Road Safety Audits (RSA)

Executive Summary

A Road Safety Audit (RSA) is the formal safety performance examination of an existing or future road or intersection by an independent, multidisciplinary team. It qualitatively estimates and reports on potential road safety issues and identifies opportunities for improvements in safety for all road users. The FHWA works with State and local jurisdictions and Tribal Governments to integrate RSAs into the project development process for new roads and intersections, and also encourages RSAs on existing roads and intersections.

The aim of an RSA is to answer the following questions:

  • What elements of the road may present a safety concern: to what extent, to which road users, and under what circumstances?
  • What opportunities exist to eliminate or mitigate identified safety concerns?

Public agencies with a desire to improve the overall safety performance of roadways under their jurisdiction should be excited about the concept of RSAs. Road safety audits can be used in any phase of project development from planning and preliminary engineering, design and construction. RSAs can also be used on any sized project from minor intersection and roadway retrofits to mega-projects.

This is a photo of an intersection in Grand Rapids, Michigan, before a road safety audit was conducted.

This is the same intersection after a road safety audit was conducted.


This is a photo of an intersection in Grand Rapids, Michigan, before a road safety audit was conducted. The 2 traffic signal heads are hung on a diagonal span of wire and only one head is over the travel lanes. There are two lanes approaching the intersection separated by a dashed white pavement marking. 


This is the same intersection after a road safety audit was conducted. The traffic signals are now hung on a box span of wire and they are now able to be hung directly over the travel lanes. Now there are three traffic signal heads, two for the through lane and one for the left turn lane. Pavement markings now show a separate left-turn lane at the intersection. 

Most State DOTs have established traditional safety review processes. However, a road safety audit and a traditional safety review are different processes. It is important to understand the difference between the road safety reviews that are commonly performed and newer road safety audits. The main differences between the two are shown below:

What is the difference between RSA and a Traditional Safety Review?

Road Safety Audit Traditional Safety Review
Performed by a team independent of the project The safety review team is usually not completely independent of the design team.
Performed by a multi-disciplinary team Typically performed by a team with only design and/or safety expertise.
Considers all potential road users Often concentrates on motorized traffic.
Accounting for road user capabilities and limitations is an essential element of an RSA Safety Reviews do not normally consider human factor issues.
Always generates a formal RSA report Often does not generate a formal report.

A formal response report is an essential element of an RSA

Often does not generate a formal response report.

Before After

rural road before a road safety audit

Rural road before a road safety audit

rural road after a road safety audit

Same rural road after a road safety audit where guardrail has been installed

The site was developed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).


"We view the RSAs as a proactive low-cost approach to improve safety. The RSAs helped our engineering team develop a number of solutions incorporating measures that were not originally included in the projects. The very first audit conducted saved SCDOT thousands of dollars by correcting a design problem."

Terecia Wilson
Director of Safety
South Carolina Department of Transportation

"The road safety audit process looks at the roadway from a purely technical safety viewpoint without outside influences. It is a valuable process that gives an unbiased view of safety issues with support from safety experts. These recommendations are helpful when working with others, such as political leaders."

Ricky May
District Engineer
Mississippi DOT

"I believe that road safety audits are an excellent tool for evaluating and improving the safety of our highway system. In the projects we've done, we've seen the most benefit in doing an audit during conceptual and preliminary design, when any improvements can be incorporated into our project estimates and final design."

Beth Wright
District Engineer
Missouri DOT


Program Contact

Becky Crowe
Program Manager


Technical Assistance
K. Craig Allred
Transportation Specialist


What's New

New Wrong Way Driving – Road Safety Audit Prompt List

New RSA Newsletter Summer 2014

New A MODEL Road Safety Audit Policy

Road Safety Audits: An Evaluation of RSA Programs and Projects

RSA Case Studies: Using Three-Dimensional Design Visualization in the Road Safety Audit Process


RSA Brochure

RSA Video

RSA Peer-to-Peer Assistance
FHWA has a new peer-to-peer program for RSAs where you can receive on-site or over the phone assistance on an RSA from a peer for no charge.

RSA Case Studies

RSA Guidelines

Pedestrian RSA Guidelines

Bicycle Road Safety Audit Guidelines and Prompt Lists

RSA Toolkit for Federal and Tribal Lands

Federal and Tribal Lands Road Safety Audits: Case Studies

Tribal RSA: Case Studies

Sample RSA Database

Sample RSA Reports

Sample RSA Policies

RSAs For Safety
Transportation professionals employ audits to scrutinize roadways for safety issues-and reduce crashes, injuries, fatalities, and costs in the process. Artice by Lousia Ward.