While rural areas account for about 30% of the total miles traveled and only 19% of the population lives in rural areas, half of all traffic fatalities occur in rural areas (Traffic Safety Facts. Report No. DOT HS 812 521). Although this certainly shows a need to improve safety in rural areas, numerous constraints and resource limitations hinder current safety efforts. For example, in most states the vast majority of rural road mileage is owned and managed by local governments. The 2012 Census of Governments found a total of 3,031 counties, 19,522 municipalities, and 16,364 townships in the United States, and most are either partially or entirely rural. In addition, the Bureau of Indian Affairs recognizes 573 American Indian tribes and Alaska Native Villages in the United States. The sheer number of rural jurisdictions makes it difficult to assure that programs aimed at improving rural transportation safety are effective in reaching all areas effectively and equitably. The large number of rural local government units vary considerably in the way they are organized, their legal authority, and the available financial and human resources. The vast rural highway mileage is another challenge: rural crashes are often widely dispersed, with a considerable degree of randomness in crash locations. This makes it difficult to apply traditional crash reduction strategies that focus on hot spots.
The objective of this research was to develop a behavioral traffic safety countermeasure toolkit for highway safety partners involved with rural road safety (e.g., tribal authorities, local government, law enforcement, emergency responders, engineers) to reduce the frequency and severity of motor vehicle crashes on roads in rural areas.