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FHWA > Programs > Office of Policy > Office of International Programs  > Roadway Human Factors and Behavioral Safety in Europe > Chapter 1 - Introduction

Chapter 1 - Introduction

The U.S. transportation community has placed high emphasis on the need to improve highway safety. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have adopted a goal to reduce highway fatalities from 1.5 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled to 1.0 by 2008. AASHTO has established a Strategic Highway Safety Plan to determine the most promising countermeasures that improve safety in a cost-effective manner and are acceptable to the majority of the public. FHWA has focused its Safety Vital Few initiative on reducing intersection, run-off-the-road, and pedestrian fatalities. Human factors issues associated with roadway design and operations are a critical component of these highway safety improvement areas. It is also one of the five critical research needs contained in the highway infrastructure and operations component of the Nation Highway Research and Technology Partnership's report on highway safety. This study will provide methodological and technical insights into how best to incorporate human factors issues in the planning, research, design, and operation of highways.

Panel Composition

The nine scan team members were a cross section of experts from Federal and State government and academia. A great benefit of the study for participants was the opportunity to view information through the eyes of colleagues with different training and experience. Human factors experts visiting a construction site, for example, gained from the explanations of highway engineers, who, in turn, gained from the human factors experts when the team visited a driving simulator. Table 1 identifies the team members.

Table 1. Team members.
Panel Members
Kevin Keith, Missouri DOT, Co-chair
Michael Trentacoste, FHWA, Co-chair
Bruce Ibarguen, Maine DOT
Wesley Lum, California DOT
Terecia Wilson, South Carolina DOT
Dr. Thomas Granda, FHWA
Ernest Huckaby, FHWA
Dr. Leanna Depue, Central Missouri State University
Professor Barry Kantowitz, University of Michigan

Figure 1. Scan team in Helsinki preparing for its first site visit.
Scan team in Helsinki preparing for its first site visit

Sites Visited

The team visited public and private institutions in six European countries- Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden-during a two-week period (see figure 1). When the team spent two days at one location, the first day was devoted to lectures and facilities tours, and the second day was spent on a bus touring road sites that illustrated points explained the previous day. Table 2 lists the eight institutions visited. In addition to representatives from those agencies, representatives from the various Ministries of Transport and others involved in human factors safety research for the countries participated in the meetings. All were exceptionally helpful in addressing the concerns of the panel.

Figure 2. Map of sites visited.
Map of sites visited which include Trondheim, Norway; Helsinki, Finland; Lynkoping, Sweden; Copenhagen, Denmark; Soesterberg, Netherlands; Leidschendam, Netherlands; Paris, France;Lyon, France

Table 2. Sites visited.
Institute Country
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) Finland
University of Helsinki Finland
The Foundation of Scientific and Industrial Research at the Norwegian Institute of Technology (SINTEF) Norway
The Danish Transport Research Institute (DTF) Denmark
Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) The Netherlands
Institute of Road Safety Research (SWOV) The Netherlands
The Swedish National Road and Transport Institute (VTI) Sweden
French National Institute for Transport and Safety (INRETS) - Paris France
French National Institute for Transport and Safety (INRETS) - Lyon France

Figure 3. Team cochairs presenting an overview of the scan study goals in Helsinki.
Team cochairs presenting an overview of the scan syudy goals in Helsinki

Key Findings

The goal of this report is to make researchers, designers, planners, and operators of U.S. highway systems aware of good ideas that are either unknown or unused here. The best practices identified in this report, if used in the United States, could greatly increase the safety and mobility of highway operations. The scanning team was so impressed by these new concepts that it has pledged to do its utmost to facilitate the early adoption of some of these key ideas. While many excellent ideas and practices were observed, the team agreed to focus on seven vital concepts:

  • Self-organizing roads
  • Driving simulators for roadway design and visualization
  • Multidisciplinary crash investigation teams
  • Speed management
  • Human-centered roadway analysis and design
  • Cognitive models
  • Top-down leadership

In the following chapters, these concepts are described and illustrated by successful examples that demonstrate the utility and benefit of each idea. It is important to note that these topics are not mutually exclusive, e.g., self-organizing roads impact speed management.

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