National Academies Press: OpenBook

Roadway Safety Tools for Local Agencies (2003)

Chapter: 3 PROACTIVE SAFETY TOOLS

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Suggested Citation:"3 PROACTIVE SAFETY TOOLS." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2003. Roadway Safety Tools for Local Agencies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21959.
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Suggested Citation:"3 PROACTIVE SAFETY TOOLS." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2003. Roadway Safety Tools for Local Agencies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21959.
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Page 13
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Suggested Citation:"3 PROACTIVE SAFETY TOOLS." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2003. Roadway Safety Tools for Local Agencies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/21959.
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12 This chapter provides an overview of two primary proactive safety tools available to local agencies. The first is proactive analysis using the concept of a RSAR. The advanced pro- active analysis safety tool for local agencies is the RSA (22,49,50). BASIC PROACTIVE SAFETY—THE RSAR Local agencies are continuously faced with the need to consider how the safety of an existing road or street may be enhanced. Because the uses of a roadway change over time, roads that fully complied with all safety standards at the time they were built may no longer provide a high degree of safety for the traveling public. The use of reactive crash data to help identify local sites or sections of roadway in need of safety improvements is often difficult. This is primarily due to two factors. First, although crash rates are often the highest for local facilities based on functional classification, the low volume on many local roads and the random nature of crashes often will not result in a large number of crashes at a particular location. Second, many local crashes go unreported unless there are major damages. This is particularly true in low-volume rural areas. Frequent clusters of crashes may, however, become readily apparent at higher-volume intersections. Given these observations, an analysis emphasizing the safety improvement issues is often more appropriate. Also important in the low-volume rural road environment is that improving so many miles of roadway to current stan- dards would be neither economical nor practical. For these rural local governments, a proactive program involving a func- tional classification of their rural roadway system and the use of an independent peer group of auditors is proposed. The concept of an RSAR is based on an analysis technique that formalizes an approach to documenting safety issues. Proactively considering safety is the value of the RSAR tool (51). An RSAR is an examination of an existing roadway in which an independent, qualified team of auditors reports entirely on safety issues. The RSAR concept is just begin- ning to be applied in the United States. Synthesis surveys identified the use of the RSAR by rural local agencies in Arizona, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Depending on local resources, there are a number of different ways to use the RSAR to develop a local safety program. Outlined in Table 2 is a proposed approach for local rural transportation agen- cies. This methodology has been applied successfully by rural counties in several states. Although the approach has not been applied to urban areas, a similar approach pertaining to inter- sections is suggested (see Appendix I). The suggested approach has several essential components. First is the need to classify the local rural road network. Improving safety ideally would not require this step if there were unlimited resources. However, the real local world of funding and safety enhancements should recognize that a pro- gram to improve safety needs to be practical. A classifica- tion system helps to guide the improvements of the identified safety issues into a series of improvement alternatives by con- sidering the use of the roadway section being evaluated and the ability to apply the improvements incrementally. Deci- sions are made by considering the classification and the safety issue involved, and by applying a value judgment to the urgency of the improvement and the resources needed. In essence, an incremental approach to safety enhancements forms the backbone of the enhancements. Recommendations are made by an independent audit team. Another essential component is to document the audit findings and address the issues identified. The philosophy of the RSAR local approach is for a county to try out the process and then to assess its value. If there is positive acceptance, then the local agency needs to develop a program to conduct RSARs for their road network over a reasonable period of time. The steps in planning an RSAR program are described here. 1. Classify the local roadway system functionally. • Identify several sections of roadways in each func- tional classification for an RSAR trial. Chapter five provides several alternative functional classifications. The local agency may wish to design its own to better fit the local situation. The key to using this system is that it provides a rational basis to begin auditing the system for safety issues. 2. Begin a trial RSAR program. • Solicit reviewers from adjacent local county engineers and road supervisors (three or four). Follow the pro- cedures developed for the RSAR, which are detailed in Appendix I. • Provide the RSAR team review for the selected road- ways. The team should be small (three to five mem- bers) and not from the local agency where the roads are being audited. Such independence provides a fresh eyes assessment of the safety issues and recommended actions. Consider contacting personnel from adjacent CHAPTER THREE PROACTIVE SAFETY TOOLS

13 TABLE 2 FUNCTIONAL CLASSIFICATIONS OF LOCAL RURAL ROADS Rural Major Rural Rural Rural Major Rural High Speed Minor Local Medium Speed Low-Volume Local Serves larger towns and Accumulates traffic from Provides access to land Serves smaller towns Provides access to adjacent other traffic generators local roads, brings all adjacent to the higher and other traffic land and serves travel over not served by higher developed areas within functional classification generators not served relatively short distances. functional classification reasonable distances of network and serves by higher functional systems and serves more collector roads, provides travel into isolated areas classification systems, Typically important intracounty service to the remaining over relatively short links these places with • Unimproved surfaces and travel corridors. smaller communities, distances. nearby cities and larger some may be considered and links the locally towns or with higher improved, but unpaved Typically important traffic Typically systems, and serves • Traffic volumes • Paved surfaces generators within their • Unpaved surfaces more important 0–100 vpd • Traffic volumes rural region. • Traffic volumes intracounty travel • Operating speed up to 400 vpd 100–250 vpd corridors. Links to variable • Operating speed Typically • Operating speed rural major and 40–65 mph • Unpaved surfaces but 20–45 mph collector classifications. • Limited intersections some may be paved and accesses • Traffic volumes Typically 250–400 vpd • Paved surfaces but • Operating speed some may be unpaved 30–60 mph • Traffic volumes up to 400 vpd • Operating speed 30–45 mph • Frequent accesses Notes: vpd = vehicles per day. [Source: Local RSAR training materials developed by Eugene M. Wilson, 2001 (see Appendix I).] agencies, LTAP centers, and state DOTs or FHWA division to provide possible team members. 3. Prepare a brief statement of your findings. • Briefly summarize the safety issues, • Prioritize the issues identified, • Recommend actions to be taken, • Provide an overall evaluation of the road section, and • Discuss the findings with each county. 4. Seek special funding as needed. • Consider applying for safety funding. Contact your governor’s office of highway safety. These contacts can be accessed by linking to the FHWA website at www.fhwa.dot.gov. 5. Implement and evaluate the RSAR program. • Implement improvements, • Evaluate the RSAR concept, and • Evaluate the effectiveness of the improvements. 6. Make the decision on beginning an RSAR trial program. • Begin an RSAR program by developing a 4- or 5-year plan to study all roadways and • Consider auditing the design of a major project, from a safety viewpoint, for all road users. 7. Promote the proactive RSA/RSAR program. Because there are several critical components in the RSAR that provide value beyond an unstructured safety review, locally needed modifications to the concept are encouraged. The RSAR results in a formal written report, but the report should be brief, simple, and proactive. Oral communication of the report is also important, as is a formal written response to the report by the local agency. These actions imply that the RSAR is not performed by the agency’s local staff. This in- dependence is also vital to the RSAR. The local agency be- comes the client for the RSAR report and provides the review team with the roads and streets to be audited, as well as infor- mation on their functional classification information. The review team has a variety of expertise. Core knowl- edge is generally considered to be the knowledge of local road safety and maintenance issues. Other skills of the team members may vary depending on the issues associated with the road users and issues associated with the complexity of the environment of the facility. Potential skills of review team members should include traffic engineering, human factors, construction, design, and operations. Knowledge concerning bicycles, trucks, or pedestrians is also desirable. The need for these skills may vary from audit to audit. Appendix I contains a sample RSAR report. As this report shows, an RSAR can be quite simple. This appendix also contains a sample process that was developed to aid local agencies in performing an RSAR. The examples show that there are a number of different ways to undertake an audit and to develop a team. One suggested methodology has one county auditing another county’s network. A system to classify existing roads, examine their current usage, identify deficien-

14 cies, and prioritize needed safety improvements is the goal of a local government RSAR program. The premise is that lo- cal agencies can best achieve needed safety improvements by prioritizing and chipping away as resources allow. A func- tional classification is used to present the concept of adapt- ing safety issues to fit the profile of the road section. Chap- ter five provides an expanded discussion of the RSAR as the best safety tool. ADVANCED PROACTIVE SAFETY—AN RSA An RSA is an advanced proactive tool for improving trans- portation safety. An RSA is an examination of a future road- way project plan by an independent, qualified audit team that then reports on safety issues raised during the examination. The step-by-step procedure of an RSA can be performed dur- ing any stage or all stages of a project, including planning, preliminary design, and detailed design, as well as construc- tion traffic control planning and construction. Generally, the RSA is most likely to be a local agency tool for evaluating a complex situation. That statement is not intended to limit the use of the tool, but rather reflects the local situation and expresses a view similar to that used in applying advanced reactive safety analysis. The personnel at most local agen- cies in the United States have not received the training nor do the agencies have the resources to apply the tool except on a limited basis. It is, however, an excellent and proven safety tool with widely accepted application internationally (22,49). An RSA is a systematic process that can be tailored accord- ing to an agency’s specific organizational culture and safety issues. Generally, an audit involves the following steps: • Select the road safety audit team. • Provide the relevant data and documentation. • Hold a kickoff meeting. • Assess the data and documents. • Inspect the site. • Discuss audit safety issues with the designer or internal client. • Write the RSA report. • Hold a completion meeting. • Respond to the report. • Implement agreed-on changes. • Share lessons learned. The RSA has the same attributes as an RSAR, except that the safety evaluation is made on a project plan and not on an existing roadway. One approach to modify the traditional RSA and RSAR that is being applied by the New York State DOT is to use the agency’s in-house safety audit team to integrate safety improvements into the pave- ment management program. This audit team consists of staff from design, traffic, and maintenance. Team members use crash data to assist in the enhancement of safety when the roadway sections are resurfaced. Complete discre- tion is vested in the agency’s regional audit teams to decide jointly what actions should be taken, and there is no man- date that the team’s recommendations be implemented. Each of the regional offices decides how much work it can afford to undertake within the context of a balanced program and limited resources. The program has been highly successful in proactively advancing safety. Locally, this program is known by its acronym SAFETAP—that is, the Safety Appurtenance Program. Several state DOTs in the United States are beginning to advance the application of the RSA, prompted by the training that has been presented since 1998 and the development of that training into a National Highway Institute (NHI) course. That NHI course features a reference manual that was devel- oped by Global Learning Systems (50). The NHI manual provides a discussion of the details and the considerations that need to be made. A local agency considering an RSA should consult this reference. A key to the RSA is that the evaluation be a formal docu- ment reporting solely on safety issues. An RSA is a pro- active tool designed to ensure that safety considerations and the concerns of all users have been addressed before the project is constructed. The RSA report is presented to the local agency, which then uses it to direct additional safety consid- erations, if needed. The costs of conducting an RSA have been most often stated as minimal, given the added value of increasing the safety of a project. The cost will vary depend- ing on the project scope, stage of the audit, and size and makeup of the audit team. An RSA is not a check to ensure that standards and guidelines have been met. An upcoming NCHRP synthesis will report in more detail on the use of RSARs and RSAs. That synthesis will focus on the use of these proactive tools in the United States and will provide an update on global applications.

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TRB's National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 321: Roadway Safety Tools for Local Agencies examines the safety tools and procedures that are practical and relatively easy to apply, and that can be implemented by agencies with limited financial support and personnel. Recognizing the wide variation in the operations and responsibilities of local agencies, the report acknowledges that the level of expertise in transportation safety analysis also varies greatly.

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