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FHWA Highway Safety Programs

Road Safety Audits (RSA)

A Road Safety Audit (RSA) is the formal safety performance examination of an existing or future road or intersection by an independent, multidisciplinary team. It qualitatively estimates and reports on potential road safety issues and identifies opportunities for improvements in safety for all road users. The FHWA works with State and local jurisdictions and Tribal Governments to integrate RSAs into the project development process for new roads and intersections, and also encourages RSAs on existing roads and intersections.

The aim of an RSA is to answer the following questions:

  • What elements of the road may present a safety concern: to what extent, to which road users, and under what circumstances?
  • What opportunities exist to eliminate or mitigate identified safety concerns?

Public agencies with a desire to improve the overall safety performance of roadways under their jurisdiction should be excited about the concept of RSAs. Road safety audits can be used in any phase of project development from planning and preliminary engineering, design and construction. RSAs can also be used on any sized project from minor intersection and roadway retrofits to mega-projects.

For excessive speeds, sight distance limitations, and access management concerns, an RSA team recommended restriping Coddington Highway in Newport, Rhode Island, to provide a three-lane cross section with bike lanes.  For more information on this RSA, please review: (photo, left: August 2010; photo, right: January 2013).

Most State DOTs have established traditional safety review processes. However, a road safety audit and a traditional safety review are different processes. It is important to understand the difference between the road safety reviews that are commonly performed and newer road safety audits. The main differences between the two are shown below:

What is the difference between RSA and a Traditional Safety Review?

Road Safety Audit Traditional Safety Review
Performed by a team independent of the project The safety review team is usually not completely independent of the design team.
Performed by a multi-disciplinary team Typically performed by a team with only design and/or safety expertise.
Considers all potential road users Often concentrates on motorized traffic.
Accounting for road user capabilities and limitations is an essential element of an RSA Safety Reviews do not normally consider human factor issues.
Always generates a formal RSA report Often does not generate a formal report.

A formal response report is an essential element of an RSA

Often does not generate a formal response report.


Before After

rural road before a road safety audit

Rural road before a road safety audit

rural road after a road safety audit

Same rural road after a road safety audit where guardrail has been installed

The site was developed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).