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Rural intersection safety reports: technology to prevent crashes

An intersection decision support device installed at a rural intersection.

An intersection decision support device installed at a rural intersection.

The Rural Intersection Decision Support research effort at the University of Minnesota set out to develop innovative technologies to prevent crashes at rural intersections. An interdisciplinary research team carried out extensive analyses of rural crash statistics and designed a system to help drivers negotiate dangerous intersections without the need for traffic signals, which can disrupt traffic and often lead to increased rates of rear-end collisions.

A new research summary and final research reports detail the Minnesota team’s efforts and the accomplishments of this groundbreaking research. The research team included ITS Institute director Max Donath, HumanFIRST Program director Nic Ward, and Intelligent Vehicles Program director Craig Shankwitz as well as many other researchers drawn from engineering, human factors, and associated disciplines.

The National Safety Council estimates that 32 percent of all rural crashes occur at intersections; 16 percent of all fatalities on rural highways are intersection related. To address this problem, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the University of Minnesota’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute partnered with researchers and  transportation departments in California and Virginia as well as the Federal Highway Administration in a pooled-fund consortium dedicated to improving intersection safety.

Rural Intersection Decision Support (IDS) focuses on enhancing the driver’s ability to successfully negotiate rural intersections. The system uses sensing and communication technology to identify safe gaps in traffic on a high-speed rural expressway and communicate this information to drivers waiting to enter the intersection from a minor intersecting road. The goal of this system is to improve safety without introducing traffic signals, which on high-speed rural roads often lead to an increase in rear-end crashes.

The Rural IDS research program achieved four main research results:

  • an analysis of rural expressway intersections, including development of a technique to identify those with higher-than-expected crash rates;
  • the development of a statistical model that can be used to estimate the benefits of deploying IDS at a specific rural intersection;
  • the design and implementation of a rural intersection surveillance and data acquisition system capable of quantifying the behavior of drivers;
  • a task analysis, design study, and simulator-based evaluation of Driver Infrastructure Interface (DII) concepts for communicating relevant information to stopped drivers.

The research undertaken in the Rural IDS research program laid the foundation for Minnesota’s participation in the Cooperative Intersection Collision Avoidance Systems (CICAS) research initiative, which brings together federal agencies, automobile manufacturers, and university transportation centers with the goal of developing new technologies to prevent collisions.

Newly published reports include: