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Safer Roads

Design roadway environments to mitigate human mistakes and account for injury tolerances, to encourage safer behaviors, and to facilitate safe travel by the most vulnerable users.

Roadway design strongly influences how people use roadways. The environment around the roadway system – including land use and the intersections of highways, roads, and streets with other transportation modes such as rail and transit – also shapes the safety risks borne by the traveling public.

Risk levels vary widely across different types of roads.

Fatality Rate by Roadway

Source: Early Estimates of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities and Fatality Rate by Sub-Categories in 2020, DOT HS 813 118, June 2021

The Safe System approach emphasizes that redundancy is critical, and safer roadways mean incorporating design elements that offer layers of protection to prevent crashes from occurring, and mitigate harm when they do occur. Through the NRSS, the Department will focus on advancing infrastructure design and interventions that will significantly enhance roadway safety.

Key Departmental Actions to Enable Safer Roads

  1. Complete the current rulemaking process for Manual Uniform Traffic Control Devices (the Manual) by finalizing the proposed amendments and incorporating changes based on the public comments and Administration priorities. Identify proposed future changes not possible via the current rulemaking effort and further update the Manual to promote the safety, inclusion, and mobility of all users and provide for the protection of vulnerable road users. Initiate four-year cycles to update this national standard for keeping current with the latest research, practices, and technologies. Ensure a wide range of practitioner and stakeholder engagement in the development of future editions, with representation that is consistent with the impact of crashes on people outside the vehicle such as people walking, people in rural communities, and people of color. Provide education and technical assistance to the users of the Manual, emphasizing the purpose of the Manual, roles of engineering, and how device innovation occurs.
  2. Support the planning, design, and implementation of safer roads and streets in all communities using all available and applicable Federal funding resources, including existing formula funding programs to include but not limited to the Highway Safety Improvement Program. Also leverage the $6 billion authorized for Safe Streets and Roads for All grant initiative, which is included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Support states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in the new requirement to use planning funds to develop Complete Streets policies and prioritization plans.
  3. Launch a comprehensive Complete Streets Initiative and provide technical assistance to communities of all sizes to implement policies that prioritize the safety of all users in transportation network planning, design, construction, and operations, including in small towns and rural areas. Incorporate Complete Streets criteria in Federal grant opportunities and in the Emergency Relief Manual. Incorporate lighting into Complete Streets implementation so that lighting becomes a key design factor in roadway upgrades. Involve transit providers in Complete Streets implementation activities to support safe walking, biking, and rolling to stops and stations.
  4. Improve State performance on achieving safety performance targets using a focused approach to safety and other technical assistance. Consider revisions to guidance and regulations to improve State strategic highway safety plans and ensure that State safety performance targets demonstrate constant or improved performance for each safety performance measure.  
  5. Elevate the Transportation Performance Management Dashboard to stakeholders such as State Executives, Congress, the media, and the public to spur and reward roadway safety gains and share information on State safety performance targets and progress toward achieving those targets. Promote and continue to add noteworthy safety practices in the Noteworthy Practices Database to assist State and local agencies in identifying optimal projects aimed at reducing fatalities and serious injuries.
Last updated: Thursday, January 27, 2022