In 2014, 54 percent of traffic fatalities in the United States occurred as a result of a vehicle’s leaving the roadway, according to U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) data. Roadside safety hardware, such as guardrails, is meant to reduce the risk of a serious crash when leaving the roadway. But in the last several years, a number of serious injuries and deaths resulted from crashes into roadside safety hardware. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to review FHWA’s oversight framework for roadside safety hardware.
This report assesses: (1) how FHWA performs oversight of state policies and practices related to roadside safety hardware; (2) the laboratory crash-testing process and FHWA’s oversight of this process; and (3) the extent to which information is available on roadside safety hardware’s performance once installed. GAO reviewed federal and state policies, surveyed state DOTs and received 44 responses, and reviewed documentation from nine U.S. crash test labs.