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FHWA Home / Safety / The Systemic Approach to Safety

A systemic approach to safety involves widely implemented improvements based on high-risk roadway features correlated with specific severe crash types. The approach helps agencies broaden their traffic safety efforts at little extra cost. Find out how (read more).

A Way to Manage Risk

Agencies design highway safety improvement projects 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 evaluates 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 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. Click on the following noteworthy practices and case studies that illustrate these applications.


New York
Thurston County, Washington

To access the full Noteworthy Practices Database click here. Click here to submit your practice to the database. 

In the News

Systemic Safety an Innovation in EDC-4
Every Day Counts (EDC) is a State-based model to identify and rapidly deploy proven but underutilized innovations to shorten the project delivery process, enhance roadway safety, reduce congestion and improve environmental sustainability. EDC4 builds on previous efforts and focuses on broadening implementation approaches and systemic approaches into safety management processes and project development decision-making. Click here for more information.

Illinois and Texas Adopt Systemic Safety Approaches
Click here for more information.

The Systemic Safety Project Selection Tool

The Systemic Safety Project Selection Tool publication 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.


Page last modified on May 23, 2017
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