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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation
FHWA Highway Safety Programs



The 2010 publication of the Highway Safety Manual (HSM), 1st Edition, by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) was an important milestone in advancing the quality of safety analyses supporting highway investment decisionmaking. AASHTO, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), the Transportation Research Board (TRB), and State Departments of Transportation (DOT) have worked collaboratively to support implementation of the HSM. As part of this collaborative effort, FHWA worked with AASHTO and participating States to organize the HSM Implementation Pooled-Fund Study which is funding this project. The objective of this pooled fund study is to develop tools and materials that advance implementation of the HSM.

State DOTs report good progress in implementing HSM concepts and methods within their safety management processes. They report slower progress, however, in project development processes (for example, planning, programming, environmental processes, design, construction, operations, and maintenance). One impediment to progress that will be addressed in this informational report is the lack of State policy on the use of the HSM in those processes.

The States participating in the HSM Implementation Pooled-Fund Study identified the need for a compilation and synthesis of existing State policies and development of sample policy and procedures language covering a range of activities in which use of the HSM would be beneficial. Within this report, the "sample" language is presented as generalized statements adapted from noteworthy examples of existing language in State DOT manuals and policies. For States in which integrating the HSM into typical agency practices has been slower than desired, information presented herein will provide a starting point that can accelerate efforts to develop and adopt policies and procedures to support implementation of the HSM. It is not the expectation or intent that States would use the sample language verbatim, rather that they would use it as a template which they could customize.

More than 60 HSM-related State agency documents were gathered and reviewed during the development of this report. A majority of the documents focus on planning and programming, engineering and design, operations and maintenance, and roadway safety management processes. These documents were gathered from a compiled list of sources identified by FHWA, the project team, and the Pooled-Fund Study States.

From this compilation of source documents, the project team identified and extracted noteworthy examples of HSM-related policies and procedures language, as well as example applications to use as the basis for development of the sample language presented in this informational report.

Organization of the Report

The main body of this report is organized as follows:

  • Section 2: Sample Language—This section provides noteworthy examples or applications of State DOTs policy and procedures language and accompanying sample policy and procedures language. This information is provided for:

    • Planning and Programming.

    • Engineering and Design.

    • Operations and Maintenance.

    • Roadway Safety Management Process.

  • Section 3: Case Studies—This section provides case studies from two States and their experiences incorporating HSM-based language in policy or manuals.

Sample Language Terminology

With State DOTs at different levels of HSM implementation, the sample language in this informational report is presented in the format of "shall," "should," and "may" conditions. The FHWA Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is an excellent example of the application of the "may," "should," and "shall" concept and is used as the basis to define these conditions. (U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, 2009 Edition, p. 10.) The following is a description of each of these three categories:

  • Shall—The verb "shall" is typically used as a statement of required or mandatory application of the HSM or a specific component of the HSM. The verbs "must" and "will" are synonyms for "shall."

  • Should—The verb "should" is typically used as a statement of recommended, but not mandatory, practice in typical situations. The verbs "recommend" and "consider" are synonyms for "should."

  • May—The verb "may" is typically used as a statement of practice that is a permissive action and bears no requirement or recommendation. The verbs "can" and "could" are synonyms to "may."

When considering the strength of sample language, use of the words "may" or "should" implies choice; however, this informational guide is not prescribing language but rather offering examples.

Policy Statements and Guidance/Procedure Language Format

In the development of sample language, the overall intent of the language must be considered. In this informational report supporting development of sample language for State practices, there are two categories of language presented: policy statements and guidance/procedure language. A policy statement provides a basis for and the principles undergirding the policy. Policy statements indicate why actions are to be completed rather than how to complete them. The guidance/procedure language contains more descriptions of the topic and generally provides directions, advice, and information.

Throughout the report, for each topic area the report provides a description of the topic or process along with a noteworthy State DOT example or application (if available) and sample language in the form of a policy statement followed by procedures information. This approach is shown throughout the report in the following format:

  • Process (transportation planning, programming, design, design exception, etc.).

    This section provides a description of the topic area and essential characteristics of the specified process/program. This section also may describe an opportunity to use the HSM to evaluate safety performance throughout the process steps.

  • Noteworthy example(s):

    This section describes a noteworthy example of current policy or procedures language or example application from a State DOT. The example is specific to the section topic (i.e., planning and programming, engineering and design, operations and maintenance, roadway safety management process).

    • A noteworthy example labeled as an "Example Application" is a description of how the HSM is used by the identified State DOT within a policy or guidance document.

    • A noteworthy example labeled as "Example Language" is a direct quote or extraction of the information from the State DOT's policy and/or guidance documents.

  • Sample policy language.

    The sample policy language is a template describing a direction for using the HSM for the topic area and begins with the phrase, "It is the policy of the Department."

  • Sample procedures language.

    The sample procedures language is a template describing how to implement a policy using the HSM and begins with the phrase, "To implement this policy." This information may include a responsible position/office and/or use of specific HSM chapters, methods, or tools.