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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 2014, there were 17,791 fatalities as a result of roadway departure crashes, which was 54 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 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS) to compute statistics on roadway departure crashes.

Roadway Departure Strategic Planning

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." The plan shows a need to focus efforts in three primary emphasis areas, outlined in this brochure. There are a number of other resources for implementing a strategic approach to reducing roadway departure crashes.

Roadway Depature Toolbox

Crash-Tested Hardware Eligibility Letters

Federal-Aid Reimbursement Eligibility Process


Click here to find more information about 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.

See the FHWA Policy and Guidance Center for all FHWA policy and guidance, including other Roadway Departure countermeasures.


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 decision-makers 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 three Roadway Departure related goals under the Highway Element of  AASHTO's Strategic Highway Safety Plan .

AASHTO's April 2008 publication, Driving Down Lane Departure Crashes: A National Priority provides more information.

Page last modified on August 26, 2016
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