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Building the Road Safety Profession in the Public Sector: Special Report 289 4 Acquiring Road Safety Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities In an influential paper, “The Road Ahead,” Ezra Hauer describes road safety professionals as “the purveyors of the factual road safety knowledge” who must inform the decisions of the much broader workforce that affects safety (Hauer 2005). Hauer contends that road safety management is transitioning from actions based on intuition, judgment, and tradition to those based on empirical evidence, science, and technology. He urges efforts to further this development, both through changes in practices in the field and through educating and training the workforce that influences road safety. Understanding what safety-related knowledge and skills are required by the road safety workforce and how they are obtained is important in building the road safety profession and ensuring that the road safety workforce can make the transition described by Hauer. NCHRP Research Results Digest 302 outlines a set of core competencies for road safety professionals (TRB 2006). Those competencies are examined in this chapter. A distinction is made between competencies applying to full-time road safety professionals and those that may apply to others in the public-sector workforce who influence safety. A survey of course offerings by university engineering and public health programs was conducted as part of NCHRP Research Results Digest 302. Many transportation professionals are educated in schools of civil engineering. While many civil engineering graduates take positions in transportation planning, design, and operations, some pursue full-time careers in road safety management. University schools of public health are another source of road safety professionals. The findings of this survey are therefore reviewed, and consideration is given to how road safety knowledge and skills are acquired by workers through
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Building the Road Safety Profession in the Public Sector: Special Report 289 other means, such as continuing education and on-the-job training and learning. Hauer points out the important role of research in supporting the development of competent safety professionals. The results of research provide the factual knowledge for safety management, and research programs help attract and develop faculty expertise and support graduate students. The chapter therefore concludes with a brief review of road safety research programs in the United States. CORE COMPETENCIES OF THE ROAD SAFETY PROFESSIONAL Core competency statements that describe the baseline body of knowledge and skills required for a particular profession have been developed in such diverse fields as library sciences, teaching, psychiatry, emergency management, and public health. These statements have multiple purposes: they can help workers plan their professional development, guide educators and trainers in designing curricula and course content, and help employers establish job descriptions and performance measures for their workers. Professional societies often consult the core competencies when they develop certification programs and other credentialing standards. NCHRP Research Results Digest 302 represents the first time that a core competency statement has been put forward for the road safety profession. The statement was developed over a 2-year period by educators, researchers, public officials, and leaders of industry and professional associations. The five core competencies are presented in Appendix B. Each consists of a set of knowledge and skills that the authors of the statement believe are required to perform effectively as a road safety professional. The competencies cover the knowledge and skills required to Recognize the management of highway safety as a complex multidisciplinary system; Understand the history of highway safety and the institutional settings in which safety management decisions are made; Understand the origins and characteristics of traffic safety data and information systems to support safety management decisions;
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Building the Road Safety Profession in the Public Sector: Special Report 289 Assess factors contributing to highway crashes, identify and implement potential countermeasures, and evaluate their effectiveness; and Develop, implement, and administer a highway safety management program. The first three items cover the core knowledge required for safety competency; they include basic safety facts and relationships, institutional responsibilities, and information and data sources. The final two cover basic skills that are required, including analysis, communications, and management. Box 4-1 offers a more detailed account of the body of knowledge and skills contained in the listing of core competencies and associated learning objectives set forth in NCHRP Research Results Digest 302. As explained in Research Results Digest 302, mastery of the knowledge and skills covered in all five competencies is desirable for the full-time road safety professional and would presumably require many years of study and career development to achieve. Training in the core competencies, however, is also advantageous to others who are not full-time road safety professionals but whose work decisions and actions affect safety. For example, familiarity with the multidisciplinary nature of safety, the history and institutional setting of safety management, and the characteristics and use of crash data is desirable for all workers who contribute to road safety. Like most professions, the road safety profession is becoming more reliant on technology. The tools that road safety professionals use to exercise their core competencies range from personal computers to intelligent transportation systems combining computing, sensing, communications, and control technologies. Road safety professionals must be adept in the use of new technologies to develop and implement all of the skills and abilities discussed above. The mix of skills and abilities required of safety professionals will continue to change. Knowledge of marketing and consumer behavior, for example, is becoming more important in developing safety programs that influence the decisions of drivers, occupants, and pedestrians. An increasingly systems-level approach to road safety management will lead to a continued expansion of the body of knowledge and skills required for effective functioning in the road safety field. The statement of core
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Building the Road Safety Profession in the Public Sector: Special Report 289 BOX 4-1 Core Body of Knowledge and Skills Required for Competency as a Road Safety Professional Knowledge All safety professionals should have an understanding of the following: The involvement of multiple disciplines in safety management. Among the disciplines that must be called on to manage road safety are civil engineering, mechanical engineering, law enforcement, psychology, human factors, economics, statistics, education, systems analysis, organizational behavior, and marketing. The safety professional should be able to explain the roles of these disciplines in safety management (Competency 1a). The importance of science-based research and its application in effective safety management. The road safety professional should appreciate how research and analysis can help in making more informed choices by clarifying issues, revealing inconsistencies in aims and efforts, generating alternatives, and helping translate ideas into effective safety policies and programs (Competency 1b). The effects of economic, social, technological, and demographic trends on safety. The road safety professional should recognize that road safety is affected by many exogenous and dynamic trends that continually present new challenges to improving safety performance. The professional should be able to describe major trends that are ongoing and emerging and explain their potential effects on safety (Competency 1c). The factors occurring before, during, and after a crash and involving the driver, the vehicle, the highway, and emergency response that affect crash incidence and severity. Road safety
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Building the Road Safety Profession in the Public Sector: Special Report 289 professionals should be familiar with common classifications of highway crash and injury severity factors and their relationship to the crash event through the use of models such as the Haddon matrix. They should understand how contributing factors can interact (Competencies 1d, 1e, and 1i). The combining of countermeasures from the four E’s of traffic safety: engineering, enforcement, education, and emergency response. The road safety professional should be able to explain how measures from each of the four E’s have yielded safety benefits, individually and in combination (Competencies 1g and 1h). The institutional settings in which safety management decisions are made and the main public and private organizations that have safety responsibilities, information, and resources. All road safety professionals should understand the importance of collaboration among organizations and the barriers that can hinder collaboration. They should know the major legislation, historical figures, and stakeholder groups affecting safety goals, responsibilities, and investment decisions. They should be aware of other transportation priorities (e.g., congestion mitigation, environmental protection, economic development) that accompany safety (Competencies 1j, 1k, 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d, and 2e). The main databases and information systems that can be used for safety management, including state, local, and national databases. The safety professional should know how to access safety-related data and information systems and have a working understanding of how the data are collected and their strengths and weaknesses (Competencies 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d, and 5f).
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Building the Road Safety Profession in the Public Sector: Special Report 289 Skills All safety professionals should have basic skills in analysis, management, and communications. The level of skill required will depend on specific job responsibilities. Analysis All safety professionals should recognize and have a basic ability to access and interpret the results of the main scientific methods and statistical techniques used to identify safety problems, develop countermeasures, and evaluate safety countermeasures and programs (Competency 3e). More advanced skills are required of some professionals such as safety program analysts, planners, and developers. They should be able to use scientific methods and statistical techniques to identify current and potential safety problems, develop countermeasures and evaluate their effects, and present the results of complex analyses in ways that can be understood and used by decision makers (Competencies 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d, 4e, and 4f). Communications All safety professionals should be able to communicate the importance of the use of data and scientific methods in managing safety (Competency 3f). A higher proficiency in communications is required for some safety professionals. Safety program managers should be able to communicate safety concepts and research results to a wide range of audiences from within and outside their organizations. They should have marketing and public relations skills to promote safety programs to the public and to decision makers (Competencies 5e and 5g). Management Road safety professionals in management positions should be able to draw conclusions and establish plans and priorities on the basis safety research, analyses, and evaluations. They should be able to integrate safety into transportation plan-
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Building the Road Safety Profession in the Public Sector: Special Report 289 ning processes (Competencies 5a and 5b). Safety program managers should be able to establish multidisciplinary and multiorganizational relationships to develop, plan, and implement safety programs. They should have the administrative, organizational, and financial skills to oversee safety programs and personnel from multiple disciplines and to build coalitions (Competencies 5d, 5e, and 5g). Note: See Appendix B for the listing of competencies and learning objectives. competencies, therefore, is best viewed as a foundation on which to build the education and development of road safety professionals. A follow-on project of the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (17-40) is under way that is seeking to develop model curricula based on the core competency framework in Research Results Digest 302. CORE COMPETENCIES IN ENGINEERING AND PUBLIC HEALTH SCHOOLS The authors of Digest 302 surveyed 117 university engineering and 34 university public health programs to determine whether content pertaining to the core competencies is included in courses and curricula. Thirty-six universities (29 engineering and seven public health) responded to the survey. Table 4-1 summarizes the results. The survey revealed significant gaps in course coverage in all competency areas. Neither the engineering nor the public health programs covered all the knowledge-based learning objectives. Analytic skills received fair to good coverage in both engineering and public health curricula, but content concerning communications and management skills was limited. The authors concluded that course offerings do not present road safety as a discipline; hence, important safety principles and scientific perspectives are missing from courses. They question whether students are receiving sufficient education in analytic techniques to perform effectively in safety management.
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Building the Road Safety Profession in the Public Sector: Special Report 289 TABLE 4-1 Coverage of Core Competencies and Learning Objectives in Engineering and Public Health Schools Course Coverage Levels Engineering Public Health Road Safety Knowledge Safety management is multidisciplinary Modest Modest Science-based research is essential in safety management Modest Modest Economic, social, technological, and demographic trends affect safety Modest Modest Motor vehicle crashes have many contributing factors Weak Strong Safety management requires countermeasures from the four E’s Modest Modest Institutional setting for safety management Modest Modest Databases used for safety management Modest Modest Road Safety Skills Analysis Ability to use traffic safety and public health data Modest Weak Ability to use scientific methods to identify safety problems Strong Strong Ability to evaluate safety program and countermeasure effectiveness Modest Weak Communications Ability to communicate the importance of data for managing safety Strong Strong Ability to reach out to the public for involvement in safety programs Weak Weak Ability to explain opportunities for strategic communication of safety initiatives Weak Weak Management Ability to use scientific management techniques for safety programs Weak Weak Ability to establish multidisciplinary relationships Weak Weak NOTE: Strong coverage = more than two-thirds of programs covered the topic; modest coverage = between one-third and two-thirds of programs covered the topic; weak coverage = less than one-third of programs covered the topic. OTHER TRAINING AND EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES Because the road safety profession encompasses so many disciplines and occupations, there are many ways safety professionals are educated and trained. Engineering and public health schools are one source of training. Continuing education programs, short courses, and on-the-job learning are among the most common means.
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Building the Road Safety Profession in the Public Sector: Special Report 289 The federal government provides continuing education and training courses through the Transportation Safety Institute (TSI) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Highway Institute (NHI) of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The safety-related courses are aimed primarily at federal, state, and local officials. TSI is the largest training program for new and mid-career safety professionals. TSI courses cover many areas of responsibility for safety professionals such as the enforcement of impaired driving laws; design and management of road safety programs; delivery of emergency medical services; and public information programs to encourage the use of safety belts, child safety seats, and motorcycle helmets. TSI also offers courses and workshops for safety professionals to gain and enhance particular skills relevant to safety, such as management (e.g., finance, program review, grant application), communications (media relations), and analysis (data analysis techniques, safety performance measures). However, one of TSI’s main functions is administrative in nature—training federal, state, and local officials in how to manage federal 402 programs and how to meet the requirements of other NHTSA programs. NHI, which is administered by FHWA’s Office of Professional and Corporate Development, offers courses for federal, state, and local highway personnel. Courses cover engineering topics such as the safety effects of highway geometric features and work zone safety. NHI also offers courses aimed at exposing highway personnel to safety analysis skills. For example, a course on new approaches to road safety analysis teaches students various methods for identifying crash causes and selecting cost-effective safety remedies. FHWA and NHTSA sponsor several other programs that help train federal, state, and local highway workers in safety. NHTSA has designed child passenger safety training courses for state departments of transportation and public safety. FHWA administers the Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), which is composed of a national network of technical centers in every state and in tribal governments. LTAP centers enable counties, cities, and towns to improve their roads and bridges by supplying them with a variety of training programs and workforce development services. Training sessions and materials cover safety-related topics such as crash analysis, roadside safety features, and work zone
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Building the Road Safety Profession in the Public Sector: Special Report 289 safety. Each year more than 100,000 workers participate in the more than 4,000 training sessions offered at LTAP centers. States, private industry, professional societies, nonprofit safety organizations, and industry trade associations also have roles in safety training. Operation Lifesaver, for example, provides law enforcement officers with training on highway–rail grade crossing safety analysis and investigation. Professional associations such as the International Municipal Signals Association, the Institute of Transportation Engineers, and the American Society of Civil Engineers develop certification standards and training material in specialized areas such as intersection control; roadside design; and roadway signs, markings, and lighting. In some cases, these training activities are partially supported by federal grants; for example, FHWA provides funding to the American Traffic Safety Services Association to educate and train technicians about safety practices through its Roadway Safety Training Institute. The Governors Highway Safety Association offers a course for new safety representatives and their senior staff on program development, implementation, evaluation, and administration of the 402 program. However, the course is program-specific and not aimed at developing road safety expertise. Some state agencies provide their own safety education and training programs to employees or do so in partnership with universities and colleges. For example, the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Office has designated the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) as the Central Maryland Regional Safe Communities Center. JHU faculty provide safety training to state highway agency personnel and local officials managing regional traffic safety programs. Each year the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation partners with Pennsylvania State University to hold a Transportation Engineering and Safety Conference for the agency’s engineering workforce. The Virginia Department of Transportation funds the Transportation Safety Training Center run by Old Dominion University. The center provides training to state and local highway and public safety personnel in accident investigation and traffic records analysis. Other state departments of transportation have similar (though not always ongoing) relationships with state universities, such as that of Texas with the Texas Transportation Institute, that of Iowa
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Building the Road Safety Profession in the Public Sector: Special Report 289 with Iowa State University, and that of Michigan with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). State and local police departments across the country send officers to the Northwestern Center for Public Safety, which offers many short courses pertaining to traffic safety. Other training programs are available for particular specialties. An example is the University of North Florida’s Institute of Police Technology and Management (IPTM). IPTM offers short courses to state and local police officers from across the country on topics such as selective traffic enforcement, crash investigation, DUI enforcement, and traffic engineering for police. It is not clear whether the many training opportunities collectively provide the range of knowledge and skills needed by road safety professionals as outlined in the core competencies. Many of the training courses are designed to implement particular programs; for example, to instruct program administrators in compliance with the provisions and requirements of federal grant programs. Others focus on the use of specific safety countermeasures or techniques, such as work zone design and flagging. Much of the training is specific to a discipline as opposed to multidisciplinary. For the most part, the training has no theoretical underpinning. There is little assurance that the programs provide highway safety professionals with the knowledge and skills outlined in the core competencies. Hauer expresses concern that the guidebooks, software programs, and reference documents often included in safety training programs are frequently short on fact-based information. The authors of Research Results Digest 302 raise similar concerns with regard to the course material for engineering and public health school undergraduate and graduate programs. They observe that many courses use engineering texts and guidebooks that are not based on the latest peer-reviewed safety literature developed through science-based research. RESEARCH TO INFORM SAFETY PROFESSIONALS The enactment of federal highway safety legislation during the 1960s led to new safety institutions, regulations, and programs. Concurrently, federal and state governments invested heavily in the design and construction
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Building the Road Safety Profession in the Public Sector: Special Report 289 of the Interstate highway system. This combination led to more government funding of safety research and to the establishment of new safety research programs. A handful of state university transportation research centers were already in existence by the 1960s, including the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University and the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California. These centers began more safety research during the 1960s. Research at the Texas Transportation Institute, for example, led to many improvements in roadside barriers, crash cushions, and breakaway sign and light supports. Other transportation university research centers were established during the decade, typically as a result of state legislation. In 1955 the state of Michigan established a highway traffic safety center at Michigan State University. By 1960, the center had more than 20 professional staff for instruction and demonstration programs. Without dedicated sources of funding, however, the center was unable to sustain these programs for more than a few years. UMTRI was subsequently created in 1965 with assistance from the automobile industry. UMTRI’s road safety research model, concentrating on driver and vehicle research, proved to be sustainable and has not included instructional programs targeted to the safety workforce. The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center was established by the state legislature in the same year, and the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute was established 3 years later. These research institutes were intended to provide a multidisciplinary approach to safety research, drawing experts from fields such as psychology, human factors, biomechanics, engineering, planning, and economics. In addition, important safety research was being undertaken in many other universities across the country. Much of the research performed at the universities was sponsored by federal and state agencies. In addition, the government agencies conducted safety research at their own research and test centers and through private contractors. NHTSA, for example, funded research on alcohol and driver performance, the effects of driver education programs, technologies to improve vehicle crashworthiness, and crash causation factors. FHWA initiated multiyear research programs on wet weather crashes, roadside safety, and large-truck safety. Many states also sponsored and
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Building the Road Safety Profession in the Public Sector: Special Report 289 performed safety research. The California Department of Motor Vehicles conducted pioneering studies of the relationship between driver characteristics and crash propensity. By devoting a percentage of their federal-aid funds to R&D, state highway agencies spent millions of dollars each year on highway research. A portion of this money went to safety studies on topics such as roadside safety hardware and paving materials for improved skid resistance. Government-funded research was accompanied by a growing body of safety research from the private sector, including work by the insurance industry and automobile makers on topics such as vehicle crashworthiness, driver performance, and biomechanics. One gauge of the increased attention to safety in highway research is the historical index of publications by the Transportation Research Board (TRB). From its beginning as the Highway Research Board in 1921, TRB has been the primary outlet for highway engineering research. From 1921 to 1949, only 1.7 percent of TRB publications were safety related. From 1950 to 1965, this share increased slightly to 2 percent. Between 1966 and 1976, 7 percent of all publications were safety related, and since the late 1970s, this percentage has always exceeded 10 percent. Also evident from a review of the safety literature is that the topics of research were changing over time and including more disciplines such as epidemiology, emergency medicine, and pharmacology. In particular, the influence of injury prevention and control programs and supporting research in areas such as safety belt use, drinking and driving countermeasures, and pedestrian safety is visible. During the late 1980s an Injury Control and Prevention Center was created in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which had developed strong relationships with state health departments and an emphasis on research rather than regulation. CDC established university-based research centers, which provided another source of road safety research. The largest university research program of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is the University Transportation Centers (UTC) program. According to USDOT, the mission of the program is to conduct basic and applied research to advance the body of knowledge in transportation, provide educational opportunities to expand the transportation workforce, and provide capacity-building programs to transportation professionals (USDOT 2006, 122). Begun in 1987, the program
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Building the Road Safety Profession in the Public Sector: Special Report 289 is now managed by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration and funded by FHWA and the Federal Transit Administration. The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) increased the annual funding for UTCs and nearly doubled their number to 60 (with 40 named in the legislation). Each UTC has a specific transportation theme or is in the process of proposing one. A review of the themes1 indicates that more than a dozen centers are making or intend to make transportation safety a central element of their program. The committee did not review the UTC program but recognizes that it is perceived by many to be an underutilized resource for meeting transportation research and workforce development needs (USDOT 2006, 125). The program has the potential to be one of the means by which highway safety professionals are educated and trained in a multidisciplinary manner and exposed to the results of safety research. Safety research contributes to the development of the road safety profession. The research process itself is important in attracting students and young professionals to the safety field. The insights and factual knowledge gained from research are essential in informing the safety professional and providing the factual basis for the guidebooks, standards, and other reference materials used in safety management. How effective this research has been in attracting students to the safety profession; generating science-based facts; and influencing the policies, guidebooks, and other reference materials commonly used by safety professionals is unclear. Many widely used reference documents, as Hauer has indicated, do not exhibit this influence. However, there is an apparent trend in the direction of fact-based safety management, of which Hauer approves. For example, research demonstrating the beneficial effect of graduated licensing for teenagers has prompted many states to adopt graduated licensing programs. A new Highway Safety Manual is being developed through a process giving explicit consideration to peer-reviewed safety research results as the basis for safety guidance. More generally, SAFETEA-LU has emphasized the development and use of data for safety planning and programming. 1 See utc.dot.gov/themes.html.
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Building the Road Safety Profession in the Public Sector: Special Report 289 Hauer contends that the public sector has the responsibility to create a long-term stable demand for road safety research, which in turn will support the development of a well-trained safety workforce. This and other challenges to creating the demand for and building the supply of road safety professionals are considered further in the next chapter. SUMMARY The baseline safety-related knowledge and skills required by road safety professionals have recently been outlined in a statement of core competencies. The statement should prove helpful to workers planning their professional development, educators and trainers designing curricula and course content, and employers establishing job descriptions and performance assessments. Currently, no comprehensive education and training programs cover the core competencies. For the most part, education and training opportunities are disconnected from one another and from the safety research community. Whereas safety research is often undertaken in a multidisciplinary manner, education and training tend to be oriented toward a discipline. Most university civil engineering and public health programs do not present safety itself as a discipline, and consequently important safety principles and scientific methods are missing from course content. Similarly, continuing education programs, short courses, and on-the-job training opportunities are designed to cover specific safety topics, program requirements, and skills. While there are many such training opportunities, they are not structured in a way that enables workers to progress on a path of safety career development. Multidisciplinary training and education may help partners in road safety management from different fields, such as highway engineering, public health, and enforcement, overcome the political and institutional barriers to the development of a systems-oriented approach to safety management. Safety research is vital in training and informing safety professionals. The creation of a long-term and stable demand for safety research has proved challenging but is essential in meeting future demand for competent safety professionals.
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Building the Road Safety Profession in the Public Sector: Special Report 289 REFERENCES Abbreviations TRB Transportation Research Board USDOT U.S. Department of Transportation Hauer, E. 2005. The Road Ahead. Journal of Transportation Engineering, May, pp. 333–339. TRB. 2006. NCHRP Research Results Digest 302: Core Competencies for Highway Safety Professionals. National Academies, Washington, D.C. USDOT. 2006. Transportation Research, Development, and Technology Strategic Plan: 2006–2010. Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Nov.