Reducing the number of fatalities and injuries from highway traffic crashes is a high-priority goal shared by AASHTO, FHWA, and the states. While fatality rates have steadily decreased over time, the number of fatalities has remained unacceptably high. While increased safety funding under SAFETEA-LU and the development and implementation of strategic highway safety plans by the states have significantly improved highway safety, research is needed to develop innovations to significantly reduce injuries and fatalities. Achieving the greatest benefits from research will require well-targeted and coordinated research investment. At the request of FHWA and AASHTO, TRB convened an expert committee in 2005 to provide an independent review of current processes for establishing research priorities and coordinating highway safety research activities. In TRB Special Report 292: Safety Research on Highways Infrastructure and Operations: Improving Priorities, Coordination, and Quality, the committee presented its findings and recommended the formation of a Scientific Advisory Committee to (1) develop a transparent process for identifying and prioritizing research needs and opportunities in highway safety, with emphasis on infrastructure and operations and (2) use the process developed to recommend a national research agenda focused on highway infrastructure and operations safety. Additional work is needed to assist in the implementation of these two recommendations.
The objectives of this research are to:
(a) Develop a detailed methodology for identifying and evaluating research needs in the area of highway infrastructure and operations safety. The methodology should: (1) include appropriate outreach to stakeholders and experts at all levels of government, academia, and the private sector; (2) provide a quantitative analytical approach that examines clearly defined criteria to determine the potential value of the research topics; and (3) identify estimated levels of investment required, probability of success, likelihood of implementation, and other appropriate pros and cons of each research topic. (b) After objective (a) has been completed, reviewed, and approved by the NCHRP, implement the methodology to identify and evaluate research needs in the areas of highway infrastructure and operations safety. (c) Develop a detailed plan that can be implemented by other entities within the transportation community to transform the identified research needs into a formal national research agenda. This plan should identify and evaluate alternative institutional structures that offer mechanisms for providing expert scientific advice in setting a prioritized national research agenda. The plan should also (1) identify means to encourage coordination of research activities, (2) evaluate quality of research conducted, (3) monitor ongoing progress on the agenda and overall success, and (4) update and refine the agenda over the long term. The plan should identify alternative models for sustaining a dynamic agenda and evaluate the pros and cons of each.
Appendices to the final report are available here.