Problem: There is a need for an independent, multidisciplinary process for identifying and documenting safety issues on new and existing roadways
The toll from traffic crashes remains an important health and economic issue in the United States. Each year nearly 43,000 people are killed and 3 million people are injured in crashes. The estimated societal cost of these crashes is more than $230 billion annually. While there are many causes of vehicle crashes, research from the U.S. Department of Transportation indicates that approximately one-third of these fatalities could be avoided if poor road conditions or outdated geometry and road hardware were improved.
Solution: Use RSAs, which are adaptable to local needs and conditions, to evaluate safety issues, identify countermeasures, and implement solutions to safety problems
What are Road Safety Audits?
Road safety audits (RSA) are a formal safety performance examination of an existing or future road or intersection by an independent audit team. These step-by-step procedures can be performed during any or all stages of a project, including the planning, preliminary design, detailed design, traffic control, construction planning, or preopening stages. RSAs also can be used on any size project, from minor maintenance projects on an existing road to megaprojects and projects that include the construction of entirely new transportation facilities.
Typical recommendations for improving a new or existing road that may result from an RSA include:
There are several steps involved in conducting an RSA, including the following:
Do RSAs increase an agency's liability?
RSAs are a proactive approach to improving transportation safety. However, some transportation practitioners have expressed a concern that the use of RSAs could increase an agency's tort liability. Tort liability at the State and local level is a matter that is decided in accordance with State law and jurisprudence. Implementing a plan to reduce the crash potential and improve the safety performance of a roadway is an effective approach to safety and may be used in defense of lawsuits. An RSA report can be used to refute or counter an expert witness's report and to demonstrate a public agency's efforts to improve safety in a particular location. It is important to have a response to the RSA report on file to show how the agency plans to incorporate the suggestions in the report and to indicate why some suggestions will not be implemented. This is particularly true of RSAs performed in the early stages of a project.
Identifying and documenting safety issues on an existing roadway also is the first step in a comprehensive, interactive process designed to improve safety. Federal law affords some evidentiary and discovery protections to assist State and local highway agencies in keeping data and reports compiled or collected pursuant to various Federal safety improvement programs from being used in tort liability actions (23 U.S.C. Section 409 ("Section 409")).
Putting It in Perspective
Successful Applications: Road safety audit results
An increasing number of State departments of transportation (DOT) are incorporating RSAs into their existing efforts to enhance safety. To date, at least 10 State DOTs are actively involved in RSA programs. In Pennsylvania, for example, officials have successfully integrated RSAs into the design phase of highway projects. In addition, the New York State DOT is integrating RSAs into its existing pavement overlay program.
South Carolina DOT (SCDOT) is using RSAs as a standard practice. Terecia Wilson, SCDOT's director of safety, noted that her department uses RSAs as a proactive, low-cost approach to improving safety. The RSAs have helped SCDOT's safety team develop numerous solutions that incorporate measures not originally included in highway projects. The very first audit saved South Carolina thousands of dollars by correcting a design problem. Iowa also is consistently using RSAs to identify ways to implement low-cost safety solutions on new projects based on what they learned through previous RSAs.
National Deployment Statement
RSAs have the potential to reduce road departure, intersection, speed-related, and pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and injuries.
National Deployment Goal
State and local agencies will use RSAs to identify and implement safety improvements needed to reduce injuries and fatalities on the Nation's roadways.
The RSA Marketing Plan specifies that by 2008, training courses on RSAs (NHI or Locals course) will have occurred in all the Opportunity and Focus states.
National Deployment Status
Thirty-one have conducted RSAs, forty-four states have received training in their states, two states have been contacted with no positive movement forward. Two states have full-time RSA coordinators. Nineteen RSA Briefings, one hundred seventy Workshops, and nine FHWA assisted RSA's have been performed during the past three years. Six RSA Workshops have been conducted for the National Forest Service. Four for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Bringing the total numbers of workshops to approx. 170. The NHI RSA Workshop has been revised and is in service.
International interest included from Mexico, Tanzania, and Barbados.
Phase of Deployment
PHASE III-Delivery Activities
For additional information, visit http://www.roadwaysafetyaudits.org.
To learn more about AASHTO-TIG's approved technologies, visit http://tig.transportation.org.
For More Information Contact:
K. Craig Allred, FHWA Resource Center
Safety and Design Technical Service Team Resource Center
Federal Highway Administration
Federal Highway Administration
400 North 8th Street, Suite 750
Richmond, Virginia 23219
(804) 775-3381 Office
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