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FHWA Road Safety Audit Guidelines

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Appendix A

Limitations to the reactive approach to road safety.

Reactive and Proactive Approaches to Road Safety

A reactive approach to road safety is associated with the identification of locations experiencing safety problems (screening), problem definition (diagnosis), and the identification and implementation of countermeasures (cure).

A proactive approach to road safety is associated with the prevention of safety problems before they manifest themselves in the form of a pattern of crash occurrence.

Both prevention and cure should be inherent elements of an overall road safety management system.

A reactive approach to road safety is based on the analysis of existing crash data. Road safety improvements proposed are considered in reaction to identified safety problems brought to light by crashes that have occurred after the road has been designed, built, and opened to the traveling public. Traditional reactive road safety engineering processes include such activities as information collection and management (crash information systems), identification of problem locations on the road network, analysis, development and implementation of countermeasures. The Hazard Elimination Program or a jurisdictions high crash location list are examples of reactive approaches to crash frequency and/or severity reduction.

Limitations of the reactive approach are as follows:

Despite these limitations, no road safety management system can be considered complete without a reactive component as it is a powerful tool for addressing existing safety problems.

Benefits of a proactive approach to road safety.

A proactive approach focuses on the evolving "Science of Safety", that is, what is known about the evolving specific safety implications of highway design and operations decisions. The proactive approach applies this knowledge to the roadway design process or to the implementation of improvement plans on existing roads to diminish the potential of crashes occurring prior to the road being built or reconstructed. Conducting RSAs is an example of a proactive road safety strategy.

The advantages of a proactive approach include:

Effective road safety management programs should exercise an optimal balance between reactive and proactive strategies.

While each jurisdiction will determine an optimal balance based on local conditions, the potential benefits of implementing RSAs are clearly significant.

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