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FHWA Highway Safety Programs

Executive Summary

Executive Summary

Approximately 60 percent of all road miles in the U.S. are non-Interstate, rural roads owned and operated by local entities, such as towns, counties, and tribal governments. In 2009, 56 percent of highway deaths occurred on rural roads and the fatality rate was 2.6 times higher in rural areas than in urban areas. These data underscore the need to systematically improve road safety in rural areas.

All States have a comprehensive safety plan that provides a framework for reducing highway fatalities and serious injuries on public roads. This Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) is a data-driven plan that establishes statewide goals, objectives, and key emphasis areas that integrates the 4 E’s of Safety – engineering, education, enforcement and emergency services. The SHSP can assist local practitioners in addressing safety on local rural roads but a locally-focused plan is often needed to address the unique conditions that contribute to safety problems and to assist local practitioners in making informed safety investment decisions. These challenges faced by local agencies can be addressed through the creation of a Local Road Safety Plan (LRSP).

Local practitioners play a critical role in addressing crash risks at the local level; an LRSP provides the framework for local practitioners to take a proactive stance to identify the specific or unique conditions that contribute to crashes within their jurisdictions. Similar to a State’s SHSP, an LRSP utilizes the 4 E’s as appropriate to address safety issues. An LRSP provides an excellent opportunity for safety stakeholders and involved agencies at all levels of government (local, State, and Federal) to work together to align and leverage resources to address the safety challenges unique to rural roads.

Additional benefits may be realized in the process of developing an LRSP to include:

  • Promoting road safety awareness.
  • Developing lasting partnerships that may benefit future projects.
  • Instilling or enhancing a sense of collaboration among different disciplines.
  • Assisting local agencies to better leverage funding.

LRSPs have been successful in comprehensively addressing safety for a variety of local agencies throughout the US. The safety plans developed by these agencies have strengthened multi-disciplinary commitments to road safety. For example, Olmsted County, Minnesota prepared an LRSP that resulted in the implementation of county-wide strategies such as enhancing delineation of horizontal curves, upgrading sign and pavement markings, and providing dynamic warning signs at rural stop-controlled intersections. These and other projects initiated from identified safety strategies in the LRSP received $962,000 of Federal funds for implementation.

Addressing safety on rural roads can be challenging. The development of an LRSP can serve as a cornerstone to building a comprehensive safety program to address the safety challenges on the roadways. Depending on safety needs of the jurisdiction, the LRSP will vary in size and level of detail. This guide provides the tools necessary to start a LRSP. It provides information to local practitioners about identifying stakeholders and partnerships needed to build support, tools to analyze data, and resources to identify safety issues and select safety strategies. Worksheets and other sample materials have been provided to aid in the LRSP process. Examples of programs and experiences of other agencies have also been included to provide examples of successes in implementing LRSPs and improving safety for all road users.