1. Addressing Rural Roadway Departures on All Public Roads
If we are going to solve this problem, States must work with local agencies to reduce rural roadway departures (aka lane departures) on all roads.
Roadway ownership isn’t always clear in the national crash data, so the pie chart below shows where these deaths occur based on functional classification. Ownership of roads varies throughout the country, but arterials are typically under the jurisdiction of State DOTs, while collectors and roads functionally classified as local are more likely to be under the jurisdiction of others. The chart clearly indicates lane departure crashes are a major problem on all types of public rural roads. It is estimated that more than 40 percent of traffic fatalities occur on locally-owned roads.
2. Proven Countermeasures
There are many flexible, cost-effective countermeasures that are proven to reduce rural roadway departure (aka lane departure) crashes. They can be installed in various situations and on many types of roadways. Countermeasures can be used individually or in combination.
3 ways to prevent rural roadway departure deaths
FoRRRwD has three objectives for reducing the number or severity of rural lane departures – keep vehicles in the lane, reduce the potential for crashes if vehicles do leave their lane, and minimize severity if a crash does happen. There are specific countermeasures that apply to each objective.
3. Systemic Approach to Rural Roadway Departures
Definition of Systemic
According to 23 USC 148(a)(12), the term “systemic safety improvement” means an improvement that is widely implemented based on high risk roadway features that are correlated with particular crash types, rather than crash frequency.
Crash locations are random. Crash types are not. A fundamental challenge on rural roads is that roadway departure (aka lane departure) crash locations are random and tend to change from year to year. It is not cost-effective to apply countermeasures where crashes already happened when they are unlikely to happen again at the same location in the near future.
4. Safety Action Plans
Reducing rural roadway departure crashes requires an integrated, disciplined approach. A safety action plan is a powerful way to prioritize safety improvements and justify investment decisions. A formal plan will also help to communicate more clearly with stakeholders and access funding opportunities.