The National Academies

NCHRP Synthesis 20-05/Topic 54-03 [Active (Synthesis)]

DOT Practices on Road Safety Audits
[ NCHRP 20-05 (Synthesis of Information Related to Highway Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $55,000
Authorization to Begin Work: 4/29/2022 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Trey Joseph Wadsworth
Research Agency: Henry Brown
Principal Investigator: University of Missouri
Fiscal Year: 2023

Final Scope

A Road Safety Audit (RSA) is a proactive and formal safety performance examination of an existing or future road or intersection by an independent, multidisciplinary team. Some state departments of transportation (DOTs) refer to these as road safety assessments. It qualitatively estimates and reports on potential road safety issues and identifies opportunities for improvements in safety for all road users. RSAs were introduced in the United States in 1997 following a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)-sponsored scanning tour of Australia and New Zealand investigating safety management systems in 1996. NCHRP completed Report 336 Road Safety Audits in 2004. The report found that seven DOTs were using RSAs in their safety programs. Since then, DOTs have been developing their resources, procedures, and practices for RSAs, and information is scattered; new considerations have emerged for conducting RSAs. They may include but are not limited to equity considerations, and active transportation and micro-mobility growth.


The objective of this synthesis is to document state DOT current practices related to RSAs.


Information to be gathered includes (but is not limited to):  

  • Frequency and quantity of DOT RSAs;
  • Contexts for RSAs locations (rural, urban, corridors, intersections, interchanges, or state-owned vs. non-state-owned roadways);
  • DOT decision-making factors and prioritization methods in selecting RSA locations (equity considerations, high rate of active transportation users, crash frequency, cost threshold, or projects considered for federal funding);
  • Data used in identifying and conducting RSAs and any linkages or alignment with crash modification factors or safety performance functions;
  • When DOTs conduct RSAs (stage/phase during the project development process such as planning or preliminary design);
  • RSA types and methods completed (virtual, day/night, use of FHWA eight-step procedure see: https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/rsa/guidelines/chapter4.htm);
  • Characteristics of the team conducting the RSA, including
    • Members being representative of the community, the inclusion of all modal users, or transit agency staff,
    • Roles and responsibilities of RSA team members,
    • RSA team leader identification and what qualifications are required, and
    • DOT staff and partner training;
  • How are RSAs funded;
  • How DOTs implement RSA results, including
    • If the roadway owner is different than who is offering/conducting RSA,
    • Funding methods for improvements (Highway Safety Improvement Program, discretionary grants, or state funds);
  • How DOTs measure RSA outcomes, including the use of after-action reviews or longitudinal analysis of crash frequency;
  • Supporting materials developed by DOTs such as manuals, checklists, or procedures;
  • DOT considerations of active transportation, micro-mobility, transit users, equity (environmental justice analysis or Justice 40), Safe System Approach, human factors, performance-based planning and programming, and new technologies (for example, LED lighting’s widespread adoption since 2003);
  • Coordination practices with MPOs, tribal governments, and local organizations;
  • Why state DOTs are not conducting RSAs and if there are barriers to utilizing RSAs, such as liability; and
  • Research gaps related to RSAs.
Information will be gathered through a literature review, a survey of state DOTs, and follow-up interviews with selected agencies for the development of case examples. Information gaps and suggestions for research to address those gaps will be identified.
Information Sources (Partial):

TRB Staff
Trey Joseph Wadsworth
Phone: 202-334-2307
Email: twadsworth@nas.edu  
Meeting Dates
First Panel: September 14, 2022
Teleconference with Consultant: October 26, 2023
Second Panel: June 7, 2023

Topic Panel
Md Atiquzzaman, Virginia Department of Transportation
Dr. Joseph D. Crabtree, Kentucky Transportation Center
Michelle Deng, Massachusetts Department of Transportation
Margaret Gibbs, Insurance Corporation of British Columbia
Khalid Jamil, Texas Department of Transportation
Kevin Murphy, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
Dr. Ida van Schalkwyk, Washington State Department of Transportation
Rebecca Crowe, Federal Highway Administration Liaison
Bernardo Kleiner, Transportation Research Board Liaison

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