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According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), 12,000 people are killed every year because of vehicular lane departures on rural roads. The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) has taken numerous steps to help lower the number of fatalities, including the implementation of Focus on Reducing Rural Roadway Departures (FoRRRwD) solutions.   

The FoRRRwD initiative promotes tools and strategies to help transportation agencies reduce the potential for crashes, as well as reduce the severity of those that do occur. FoRRRwD is supported by four pillars: on all public roads, proven countermeasures, systemic approach, and safety action plans.   

The on all public roads pillar states that safety should be a priority on all public roads, no matter the agency that maintains them. NDDOT abided by this pillar when the agency assisted local and tribal agencies by allotting them 50 percent of its Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funding to help them execute Local Road Safety Plans (LRSPs). A LRSP is a tool to recognize potential safety hazards on local roads and prioritize projects to address them.  

Each LRSP utilized a systemic approach, another FoRRRwD pillar, of using crash and other data to assess risk factors that correspond with lane departures. Instead of managing a risk at specific locations, systemic approaches evaluate risk across an entire roadway system to prevent future crashes.  

For example, the Cass County LRSP identified five risk factors for curves: average daily traffic, radius, intersection, visual trap and crash history. By using this systemic approach, practitioners look for the road curves in their system with numerous risk factors and implement cost-effective countermeasures to the roadway area.  

NDDOT used proven countermeasures, another FoRRRwd pillar, to further mitigate roadway departures. Rumble strips and curve warning signs were added to local roads as part of the agency’s program. To maximize the cost-effectiveness of these countermeasures, NDDOT bundled these improvements into county-wide and multi-county projects.   

Additionally, the agency created Vision Zero, a website that houses the agency’s traffic safety strategy: Vision Zero, Zero fatalities. Zero excuses. NDDOT’s website aims to create a culture of accountability among motorists and show that vehicular fatalities and injuries are completely preventable. This initiative falls under another FoRRRwD pillar, safety action plans. A safety action plan is a tool used by agencies to communicate safety improvements more clearly with stakeholders and justify investment decisions.