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.

Countermeasures to Keep Vehicles on Roadways:

In the United States, over half of all traffic fatalities involve a roadway departure. The most cost-effective solution to reduce the number of crashes, injuries, and fatalities due to roadway departure is to strategically focus efforts on implementing countermeasures that will keep the vehicles on roadway.

Improving pavement friction, alerting drivers with rumble strips, enhancing delineation along horizontal curves, and improving nighttime visibility are effective practices that FHWA encourages agencies to explore in order to keep vehicles on the roadway.

Countermeasures that Provide for a Safe Recovery:

Roadway departures account for over half of all fatal crashes. Once vehicles have left the travel lane, providing an opportunity to reenter the travel way safely is a priority.  Providing shoulders, safe pavement edges, and clear zones are effective means in which agencies can provide the opportunity for drivers to recover safely.

Countermeasures that Reduce Crash Severity:

Hardware, such as barriers, sign supports, and work zone devices are commonly used to reduce the potential severity of crashes on the roadside. Crash testing is used to evaluate the crashworthiness of these devices.

The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) provides guidance related to the design and installation specifications of roadside hardware and safety hardware. The FHWA’s Federal-aid eligibility letters are provided as a service to the States and are not a requirement for roadside safety hardware to be eligible for Federal-aid reimbursement. As stated in our eligibility letters, “eligibility for reimbursement under the Federal-aid highway program does not establish approval, certification or endorsement of the device for any particular purpose or use.” Decisions regarding the purchase and use of roadside safety hardware devices are the responsibility of the transportation facility owner.

Understanding the performance of roadside safety hardware begins in a controlled, sterile laboratory environment using crash test scenarios and standards set and maintained via AASHTO’s Manual on Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH). However, laboratory tests cannot completely protect against all the variables and countless situations drivers may find themselves in. Therefore, FHWA encourages states to perform in-service performance evaluations to identify real world performance of hardware so all stakeholders have a more comprehensive understanding of these devices’ performance. For more information about in-service performance evaluation of roadside safety devices, please visit https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/roadway_dept/countermeasures/reduce_crash_severity/guardrail_ispe.cfm.


← Return To Current News