Every October is International Walk to School Month Continuing to Address Reducing Rural Roadway Departures

Staying in the Lane

Rural road safety is often highlighted as a major safety issue since nearly 50% of traffic fatalities occur on rural road networks, even though only 19% of the US population lives in rural areas. A lesser known statistic is that fully two-thirds of these rural fatalities is a roadway departure, where a vehicle veers outside of its travel lane. It’s clear that when attempting to address the overall issue of rural road safety, special attention must be paid to roadway departures.

The rural road network is challenging in both size and environment; it accounts for over 70% of public roadway mileage, traverses every imaginable climate and environmental hazard, and is under the jurisdiction of thousands of separate entities. With so many differing challenges and so many different people responsible for its maintenance, it can sometimes be difficult to identify the right course of action. This time of year, as we enter the long winter season, run-off-the-road crashes are likely to increase due to compromised visibility related to weather, deteriorated roadway conditions, wildlife collisions, and shortened daylight hours. With this in mind, it is particularly important to spread the word about available countermeasures that have been tried and tested around the country.

Thankfully, the Federal Highway Administration has included Reducing Rural Roadway Departures as one of the Every Day Counts-5 initiatives to bring more attention to the available safety countermeasures that can improve safety of the rural roadway system. While the size of the rural system and limited resources make it unrealistic to apply countermeasures everywhere, there are ways to determine where the best locations are to install such things as high friction surface treatments, widened shoulders and clear zones, additional signage and pavement markings, rumble strips and guardrail.

Data-driven systemic analysis is the best support tool to help local agencies prioritize locations and select appropriate countermeasures.

For more information on Rural Roadway Departures, there are several convenient to listen to webinars-

FHWA Rural Roadway Departures Webinar Recording: 

And, two webinars from the National Center for Rural Road Safety:

There is a webinar recording from FHWA on Data-Driven Safety Analysis (DDSA) for Local Roads:

And, a webinar from the National Center for Rural Road Safety on safety data analysis:


Every October is International Walk to School Month Continuing to Address Reducing Rural Roadway Departures