The Institute of Transportation Engineers defines traffic engineering as "that phase of civil engineering which deals with the planning, geometric design and traffic operations of roads, streets and highways. . .their networks, terminals, abutting lands and relationships with other modes of transportation. . .for the achievement of safe, efficient and convenient movement of persons and goods."

The biggest task that used to face traffic engineers was making sure that roads were passable in all kinds of weather. With the rapid expanse and current intricacies of our nation's roadway system, the field of traffic engineering has become increasingly focused on more than just cars.

Today, while cars are undoubtedly the most prominent form of transportation, traffic professionals must now engineer to accommodate a multitude of modes of transportation. Urban growth has increased the need for improving the movement of people and goods. This has resulted in an intensified emphasis on finding ways to better use the existing roadway system as well as finding ways to more efficiently move people, goods and services.