U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Skip to content


eSubscribe Envelope

FHWA Home / Safety / Transportation Safety Planning (TSP) / Tools and Practices for System Wide Safety Improvement

Tools and Practices for System Wide Safety Improvement

Chapter 1. Introduction

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is dedicated to promoting a performance-based management approach for the highway safety community. Once established, this approach will support FHWA's Safety Focused Decision Making Framework (herein also referred to as the Framework) by translating measureable goals and objectives into highway safety investment strategies, priorities, and actions at the programmatic level. To ensure maximum effectiveness, this Framework relies on consistent monitoring, reporting, evaluation, and improvement of performance goals to promote achievement of the desired safety performance across the entire roadway system – resulting in improved roadway safety nationwide.

There are a great variety of products and projects that have been developed or are being developed to assist state Department of Transportations (states) and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in predicting the safety impacts of various inventories of safety projects, tools, activities, and strategies. While there are differing levels of maturity along the safety planning and prediction implementation curve, most states and MPOs are not consistently predicting the safety outcomes of a suite of projects, tools, activities, and strategies at the programmatic level.

Although the programmatic approach to safety planning has yet to be broadly adopted, many states are setting performance targets to reduce fatalities and serious injuries (among other performance measures) as part of their overall roadway safety planning efforts. This study is part of a larger FHWA effort to examine the transportation safety planning environment and establish a model for program-level safety planning. The larger effort focused on first synthesizing current methods to incorporate performance management techniques in transportation planning efforts, and describing nationally available data analysis tools that support state and local efforts to plan, monitor, and report safety outcomes. The second major element of the effort included a series of in-depth case studies focused on identifying notable practices and tools used to assist states and MPOs in planning safety projects and measuring performance against established performance goals and targets.

A Focus on Performance-Based Management

The last two decades have brought about many changes in government policies and practices that serve to encourage accountability and transparency in the management of taxpayer resources and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of government programs. The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993, followed by the Performance Assessment Rating Tool (PART) requirements, and the GPRA Modernization Act of 2011, have pushed federal agencies to collect comprehensive data on their program activities and report progress more frequently. Over the same time period, many state and local agencies also expanded requirements for measuring and reporting progress. These requirements have prompted government organizations at all levels to expand their use of data analytics. While government agencies have improved their data collection and analysis activities, many still struggle to link data collection to strategic decision making. New legislation, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), was signed into law in July 2012. MAP-21 emphasizes the use of performance-based management for federal funding of transportation projects. This legislation contains provisions that will shape the performance-based management framework within the Department of Transportation, and broadly supports the Department's safety agenda.

Report Objective

This report identifies the gaps between the current safety planning environment as it relates to projects, current tools and activities, and the desired future state as defined by FHWA's Safety Focused Decision Making Framework. It builds on prior work, tying together sub-elements (i.e., synthesis report and case studies) of the larger FHWA effort, and injects new ideas yielded from a Safety Planning Peer Exchange event attended by 13 subject matter experts representing a variety of perspectives and backgrounds. Finally, this report aims to assist federal, state, and MPO transportation planners achieve their established safety performance goals by recommending activities that could be used to expand knowledge of this topic and implementation of best practices across stakeholder groups.


This report is part of a larger step-wise gap analysis that builds off sequential efforts and associated findings. First, the project team identified available performance management tools for roadway safety and described how states and MPOs were using them. Then, the team identified existing processes used to conduct performance management analysis and safety impact projection. Next, case studies on the application of available roadway safety predictive tools and processes were crafted, focusing on applicability in supporting a system-wide prediction of effects of safety investments on the accomplishment of performance measures. The findings were then shared as part of a Safety Planning Peer Exchange, which, through facilitated discussions, helped FHWA refine the Framework for the improved future state.

As described earlier, this report defines the gaps between the current state and the desired future state, and introduces various bridging options that may help overcome current obstacles. The project team will then develop a short guidance document and training program to educate FHWA Division Office safety planners, engineers, and other staff on the opportunities and proposed methods to improve safety planning and performance management practices. The intent of the training is to provide FHWA Division Office staff with information and tools to assist their states and MPOs in evaluating their safety performance management framework and begin forecasting the outcomes of their combined safety investments at a programmatic level.

Report Structure

This report is organized into six sections, including the Introduction. Section 2, Baseline of Current Safety Planning Environment, reviews the current tools and processes available for safety planning, and describes some of the challenges associated with their implementation. This section also includes a description of current funding sources and opportunities. Section 3, Safety Focused Decision Making Framework explains the desired safety performance environment as outlined by experts at the Safety Planning Peer Exchange. It also includes a discussion on fostering a safety culture through the use of change management best practices to encourage the adoption of the Safety Focused Decision Making Framework, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) requirements, and various other enhancements to the environment. Section 4, Identification of Gaps, covers both current and anticipated gaps between current and future states of transportation safety planning. Section 5,Suggested Bridging Options, describes various bridging options to help overcome existing gaps. Finally, the report ends with Section 6, As discussed earlier, as federal and state funding is often uncertain, funding innovations and alternate sources of funding may help state and local transportation organizations maximize safety gains. States and local transportation agencies should also identify opportunities to include safety improvement elements into other transportation projects at the early stages (e.g., roadway design and construction). Exploring alternate funding sources and alternatives to incorporate safety in infrastructure projects is especially important when transportation appropriations slow or decrease.

To develop a KTT toolkit, safety planners would first identify target stakeholders. From there, a mix of KTT products, tools, and tactics to deliver key messages and inform/engage stakeholders would be developed. Finally, they would foster the adoption of safety planning concepts and practices through the deployment of the products, tools, tactics and activities outlined in a formal KTT plan. An effective safety planning KTT toolkit would include the following items to help familiarize stakeholders with the safety planner's paradigm and concerns:

If deployed nationally, the impact that KTT toolkits would have on the safety planning environment would be substantial. The KTT toolkits would encourage the sharing of best practices, expand the availability of robust data sets, and foster innovative solutions to systemic challenges.

Expansion Beyond Traditional Funding Sources

As discussed earlier, given that federal and state funding may be limited and not all transportation project funding includes a safety component, funding innovations and alternate sources of funding may help state and local transportation organizations maximize safety gains. Exploring alternate funding sources and alternatives to incorporate safety in infrastructure projects is especially important when transportation appropriations slow or decrease. An example of a strategy to expand funding is for safety planners to collaborate with engineers during the roadway design phase to include safety elements as part of the roadway design.

Additional Research

Section 5: Suggested Bridging Options

More research is needed to define a broadly accepted method for calculating the expected safety outcomes across multiple projects within a program portfolio. Safety planners have become very adept at using available tools to help predict safety outcomes for specific projects, but have not yet effectively broadened their predictive capabilities to evaluate a larger program portfolio, as illustrated in Figure 14.

Whatever methodology is ultimately developed to meet this need, the analysis will need to take into account the additional benefits, unexpected challenges, and unintended consequences (positive and negative) of different project groupings. This will be a key element in the maturing of safety planning data collection and analysis capabilities as more accurate predictions of program level safety outcomes will help achieve FHWA's Safety Focused Decision Making Framework.


Previous | Table of Contents | Next

Page last modified on October 29, 2014.
Safe Roads for a Safer Future - Investment in roadway safety saves lives
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000