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FHWA Highway Safety Programs

Systemic Approach to Safety

A Way to Manage Risk

image of car on road driving past barn

Agencies design highway safety improvement projects to improve safety by minimizing or eliminating risk to roadway users. Rather than managing risk at certain locations, a systemic approach takes a broader view and evaluates risk across an entire roadway system. A system-based approach acknowledges crashes alone are not always sufficient to determine what countermeasures to implement, particularly on low volume local and rural roadways where crash densities are lower, and in many urban areas where there are conflicts between vehicles and vulnerable road users (pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists).

Visit this link for a list of potential risk factors a state or local agency might consider with the systemic safety approach.

Systemic In Practice

Several States are using the systemic approach to safety and achieving results. Visit the following noteworthy practices and case studies that illustrate these applications.

Illinois
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Minnesota
Missouri
Nebraska
New York
Ohio
Thurston County, Washington

Access the full Noteworthy Practices Database or submit your practice to the database.

The Systemic Safety Project Selection Tool

The Systemic Safety Project Selection Tool publication provides:

  • A step-by-step process for conducting systemic safety planning;
  • Considerations for determining a balance between spot and systemic safety improvements; and
  • Analytical techniques for quantifying the benefits of a systemic safety program.