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FHWA Highway Safety Programs

Horizontal Curve Safety

Horizontal curves are those that change the alignment or direction of the road (as opposed to vertical curves, which change the slope). More than 25 percent of fatal crashes are associated with a horizontal curve, and the vast majority of these crashes are roadway departures. The average crash rate for horizontal curves is about three times that of other types of highway segments. About three-quarters of curve-related fatal crashes involve single vehicles leaving the roadway and striking trees, utility poles, rocks, or other fixed objects—or overturning.

Most roadway departure countermeasures are effective when applied specifically at horizontal curves. A focus on horizontal curves can prove to be a cost-effective approach to reducing roadway departure crashes. Many of these countermeasures are low-cost and can be installed at prioritized horizontal curves to address safety issues.