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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

1.0 Introduction

The Federal transportation legislation, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), requires the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) under 23 USC 150 to define a set of safety performance measures and States to set targets that reflect the measures. The measures identified in MAP-21 are serious injuries and fatalities per vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and the number of serious injuries and fatalities. MAP-21 also provides the option in 23 U.S.C. 150 for States to set safety targets for urbanized and nonurbanized areas. The purpose of this document is to provide information to States considering setting urbanized or nonurbanized safety targets. The report includes a review of the state of the practice in setting urbanized and nonurbanized safety targets and identifies methods for State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) to consider if they decide to set urbanized or nonurbanized targets.

The FHWA definition of urbanized areas is those with a population of 50,000 or higher, for which boundaries can be adjusted by States. Urban areas as defined by the Census are those with population higher than 2,500. Further information on geography definitions is included in Section 3.

Each State Highway Safety Office (SHSO) established under 23 USC 402 and administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) develops an annual Highway Safety Plan (HSP) and submits an annual evaluation report to NHTSA. Under MAP-21, HSPs were initially required to report on 14 safety performance measures as defined in the report entitled Traffic Safety Performance Measures for States and Federal Agencies. Bicyclist fatalities was added as a requirement for FY 2015 reporting, bringing the total up to 15. States are required to develop annual performance targets for 11 of the measures, and to report annual progress on all 15.  The NHTSA document recommends that "States report both rural and urban fatalities/VMT, as well as total fatalities/VMT."

This report provides information on the state of the practice and potential methodologies for integrating urbanized and nonurbanized safety performance measures and targets into a performance-based safety program.

  • Section 2 provides a literature review and describes the potential benefits of setting urbanized and nonurbanized targets;
  • Section 3 defines the relevant geography;
  • Section 4 provides information on the state of the practice for urbanized and nonurbanized safety target setting and an analysis of State fatality and serious injury data for urbanized and nonurbanized areas;
  • Section 5 provides a framework for safety target setting;
  • Section 6 offers information on safety target setting methods for urbanized and nonurbanized areas;
  • Section 7 provides information on technical methods for target setting; and Section 8 summarizes key conclusions.