Industrial Automation

4 Ways that Intelligent Traffic Systems Improve Roadway Safety

Pradeep Kumar and Vivek Kumar
Intelligent traffic systems (ITS) keep drivers and authorities updated on what’s happening along roadways so they can plan accordingly. Our blog examines four ways that ITS uses data to improve safety.


The pandemic may have slowed traffic in parts of the world due to due remote work and travel restrictions, but vehicles are back on the roadways—at nearly pre-pandemic levels.


In 2019, for example, vehicles traveled 3.26 trillion miles on U.S. roadways. This number dipped to 2.9 trillion in 2020 during COVID-19 but was back up to 3.17 trillion in 2022.


As traffic returns to—and eventually exceeds—those levels, intelligent traffic system (ITS) solutions are helping drivers change the way they travel.


Here, we outline four types of data that intelligent traffic systems capture to help cities, municipalities and state authorities improve roadway safety.


1. Monitoring and responding to changing traffic levels

Transportation problems are usually related to increasing numbers of vehicles traveling. Traffic levels on the same roadway can vary from day to day based on time of day, weather, season, etc.


Intelligent traffic systems can help synchronize and automatically adjust traffic-signal timing based on these ever-changing traffic levels. They can also send information to dynamic signage, connected smart vehicles and drivers planning future trips about real-time conditions to help them determine whether they should leave earlier or find alternate routes. At the same time, they can alert transportation authorities about rising traffic levels so they can take steps to prevent congestion when needed.


The New York City Department of Transportation, for example, is investing in connected infrastructure and adaptive signals at 10,000+ intersections to adjust the timing of green lights based on traffic.


As part of the city’s Midtown in Motion project, this initiative has improved travel time by 10% across the area it was first deployed.


2. Alerting to potential areas of congestion

When demand for travel exceeds the capability of roadways, then traffic congestion is the result. As traffic levels rise and congestion builds, people using these roadways lose valuable time and waste fuel. The chance for accidents may also increase, as space in between cars shrinks and impatience leads to behavior like tailgating or frequent lane changes.


Intelligent traffic systems can gather and report on information about areas of congestion, as well as what may be causing the bottleneck: signal outages, an accident, construction zones, weather or a stalled vehicle blocking the road, for example. These updates can be shared with drivers in the field, as well as employees working behind the scenes to alleviate issues.


3. Reporting on real-time roadway conditions

In Colorado, the Department of Transportation uses ITS solutions to improve safety. Roadway cameras and sensors collect data on weather and traffic volume, which is then aggregated through a fiber network and fed to the cloud for real-time processing and analyzing to determine whether these variables together warrant a change in speed limit for safety purposes.


For example, if roads begin to ice over, this information is automatically communicated to the digital signage so that the displayed speed limit is lowered to slow drivers down.


4. Detecting and reacting to accidents and emergencies

Intelligent traffic systems can monitor for and communicate about potentially deadly traffic hazards, such as wrong-way drivers.


They can also detect when and exactly where an accident occurs in real time and immediately post notifications to dynamic roadway signage, notify the drivers of connected smart vehicles and alert law enforcement and emergency response to prevent delays in medical care.


They can also alter planned signal timing, prioritizing emergency vehicle traffic at intersections, for example.


Smarter technology equals safer roads

Belden can act as your partner in creating network architecture that supports intelligent traffic systems and makes smart roads possible by managing the large amounts of data coming from multiple sources at once, such as cameras, detectors, lights, meters, sensors, apps and connected vehicles.


We'll help you establish a strong, secure network backbone to power ITS solutions and prepare for the future of roadway travel through improved visibility and remote monitoring.




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