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FHWA Highway Safety Programs



Purpose of this Guide

The purpose of this document is to guide local rural road practitioners in developing a local road safety plan (LRSP). The expected result of a successful LRSP is to save lives and prevent injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes. Practitioners may be road supervisors, engineers, planners, local officials, law enforcement officers, or others who deal with transportation issues. This guide may be referenced throughout the process of developing a LRSP to assist local rural road practitioners in improving safety in a comprehensive manner, incorporating engineering, enforcement, education, and emergency services, measures—the 4 E’s of safety—into a framework.

This guidebook outlines the process for developing an LRSP. An LRSP is a locally-coordinated safety plan that provides a comprehensive framework for reducing highway fatalities and serious injuries on local rural roads. An LRSP is flexible and utilizes the 4 E’s as appropriate to establish and gain support for an agency’s local safety goals, objectives, and key emphasis areas. LRSP development is usually initiated by a transportation professional or elected official. The purpose of an LRSP is to identify key safety needs and guide investment decisions to achieve reductions in fatalities and serious injuries on local rural public roadways. An LRSP provides an opportunity for agencies at all levels of government (local, State, and Federal) and other stakeholders to work together to align and leverage resources to address the safety challenges unique to rural roads.


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. (FHWA Highway Statistics (2009) Local rural roads include facilities with two or more lanes and range from paved to unpaved roadways. The majority of these roads are two-lane, paved roads. Rural roads reflect a disproportionate number of fatalities and serious injuries. In 2009, 56 percent of highway deaths occurred on rural roads, though only 23 percent of Americans live in rural areas. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Center for Statistics and Analysis, Traffic Safety Facts, Rural/Urban Comparison, 2008 Data (PDF), DOT HS 811 164.)

Furthermore, the fatality rate (deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled) is 2.6 times higher in rural areas than in urban areas, underscoring the need to systematically improve road safety in rural areas.