responsibility to ensure the safety of our roads—whether we’re behind the wheel or walking alongside it.

Find out how to protect yourself and your loved ones when walking and learn how you can help prevent pedestrian injuries and deaths.

And, the U.S. Department of Transportation will continue to accelerate the deployment of innovative technologies that advance us closer to a future transportation system of zero deaths.

Ken Leonard
ITS JPO Director

Posted 10/14/20