Road Safety Models
This model includes strategies to lower traffic speeds and volume in order to improve safety for
pedestrians, bicyclists, and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) users who share the road with cars and other
motorized vehicles. Programs and policies to improve road safety can take many forms and may need to
be adapted to meet the needs of individual rural communities.
In addition to higher rates of collisions between 2 or more people and/or vehicles, rural areas also
experience higher rates
of fatal single-vehicle crashes. Single-vehicle crashes can occur when a vehicle leaves the road
unintentionally, often due to poor driving conditions, high speeds, alcohol impairment, or crashes
due to animals or fallen trees on the roadway. Installing road safety features to prevent vehicles
from leaving their lane or requiring a decrease in speeds can help to reduce
the rates of both single and multi-vehicle collisions.
Traffic calming techniques seek
to lower traffic speeds and volume through strategic design elements built into roads and
intersections. Some of these strategies include implementing “road diets,” or limiting the number and
width of traffic lanes; installing improved signage, including visible pedestrian signals; and
introducing speed humps to control traffic speeds. There is evidence
to suggest that traffic calming measures reduce traffic speed and crashes, increase active transportation, and
increase pedestrian and cyclist safety.
Examples of Road Safety Models
policies strive to improve pedestrian, bicyclist, motorist, and transit rider safety by
implementing street networks that ensure the “entire right of way” for all road users. This
approach to urban planning requires routine monitoring and updates of roadways to improve
usability and safety. Complete Streets policies are adaptable and can be modified to meet the
needs of rural
communities. There is strong evidence
suggesting that Complete Streets and other street design initiatives increase physical activity
and increase pedestrian and cyclist safety.
Vision Zero is a transportation policy that aims to
eliminate traffic fatalities through changes to traffic infrastructure, better enforcement of
traffic laws, and improved public education on traffic safety measures. While initially
introduced in large urban areas, Vision Zero has been expanded to rural areas and adopted as a
statewide policy, such as North Carolina's Vision Zero program.
- Applying High
Friction Surface Treatments (HFST) can increase surface friction, making skidding and crashes
less likely. Some rural areas have used HFST to improve safety in high crash areas, such as
mountainous terrain and road corridors with sharp turns. For example, after Kentucky
implemented HFST in rural Appalachia, the state reported a 69% decrease in crashes
and fatalities on treated highways.
Considerations for Implementation
When making plans to implement a road diet, Complete Streets intervention, or other road treatments,
planners may be able to obtain significant cost savings by integrating new projects into existing
plans for road resurfacing and maintenance events. Repainting as part of routine maintenance can be
an opportunity to carry out desired lane reconfigurations.
Community support for road diets and other reductions in traffic lanes or speed limits may be mixed.
Residents may be concerned about longer travel times or increased traffic volume. In order to build
community support, planners can identify similar projects in other communities and share information
about potential impacts including reductions in collisions between cars and pedestrians, bicyclists,
or other vehicles. Information can be shared at town halls and at community events.
Decisions about infrastructure priorities and policies are often made at the state level rather than by local
communities. Programs should be prepared to advocate for their communities' unique needs
with state officials and consider partnering with other state offices to gain support for their work.
Resources to Learn More
Complete Streets Basic
This site includes a compilation of resources to support communities interested in learning about and
implementing Complete Streets policies. It covers benefits like increased economic revitalization,
decreased burden of gas prices, improved safety, and increased accessibility for people with
Organization(s): Smart Growth America
Crash Modification Factors Clearinghouse
The website allows users to estimate the number of crash incidents before and after implementing various safety
Organization(s): Federal Highway Administration, University of North Carolina Highway
Safety Research Center
Complete Streets: Rural Communities & Small Towns
This fact sheet provides examples of six rural and semi-rural communities and counties that have designed and
implemented Complete Streets resolutions. These policies can help improve accessibility to all modes of
transportation, making it easier for people to use streets for active and public transportation.
Organization(s): National Complete Streets Coalition
Proven Safety Countermeasures
This site gives an overview of the nine proven safety countermeasures for use in reducing highway fatalities and
Organization(s): Federal Highway Administration Office of Safety Programs
Traffic Calming on Main Roads Through
This brief gives a summary of evaluation efforts on several traffic calming measures implemented in multiple
Author(s): Krammes, R. & Sheldahl, E.
Organization(s): Federal Highway Administration