The systemic approach to safety involves widely implemented improvements based on high-risk roadway features correlated with specific severe crash types. The approach provides a more comprehensive method for safety planning and implementation that supplements and compliments traditional site analysis. It helps agencies broaden their traffic safety efforts and consider risk as well as crash history when identifying where to make low cost safety improvement locations.

A Way to Manage Risk

Highway safety improvement projects are designed to improve safety by minimizing or eliminating risk to roadway users. Rather than managing risk at certain locations, a systemic approach takes a broader view and looks at risk across an entire roadway system. A system-based approach acknowledges crashes alone are not always sufficient to determine what countermeasures to implement, particularly on low volume local and rural roadways where crash densities are lower, and in many urban areas particularly those where there are conflicts between vehicles and vulnerable road users (pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists).

Click here for a list of potential risk factors a state or local agency might consider with the systemic safety approach.

Systemic In Practice

Several states are using the systemic approach to safety and achieving results. For more details, select one of the states below:

Washington State DOT encourages counties to identify systemic safety projects in their 2014 County Safety Program: Call for Projects.

FDOT Grants Citrus County $1.5 Million to Make Curvy Roads Safer


The following case studies illustrate various applications of the Systemic Safety Project Selection Tool:

New York
Thurston County, Washington

A feature on the FHWA Office of Safety Roadway Safety Noteworthy Practice Database allows you to add your own noteworthy practice. Click here to submit your practice.  Click here  to visit the database.

In the News

Systemic Safety Webinar Series
FHWA will host a series of systemic safety webinars in 2015 to highlight systemic safety noteworthy practices.  Click here for more information and registration details

Systemic Safety Implementation Peer Exchange
The FHWA Office of Safety will host two Systemic Safety Implementation Peer Exchanges in 2015.  The purpose of the peer exchange is to advance the systemic approach to reducing fatalities and serious injuries on local and rural roadways. The peer exchange will provide a forum for participants to discuss and exchange ideas on the application of systemic safety analysis. Applications are due April 10th. For additional information, contact

Systemic Safety in the GROW AMERICA Act
The Administration’s reauthorization proposal includes dedicated funding for systemic safety improvements on non-state owned roads. Read more…

Systemic Safety Training & Technical Assistance

Need help implementing the systemic approach to safety in your jurisdiction? Request training or technical assistance through FHWA’s Safety Peer to Peer Program.

The Systemic Safety Project Selection Tool

The Systemic Safety Project Selection Tool provides:

  • A step-by-step process for conducting systemic safety planning;
  • Considerations for determining a balance between spot and systemic safety improvements; and
  • Analytical techniques for quantifying the benefits of a systemic safety program.

Download the Systemic Safety Project Selection Tool