Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System

Selecting Improvements for Pedestrians

Addressing pedestrian safety consists of a process that includes:

Typically, this process starts with bringing the right agencies or individuals and resources together. Transportation and land-use planners, engineers, law enforcement officers, emergency and health services, and community leaders need to work collectively to address pedestrian safety. Engaging a group of stakeholders from all four safety disciplines – engineering, education, enforcement and emergency services- can help to both identify the problems and facilitate the sharing of ideas in order to reach consensus and garner support for implementing effective countermeasures.

Pedestrians crossing the street on crosswalk Pedestrians may conflict with left-turning vehicles when permissive signal phasing is used.

Bringing together the appropriate resources is also critical when getting started. Practitioners may consult their State’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) to look for opportunities to address pedestrian safety. An SHSP is a data-driven, comprehensive, coordinated safety plan that provides a framework for reducing fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads within a State. The plan establishes statewide goals, objectives and key safety emphasis areas that integrate the four E’s. Often, a State’s SHSP will include pedestrians as an emphasis area for safety improvements. Local agencies may consult the State’s SHSP to determine whether there are emphasis areas, data, or other programs that provide opportunities to coordination to address pedestrian safety.

Practitioners can also use data to identify pedestrian safety problems. First, practitioners should investigate the pedestrian crash problem through a review of crash data. Two specific types of crash analyses include the identification of high-crash locations and the detailed examination of pre-crash maneuvers that lead to pedestrian-motor vehicle incidents. Both are described in more detail in this chapter.

However, many of the problems faced by pedestrians either do not involve crashes or the crashes are not reported. Thus, practitioners should also address pedestrian issues by focusing on performance objectives that will lead to changes in behavior, which will reduce pedestrian exposure. The types of objectives most often pursued by local agencies are discussed in this chapter.

Identification of High-crash Locations

A first step in the problem-solving process of improving pedestrian safety and mobility is to identify locations or areas where pedestrian crash problems exist and where engineering, education, and enforcement measures will be most beneficial. Mapping the locations of reported pedestrian crashes in a neighborhood, campus, or city is a simple method of identifying sites for improving pedestrian safety. One method of analyzing crash locations includes using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, an example of which is shown in the density map of reported pedestrian crashes on a college campus pictured above. This type of map can help transportation engineers and planners focus safety improvements on intersections, corridors, or neighborhoods where pedestrian crashes have occurred.

Pedestrian Mode Choice by Distance Pedestrian crash maps can provide valuable details of where pedestrian crash problems exist and where follow-up field examinations are justified for determining possible needed safety improvements.

Two issues should be considered when creating GIS maps of reported crash locations. First, the total number of pedestrians and vehicles that use each location will affect reported crash density. Second, pedestrian crashes may not be reported frequently enough to identify locations where pedestrians may be at greater risk. In either case, performing a conflict analysis, noting pedestrian and driver behavior, examining roadway and walkway characteristics at specific sites, or mapping locations known to have a high potential for pedestrian crashes in an area, may improve the identification of potential problem areas for pedestrians.

Conducting a pedestrian Road Safety Audit (RSA) can also be useful for identifying needed pedestrian roadway improvements.  A RSA is a formal safety performance evaluation of an existing or future road or intersection by an independent, multidisciplinary team.  RSA programs have been established in most States and FHWA guidelines regarding the RSA process are available at ( and pedestrian RSA information is available at (

Other methods for identifying locations with possible pedestrian problems include using walkability checklists and calculating a pedestrian level of service (PLOS). PLOS provides a numeric score and grade of pedestrian facilities based on geometrics and other conditions, including lane width, vehicle speed, and traffic volume. The 2010 version of the Highway Capacity Manual also provides a multimodal level of service approach that can be used to quantify the performance of pedestrian and bicycle facilities. These tools can help to evaluate the suitability of a roadway for pedestrian use.

Pedestrian Crash Typing

The development of effective roadway design and operation, education, and enforcement measures targeting pedestrian crashes may be hindered by insufficient detail in state and local crash files. Analysis of these data can provide information on where pedestrian crashes occur (city, street, intersection, two-lane road, etc.), when they occur (time of day, day of week, etc.), and characteristics of the victims involved (age, gender, injury severity, etc.). Some agencies may want to supplement crash files with other data sources, such has hospital injury information.

In the 1970s, methods for typing pedestrian and bicycle crashes were developed by the NHTSA to better define the sequence of events and precipitating actions leading to pedestrian/motor vehicle crashes.1, 2, 3, 4 These methodologies were applied by Hunter in a 1996 study to more than 8,000 pedestrian and bicycle crashes from six states.1, 2, 3, 4 The results provided a representative summary of the distribution of crash types experienced by pedestrians and bicyclists. Some of the most frequently occurring types, include dart-out first half (i.e., the pedestrian is struck in the first half of the street being crossed) (24 percent), intersection dash (13 percent), dart-out second half (10 percent), midblock dart (8 percent), and turning-vehicle crashes (5 percent).1, 2, 3, 4

The crash-typing methodology has evolved over time and has been refined as part of a software package known as the Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis Tool (PBCAT).5 The development of PBCAT was sponsored by FHWA and NHTSA through the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center. Those interested may register for the PBCAT software and user’s manual on the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center website at

PBCAT is a software product intended to assist state and local pedestrian and bicycle coordinators, planners, and engineers with the problem of lacking data regarding the sequence of events leading to a crash. PBCAT accomplishes this goal through the development and analysis of a database containing details associated with crashes between motor vehicles and pedestrians or bicyclists. One of these details is the crash type, which describes the pre-crash actions of the parties involved. The more than 60 specific pedestrian crash types used in PBCAT are assorted into 12 crash typing groups for purposes of selecting treatments.

Crash Type Analysis

Provided below are the definitions of the 12 crash types groups included in the PEDSAFE application. These definitions are from the PBCAT software.5 For any crash type, there are multiple problems or possible causes that may have led to the crash. The following section also provides examples of a few possible causes/problems for each crash type and some of the countermeasures within PEDSAFE that may be applicable. Neither the list of problems and possible causes nor the suggested countermeasures are to be considered comprehensive. Practitioners are required to supplement the analysis and recommendations with their own investigations and knowledge of local policies and practices.

1. Dart/Dash

2. Multiple Threat/Trapped

3. Unique Midblock (Mailbox, Ice Cream Vendor, Parked Vehicle)

4. Through Vehicle at Unsignalized Location

5. Bus-Related

6. Turning Vehicle

7. Through Vehicle at Signalized Location

8. Walking Along Roadway

9. Working/Playing in Road

10. Non-Roadway (Sidewalk, Driveway, Parking Lot, or Other)

11. Backing Vehicle

12. Crossing Expressway

13. Miscellaneous

Crash-related countermeasures matrixCrash-related Countermeasures

A total of 68 different pedestrian countermeasures are presented in this application, which address various types of roadway situations. To assist engineers and planners who may want further guidance on which measures are appropriate to address certain types of pedestrian crashes, an interactive matrix of 12 pedestrian crash groupings by seven categories of countermeasures is provided by clicking on the graphic to the right.

The "X" in the matrix suggest the countermeasure categories that may be primary candidates to address a given crash type, which takes into account whether the crash type occurs at an intersection or midblock location. The secondary benefits are not included in the matrix.

For example, the primary purpose of a pedestrian street, a street that is shared by people walking and driving, is to address midblock crash types (e.g., dart-out, dash). Although a pedestrian street may have the secondary benefit of eliminating a "through vehicle at intersection" crash type, it is not a suggested treatment for this crash type. Instead, such countermeasures as mini-circles, intersection diverters, etc., are suggested in the matrix to address "through vehicle at intersection" crashes.

To illustrate how to use the matrix, consider the second crash type on the matrix ("Multiple Threat/Trapped"). This is a crash involving an unsignalized crossing on a multilane road, where one vehicle stops to let a pedestrian cross the street. The pedestrian steps into the street in front of the stopped vehicle and then continues into the adjacent lane in front of an oncoming vehicle and is struck. The driver of the second vehicle may not see the pedestrian, because the sight line is typically blocked by the first (stopped) vehicle.

The matrix shows that six of the seven countermeasure categories contain potential countermeasures that may reduce the probability of this type of crash, depending on the site conditions. To view the specific applicable countermeasures in each category, click on the dot. A drop-down select box will appear listing the names of the applicable countermeasures. These countermeasures include curb extensions (which improve sight distance between pedestrians and motorists), pedestrian crossing islands (which provide places of refuge in the middle of the street), crosswalk enhancements, and other possible countermeasures. Select a countermeasure from the drop-down box to view the page containing its detailed description.

This matrix is intended to give general information on candidate measures that should be considered when trying to reduce a pattern of pedestrian crashes at a location or roadway section. Many pedestrian crashes are the direct result of careless or illegal driver behavior and/or high-risk pedestrian behavior. Many of these crashes cannot necessarily be prevented by roadway improvements alone. In such cases, pedestrian and/or motorist education and enforcement activities may be helpful and most effective.

Objective-related countermeasures matrixPerformance Objective-related Countermeasures

Pedestrians face a variety of challenges when they walk along and across streets with motor vehicles. Commu- nities are asking for help to “slow traffic down,� “make it safer to cross the street,� and “make the street more inviting to pedestrians.�

The following is a list of requests (objectives) that trans- portation professionals are likely to face when working to provide pedestrian safety and mobility:

Each of these objectives can be accomplished through a variety of the individual treatments presented in this chapter. Yet, most treatments will work best when used at multiple locations and in combination with other treatments.

In addition, many of the treatments will accomplish two or more objectives. The key is to make sure that the right treatments are chosen to accomplish the desired effect.

The matrix shows which countermeasures are appropriate to consider for the eight performance objectives. In using the chart, it is important to remember that it is simply a guide. In all cases, good engineering judgment should be applied when making decisions about what treatment will be best for a specific location.

Program of Improvements

Although some pedestrian crashes are associated with deficient roadway designs, human error often contributes to pedestrian crashes through a disregard or lack of understanding of laws and safe driving or walking behavior.6 Since most crashes are a result of human error, crashes will not be completely eliminated as long as pedestrians and vehicles share the same space. The consequences of these crashes are exacerbated by speeding, failing to yield, or failing to check both directions for traffic, so new education, enforcement, and engineering tools are needed to reduce the conflict between pedestrians and drivers.
A complete program of pedestrian safety improvements includes:6, 7

Roadway improvements can often reduce the likelihood of a pedestrian crash. Physical improvements are most effective when tailored to an individual location and traffic problem. Factors to consider when choosing an improvement include: location characteristics, pedestrian and vehicle volume and types, vehicle speed, design of a given location, local laws and ordinances, and financial constraints.6, 8 Many of these factors are included for consideration in the PEDSAFE Selection Tool.

It is important to remember that overuse or unjustified use of any traffic control measure is not recommended, since this may engender disrespect for such devices.9 Although facilities for pedestrians can, in many cases, reduce the risk of pedestrian collisions, crash reduction is not the only reason for providing such facilities. Other benefits of pedestrian facilities include improved access to destinations by walking, reduced automobile emissions due to less dependence on driving, and improved personal health. Transportation planning and engineering professionals have the responsibility for providing facilities for all modes of travel, including walking.6