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Integrating Safety in the Rural Transportation Planning Process

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3.0 Methods for Integrating Safety into the Transportation Planning Process

Every RPO has elements of a planning process in place to identify regional transportation priorities. This section of the Technical Report breaks down the core planning tasks and describes strategies to integrate safety into each. RPOs are encouraged to engage in all the planning tasks, from public involvement to monitoring and evaluation, to inform program and project selection. For RPOs that may not follow this exact planning process, strategies and examples are separated by planning task, and can be adopted into any RPO planning process.

3.1 Planning Worksheets

At the end of each planning section is a worksheet, designed to assist RPOs and DOTs understand how current assets can be leveraged to better consider safety in regional planning processes, consider any challenges that may inhibit progress, and identify future opportunities to plan for a safer system. The worksheets can be used as a collaborative tool to initiate internal and external discussions on transportation safety planning opportunities.

The worksheets could also be used as an activity during public, stakeholder, and/or committee meetings. It is an opportunity to engage multiple disciplines to identify a list of potential strategies.

Once strategies have been identified for all or some of the planning tasks using the worksheets, the next step would be to select the top priority planning areas and address them through the development of specific action steps. Appendix C provides an Implementation Tool template to guide this process.

3.2 Public Involvement Outreach

A key function of the transportation planning process is soliciting input from stakeholders, local officials, and the public to inform decisions regarding regional priorities. Public involvement is not a Federal requirement for RPOs, but it may be required by state legislation or the state DOT. A 2011 NADO Research Foundation survey found 87 percent of the responding 184 agencies conducting small metropolitan or rural transportation planning activities implement public involvement activities.9 RPOs may conduct public involvement for LRTPs, corridor studies, arterial plans, or other modal documents. The agencies benefit from discussing safety during public involvement activities by collecting information and using it to inform the goals and objectives in planning documents.

RTPO Public Involvement Policy Manuals

Public involvement manuals may not specify how to obtain input on transportation safety, but they do provide useful techniques and approaches for working with the public. Opportunities to incorporate safety into the approaches outlined in these manuals are described further in this section.

A number of methods are used to conduct public involvement activities, especially since the Internet and social media has exponentially increased the number of strategies used by people to receive and send information. Safety objectives can be worked into outreach techniques or become an outreach focus. Strategies are outlined below.

Strategies for Incorporating Safety into Public Involvement

Listening and Feedback. Listening and providing opportunities for feedback are important elements of the public engagement process. Listening enables RPO planners to understand the needs of the public, local officials, and stakeholders so they can provide transportation improvements and implement policies that best address their needs. An RPO might decide to reach out to specific agencies that are nontraditional planning partners through multidisciplinary coordination efforts, described in Section 3.3 below. However, listening through general public outreach can also provide access to other knowledgeable voices, such as individual school bus drivers, law enforcement officers, parents of children who walk or bike in the community, crossing guards, volunteer fire department members, civic leaders, public employees, and others. These individuals likely have knowledge of the regional roadway network based on their daily travels, and recognize the safety concerns expressed. Listening and feedback techniques range from surveys and comment forms, to public meetings.

Surveys and Comment Cards

Formats for surveys and comment cards can take a number of forms, including mailed or on-line questionnaires, survey questions or comment cards at public meetings, on-line surveys, or telephone surveys, but the purpose is to help agencies collect qualitative information about key issues. Soliciting information by asking safety-specific questions provides RPOs with input as to whether safety problems exist and the extent to which they are perceived as an issue throughout the region. If safety emphasis or goal areas are identified, RPO planners can focus resources or partner with other agencies, such as the state DOT, to learn more about the regional transportation safety concerns, and incorporate strategies and projects into planning documents.

Potential Safety Survey/Comment Card Questions

  • Is transportation safety a concern for you and your family?
  • In what specific areas is transportation safety a concern (i.e., walking, biking, intersections, transit stops, rail crossings)?
  • What are your ideas for safety solutions?
  • What specific locations or roadways do you perceive as having a safety problem?

The North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission (RPDC) utilized an on-line survey interface through SeeClickFix, a web-based mapping tool (Figure 3.1). Individuals were asked to pinpoint specific locations of safety concern, provide details about the location, and include a photo, if available. This information was used to inform the goals, strategy development, and project prioritization in the North Central Regional Safety Study.10

One of the main challenges expressed by planners is the lack of public interest in surveys or comment cards. An option is to provide incentives to complete the information. For the mapping survey, the North Central Pennsylvania RPDC offered participants a chance to win a $25 gasoline gift card, and participation spiked. Another strategy is to provide opportunities for the public to participate in surveys or comment cards at community events such as festivals, or at places they frequent for other purposes such as shopping malls.

Figure 3.1 SeeClickFix Web Mapping Tool

Figure 3.1 is a screenshot of SeeClickFix, a web-based mapping tool used to collect information from the public and stakeholders regarding safety concerns in the region.

Source: North Central Regional Safety Study.

Public Meetings

Open house meetings are usually conducted during plan development. Early meetings typically focus on developing the plan's goals and objectives, reviewing current conditions, projecting future conditions, and identifying transportation needs. Bringing safety into conversations during these meetings increases the likelihood that the public and stakeholders will see safety as a priority for the RPO region. Public meetings typically include presentation slides, presentation boards, maps, and/or handouts. Including information on crash data or discussions about general safety concerns helps attendees better understand and make informed decisions about transportation safety.

Figures 3.2 and 3.3 depict two graphics the South Central Planning Development Commission, which covers a small MPO and surrounding rural counties in Louisiana, used during an open house meeting for their safety plan. The graphics stimulated discussion among participants on the key issues.

Figure 3.2 Basic Crash Data Shown at South Central Planning Development Commission Transportation Planning Meeting
Annual Data for Fatalities and Serious Injuries

Figure 3.2 is a chart showing the annual number of serious injuries and fatalities for the region represented by the South Central Planning Development Commission between 2007 and 2011.

Source: South Central Regional Transportation Safety Plan.

Figure 3.3 Basic Crash Data Shown at South Central Planning Development Commission Transportation Planning Meeting
Contributing Factors Data

Figure 3.3 is a chart showing contributing factors for serious injuries and fatalities for the region represented by the South Central Planning Development.

Source: South Central Regional Transportation Safety Plan.

Transportation Safety Planning Web Site and Newsletter

The South Central Planning and Development Commission has a web page and a newsletter dedicated to safety initiatives.

Utilizing Outreach Materials. Web sites and newsletters are other methods for reaching and informing the public. An option for highlighting safety is to include regional or statewide transportation safety information and links on RPO web sites. Even if the region is not fully engaged in safety activities, providing a link to the state's SHSP provides the public with an opportunity to learn about the major transportation safety issues throughout the state. Another option is to designate a safety section or safety article in RPO newsletters.

Table 3.1 Priority Planning Area Work Sheet
Public Involvement

Strengths Responses
What are the advantages of considering safety during public involvement?  
What low-cost resources can you utilize to include safety in public involvement?  
Weaknesses
What are the barriers to discussing transportation safety with the public?  
Opportunities
What trends may work to enhance public involvement?  
Based on your identified strengths and weaknesses, what strategies would you identify to include safety in public involvement activities?  

3.3 Multidisciplinary Coordination

Many RPOs convene committees, working groups, or host workshops to provide opportunities for diverse communities and stakeholder groups to discuss transportation issues for consideration during the planning process. According to a 2011 survey from NADO and insights from the TOWG, the most common RPO committees are the Policy Committee and the TAC. Other committees may include citizens advisory, transit, bicycle and pedestrian, and general transportation planning. Every committee offers the opportunity to discuss safety issues with existing members, as well as to invite the participation of nontraditional planning partners such as law enforcement, emergency medical services officials, and educational institutions who are central to understanding safety and affecting safety outcomes.

RPOs do not have Federal requirements for establishing committees (some states have statewide requirements mandating committees), or utilizing stakeholder input during plan development. However, many RPOs have institutionalized committees or, at a minimum, created opportunities to facilitate conversations about technical transportation issues and consult with local officials.

It is rare for an RPO to have a committee dedicated to safety issues, but some have focused efforts in this area. Even without a safety committee, opportunities exist to bring safety into the conversation during any type of committee meeting. The benefit of discussing safety with different stakeholders and groups is elevating infrastructure and behavioral safety concerns and solutions, which can be addressed in RPO transportation plans.

Strategies for Incorporating Safety into Multidisciplinary Conversations

Discuss Safety with Existing Committees

The multimodal, multidisciplinary nature of safety means it can be included on the meeting agenda for any RPO committee (e.g., policy, technical, citizens, or modal/topic).

Policy Committee

RPO policy committees are predominantly made up of locally elected officials and state DOT officials (other individuals, such as county/city manager, may participate). These committees make decisions about future transportation investments. Although policy committee meetings typically focus on RPO business and project decisions, there are benefits to including safety topics on the agenda. Providing local elected officials with background on multimodal safety issues helps them make informed decisions about safety priorities and potentially champion future efforts. To engage policy committee members, RPO staff could make high-level presentations on regional crash data, high-crash locations, and/or hot spots during a meeting. Engaging elected officials in a road safety audit11 has the potential to gain their interest in safety issues related to multiple modes and types of road users.

Elected Official Training

Some RPOs have conducted trainings for their local elected officials. The Pueblo of Acoma, a member of the Northwest New Mexico RTPO, coordinated with the Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP) to deliver a one-half-day session to its elected officials on the importance of establishing a safety program and how to achieve results.

Many RPOs conduct an orientation for their members each year, and the importance of engaging in RPO processes to enhance public safety could be included in the materials, along with more in-depth training such as that provided by the Pueblo of Acoma.

Technical Committee

RPO TAC typically consists of state DOT officials, local planners, transit officials, county engineers, city/county managers, public works representatives, bicycle and pedestrian and other transportation advocates. TAC participation could be expanded to include safety stakeholders such as law enforcement, schools, or emergency medical services, as well as other safety stakeholders with information about and an interest in transportation safety. TAC Committee roles may include reviewing RPO documents, studies, reports, plans, and programs; and providing recommendations on technical transportation matters to the policy members. The benefits of discussing crash data or other safety topics during these meetings is it exposes committee members to safety concerns. This increases the likelihood that safety goals and objectives will be identified or incorporated in planning documents, leading to the development of programs and projects. Including key safety updates in regular meeting agenda can be beneficial.

Transportation Safety Agenda Ideas for Committee Meetings

  • Presentation on the SHSP (overview, progress, implementation, opportunities to participate);
  • Discuss opportunities to program and fund transportation safety projects;
  • Identify opportunities to consider safety in nonsafety projects such as streetscaping (which may be eligible for non-transportation grant funds such as Community Development Block Grant projects);
  • Presentation/review regional crash data;
  • Annual review of regional high-crash locations;
  • Overview of road safety audits and solicit committee interest; and
  • Opportunities for a regional safety workshop.
Modal/Special Interest Committees

Stakeholders on modal and special interest committees, such as freight, economic development, bicycle and pedestrian, and environment, can also benefit from regular conversations regarding transportation safety. The purpose is to evaluate safety issues and needs from a modal or issue-area perspective and share that information for consideration during plan development. For instance, members of a bicycle and pedestrian committee would likely have insights into factors contributing to crashes, crash locations, and roadway treatments to reduce bicycle fatalities and serious injuries. Discussing and sharing this information could enhance the emphasis of bicycle safety in planning documents. Economic development also is keenly linked to safety as crashes not only cost $277 billion annually12, but individuals often choose to live in locations that they perceive to be safe, which usually includes amenities such as sidewalks, slower speeds, bike paths, or open space.

Citizens Committees

This committee is made up of citizens, and they discuss an array of topics important to the people that live in the region. Any safety issues or concerns identified through surveys or during public meetings should be discussed with this committee, along with possible solutions that can be implemented considering the public's input. If safety is not a topic that regularly comes up in these meetings, a member of the technical committee or perhaps RPO staff could make a presentation to the committee on regional crash data, effective safety campaigns, or the SHSP to stimulate conversation on safety issues.

If RPOs have an interest in regularly discussing transportation safety topics with stakeholders and committee members, one opportunity is to identify and engage the participation of safety professionals. For example, a high-ranking law enforcement official could make a presentation to the policy committee; whereas, traffic enforcement officials, district safety engineers, emergency responders, neighboring MPO safety planners, or planners with a general interest in safety issues could be helpful additions to other RPO committees.

Iowa Multidisciplinary Safety Teams

Every Iowa RTPO has been encouraged to have a regional multidisciplinary safety team (MDST). At initial meetings, key transportation and safety players in the region are identified for the committee. They typically include planners, engineers, law enforcement, emergency response, incident response, Iowa DOT central and district staff, and Iowa State University (ISU) Institute for Transportation staff.

Meetings consist of many different activities (e.g., facilitated safety discussions, safety audits, crash analysis workshops, and construction zone management). All applicable activities are incorporated into RTPO/MPO planning and programming. Additional information on MDSTs can be found in Appendix A.

Establish a Safety Committee. RPOs do not typically have institutional barriers to establishing committees and may be able to create a committee focused on transportation safety issues. Since safety is multidisciplinary in nature, committee members could include representatives from law enforcement, emergency response, education, engineering, and different modes, such as transit, bicycle, and pedestrian. Including individuals that may not address safety issues on a regular basis, but have an interest in it, can stimulate conversation and bring unique perspectives to the topic. Prior to establishing a safety committee, consider what the role of the committee will be, how often it will meet, initial topics to discuss, and how it will be staffed. The benefits to establishing a safety committee is that members can review available safety data; develop transportation safety goals, key objectives, and performance measures; prioritize programs and projects eligible for funding; identify opportunities to include safety in the context of all transportation projects; act as champions for transportation safety; and provide updates on transportation safety activities. In Iowa, multidisciplinary safety teams have or will be established at each of the RPOs.

Safety Forums in Vermont

The Vermont Highway Safety Alliance partnered with the regional planning commissions in Vermont to host Regional Highway Safety Forums.

The purpose of the safety forums was to establish relationships between regional safety stakeholders; begin to discuss the sharing of resources; and identify highway safety issues specific to each region.

Key participants at each forum included local and regional law enforcement, emergency management services, fire departments, select boards, planners, engineers, driver's education professionals, and all highway safety stakeholders in the region.

Materials from the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Planning Commission Forum can be found in Appendix A.

Host or Attend a Safety Workshop/Summit. Outside of the regularly scheduled committee meetings, which are typically used to discuss business items, opportunities exist to engage stakeholders in conversations about transportation safety issues. One- to two-day workshops or summits have been hosted by RPOs, state DOTs, or in partnership to discuss crash data, safety goals and objectives, and strategies to reduce fatalities and serious injuries. Some of the workshops focus more on education, providing participants with an overview of safety planning activities in the state. For example, the Michigan DOT hosts a Traffic Safety Summit each year,13 inviting all the regional COGs to learn about the safety programs and projects in the State. The benefits for RPO planners to attend include making connections with safety stakeholders, and gaining a better understanding of statewide safety issues. Other workshops are used more as “working sessions,” educating stakeholders on transportation safety issues, but also asking them to provide input into future safety projects and priorities. The Vermont Highway Safety Alliance, in partnership with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans), is working with all of the regional planning commissions in the State to address rural safety issues through stakeholder forums. In Arizona, the State's COGs and small MPOs work together to host an annual rural transportation summit, convening elected and appointed officials, transportation planners, engineers, service providers, and others to discuss relevant transportation issues, how they affect rural Arizona, and possible solutions for the complex transportation needs.

Table 3.2 Priority Planning Area Work Sheet
Multidisciplinary Committees

Strengths Responses
What multidisciplinary committees/working groups does your RPO convene on a regular basis?  
How can you utilize existing committees to raise awareness of safety issues?  
Weaknesses
What stakeholders are not involved in your multidisciplinary committees that could discuss safety?  
Opportunities
What trends may assist with integrating safety in RPOs committees?  
Based on your identified strengths and weaknesses, what strategies would you identify to include safety topics or stakeholders in multidisciplinary committees?  

3.4 Data and Analysis

Analyzing data provides the foundation to help RPO planners identify safety issues and needs; develop goals, objectives, and performance measures; and identify opportunities to address issues through specific countermeasures or by incorporating safety into transportation projects.

Strategies for Identifying, Accessing, and Utilizing Safety Data

Types of Safety Data Information Required

  • Crash frequencies (number of fatalities and serious injuries) by goal/emphasis area;
  • Crash rates by goal/emphasis area or traffic volume data to calculate crash rates;
  • Contributing factors data;
  • Crash types;
  • Crash severity;
  • High-crash locations;
  • Roadway characteristic data (segments and/or intersections);
  • Geolocated crash data; and
  • Traffic data (volume).

Identify Available Data. RPO planners can utilize crash data, traffic volumes, roadway characteristic data, bicycle and pedestrian use data, transit use and route data (where fixed route services exist), public input, and data from other planning documents to make decisions about safety goals, objectives/strategies, and programs/projects. Qualitative data can be collected through surveys, workshops, open houses, or other public involvement techniques. For RPOs with limited staff, time, or access to data, this can be a good starting point for understanding regional safety issues. To obtain quantitative data sets (crash, traffic volumes, and roadway characteristics), the best place to start is with the state DOT, contacting either the RPO planning liaison or someone in the state safety office to identify the available data. When inquiring, it is important to clarify whether raw data or DOT-generated reports would be more useful to the planning process, which will depend on staff time and analysis capabilities. Other agencies to contact regarding data availability or assistance are local law enforcement agencies; Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP); Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP) and local safety agencies/organizations (e.g., National Safety Council chapter or Mothers Against Drunk Driving), who usually maintain data sets in specific safety areas. The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) is the source for roadway fatality data managed by NHTSA. Crash data can be found by reviewing other planning documents, especially the SHSP, which addresses common crash types.

Where to Find Data

The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). FARS is an on-line database that allows users to search for fatality crash statistics by state.

State DOT. Often the state DOT manages the crash database or has full access to it, even if it is maintained by another agency. RTPOs can coordinate with the district or statewide traffic and/or safety engineer to obtain data.

Strategic Highway Safety Plan and Highway Safety Plans. Most of the data identified in these plans comes from FARS or the state DOT database, but it is already organized in these documents in an easy-to-read format and usually shows trend data as far back as 2002, albeit at the statewide level.

Local Law Enforcement. Local agencies crash records are often useful for understanding local road safety issues.

Each state's Traffic Records Coordinating Committee (TRCC) is another source of safety data. A roster of contact information for TRCC chairs is located on the U.S. DOT web site.

Access to Available Crash Data. Once data sources have been identified, the next step is to retrieve the information. Some state DOTs provide access to crash data through an on-line interface, which requires minimal effort to retrieve, although effectively using the data may require training or assistance from the DOT or a third party. For example, the Ohio DOT provides access to crash data on all public roads through the GIS Crash Analysis Tool (GCAT),14 and they also offer detailed training to planners in the State, including the RPOs. The Iowa DOT uses a similar approach with their Crash Mapping and Analysis Tool (CMAT), providing an accessible interface and training to the RPAs.15 Other states may not provide this level of access to the data, but can provide raw data or user-friendly reports, such as high-crash location reports, to RPOs. To obtain access to crash data or reports, RPOs should contact the DOT planning liaison or the state safety engineer. Some state crash databases do not have robust data for local roadways. In these instances, RPO planners can approach their local law enforcement to learn more about data availability and accessibility.

Identifying and Utilizing Analysis Tools. A number of approaches are available to analyze or review crash data sets.

Prepared Crash Data Summaries

The Vermont Agency of Transportation provided and analyzed crash data, for both statewide and regional concerns, to assist the RPCs in communicating safety issues to stakeholders during Regional Highway Safety Forums.

Each year, the California DOT (Caltrans) prepares an Annual Report of Fatal and Injury Motor Vehicle Traffic Collisions from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), providing summaries by jurisdiction, type of crash, contributing factors, and other characteristics to all the RTPOs.

High-Crash Locations

A common approach is for DOTs or RPOs (if they have analysis capabilities) to develop high-crash location reports for corridors and/or intersections. Information regarding high-crash locations can be incorporated into short- and long-range transportation planning.

High-Crash Analysis in Maine and Vermont

The Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments (AVCOG) identifies high-crash locations during municipal comprehensive planning processes. AVCOG staff monitor the locations and request Maine DOT to conduct safety studies or road safety audits, when applicable.

The Vermont RPCs evaluate five-year crash data provided by VTrans. Each region then identifies top three crash locations (less than one mile in length) and corridors (greater than one mile in length). VTrans then coordinates with the RPCs on municipal outreach at these locations, including RSAs.

High-crash reports stress immediate safety needs, aiding in the prioritization of safety countermeasures in the near term. This information can also be used to conduct road safety audits to glean additional information about the causes of the crashes and recommend solutions. Identified solutions in one location may be applied immediately, but the audits could also capture information about certain roadway characteristics and crash concerns to make recommendations at other locations with similar characteristics. Another opportunity is to look at high-crash segments and intersections when prioritizing future transportation projects, such as maintenance, preservation, bike, and pedestrian. These projects could be given additional weight or a higher score. The intent would be, in addition to meeting future mobility or maintenance goals, the project also would reduce crashes.

GIS Mapping and Crash Clusters

GIS mapping also is a useful tool for RPOs. According to a 2011 survey conducted by NADO, nearly one-half of the RPO respondents have GIS mapping capabilities. Spatial analysis is a useful tool to identify where fatalities and serious injuries occur, crash clusters, crash magnitude, and/or the types of crashes. For instance, the Iowa Northland Regional COG used maps to show individual fatalities and serious injuries for each county, as well as crash density along roadways and at intersections for each county. The Piedmont-Triad Regional Council in North Carolina, as part of a speed management study, used GIS to rank schools by severe and speed-related crashes, and to rank road sections with crashes on/near curves. All the rural planning district commissions in Virginia used crash maps to conduct safety assessments, which later identified deficiencies, such as sight distance and visibility, access management, and inadequate signage. This informed safety recommendations for intersections and segments throughout the region (see Figure 3.4). Some states, such as Ohio, Iowa, and Pennsylvania, also have mapping functionality built into their crash analysis databases, which RPOs can connect to directly or request specific analysis from the state DOT or owner of the State's database.

Figure 3.4 Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission (Virginia) Spatial Analysis

Figure 3.4 shows a map of Fauquier County showing dots to depict which intersections in the region have safety deficiencies.

Source: Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission Rural Long-Range Plan.

Crash Frequency

Data Analysis for a Speed Management Study

The Piedmont Triad Regional Council conducted a pilot speed management study for one of its member jurisdictions. The study included a three-pronged analysis approach.

County Level Analysis – Frequency tables using crash data variables were used to identify countywide trends and general crash factors associated with speeding-related crashes.

Network Screening – Identified routes where severe and/or speeding-related crashes are over represented compared with other similar routes.

Spatial Analysis – GIS was used to rank schools by severe and speeding-related crashes, and to rank road sections with crashes on/near curves.

Crash frequency is generally the simplest way of conducting analysis. It is defined as the number of crashes that have occurred across the regional network by member jurisdiction, or more specifically, at a given roadway section or intersection. If GIS capabilities exist, then these data can be transferred to a map to show crash clusters. Frequency information can also be used to demonstrate the propensity for certain types of crashes, such as impaired driving, roadway departures, distracted driving, intersections, occupant protection, speeding, or other safety areas of concern in the region. The outputs of this analysis will provide RPOs with an idea as to which goal/emphasis areas to focus on in the transportation planning process.

Trend Analysis

Trend analysis is a useful tool to monitor increases and decreases in fatalities and serious injuries over a certain number of years to understand whether any changes are occurring for different safety issue areas or crash types. For example, if the data from 2007 to 2013 shows pedestrian injuries have consistently risen, RPO planners may explore the development of this as a goal area with objectives and strategies to address the issues.

Crash Rates

Additional Crash Data and Analysis Resources

Reports have been written specifically to assist local and rural planners understand and analyze crash data. One very useful document is Road Safety Information Analysis – A Manual for Local Rural Road Owners.

Additional information on this report and others can be found in Appendix B.

Crash rates need exposure data to calculate. Examples include traffic volume data (either Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) or Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) numbers). However, crash data, combined with traffic volumes can be used to depict the number of crashes in a given period as compared to the traffic volume. Rates can provide better insight into problematic locations, segments, or intersections. For example, some intersections may experience minimal crashes, but when you compare it to traffic volume, the crash rate may be higher than other intersections with higher volumes and crashes.

Systemic Analysis

Planning for Systemic Projects in Vermont

Since 2008, 6,000 crashes in Vermont have been related to vehicles crossing the highway centerline. As a result, VTrans now considers the applicability of centerline rumble strips on every state road. During the planning process VTrans, the MPO, and the RPOs are encouraged to analyze corridors for high crossover crashes, higher speeds, and higher traffic volumes to make recommendations for the installation of rumble strips in conjunction with other projects, such as resurfacing, or as a standalone projects.

Crashes in rural areas tend to be spread out making it difficult to identify locations to address. The systemic approach is beneficial because safety improvements are identified based on high-risk roadway features, not high-crash locations. Systemic analysis is a risk-based approach and works by identifying common roadway characteristics associated with crashes across the road network. Once these roadway characteristics are known, locations through the network with these characteristics can be identified and countermeasures identified to address them. DOTs, more so than RPOs, have begun using systemic analysis to identify risk factors and program low-cost countermeasures. However, for RPO planners, understanding some of the systemic issues and proven countermeasures can aid in prioritizing transportation projects, where systemic treatments could be considered.

Table 3.3 Priority Planning Area Work Sheet
Data and Analysis

Strengths Responses
What data and analysis tools are available?  
What corridor studies or other project analysis can be used for their data sources or analysis?  
Weaknesses
What are the challenges related to data access and availability?  
What data analysis limitations exist?  
What trends may work in your favor?  
Opportunities
Based on your identified strengths and weaknesses, what strategies would you identify to include crash and/or safety data in the transportation planning processes?  

3.5 Goals and Objectives

Goals and Objectives

Transportation safety goals demonstrate what an agency is dedicated to achieving, whether it be an overarching goal (reduce fatality and injury crashes), or more specific goals (reduce intersection-related fatalities and serious injuries).

Transportation safety objectives describe how the goal(s) will be achieved and the expected goal outcome. They should be specific, attainable, and measurable using quantitative or qualitative measures.

One of the key criteria for any transportation planning document is the identification of regional needs, opportunities, challenges, and priorities. These discussions inform the development of regional goals and objectives, which are then used to guide program and project decisions. For RPO staff to consult with local officials and DOT partners on safety projects or transportation projects inclusive of safety considerations, transportation safety goals first need to be identified.

Using a combination of public involvement, multidisciplinary input, crash and other data, and input from other planning documents, the goals and objectives in transportation plans can be identified or refined early in a planning process.

Strategies for Incorporating Safety into Goals and Objectives

Use Community and Stakeholder Input. Using opportunities to solicit input from the public and stakeholders, specifically on transportation safety issues, will provide a starting point to understanding whether or not safety is a priority in the RPO region (does the region have a high number of fatalities and serious injuries?); and for which areas (are the crashes occurring predominately at intersections or because of speeding?).

The Iowa Northland Regional Council of Governments currently is updating its rural LRTP and used a public-input survey and a safety focus group to better understand the regional safety issues; some of which were developed as objectives (or strategies) to meet the safety goals in the plan.16 For example, as part of the survey, the COG learned that safety improvements were very important to almost one-half of the respondents (second behind ongoing maintenance and preservation), completing missing sidewalk segments was a priority for 48 percent of respondents, and improving crosswalk safety was important to 46 percent of respondents. Figure 3.5 represents the responses from one of the questions on bicycle and pedestrian features and points to the status of safety. As part of the focus group, which included local planners, engineers, and law enforcement, discussions focused on what they considered the most important issues when it came to multimodal safety, driver issues, and funding opportunities. Using outputs of these activities can be a key resource to developing safety goals and objectives.

Figure 3.5 Survey Output from the Iowa Northland Regional COG

Figure 3.5 shows the survey results, and a chart illustrating the results, of a portion of a public engagement survey used by the Iowa Northland Regional Council of Governments.

Source: Iowa Northland Regional COG, Black Hawk County Metropolitan Area 2013 Public Input Survey Report.

Using Transportation Data. To effectively focus resources, it is essential to identify crash types contributing to the regional safety problem. RPO staff, typically in coordination with DOT staff, can obtain crash data and either analyze the information in-house or have the DOT conduct the analyses. Regardless of approach, all or some combination of the following data can be used to understand the key transportation safety issues: overall number of crashes in a rural region (crash frequency), crash frequency by jurisdiction, crash rates, crash densities along roadways and intersections, and contributing crash factors. Reviewing these data can help a rural region understand if safety is indeed a concern for the region or jurisdiction, the primary issue areas (e.g., roadways, pedestrians, intersections, young drivers, or roadway departures), where these issues are occurring (at what segments or intersections), and crash characteristics (e.g., rear-end, head-on, impaired driving). All or some combination of the data can inform transportation safety goals and objectives/strategies to lower fatalities and serious injuries. Figures 3.6 to 3.10 depict ways the information can be shown to public, stakeholders, and local elected officials and examples of goals and objectives, based on the data.

Figure 3.6 Iowa Northland Regional COG Crash Frequency Data by Jurisdiction
Number of Fatal Crashes per County, 2001-2010 (for Black Hawk County, regional total excludes crashes within jurisdictions of the metropolitan area)

Figure 3.6 is a table showing fatal crash frequency data for the jurisdictions in the Iowa Northland Regional Council of Governments. The table shows that the region experienced 152 fatal crashes between 2001 and 2010; which conveys that data can help a rural region understand if safety is indeed a concern for the region or jurisdiction.

Source: Iowa Northland Regional COG Rural Long-range Transportation Plan.

Figure 3.7 Iowa Northland Regional COG Crash Frequency Data by Jurisdiction
Number of Fatal, Major Injury, and Minor Injury Crashes in Bremer County, 2001-2010

Figure 3.7 is a chart showing fatal, major injury, and minor injury crash frequency data for Bremer County, one of the jurisdictions in the Iowa Northland Regional Council of Governments area.

Source: Iowa Northland Regional COG Rural Long-range Transportation Plan.

Figure 3.8 East Central Intergovernmental Association Crash Density Data

Figure 3.8 shows a crash density map for the City of Clinton, which is a jurisdiction in the East Central Intergovernmental Association planning area.

Source: East Central Intergovernmental Association (Iowa), Transportation 2031 Long-Range Transportation Plan.

Figure 3.9 Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Planning Commission Contributing Factors Data

Figure 3.9 is a pie chart showing the different collision types for the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Planning Commission.

Source: Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission. Data developed for the September 11, 2012 Regional Highway Safety Forum.

Figure 3.10 Florida-Alabama TPO Bicycle and Pedestrian Emphasis Area Data

Figure 3.10 is a map showing pedestrian crash and bicycle crash clusters for the Florida-Alabama Transportation Planning Organization planning region.

Source: Florida-Alabama TPO Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, March 2012.

Linking to the SHSP

The East Central Intergovernmental Association (ECIA) in Iowa developed a rural LRTP. After a review of the regional crash data, they recognized a number of elements in the Iowa Comprehensive Highway Safety Plan (ICHSP) were also applicable to rural issues within their region. ECIA adopted five safety policy strategies and eight safety program strategies from the ICHSP for inclusion in the LRTP.

Review Other Planning Documents. The safety goals and objectives in other planning documents also can be utilized in RPO transportation planning documents, where applicable and relevant. Reviewing transportation plans also will ensure consistency in goal areas across the region. Key documents to review and express support for in a RPO LRTP would, at a minimum, include the state's SHSP, the statewide and metropolitan LRTPs, and local comprehensive plans. Other plans may include useful goal information, such as the statewide or regional bicycle/pedestrian plans, coordinated public transit-human services transportation plans, economic development plans (CEDS), and freight plans.

Use the Information to Build Safety Goals and Objectives. Safety goals and objectives are developed through a combination of community input, safety data, and information in other plans. Below are examples of the goals and objectives for three regional planning agencies.

North Central Pennsylvania RPDC LRTP Goals

Goal 2. Increase transportation system safety.

Objectives

  1. Reduce the rates of transportation-related fatalities and injuries.
  2. Expand the use of compatible land use practices in regard to transportation.
  3. Implement safety initiatives for all transportation modes.

East Central Intergovernmental Association Rural LRTP Goals

Goal 1. Develop a safe, secure multimodal transportation system that provides for the efficient movement of people and goods.

Objectives

  1. Preserve and maintain the existing transportation system to maximize the performance of transportation infrastructure.
  2. Identify future transportation improvements that are fiscally constrained and support the creation of a comprehensive, multimodal transportation system.
  3. Identify appropriate mitigation techniques to minimize the number and severity of accidents within RPA 8.
  4. Select and program transportation projects that are consistent with community values and goals.

Benton-Franklin Council of Governments (MPO and RPO with a combined plan)

Goal. Provide a transportation system that maintains and improves safety and security in all aspects of the transportation network, including both users and nonusers of the system.

Objectives

  1. Support and promote regionwide participation in the state's efforts to identify traffic safety needs and guide investment decisions to achieve significant reductions in traffic fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads (SHSP: Target Zero).
  2. Support and promote programs that ensure both structurally and operationally safe and secure pedestrian, bicycle, automobile, truck, rail, waterway, and air travel movement.
  3. Encourage development of transportation safety goals (e.g., road safety targets and policies) to provide direction to the safety component of a plan.
  4. Encourage interagency cooperation between governmental and private enterprises to increase overall safety and security awareness.
  5. Promote high levels of safety standards for all modes of transportation so that users feel safe and secure as they travel.
  6. Implement traffic calming measures to reduce automobile speeds in pedestrian areas, such as residential neighborhoods and school zones.
  7. Encourage cities and counties to seek competitive funding solutions through Washington State DOT's Safe Routes to Schools Program.

Table 3.4 Priority Planning Work Sheet
Safety Goals and Objectives

Strengths Responses
What elements of safety are included in your plan's goals and objectives?  
What transportation safety data are available to develop safety goals and objectives?  
What other planning documents or resources can be used to inform your safety goals and objectives?  
Weaknesses
What transportation safety data are needed to develop safety goals and objectives?  
What data analysis limitations exist?  
What other factors limit the development of safety goals and objectives?  
Opportunities
What trends are evident that will assist in the process of developing goals and objectives?  
Based on your identified strengths and weaknesses, what strategies would you identify to develop or enhance transportation safety goals and objectives?  

3.6 Safety Performance Measures and Targets

Recent changes to Title 23, U.S.C. places emphasis on performance measures, as well as performance-based planning. The law identifies seven national goal areas to determine performance measures, including safety.

Title 23, U.S.C. requires the Secretary of Transportation to establish measures for states to use to assess the number and rate of fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads. These measures will be tracked by state DOTs and utilized as they report on performance goals, known as targets, for each of these measures. There is no requirement for rural regions to do this on their own, but it may be useful for RPOs and local governments to engage in the state's target-setting discussion for safety. State DOTs also may choose to set targets that are separate for rural and urban parts of the state, in addition to setting a statewide target. As required by Title 23, U.S.C., safety is measured on all public roads, so RPOs can play a role in helping a state achieve its targets by incorporating safety into their planning and other work.

Performance Measures

Performance measures are used to track progress toward the safety goals and/or objectives identified in planning documents. These measures provide RPO planners with a snapshot of network-, corridor-, or project-level issues and trends, and can inform decisions on how to allocate resources.

According to the 2011 NADO study, 71 percent of RPOs develop a TIP or identify potential projects for the STIP, requiring a process of project identification and prioritization. As more RPOs move into project prioritization and selection, it would be useful to identify performance measures and potential targets, to better understand rural safety system performance, as well as project-level performance (which will be further discussed in Section 3.6 on project prioritization).

Performance measures and targets are used in the planning process in many rural regions, such as in developing criteria for determining which projects are high priorities. However, those internal processes are not always visible in published transportation planning documents, such as long-range plans. It is common to include vision, goals, and objectives in long-range plans, but measures may not be thought of as part of the plan in the same way. However, including performance measures in plans creates transparency and demonstrates to the public and stakeholders how transportation investments are meeting the shared safety vision and goals for the RPO planning area.

Strategies for Developing Safety Performance Measures and Targets

Identify Data. The identification of safety performance measures and targets often relies on past and current data, which describes the regions' crash patterns and trends. Although potential challenges exist when trying to access, analyze, or receive up-to-date data, a minimum amount of information on crashes and trends can help RPOs begin to understand past system performance and make predictions about future performance. This data can be used to convey the need to develop safety goals, help identify related performance measures, and be used to set a target.

The most basic level of data needed to do this includes:

Develop Performance Measures and Targets

Performance Measures

Measuring performance is emerging as an important aspect of the transportation planning process, allowing agencies to assess whether safety efforts are successful, and to determine a direction for future safety planning and programming activities. The general framework for performance measurement is to use the vision, goals, and objectives developed earlier in the planning process to determine which particular measures are of interest. Measures, or metrics, refer to the characteristics of the transportation system that are analyzed. For safety, this may include information about crashes, as well as information about roadways and characteristics that might make a road less safe for travel.

Performance measures can be developed in a number of ways. The simplest approach is to establish performance measures that align with the state DOT's performance efforts. These are high-level measures, but the data to track them (at a minimum, on the statewide system) will be available; and they provide planners with a snapshot of system-level safety and whether safety investments are necessary. This can also help an RPO demonstrate its contribution to statewide crash reductions.

Some RPOs may have the data and capability to develop measures in addition to overall fatalities and serious injuries, helping them assess performance by specific goals or objectives (i.e., intersection or speeding fatalities). Other RPOs may be interested in developing measures to track programs and projects specifically. Below is an example from the North Central Pennsylvania RPDC LRTP, depicting the goals, objectives, and different types of measures the region is implementing to assess progress.

Goal. Increase transportation system safety.

Objectives

  1. Reduce the rates of transportation-related fatalities and injuries;
  2. Expand the use of compatible land use practices in regard to transportation; and
  3. Implement safety initiatives for all transportation modes.

Performance Measures

  1. Change in fatality rate over time;
  2. Change in injury rate over time;
  3. Estimated value of lives saved and injuries prevented;
  4. Number of corridor safety studies completed;
  5. 100 percent commercial driver's license (CDL) compliance for all operators of school buses and public transit vehicles;
  6. Motor carrier crash rates in region at or below national or state averages;
  7. Hazardous material (HAZMAT) spill changes in frequency over time;
  8. Rail crossing accident changes in frequency, over time;
  9. Changes in bicycle/pedestrian accidents, over time; and
  10. Pennsylvania DOT motorcycle training and safety course offerings and number of students.

Targets

Progress in safety, as well as other performance characteristics, depends on many outside factors, like vehicle and roadway technology advancement, the economy, demographics, travel patterns, and more. With so many unpredictable factors having an impact on transportation, why do targets matter? Strategies to achieve targets may play a role in guiding the way funds are spent within a state or a region. Targets also help agencies communicate the progress they have made and where more work is needed to the public and to decision-makers. Even when agencies set ambitious targets that are difficult to meet, reporting on progress can spur partners to innovate new solutions or more efficient uses of public funds to achieve bigger impacts and prevent more deaths and serious injuries.

Targets also enable the public and media to hold agencies accountable, making the process of setting a target a controversial one in some cases. To address that, some agencies determine that a target that describes a trend, rather than a specific number, fits their region best. An example of a descriptive target would be “toward zero deaths,” using “toward” to indicate the desired direction of the trend line but without actually needing to adopt zero as a numeric target. Others agencies opt to select a numeric value at a point in time to give partners a specific goal to focus on, such as “half the number of deaths by 2030.”

Setting a target often involves analyzing historic data to understand the trend of how the number of fatalities and serious injuries has changed over time, and projecting how that trend would look if it held constant in the future. Once a projected point has been determined, transportation stakeholders can decide together whether the target should follow the forecasted line or be above or below the historical trend. Selecting the target compared to a forecasted point allows stakeholders to identify their assumptions about what will happen in the future that may affect safety, and discuss whether an ambitious target would encourage partners to address safety even more aggressively.

See Figure 3.11 for an example of how fatality data can be used to establish a goal, a performance measure, and a target.

Figure 3.11 Sample Data to Depict Crash Data Trends to Set Performance Targets

Figure 3.11 is a chart depicting sample data, showing five-year fatality averages from 2007 to 2012 and future fatality forecasts for the years 2013 to 2020.

Source: Sample data created for purposes of this report.

Adopting Statewide Performance Measures and Targets. RPO planners may choose to support statewide performance measures and targets rather than formally adopting specific ones for the region. This can be accomplished by referencing the statewide goals, objectives, and targets in regional transportation plans. The purpose would be to explicitly state how the regions' efforts toward a set of shared safety goals and objectives will help to reach the state's target, it is beneficial to engage in ongoing conversations/meetings with the DOT district traffic engineer, state safety engineer, or statewide transportation planners to confirm what is in current plans and understand the timeline for updates.

Table 3.5 Priority Planning Area Work Sheet
Performance Measures and Targets

Strengths Responses
What elements of a performance management framework are already in place?  
What transportation safety data are available to support performance measures and targets?  
What other planning documents can be used to inform performance measures and targets?  
Weaknesses
What data collection and analysis limitations exist to develop performance measures and targets?  
What other limitations exist?  
Opportunities
What safety trends may work in your jurisdiction to improve transportation safety?  
Based on your identified strengths and weaknesses, what strategies would you identify to develop or enhance safety performance measures?  

3.7 Project Prioritization and Programming

Identifying and ranking projects is the critical step in the planning process where all the visioning, analysis, performance measurement, and data come together to make decisions about investments that support the desired future for the region. The majority of RPOs develop a regional TIP or a list of projects that are identified as important in their region.

The processes used to identify and rank those projects vary by state and by region. In some places, state DOTs consider the projects identified, and depending on state priorities, may include them in the development of the STIP. In other states, the list of priority projects is developed in consultation with the state DOT, so that connections are made early on between projects identified locally and ones that are identified through the state DOT's own process. Other states use hypothetical sub allocation, where they use formulas or other ways to divide funding among regions, who then submit a prioritized list within the financial constraints of that funding target for adoption in the STIP.

RPOs may prioritize safety-specific projects or countermeasures for Highway Safety Improvement Program or other funding, but may also consider safety in the scoring process for all modal projects. Regardless of the methods used, having well-defined criteria and discussing tradeoffs that arise from funding limitations help to ensure that projects put forward are truly regional.

Strategies for Prioritizing Safety Projects and Including Safety Considerations in Transportation Projects

Incorporate Safety into Transportation Project Decisions. Effective prioritization can take many forms in the context of rural planning. An increasingly common approach is to have local project sponsors complete a project information form to collect basic data about a roadway segment or other multimodal issue. That information feeds into a project scoring process, where points are assigned in several different categories that describe the project context and the expected impacts, and address qualitative factors.

Surface Transportation Program Project Prioritization

The Southeast Iowa RPC allocates Surface Transportation Program funds through a competitive application process and projects are rated on six different criteria: economic vitality, system preservation, local and regional factors, accessibility and mobility, integration and connectivity, and safety. Safety is one of the highest weighted criteria, and the safety score is assessed by comparing crash rates on the proposed facility with state rates and what proportion of the project cost will go toward safety improvements.

The scoring categories, as well as the number of points assigned to them, should refer back to the vision, goals, and objectives set in the regional planning process, so that the projects that receive the highest scores are the ones that demonstrably support the region's vision. Points are commonly assigned for criteria that support the planning factors, such as safety, environmental impact, economic impact, accessibility, and others. Other criteria refer to the use of the facility, such as average annual daily traffic, level of service, and volume/capacity ratio, or the roadway's condition, such as pavement quality or condition index, structural capacity, bridge sufficiency rating, International Roughness Index, or lane-width deficiency.

VDOT Rural Project Prioritization Approach

The Virginia DOT developed a priority ranking matrix to help prioritize projects in rural LRTPs. Every project was ranked based on weighted attribute data, including vehicle-to-capacity ratio, current and future daily traffic counts (AADT), flow rate, level of service, number of heavy trucks, number of environmental and social attributes, and number of crash injuries and fatalities per mile. See Appendix A for additional details on this process.

Using a numeric project scoring system is a way to ensure safety is considered systematically in every project. Safety scores are usually a quantitative measurement, such as crash rate, but it also can include qualitative assessments, such as a project's likely effects on pedestrian and bicycle safety. A real or perceived safety issue is one of the most common reasons a rural transportation project is identified within a regional plan. But for projects that are developed mainly to enhance accessibility or to promote economic development, including safety strategically as an element in a non-safety-focused project will help the project to earn more points. As a result, prioritizing safety can be used to reward projects that improve multiple goal areas, which each offer their own set of points.

Benefit-cost analysis is a systematic evaluation of the advantages (benefits) and costs (funds needed for implementation) of a set of investment alternatives and can be combined with other scores when ranking projects. Traditionally, benefit-cost analysis for safety projects takes into account all of the positive benefits of the project, such as reductions in fatalities, serious injuries, or crashes or economic savings and compares it to a cost variable, such as the project cost or economic cost of crashes and quantifies it in financial terms. The North Central Pennsylvania RPDC used benefit-cost analysis to prioritize safety projects.

Proven Countermeasures

For RPO planners looking to identify safety treatments, the best place to start is to review:

Ask your state DOT as state-specific countermeasures may have been identified.

Prioritize Safety-Specific Projects. While integrating safety considerations into every transportation project is beneficial to maintain a safe system for the future, RPOs also identify safety-specific projects to address multimodal safety issues. While some RPOs have identified prioritization processes for safety projects, many state DOTs have developed approaches to prioritize and program Highway Safety Improvement Program funds. This prioritization may involve the identification of countermeasures with the highest potential for mitigating risks in the state. For RPOs seeking to prioritize safety projects or identify low-cost countermeasures, contacting the state safety engineer will provide insight into the scoring process, which could be customized to meet regional needs. A number of RPOs also lead road safety audits, using the results to identify safety projects and coordinate with DOT staff on priorities. For instance, three RPOs in Missouri, the Mo-Kan Regional Council, Northwest Missouri Regional Council of Governments, and Green Hills Regional Planning Commission have institutionalized an annual road safety audit (RSA) program. With support and involvement from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), the RPOs schedule one RSA in each region every spring. Following the completion of an RSA report, the communities receiving the RSA may approach their RPO about identifying potential funding for a safety project for that roadway segment, or about submitting a project through the RPO's prioritization process for MoDOT to consider funding through the STIP.

Safety projects also offer low-cost, quick solutions to transportation problems and often require little modification outside existing right-of-way. As a result, focusing on identifying and implementing safety projects can help to maintain buy-in into the planning process as a whole because the results are visible and tangible.

Safety Project Prioritization

The North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission developed a prioritization approach for safety-specific projects. The RTPO developed a “top 25” safety project list as part of the region's Core Network Study, and multiple improvements were identified for each location.

The improvements were ranked using a quantitative benefit-cost analysis, which weighed the number of crashes occurring at a location, the economic loss that resulted from each crash, and the cost to implement the proposed safety improvement. The greater the economic loss and lower the cost of the proposed improvements, the higher the ranking of the safety improvement. Generally, low-cost, short-term (in terms of implementation) safety improvements ranked higher than long-term improvements that would involve a greater investment.

Work with Stakeholders to Prioritize Projects. Having stakeholders qualitatively determine whether proposed projects rank high, medium, and low is a straightforward method for developing a priority list. An RPO may choose to set parameters for how to define high-priority projects based on state priority, or allow stakeholders to select projects using their knowledge about local road conditions. Although a qualitative approach is less formal than completing a project score card, stakeholders who have been engaged in the RPO process tend to be knowledgeable about the region as a whole, and the outcome is often shared priorities rather than local concerns. A potential challenge to this approach is maintaining a focus on projects that rise above local or political concerns to truly regional ones. This regional focus is important because knowing that a project has been vetted by multiple stakeholders and prioritized at the regional level is helpful for state DOTs to make decisions about spending their own limited resources throughout the state.

Table 3.6 Priority Planning Area Work Sheet
Project Prioritization and Programming

Strengths Responses
What are the elements of your RPO's project prioritization process? How is safety already included?  
What safety data or qualitative information are available for the project prioritization process?  
Weaknesses
What are the challenges related to prioritizing safety projects with HSIP funds?  
What are the challenges to including safety considerations in transportation project prioritization?  
What data or other resources are needed for project prioritization?  
Opportunities
What trends may assist in the project prioritization process?  
Based on your identified strengths and weaknesses, what strategies would you identify to prioritize safety projects or include safety in the decision-making process for all transportation projects?  

3.8 Monitoring and Evaluation

Monitoring can occur at the system, corridor, goal, emphasis area, or project level. The purpose is to inform safety performance in a region and assist with the selection of programmatic or investment choices moving forward.

Monitoring and evaluation requires data as well as performance measures identification. The data allows planners to view and evaluate fatality trends to make decisions regarding safety goals, programs, and projects. And the performance measures are the mechanism by which the data are evaluated to see if and where progress is being made or where changes need to occur. Measuring performance is the most reliable method for monitoring and evaluating transportation safety goals. However, tracking progress efficiently relies on data collection, data quality, and sound data management processes.

Monitoring and evaluation can be used to determine the effectiveness of implemented programs and projects on reducing fatalities and serious injuries and identify transportation safety priorities.

Strategies for Monitoring and Evaluating Transportation Safety

Use Monitoring to Establish a Network Baseline and Evaluate Performance. At the network level, historical and recent data for fatalities and serious injuries (or other system-level measures, such as crash rates) can assist RPO planners in monitoring overall safety performance. These data provide information necessary to understand the extent to which safety investments have generated an impact and may need to be applied to similar safety issues. For instance, the sample data in Figure 3.12 shows fatalities and serious injuries over a six-year timeframe. Assuming 2007 and 2008 are the baseline years, the data indicates a crash problem, signaling the need to program and implement investments in subsequent years. Continuing to track high-level progress after transportation safety improvements and projects are in place will depict resulting changes in crash trends. Planners can use this information to evaluate the level of investment needed to continue lowering fatalities and serious injuries and to assess the efficacy of using various strategies to improve safety within that region.

Figure 3.12 Sample Fatality and Serious Injury Data for Evaluation Purposes

Figure 3.12 is a chart showing sample frequency data for serious injuries and fatalities between 2007 and 2012.

Source: Sample data created for purposes of this report.

A corridor focus provides another potential opportunity to monitor and evaluate the network. For RPOs that have the capability to look at crash clusters or crash locations by intersections, segments, or corridors, the data can be used as an initial indicator of safety concerns and crash trends by location. Once the areas are identified, programs or projects may be systematically implemented to reduce the number of crashes. Continuous monitoring and evaluation of crash clusters can provide insights into which areas need attention, as well as how well improvements are helping areas where they have been implemented.

Corridor Report Card

The North Central Pennsylvania RPDC developed a Corridor Report Card to monitor and evaluate the core system roadway. Each roadway is given a letter grade (A, B, C, D, or F) based on the reportable crashes from the previous year. The report card will be updated on an annual basis and will provide information on the health of the corridor related to safety, candidates for safety improvements, and progress in corridors where improvements have been implemented.

Using Monitoring to Invest in Goal Areas. If RPOs have data to identify multiple safety goal areas or objectives, it is possible to monitor and evaluate performance across each area. Trend data (a minimum of three years, although five years is preferred) allows planners to initially identify goal areas in which to invest and later, identify how those investments are moving the needle on fatality and serious injury reductions, informing future resource allocation. Figure 3.13 depicts sample data, showing trends for three safety goal areas over the course of six years. In 2008, funding was programmed for young driver and intersection projects. The data show that over time, serious injuries in both emphasis areas declined. Bicycle programs however did not receive any funding in 2008 as fatalities appeared to be declining at the time, but more recent data show a steady increase. It is up to planners to monitor these trends and evaluate where to make investments. For instance, even though serious injuries for young drivers and intersections show decline after 2008, it does not necessarily mean funding and project/program implementation should cease in those areas.

Figure 3.13 Sample Data for Goal Area Monitoring and Evaluation

Figure 3.13 is a chart depicting sample serious injury data, showing trends from 2007 to 2012 for three safety goal areas (young drivers, intersections, and bicyclists).

Source: Sample data created for purposes of this report.

Monitor and Evaluate Projects. Ideally, monitoring safety project effectiveness should take place, before and after project completion. As part of a speed management study for Randolph County (North Carolina), the Piedmont Triad RPO reviewed the outcomes of converting a four-lane road to a two-lane road, with a middle turning lane. The evaluation showed an increase in the number of pedestrians and bicyclists using the road, and decreases in speed and the injury rate (Figure 3.14).

Many states are implementing low-cost safety countermeasures, which generally are treatments proven effective at reducing fatalities and serious injuries. Each state is required to submit an annual report to the Secretary of Transportation that describes progress on safety improvement projects funded with HSIP funds, their effectiveness, and their contribution to reducing multimodal fatalities, injuries, and crashes. This can provide a general assessment of the effectiveness of the improvements across the state.

Figure 3.14 Piedmont Triad Speed Management Study Results

Figure 3.14 is a bar chart depicting the before-and-after injury rate for a project in Randolph County, North Carolina.

Source: Piedmont Triad RPO Speed Management Action Plan for Randolph County, 2013.

Planners may also want to take a high-level quantitative look at each of the safety objectives in planning documents to understand to what extent they are being implemented. Table 3.7 provides an example tracking template, which planners can use to comment on objectives or document the specific actions implemented to achieve the objectives.

Goal. Reduce Intersection Crashes.

Performance Measure. Number of Fatalities and Serious Injuries at Intersections.

Table 3.7 Sample Tracking Template for Individual Safety Objectives

Goal. Reduce Intersection Crashes.
Performance Measure. Number of Fatalities and Serious Injuries at Intersections.
Objectives Implementation Status
Improve Crash Data and accuracy and usability.  
Conduct local training on road safety audits and develop a road safety audit program.  
Pursue a local policy for the consideration of roundabouts at local intersections.  
Pursue traffic calming strategies at intersection, where appropriate.  

Table 3.8 Priority Planning Area Work Sheet
Monitoring and Evaluation

Strengths Responses
What processes are already in place to monitor and evaluate safety performance?  
What data are available to inform the monitoring and evaluation process?  
Weaknesses
What resources are needed to monitor and evaluate safety performance?  
What data and analysis limitations exist?  
What other limitations exist?  
Opportunities
What trends exist that enable monitoring and evaluation?  
Based on your identified strengths and weaknesses, what strategies would you identify to include monitoring and evaluation in the transportation planning process?  

3.9 Developing a Safety Plan

This section breaks down the core planning tasks and describes strategies to integrate safety into each part of the transportation planning process. However, some RPOs may be interested in developing a comprehensive safety plan to guide safety programs, policies, and projects for the region. The safety plan should be a living document, with a focus on implementation and with regular updates to ensure strategies match the greatest safety needs. The planning tasks outlined above can be used to develop a safety plan (for more information, use Developing Safety Plans: A Manual for Local Rural Road Owners).

Public Involvement. Engage the public and stakeholders specifically on safety issues, which could include on-line/print surveys or maps to allow participants to identify what the safety problems are and/or where they are most problematic. If feasible, hosting a safety workshop or summit is valuable to gather input from the community and stakeholders on safety issues in the region. Breakout groups by key issue areas could be used to seek input from participants on strategies and actions to address the problems. Developing a public involvement plan for a safety plan can assist agencies develop a framework early in the process for which transportation safety stakeholders to engage, specific tools and ideas to solicit input, as well as opportunities to provide input as well.

Multidisciplinary Coordination. A new safety committee, with regional representation from multimodal planning, engineering, enforcement, education, and emergency response, could be created to oversee and develop the safety plan. If it is not feasible to develop a new committee, an existing RPO committee, such as the TAC, could be tasked with overseeing the development of the safety plan. If the latter approach is taken, consider temporarily adding safety stakeholders to the committee to provide input of the non-engineering aspects of safety. The roles of the planning committee can include reviewing available crash and other safety data; developing transportation safety goals, key objectives, and performance measures; prioritizing programs and projects eligible for funding; identify opportunities to include safety in the context of all transportation projects; acting as champions for transportation safety; and providing updates on transportation safety activities to the Policy Board. Upon plan adoption, this committee should continue to meet regularly to discuss implementation and evaluation activities.

Data and Analysis. Available state and local crash and roadway data for available modes should be collected and analyzed to characterize total, fatal, and serious injury crash trends. Crash characteristics defined by geographic area, road type, age, crash type, road user, environmental conditions, and behavioral factors also could be reviewed. GIS can be used to pinpoint crash locations and clusters and display them spatially. Data are shared with the multidisciplinary committee to inform the development of goals and objectives and with the public during outreach activities to increase their safety awareness and dispel mistaken assumptions.

Sample Emphasis Areas and Strategies – Missoula Area Community Transportation Safety Plan

Emphasis Area. Intersection Crashes.

Strategies. Improve safety at intersection with an above average number of crashes, fatalities and serious injuries through appropriate infrastructure improvements based on best practices.

Conduct education campaign on safe driving practices with a focus on intersection safety.

Improve pedestrian crossings and increase pavement markings for pedestrians at high-volume roadway intersections as warranted.

Full plan can be found on the Montana DOT web site.

Goals and Objectives. Based on a review of the data analysis, the goals and objectives in the SHSP, and public input, the multidisciplinary committee should identify short-, medium-, and long-term safety goals/emphasis areas and objectives/strategies. Some RPOs may decide to develop safety goal area teams (e.g., intersection safety team, bicycle safety team), with members from the multidisciplinary committee and other stakeholders. Each team would be tasked with identifying objectives and specific actions to meet the goal in the Plan and would also monitor and evaluate activities over the longer term. It is a useful approach to keep stakeholders interested and engaged in safety planning after the plan is developed.

Performance Measures. To determine the effectiveness of regional safety programs, policies, and/or projects in both the short and long term, the identified goal(s) should include performance measures, method(s), and a detailed game plan for measuring progress/success for all stakeholders and partners to follow. Performance measures also will be valuable for reporting purposes when briefing public officials and for progress reporting to the Policy Board. Appropriate RPO performance measures should be coordinated with those identified in the SHSP.

Prioritization and Programming. Outputs of the crash data analysis will provide the multidisciplinary committee with a list of safety strategies, actions, and/or projects to identify future safety projects (i.e., conduct road safety audits). Using a combination of committee input and project prioritization, these projects can be scored and ranked. Typically, state DOTs have a prioritization process in place, which the RPO may choose to adopt. Identifying potential funding sources for safety projects is another important component of this phase. Most notable are HSIP funds allocated by the state DOT, but all sources should be discussed.

Monitoring and Evaluation. Upon adoption of the safety plan, the multidisciplinary committee and the goal area teams should continue to meet to review progress on implementing the safety plan and to track performance. Some RPOs develop annual reports, so a section on transportation safety progress could be added.

Coordinating Transportation and Safety Plans

The LRTP is the overarching transportation planning document for a region, describing how the local area transportation system should evolve over the next 20 years, so providing guidance on transportation safety over that timeframe is imperative. Including elements of the safety plan, such as safety goals, emphasis areas, longer-term strategies, and policies in a LRTP will provide direction to RPO staff and member agencies, as well as local elected officials on suitable methods for incorporating safety in the context of all transportation projects.

A benefit of developing a transportation safety plan is the opportunity to feed the LRTP process with specifics on safety. Linking the LRTP and the safety plan through a dedicated safety chapter/section in the LRTP could provide specifics to concisely summarize the regional crash trends; the transportation safety goals, objectives, performance measures, and policies; an overview of the SHSP and regional safety plan (if any) and how they relate to the LRTP; and an overview of other transportation safety activities, policies or programs, occurring in the region. The chapter also could include a list of transportation safety stakeholders or programmatic/project “highlights,” which document regional successes.

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9http://www.nado.org/transportation-project-prioritization-and-performance-based-planning-efforts-in-rural-and-small-metropolitan-regions

10http://www.ncentral.com/trans/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/NCentral_Final_Report_March2012.pdf

11Road safety audits are examinations of roadways by multidisciplinary teams to identify potential safety concerns and opportunities to improve safety for all roadway users. For more resources, visit the Office of Safety's http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/rsa/.

12http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/2014/NHTSA-study-shows-vehicle-crashes-have-$871-billion-impact-on-U.S.-economy,-society

13http://www.michigan.gov/documents/msp/Summit_program_2014_10_web_450415_7.pdf

14http://www.dot.state.oh.us/Divisions/Planning/ProgramManagement/HighwaySafety/HSIP/Pages/GCAT.aspx.

15http://www.iowadot.gov/crashanalysis/cmatmain.htm

16Iowa Northland Regional Transportation Authority 2012 Public Input Survey, http://www.inrcog.org/pdf/RTA-Survey.pdf

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