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April 2010 NATIONAL COOPERATIVE HIGHWAY RESEARCH PROGRAM Responsible Senior Program Officer: Charles W. Niessner Research Results Digest 345 ALTERNATE STRATEGIES FOR SAFETY IMPROVEMENT INVESTMENTS This digest presents the results of NCHRP Project 17-18(19), "White Paper on Alternate Strategies for Safety Improvement Investments." The study was conducted by Howard Preston and Will Stein, CH2M Hill, and Tom Maze and Reg Souleyrette, Iowa State University. Howard Preston was the Principal Investigator. SUMMARY tion of this performance measure was based on the thinking that was prevalent at the This digest presents the results of a study time, that there were really no differences in to review the two methods currently being the factors contributing to fatal, injury, or used by states to allocate safety resources. property-damage crashes. This thought The terminology commonly used to describe process led to an expectation that if the total these methods is "black spot" analysis and number of crashes at a given location was "systematic" method. A survey of practice reduced due to some mitigative action, was distributed to all 50 states and follow-up some fraction of fatal crashes would also case studies were conducted in four of the be reduced. In support of this approach to responding states--Iowa, Minnesota, Mis- safety planning, safety programs were souri, and North Carolina. The states that focused on identifying and addressing loca- participated in this project indicated that tions with large numbers of crashes, and a the characteristics associated with their great deal of effort went toward developing C O N T E N T S severe crashes have caused their programs to techniques and models to assist analysts Summary, 1 be more focused on rural areas, to include to more accurately identify those locations Introduction, 1 more projects that involve the proactive where the large number of crashes was also deployment of low-cost strategies widely greater than what would be expected. Even Current Methods for Allocating Safety Resources, 3 across their systems, and to provide an though the performance measure included all Location of Severe Crashes-- increased level of engagement with local crashes, there always was a desire to reduce Rural versus Urban and State highway agencies. the number of fatal crashes; however, it versus Local, 4 seems as if this reduction in fatal crashes Description of Study, 7 was expected to occur as a logical conse- INTRODUCTION Case Studies, 10 quence of the efforts to reduce all crashes. Lessons Learned, 16 For many years, the approach to improv- After sharp declines in highway deaths Methodologies and Tools to ing highway safety in the United States in the 1970s and continued declines through Support Safety Planning Efforts, 19 focused on reducing the overall number the 1980s, the downward trend in severe Safety Experience at the of crashes, regardless of severity. This crashes stalled (see Figure 1). Safety advo- Local Level, 23 approach was undertaken in recognition of cates sought a new approach with a change Safety Investments the fact that the national safety performance in emphasis: preventing and reducing the Beyond HSIP, 26 measure included all crashes (fatal + injury + number of crashes that result in death or Conclusion, 26 property damage). It appears that the selec- life-changing injuries. The American

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60,000 6 50,000 5 Fatalities 40,000 4 30,000 3 20,000 2 Fatality Rate (deaths/HMVMT) 10,000 1 0 0 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 Year Figure 1 National fatality total and fatality rate trends, 19652008. Association of State Highway and Transportation has not been the most effective way to address safety. Officials (AASHTO) and the Federal Highway National crash statistics overwhelmingly suggest that Administration (FHWA) provided national leader- to improve the effectiveness of safety programs, ship on this change in emphasis. states need new partners in a more comprehensive AASHTO's Strategic Highway Safety Plan approach to safety. State safety programs need to (SHSP), first published in 1997, raised two important address all road systems and more actively engage issues. First, if the national objective truly was a reduc- local road authorities in the statewide safety planning tion in the number of highway deaths and serious process--state systems may carry the bulk of the injuries, then the safety performance measure needed vehicle miles travelled, but local systems account for to change. Instead of attempting to reduce fatal crashes as much as 90% of total road miles and 60% of fatal as a byproduct of programs meant to address all crashes. Ignoring the percentage of fatal crashes on crashes, the focus of the safety programs should be on the local system is not the most effective approach to severe crashes because the factors that contribute to achieving statewide fatal crash reduction goals. them are different than the factors that contribute to In 2005, Congress enacted the Safe, Account- crashes as a whole. Current safety research indicates able, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: that, viewed collectively, most crashes involve multi- A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), the current ple vehicles and occur at lower speeds in urban areas. federal transportation bill. This legislation doubled Severe crashes, however, more often involve a single the size of the federal Highway Safety Improvement vehicle and occur at higher speeds in rural areas. Program (HSIP) to approximately $1.3 billion per Second, AASHTO acknowledged that focusing year. FHWA published its guidelines for the states-- safety investments only on state highway systems Strategic Highway Safety Plans: A Champion's Guide 2