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IEEE- and ASTM-adopted dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) standards are key enabling technologies for the next generation of vehicular safety communications. Vehicle-safety-related communication services, which require reliable and fast message delivery, usually demand broadcast communications in vehicular ad hoc networks (VANETs). In this paper, we propose and justify a distributive cross-layer scheme for the design of the control channel in DSRC with three levels of broadcast services that are critical to most potential vehicle-safety-related applications. The new scheme for enhancing broadcast reliability includes preemptive priority in safety services, dynamic receiver-oriented packet repetitions for one-hop emergency warning message dissemination, a multifrequency busy tone and minislot within the distributed interframe space (DIFS) in IEEE 802.11, and robust distance-based relay selection for multihop broadcast of emergency notification messages. Compared with a current draft of IEEE 802.11p and other schemes for DSRC safety-related services, the scheme proposed in this paper is more robust and scalable and easy to implement. Additionally, we investigate the reliability and performance of the proposed broadcast scheme for DSRC VANET safety-related services on the highway analytically and by simulations. The analytic model accounts for the impact of the hidden terminal problem, the fading channel conditions, varied message arrival intervals, and the backoff counter process on reliability and performance.