Roadway Departure Safety

road with rumble stripsThe FHWA's Roadway Departure Safety Program provides important information for transportation practitioners, decision makers, and others to assist them in preventing and reducing the severity of roadway departure crashes.

Roadway departure crashes are frequently severe and account for the majority of highway fatalities. In 2011, there were 15,307 fatal roadway departure crashes resulting in 16,948 fatalities, which was 51 percent of the fatal crashes in the United States. A roadway departure crash is defined as a non-intersection crash which occurs after a vehicle crosses an edge line or a center line, or otherwise leaves the traveled way. FHWA uses the Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS) to compute statistics on roadway departure crashes.

FHWA Roadway Departure Strategic Plan NEW!

The FHWA Roadway Departure Team has developed a Strategic Plan to provide a data-driven focus with a vision to "Pursue a proactive approach Towards Zero Deaths and serious injuries involving roadway departure events."

Roadway Departure Crashes Account for 51% of Fatal Crashes (Run Off Roadway Right - 24%, Run Off Roadway Left - 10%, Median or Center Line - 17%) and Non Roadway Departures is 49%
A roadway departure crash is defined as
a non-intersection crash which occurs after a vehicle crosses an edge line or a center line, or otherwise leaves the traveled way.

Technical Assistance/Tools

Here’s where to find technical guidance and tools for practitioners.

Eligibility Letters

Federal-Aid Reimbursement Eligibility Process


Click here to find more information about FHWA Policies and Procedures that relate to Roadway Safety, including information about the FHWA’s roadside hardware crashworthiness policy. FHWA policy requires the roadside hardware used on the National Highway System (NHS) to be performance-tested for crashworthiness. While FHWA oversight is limited to the NHS, the FHWA strongly recommends the use of crashworthy devices on all public facilities where run-off-the-road crashes may occur. This link will also bring you to Frequently Asked Questions on roadside barriers and crashworthy work zone traffic control devices.


Click here for links to research organizations that are currently conducting research on Roadway Departure Safety topics. Continued research is needed to find more effective techniques for improving road safety, and to assist decisionmakers in implementing the most cost-effective roadway departure crash countermeasures.

By focusing on reducing the number and severity of roadway departure crashes, we can significantly reduce highway deaths and injures. The FHWA supports the five strategies in AASHTO’s Strategic Plan for Improving Roadside Safety
  • Increase awareness of and support for roadside safety.
  • Build and maintain information resources and analysis procedures to support continued improvement of roadside safety.
  • Prevent vehicles from leaving the roadway.
  • Prevent vehicles from overturning or striking objects when they leave the roadway.
  • Minimize injuries and fatalities when overturn occurs or when objects are struck in the road.
AASHTO’s April 2008 publication, Driving Down Lane Departure Crashes: A National Priority provides more information.


Program Contact

Brian Fouch
Safety Design Team Leader

(202) 366-0744

Nick Artimovich


Will Longstreet


Cathy Satterfield


Joseph Cheung


What's New

Design Criteria for Adaptive Roadway Lighting, PUBLICATION NO. FHWA-HRT-14-051 JULY 2014 new

Median Barriers on Divided Highways Regardless of Access Type new

ET-Plus W-Beam Guardrail Terminal Memorandum new

FHWA Resource Charts, July 2013

FHWA Roadway Lighting Handbook, August 2012

RwD Strategic Plan, April 2013

Updated Guidance on Sign Retroreflectivity, April 2013

Clarifying Guidance on Daytime Luminance, January 2013

Guidance for the Selection , Use and Maintenance of Cable Barrier Systems, November 2012