Application of Light Detection and Ranging Technology to Highway Safety

Aemal J. Khattak, Shauna Hallmark, Reginald Souleyrette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


An application of light detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology to highway intersection safety is presented. LIDAR can be used to collect information about a surface by reflecting thousands of light beams per second off the surface and measuring the return tune of the beams. The surface profile is collected as a digital signature that can be used in a variety of applications. Collection of information on the surface profile of the earth in the form of elevation data is one of several LIDAR applications that have been used for mapping and contouring. The focus of the described application is use of LIDAR elevation data to obtain information on intersection geometry that can lead to the discovery of potential obstructions in driver sight lines. After appropriate transformations, LIDAR elevation data were used in line-of-sight analysis to obtain information on sight-line obstructions at six intersections on the IA-1 corridor in Iowa. Intersection crash frequency and data availability were considerations in the selection of the six intersections. Results from the line-of-sight analysis were validated by visits to the intersections in the field and verification of the existence of obstructions detected during the analysis. Sixty-six lines of sight were blocked during the line-of-sight analysis, of which 62 (89.8%) were confirmed during the validation process. Four (5.8%) sight-line obstructions were not confirmed during the validation. At least three (4.4%) potential sight-line obstructions discovered during validation were not detected during the line-of-sight analysis. The intersection with the highest crash frequency was correctly found to have obstructions located within the intersection sight triangles. It can be concluded that LIDAR elevation data can be used successfully for identifying potential sight-distance problems at intersections. Identified potential problems can be verified and rectified in the field. LIDAR is a relatively costly data source, and a single application, such as this one, cannot justify the high cost of LIDAR data acquisition. Other potential highway safety enhancing applications of LIDAR must be investigated to offset the high data-acquisition cost. Suggestions for other highway safety applications are provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-15
Number of pages9
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number1836
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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