Intersections account for more than two million crashes in the United States every year, and over 20 percent of fatal crashes are intersection-related. In rural areas, crashes are often more severe because of higher vehicle speeds and longer emergency response times. In Minnesota, for example, over 20 percent of all fatal crashes consistently occur at rural unsignalized intersections.
Installing traffic signals has been the most common response to high crash rates at rural unsignalized intersections. However, traffic signals often fail to reduce the total number of crashes, as rear-end collisions increase. Signals also disrupt the flow of traffic, leading to delays and more crashes as fast-moving vehicles encounter vehicles that have been slowed down by a red signal.
The ITS Institute's rural intersection collision avoidance research takes a different approach: helping drivers make better decisions. This approach combines the Institute's expertise in traffic monitoring, data processing and computation, and human factors engineering to improve safety.
Researchers from the ITS Institute, in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), have developed this infrastructure-based driver-assist system to help drivers make better decisions and prevent collisions at rural highway intersections.The system uses multiple sensors and advanced computer algorithms to track vehicles moving along a rural divided highway. This information is then used to warn drivers stopped on a secondary rural road when gaps in highway traffic are too small to merge or cross safely.