Transportation Safety

Vision Zero

Vision Zero sets a target of zero roadway fatalities and serious injuries. It is a movement within the transportation profession with the goal of ensuring that safety is prioritized above other considerations, such as mobility, within a transportation system. At the core of Vision Zero is an embrace of the safe systems approach, a strategy of roadway safety management focusing on safety from all aspects of the roadway use experience, from design and operation, to driver behavior.

Vision Zero and the safe systems approach emphasize that some degree of roadway user error will always occur, and that such errors should not result in a fatality or serious injury. Thus, while the onus is on the roadway user (whether that is a driver, pedestrian, or bicyclist) to operate safely and within the rules and limitations of the roadway environment, the roadway itself must also be designed and operated to accommodate certain driver errors, and make any crashes that do occur survivable.

In practice, there is a strong emphasis on roadway design and operation that limits the kinematic impacts and stresses associated with any potential crashes, to those levels which are deemed survivable by the typical roadway user. Tactics such as speed management and traffic calming, physical separation of roadway users, and treatments that enhance visibility of vulnerable users to give drivers greater reaction time, all contribute to a portfolio of tools for ITE members to achieve Vision Zero within their communities.

For more information on Vision Zero, please visit the ITE Vision Zero Webpage.

A Safe System Approach

The Safe System Approach differs from conventional safety practice by being human-centered, i.e. seeking safety through vehicle or roadway design and operational changes rather than relying primarily on behavioral changes – and by fully integrating the needs of all users (pedestrians, bicyclists, older, younger, disabled, etc.) of the transportation system. The Safe System webpage was developed in partnership with the Road to Zero Coalition and members of the RTZ Safe System Working Group.

To learn more about how Safe System provides a safety-net for the user, visit the ITE Safe System technical page.

Speed Management

Speed management is an important element associated with transportation safety and Vision Zero. Approximately one third of all roadway fatalities each year are at least partially caused by speeding-related factors. Proper speed management ensures that roadway users are operating at speeds that are safe and appropriate for the given roadway environment, and that certain types of vulnerable roadway users (e.g., pedestrians, bicyclists) are protected from unsafe conditions caused by vehicle speed.

Speed management is not just about setting speed limits. Proper speed management ensures that the proper speed limit is set for the proper context. Speed limit setting, traffic calming, speed studies and speed management are especially difficult in urban and suburban environments. Transportation professional should take advantage of the full depth of resources, tools and data collection techniques to provide a comprehensive speed management program, and help to eliminate speeding-related fatalities and serious injuries.

For critical resources and up-to-date information on speed management, ITE has created a Speed Management for Safety resource hub for use by all transportation professionals. 

Noteworthy Speed Management Practices 

The Noteworthy Speed Management Practices guide provides an avenue of information for practitioners, summarizing eight case studies which highlight noteworthy practices over a range of speed management issues including: 

  • Strategic Speed Management Program (Austin, Texas) 
  • Self-Enforcing Roadways (Golden, Colorado) 
  • Setting Credible Speed Limits (New Hampshire DOT) 
  • High Visibility Enforcement (Oro Valley, Arizona) 
  • Successful Strategies for Adoption of Safety Cameras (New York City, NY) 
  • Targeted Reporting of Speeding-Related Crashes (Arizona DOT) 
  • Consistent Speed Limits for Vulnerable Road Users (Examples from Various Agencies) 
  • Network Approach to Setting Speed Limits (New Zealand Transport Agency) 

The Noteworthy Speed Management Practices guide can be downloaded here.


    Speed Management National Workshop

    The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and the Vision Zero Network (VZN) hosted a National Workshop on November 8, 2018 in New York City, as part of the Vision Zero Cities Conference. Click the agenda and summary of the national workshop for more information.

    Urban and Suburban Street Safety

    Within the realm of transportation safety, urban and suburban contexts present certain unique challenges that must be considered. In high density, urban spaces, ensuring a safe roadway environment for all users can be problematic, due to the sheer number of competing needs (e.g., automobiles, delivery trucks, transit, pedestrians, bicyclists), and number of potential distractions for users (e.g., traffic signals, street signs, advertisements). However, low speeds in many dense urban environments often ensure that even when crashes do occur, that they are typically less in severity than in other contexts.

    Suburban environments, by contrast, are especially challenging, due to their nature of blending elements of the rural and urban environments. Many suburban areas are built primarily with automobile use in mind, lending themselves to straight, wide roadways with high posted speed limits, and limited or no accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists. Issues such as long blocks (which limit crossing opportunities for pedestrians), infrequent transit service, and single-use land development further inhibit access for non-motorized users within the community and can result in dangerous behaviors such as jaywalking. Moreover, the higher operating speeds of these suburban environments frequently lead to crashes with greater likelihood of fatalities and serious injuries.

    ITE is committed to ensuring that roadway users can have access to safe transportation in rural, urban, and suburban environments alike. Within urban and suburban contexts, below are some of the resources which can be useful for transportation professionals in planning and programming for safety within their jurisdictions:

    Rural Road Safety

    Similar to planning for safety in urban and suburban environments, rural contexts present their own set of challenges. In many rural areas, speeds are higher, roads are narrower, and the potential for issues such as driver fatigue, extreme weather, and animal-related incidents is increased. Additionally, when crashes do occur, access to appropriate medical facilities is often much lower than in urban and suburban environments.

    ITE recognizes the unique challenges that rural environments can present when it comes to safety and understand that transportation professionals in these areas often have limited funding and staffing to address safety issues. Below are some resources that can be used by professionals in rural areas to improve transportation safety:

    Public Safety

    Within the 4 E’s of transportation safety, “engineering” and “education” are two of the more traditional focuses for transportation engineers and planners. However, the importance of “enforcement” and “emergency responses” should not be understated, and both are critical elements of a successful roadway safety management program. The resources below describe two aspects of public safety resources that modern transportation professionals should consider.

    • Transportation Safety Advancement Group
      The Transportation Safety Advancement Group (TSAG) serves an important function on behalf of the US Department of Transportation (US DOT), Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST), and its ITS-Joint Program Office, (ITS-JPO). Through its members and allied stakeholder groups, TSAG identifies surface transportation-based technologies and applications and promotes a national dialogue on public safety practitioners’ first hand experiences and corresponding best practices and lessons learned. Accordingly, TSAG looks toward a national transportation services Vision that fulfills a state of public safety such that: Public and transportation safety that is fully integrated and enabled through the use of technology. The Mission of TSAG is to identify and advance technologies to improve public safety response and efficacy in transportation systems and promotes transportation safety and efficiency in concert with the U.S. Department of Transportation Joint Program Office.
    • Traffic Incident Management
      Traffic incident management (TIM) is a planned and coordinated multi-disciplinary process to detect, respond, and clear incidents from roadways so that movement may be restored safely and quickly. Effective application of TIM strategies can reduce the impacts and duration of incidents and improve the safety of motorists and pedestrians, crash victims and emergency responders. The Federal Highway Administration offers an extensive set of resources and references through the site linked here.

    Professional Development Courses

    ITE offers a wide variety of professional development and training opportunities within transportation safety.

    • ITE Learning Hub
    • Road to Zero Coalition Grant: This is grant that was awarded to ITE in July 2018, focusing on speed management training in communities around the United States. Please stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available.

    Safety Certification

    The Transportation Professional Certification Board (TPCB) in collaboration with a wide array of transportation- and safety-related organizations in the United States and Canada announces the upcoming availability of a new Road Safety Professional (RSP) Certification beginning in October 2018. The goals of the RSP certifications are to recognize road safety as a profession, to establish a recognized level of practice and knowledge, and to incentivize safety education. More information about the RSP certification can be found here.


    Twitter Facebook LinkedIn YouTube Instagram