U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations



Office of Safety Research and Development (R&D)


The FHWA Office of Safety Research and Development is helping to reduce highway crashes and related fatalities and injuries by developing and implementing safety innovations in a nationally coordinated safety research and development program

This research program emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration and strong stakeholder involvement, to support the FHWA’s overall strategic priorities. The Office of Safety Research and Development works closely with the FHWA Office of Safety and the Resource Center Safety and Design Technical Service Team, to develop research agendas and implement them through practical tools and guidance for practitioners.

The Office of Safety R&D is composed of three teams of research engineers, scientists, and psychologists.

Team Name Responsibilities

Human Factors Team

The primary goal of the Human Factors Team is to improve the understanding of how road users perceive, process, and respond to the roadway environment to improve highway safety through better roadway design.

Roadway Team

The Roadway Team works to help keep vehicles on the roadway, and to minimize the consequences of leaving the roadway.

Safety Data and Analysis Team

The central objective of the Safety Data and Analysis Team is to support good safety resource allocation decisions through the collection of consistent, high–quality data, the development of analytical tools to transform data into actionable information, and the formal evaluation of the effectiveness of potential safety improvements


For more information, go to the Safety R&D program or Safety laboratories.


The Safety Research and Development Program

Research Focus Areas – The research focus areas of the Safety R&D program reflect current FHWA strategic focuses.

  • Safety Data and Analysis – Data definition, data collection, analytical tools supporting data–driven safety decisions, and evaluation of safety treatments.

  • Human Factors research – Examining drivers’ capabilities and limitations when interacting with the vehicle and the roadway to inform better roadway design. Other research topics include distraction, older drivers, traffic management centers, and the effects of changes in visibility. 

  • Intersection safety – Increasing our understanding of intersection safety, and establishing short– and long–term strategies for safety improvements. The design and evaluation of non–traditional intersections and interchanges, and development of systems to improve safety in or near intersections.

  • Pedestrians and bicyclists safety – Fostering professional awareness of pedestrian and bicyclist safety issues, developing and evaluating countermeasures, and providing engineering resources for practitioners at national, State, and local levels.

  • Roadway Safety – Research emphasizing keeping vehicles on the roadway, and minimizing the consequences of leaving the roadway. Advancing tools and technologies for crashes involving roadway departures and collisions with roadside hardware.

  • Speed management – Research to develop and test engineering approaches to speed management, and to encourage wider adoption of appropriate travel speeds.

  • Visibility – Research to improve visibility on and along the roadway, and of traffic control devices.



  • Arens Photometric and Visibility Laboratory

    • The Arens Photometric and Visibility Laboratory (PVL) conducts evaluations of the photometric and colorimetric properties of traffic control devices, including signing and pavement marking materials and traffic signal lights, and supports human factors research used to establish the required levels that meet the visual needs of drivers.

  • Federal Outdoor Impact Laboratory

    • The Federal Outdoor Impact Laboratory (FOIL) is a research facility used to support FHWA’s Safety Research and Development programs and other Federal security initiatives.

  • Geometric Design Laboratory

    • The mission of the Geometric Design Laboratory (GDL) is to provide technical support to the Office of Safety Research and Development to develop, maintain and enhance the Interactive Highway Safety Design Model (IHSDM)--a suite of software tools for the safety evaluation of highway geometric design alternatives; and to support the coordination of IHSDM with related tools, including the Highway Safety Manual (HSM) and SafetyAnalyst.

  • Human Factors Laboratory

    • The purpose of the Human Factors Laboratory is to further the understanding of highway user needs so that those needs can be incorporated in roadway design, construction, repair, and improvement. All of Federal Highway Administration’s strategies for improving safety and enhancing operations throughout the highway transportation system benefit from the appropriate consideration of user needs. Human factors studies consider driver, pedestrian, and special user needs and capabilities.


Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000
Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center | 6300 Georgetown Pike | McLean, VA | 22101