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FHWA Highway Safety Programs

Equity in Roadway Safety

“Since 2015, the annual number of [roadway] fatalities has exceeded 35,000, with millions more injured – sometimes permanently – each year. Traffic crashes are a leading cause of death for teenagers in America, and disproportionately impact people who are Black, American Indian, and live in rural communities.  We face a crisis on our roadways; it is both unacceptable and solvable.”

U.S. Department of Transportation National Roadway Safety Strategy. 

To address the national roadway fatality crisis, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is encouraging transportation agencies to adopt the Safe System Approach. The Safe System Approach (SSA) is a human-centered approach that anticipates human mistakes and accommodates human vulnerabilities by designing and operating the roadway system to be safe for everyone—particularly for people who are disproportionately impacted by crash fatalities and serious injuries. To reach zero deaths and serious injuries, the SSA should be applied equitably to address these disparities.

Under the heading equality, icons representing a diverse set of four people are next to the same bicycle. One icon is shown riding the bicycle, but the other three are excluded: including a person in a wheelchair, an older person with a walking cane, and a young child. Under the heading equity, each of the four people is able to use a bicycle that can accommodate their specific need and allow them to safely and comfortably use it.
Under equality, everyone gets the same resources. Under equity, the specific historical and present-day circumstances and abilities of individuals and communities are taken into consideration to provide appropriate solutions that provide everyone with opportunities to live safe and healthy lives. © 2017 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Modified, with permission, by FHWA.


Equity ensures the specific needs of underserved communities are taken into account and addressed. Incorporating equity into roadway safety should involve working with underserved communities to: 

  • Collect and analyze data to identify communities experiencing disparities in roadway fatalities and serious injuries.
  • Engage community representatives to understand their transportation safety needs and build trust. 
  • Implement improvements in safety planning, funding, design, operations, and asset management processes to eliminate disparities in traffic fatalities and serious injuries. 
  • Evaluate impacts by monitoring outcomes and working to continuously improve safety outcomes with communities.

Some resources that can assist in applying Equity into Transportation Safety: