Legal Problems Arising out of Highway Programs. Topic 27-01. Transportation Agency Liability for Roadside Safety Hardware

Transportation agencies install a large amount of roadside safety hardware purchased from manufacturers. Included in this hardware are various kinds of guiderail and other barriers, impact attenuators, and breakaway light poles and sign supports. NCHRP Report 350: Recommended Procedures for the Safety Performance Evaluation of Highway Features, includes guidelines for crash testing roadside safety hardware and criteria to assess the test results. After the publication of NCHRP Report 350, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) required all road safety hardware utilized on a federal aid eligible roadway to be tested using testing criteria reported in NCHRP Report 350. The FHWA issued certification letters for all devices whose testing satisfied the NCHRP protocols. In 2009, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) published the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH) for use in testing safety hardware. FHWA adopted MASH in 2016, requiring all newly installed roadside safety hardware to be tested and certified under MASH. Prior hardware tested under NCHRP Report 350 can remain in place until replacement due to damage or highway rebuild when MASH-certified hardware must be installed. The federal testing and certification requirements do not apply on roads funded only by non-federal money. Each state must determine what road safety hardware is satisfactory for non-federal aid roads. In most, if not all, jurisdictions, transportation agencies have potential liability for claims of alleged negligence in the design, construction, maintenance, and operation of state and local roads. These claims can include allegations that roadside safety hardware was improperly designed, installed, or maintained. The complex processes for testing and approval of roadside safety hardware add an extra level of complexity to evaluating potential liability and defenses to liability in the event of tort claims relating to the safety hardware. An analysis of liabilities on claims alleging deficient or defective roadway safety hardware, and defenses to such actions, would be of value to transportation agencies and the attorneys that defend them. The objective of this research is to produce a report that includes a description of the liability that applies to parties involved in the design, manufacture, testing, certification, and installation of roadside safety hardware. These parties include state and local transportation agencies, the relevant federal highway entity, installation contractors, testing facilities, designers, and manufacturers.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $100000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 20-06, Topic 27-01

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Chisholm-Smith, Gwen

  • Start Date: 20231109
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01887172
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 20-06, Topic 27-01
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Jul 10 2023 9:19PM