U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration


eSubscribe Envelope

FHWA Home / Safety / Roadway Departure Safety

Roadway Departure Safety

Pie Chart: Roadway Departures account for 56% of all traffic fatalities in the U.S. - Annual Average Roadway Departure Fatalities (2010-2013) - Three Primary Emphasis Areas: Trees 3,508 19%,  Head-on 4,570 25%, Rollover 5,285 20%, Other (includes a variety of miscellaneous fixed objects and terrains 5,223 28% The 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 2013, there were 18,257 fatalities as a result of roadway departure crashes, which was 56 percent of the traffic fatalities in the United States. A roadway departure crash is defined as a 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. http://www.nhtsa.gov/FARS

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."

FHWA Roadway Departure Crash Emphasis Areas brochure NEW!

Technical Assistance/Tools

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

Crash-Tested Hardware 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.
Page last modified on September 1, 2015.
Safe Roads for a Safer Future - Investment in roadway safety saves lives
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000