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Analyzing Driver Behavior to Understand the Factors Contributing to Highway Crashes.

Concept to Countermeasure – Research to Deployment Using the SHRP2 Safety Data


Despite the best efforts of highway engineers, law enforcement, and highway safety advocates, traffic crashes still result in tragic loss of life and serious injuries. In 2012, there were more than 33,000 fatalities and 2.2 million injuries in the United States. Driver behavior is a significant factor in more than 90 percent of these crashes. Research to date has only studied driver behavior indirectly by examining crashes and attempting to reconstruct the events that produced them. Detailed and direct observational data on driver behavior are needed so that the highway safety community can better understand how the driver interacts with other vehicles, the roadway, passengers, and distractions.


The SHRP2 Safety Data provides the largest and most comprehensive database ever assembled of what happens in the vehicle before and during crashes and near-crash events. The SHRP2 Safety Data consists of the Naturalistic Driving Study (NDS) database and the Roadway Information Database (RID).

The NDS compiled 2 petabytes of trip data from 3,150 drivers aged 16-80 while they traveled 49.5 million miles under actual driving conditions. The effort compiled an unprecedented amount of detailed data of actual driver behavior under normal conditions, near-crash events, and crash events. The data included detailed video of the driver and the roadway. Also included were data on the vehicles’ speed, acceleration, braking, and other maneuvers. Information such as seatbelt usage and the presence of alcohol is available.

Linked to the NDS trip data are roadway data from the RID, such as the roadway location, curvature, grade, lane widths, and intersection characteristics. The RID also provides environmental data such as time of day and weather. These two databases will support innovative research leading to new insights into crash causation and identification of countermeasures.

FHWA is partnering with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Transportation Research Board to solicit promising research using the SHRP2 Safety Data. AASHTO’s objectives are to support research leading to promising new countermeasures, to demonstrate the use of the SHRP2 Safety Data, and to familiarize AASHTO members with its potential.


The FHWA/AASHTO Implementation Assistance Program will offer financial and technical support to State departments of transportation and their affiliated researchers in using the safety data to conduct research into new or improved countermeasures, driver education efforts, or enforcement strategies. Beginning with a Proof of Concept implementation assistance phase, the safety data can be used to gain new insights into crash causation and the countermeasures that could prevent crashes. This implementation assistance will provide financial and technical support to help applicants acquire a reduced data set, test a research hypothesis, and identify potential new safety countermeasures. If the Proof of Concept is successful, additional financial and technical support may be provided to conduct more in-depth research and to implement promising new countermeasures. FHWA’s Safety Training and Analysis Center will be available to provide advice, education, and technical assistance on how to use the SHRP2 Safety Data.

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