Guide for Applying Safe System Principles in the Road Safety Audit Process

With the United States beginning to engage in the Safe System Approach (SSA) to road safety, opportunities exist to update current tools. A road safety audit (RSA), known as a road safety assessment in some agencies, is one such tool. The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Road Safety Audit Guidelines defines an RSA as a formal safety performance examination of an existing or future road or intersection by an independent, multidisciplinary audit team. FHWA provides guidelines for RSAs throughout the project life cycle, and RSAs of existing roads (also referred to as road safety inspections) are commonly used in jurisdictions of all levels. However, in the United States, RSAs are less frequently used to evaluate projects in the project planning and design phases. RSAs typically begin earlier in the planning and project development processes in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand as a proactive approach to roadway safety. In Guide to Road Safety Part 6: Road Safety Audit, Austroads defines an RSA as a formal examination of a future road or traffic project or an existing road or road-related area, in which an independent, qualified team reports on the project’s crash potential and actual safety performance, respectively. Austroads considers RSAs conducted early in the project development process to be the most cost-effective because safety features can be incorporated before construction. RSAs are well suited to incorporating SSA principles, as proven by international examples of RSA guides with safe system elements. In the United States, updated RSA processes have the potential to raise awareness of safe system concepts and provide practitioners with direction on how to apply the SSA. In addition, transportation agencies can benefit from adapting international best practices for RSAs and road safety inspections. Research is needed to support state departments of transportation with incorporating the SSA into RSA processes and implementing RSAs during project planning and development. The objective of this research is to develop a guide with a framework and tools to help transportation agencies integrate safe system principles into RSA processes throughout the project life cycle with an emphasis on implementing RSAs throughout the planning and project development phases.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $425000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 17-125

  • 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:

    Turner, Anne-Marie

  • Start Date: 20240325
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01888635
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 17-125
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Jul 25 2023 8:02AM