U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
August 27, 2008
Of the 8.4 million lane-miles of roads in the United States, over 6 million lane-miles are rural. Almost 80 percent of rural roads are owned and operated by local entities, making the dissemination of highway safety information to local officials and the public critical to improving national rural road safety.
Rural areas face a number of unique highway safety challenges. Rural crashes are more likely to be at higher speeds than urban crashes; victims of fatal crashes in rural areas are more likely to be unbelted than their urban counterparts; and it often takes first responders longer to arrive at the scene of a rural crash, leaving victims waiting longer for medical attention. Outdated roadway design and roadside hazards such as utility poles, sharp-edged pavement drop-offs, and trees close to the roadway also are major contributors to the severity of rural crashes.
According to the latest data from NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), the fatality rate for rural crashes is more than twice the fatality rate in urban crashes. In 2006, 23,339 people were killed in rural motor vehicle crashes, accounting for 55 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities.
In response to overwhelming amount of rural crashes, On February 29, the Department announced the DOT Rural Safety Initiative.
The Rural Safety Innovation Program (RSIP) is a one-time opportunity and a subset of the Rural Safety Initiative which deals with infrastructure and smart solutions for improving rural safety. The goal of the Rural Safety Innovation Program is to improve rural road safety by providing rural communities the opportunity to compete for grant funding to address pressing highway safety problems. The program will allow rural communities to develop data driven, creative, locally crafted solutions to their roadway safety problems, document their efforts and outcomes, and share the results with other communities across the country.
The primary objectives of the Rural Safety Innovation Program are to:
The Department’s February 2008 Federal Register Notice solicited applications for funding to support qualified Rural Safety Innovation Program projects. The Rural Safety Innovation Program was geared toward entities responsible for rural roads and highways such as counties, towns, townships and tribal governments partnering with State Departments of Transportation (DOTs).
The FHWA used FY 2008 funds, drawn from available portions of the Delta Regional Transportation Development Program (Delta) as well as the U.S Department of Transportation Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) for the Rural Safety Innovation Program. The budget was roughly $15 million consisting of $9.2 M in Delta and $6 M in ITS funds.
The selection process consisted of two phases; submission of a rural safety innovation program application due April 14, 2008, followed by an invitation to submit a formal proposal in Phase II due July 7, 2008. There were 96 initial applications received from state and local governments in 28 states by the April 14, 2008 due date. The comprehensive phase II application, review and selection process was completed, and the final project selections were announced on August 27, 2008. The announcement at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/pressroom/dot08123.htm list the 21 projects selected in 14 states, 3 counties and 2 parishes to receive a total of $14.7 million. These projects will be monitored and their performance evaluated as they are implemented, and resulting good practices will be shared with the rural road safety community.