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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).

Visit this link 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. Visit the following noteworthy practices and case studies that illustrate these applications.

New York
Thurston County, Washington

Access the full Noteworthy Practices Database or submit your practice to the database.

In the News

NCHRP publishes new report on Quantitative Approaches to Systemic Safety Analysis. For more information, download the report at http://www.trb.org/NCHRP/ Blurbs/181589.aspx.

Using the Systemic Approach to Safety to Reduce Rural Roadway Departure Fatalities under EDC-5
Reducing fatalities on rural roads remains a major challenge in the United States. Roadway departures on the rural road network account for one-third of traffic fatalities. Systemic application of proven roadway departure countermeasures, such as rumble strips, friction treatments, and clear zones, helps keep vehicles in their travel lanes, reduce the potential for crashes, and reduce the severity of those crashes that do occur.

Updated Systemic Safety Analysis Workshop *Now Available*
The systemic safety analysis workshop is a four-hour instructor-led course that leads practitioners through the systemic safety analysis process presented in the Systemic Safety Project Selection Tool. The workshop is available for delivery to State, local or tribal agencies by request.

Two New Systemic Resources

Quick Start Guide: Systemic Safety Analysis
This guide describes tips and strategies for using resources your agency already has to perform systemic safety analysis, as defined in the Systemic Safety Project Selection Tool. A scenario implementing each task is woven throughout to help illustrate the concepts.

Take Action Before a Crash Occurs: Use a Systemic Approach to Safety
This flyer describes why the systemic approach to safety is an important part of the safety management process.

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 April 30, 2021
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