Highway Safety Improvement Program Special Rules
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) (Pub. L. 117-58, also known as the "Bipartisan Infrastructure Law" (BIL)), was signed into law on November 15, 2021. Among other things, the BIL established a new Special Rule under the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) under section 148 of title 23 of the United States Code (U.S.C.) for vulnerable road user (VRU) safety and continued the two existing special rules for High-Risk Rural Roads (HRRR) and Older Drivers and Pedestrians without change. The VRU Special Rule is part of a larger focus on non-motorist safety that includes a new requirement for States to complete VRU safety assessments (23 U.S.C. 148(l)).
This page provides information to support implementation of the three Special Rules in 23 U.S.C. 148(g) as part of the HSIP:
- HRRR Special Rule (23 U.S.C. 148(g)(1));
- Older Drivers and Pedestrians Special Rule (23 U.S.C. 148(g)(2)); and
- VRU Safety Special Rule (23 U.S.C. 148(g)(3)).
FHWA issued guidance on February 2, 2022 for the HSIP Special Rules available at the following URL: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/safety/legislative-safety-programs/hsip/hsip-special-rules-guidance.
High Risk Rural Roads are defined in 23 U.S.C. 148(a)(1) as "any roadway functionally classified as a rural major or minor collector or a rural local road with significant safety risks, as defined by a State in accordance with an updated State strategic highway safety plan."
While the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) (Pub. L. 112-141), signed into law on July 6, 2012, eliminated the $90 million set-aside for the HRRR program, it also established a Special Rule for high-risk rural road safety under 23 U.S.C. 148(g)(1). The HRRR Special Rule was continued with the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) (Pub. L. 114-94) and the BIL without change and requires a State to obligate a certain amount of funds on HRRRs if the fatality rate on its rural roads increases over the most recent 2-year period for which data are available.
Policy and Guidance
While HRRRs are limited to the functional classifications of rural major and minor collectors and rural local roads, only those "with significant safety risks" as defined by each State in their updated State Strategic Highway Safety Plans (SHSPs) are considered HRRRs. More information on how a State may determine what a "significant safety risk" is can be found in the HSIP Special Rules Guidance.
As discussed in the guidance, the HRRR Special Rule applies if "the fatality rate on rural roads in a State increases over the most recent 2-year period for which data are available." To calculate the fatality rate for rural major and minor collectors and rural local roads in a State, FHWA will use data from the Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). If the HRRR Special Rule applies to a State, under 23 U.S.C. 148(g)(1), the State must obligate in the following fiscal year an amount equal to at least 200 percent of its FY 2009 high risk rural roads set-aside for high-risk rural roads, as defined in their State SHSP (shown in table below). The FHWA Office of Safety will update the Division Offices for each State where the Special Rule applies.
For additional information on HRRR Special Rule obligation requirements and the next steps if a State subject to the HRRR Special Rule does not fully obligate HRRR Special Rule set-aside funds and associated obligation limitation, please see the HSIP Special Rules Guidance FHWA issued in February, 2022.
Table: 2009 Set-Aside Amounts and Obligation Requirements for HRRR Special Rule
|Funds required to
be obligated in a
fiscal year if the
HSIP HRRR Special
|District of Columbia||$450,000||$900,000|
Noteworthy Practice: Funding High Risk Rural Road Projects (FHWA-SA-18-070) – Case study highlighting Kansas DOT overcoming limited data and proactively identifying HRRR projects using a systemic approach.
Noteworthy Practice: Partnerships to Use High Risk Rural Roads Special Rule Funds (FHWA-SA-19-035) – Case study highlighting Colorado DOT who successfully partnered with Federal, State and local agencies on HRRR safety solutions.
Manual for Selecting Safety Improvements on High Risk Rural Roads (FHWA-HOP-14-075) – Provides information on improving safety on HRRRs including safety benefits, a cost-effectiveness comparison of safety treatments, applicability of treatment deployment, maintenance costs, and decision-making processes for selecting treatments.
Implementing the High Risk Rural Roads Program (FHWA-SA-10-012) – Documents common challenges, noteworthy practices, and lessons learned through the first 4 years of implementation of the HRRR Program under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) (Pub. L. 109-59). While this document was published in 2010 and the HRRR Program has since been updated by MAP-21, the FAST Act, and the BIL, some of the information in the report may still be of interest to States.
Local and Rural Road Safety Program – Provides national leadership in identifying, developing, and delivering safety programs and products to agencies, elected officials, governments, and other stakeholders to improve safety on local and rural roads.
Per 23 U.S.C. 148(g)(2), if the rate per capita of traffic fatalities and serious injuries for drivers and pedestrians age 65 and over in a State increases over the most recent 2-year period for which data are available, the Older Driver and Pedestrian Special Rule requires a State to include strategies to address the increases in those rates in their State Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP). FHWA issued the HSIP Special Rules Guidance in February 2, 2022 to provide guidance and information on how to determine if the Special Rule applies in a State.
Policy and Guidance
To determine whether the Older Drivers and Pedestrian Special Rule applies in a State, the FHWA will consider older drivers and older pedestrians collectively. States report fatalities and serious injuries involving older drivers and pedestrians 65 years of age and older, consistent with the most current version of the HSIP Special Rules Guidance. In accordance with FHWA's HSIP Reporting Guidance, States should provide seven years of data, ending with the year prior to the most current full year of data.
As discussed in the HSIP Special Rules Guidance, the Older Drivers and Pedestrians Special Rule applies if "the rate of traffic fatalities and serious injuries for drivers and pedestrians 65 years of age or older in a State increases during the most recent 2-year period." To calculate the fatality and serious injury rate for older drivers and pedestrians in a State, FHWA will use fatality data from the NHTSA FARS, serious injury data from the State's annual Highway Safety Improvement Program report, and population data from the U.S. Census Bureau (shown in table below).
If the Older Drivers and Pedestrians Special Rule applies to a State, per 23 U.S.C. 148(g)(2), that State shall include, in its subsequent SHSP update, strategies to address the increase in the older driver and older pedestrian fatal and serious injuries rate, taking into account the treatments listed in the 2014 FHWA publication, "Handbook for Designing Roadways for the Aging Population". The State also should conduct a secondary analysis to determine whether the increase is attributable to driver fatalities and injuries, pedestrian fatalities and injuries, or a combination of the two. This helps a State determine whether the emphasis on safety programs and countermeasures should be focused on drivers and/or pedestrians. The FHWA Office of Safety will update the Division Offices for each State where the Special Rule applies.
For additional information on Older Drivers and Pedestrians Special Rule requirements and implementation, please see the HSIP Special Rules Guidance FHWA issued in February, 2022.
Table: Population of Persons Aged 65 Years and Older (thousands)
|District of Columbia||77||79||84||86||88||86||86|
"Handbook for Designing Roadways for the Aging Population" (FHWA-SA-14-015) – Provides practitioners with a practical information source that links aging road user performance to highway design, operational, and traffic engineering features. This Handbook supplements existing standards and guidelines in the areas of highway geometry, operations, and traffic control devices.
The BIL established a new Special Rule under 23 U.S.C. 148(g)(3) for VRU safety.
Vulnerable road users are defined in 23 U.S.C. 148(a)(15) as "a nonmotorist—'(A) with a fatality analysis reporting system person attribute code that is included in the definition of the term 'number of non-motorized fatalities’ in section 490.205 of title 23, Code of Federal Regulations (or successor regulations); or '(B) described in the term 'number of non-motorized serious injuries' in that section."
While the statutory definition for "vulnerable road user" includes both "number of nonmotorized fatalities" and "number of serious injuries," the VRU Safety Special Rule only considers non-motorized fatalities, per 23 U.S.C. 148(g)(3). Non-motorized fatalities, by reference to 23 CFR 490.205, refer to fatalities with the FARS person attribute codes for Pedestrian, Bicyclist; Other Cyclist, and Person on Personal Conveyance.
Policy and Guidance
The VRU Safety Special Rule at 23 U.S.C. 148(g)(3) provides: "If the total annual fatalities of vulnerable road users in a State represents not less than 15 percent of the total annual crash fatalities in the State, that State shall be required to obligate not less than 15 percent of the amounts apportioned to the State under section 104(b)(3) for the following fiscal year for highway safety improvement projects to address the safety of vulnerable road users."
To calculate the percentage of VRU fatalities, FHWA will use data from the NHTSA FARS. If the VRU Safety Special Rule applies to a State, 23 U.S.C. 148(g)(3) requires the State to obligate in the next fiscal year not less than 15 percent of the amounts apportioned to the State under 23 U.S.C. 104(b)(3) for the following fiscal year for highway safety improvement projects to address the safety of vulnerable road users. The FHWA Office of Safety will update the Division Offices for each State where the Special Rule applies.
For additional information on VRU Safety Special Rule obligation requirements and the next steps if a State subject to the Special Rule does not fully obligate VRU Safety Special Rule set-aside funds and associated obligation limitation, please see the HSIP Special Rules Guidance FHWA issued in February, 2022.
Please visit FHWA’s Notices website (https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/legsregs/directives/notices/) for more information on VRU Special Rule set-aside funding amounts per fiscal year.
FARS Manuals and Documentation – NHTSA website housing FARS manuals and documentation.