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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.


SHRP2 has developed new and comprehensive data about what happens in the vehicle before and during crashes and near-crash events. SHRP2 safety data consists of two large databases; the naturalistic driving study (NDS) database and the roadway information database (RID).

Through video and other recording devices, the NDS compiled an unprecedented amount of data about actual driver behavior during every trip taken by 3,147 volunteer drivers (ages 16-90+) over a 1- or 2-year period. The data includes detailed video of the driver and the roadway, as well as data on the vehicles' speed, acceleration, braking, and other maneuvers. Information such as seatbelt use and the presence of alcohol is also available.

NDS trip data can be linked to 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.

In fact, 10 State DOTs have recently been awarded implementation assistance to pilot the safety data in 11 research efforts. See our new brochure for detailed information about each effort. FHWA and AASHTO expect that outcomes of this initial research may ultimately lead to new or improved countermeasures, driver education efforts, or enforcement strategies.

You can also access a report that identifies five high-priority research questions, and details sample work plans for using the SHRP2 safety data.


An in-depth understanding of how drivers interact with their vehicles and the roadway will support a wide variety of life-saving improvements and introduce more informed approaches to:

  • Developing and deploying new safety countermeasures
  • Updating current design guides and associated practices
  • Creating driver training programs
  • Designing vehicles and infrastructure
  • Developing public policy and enforcing safety regulations
  • Delivering public safety campaigns
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