The National Academies

NCHRP 17-96 [Active]

Traffic Safety Culture Research Roadmap

  Project Data
Funds: $375,000
Staff Responsibility: David M. Jared
Research Agency: University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Principal Investigator: Wesley Kumfer
Effective Date: 8/31/2021
Completion Date: 8/31/2023



More than 35,000 deaths occur each year as a result of traffic crashes, underscoring the need to increase efforts to improve traffic safety. As many states and localities adopt a vision of zero fatalities and serious injuries, increasingly greater attention is being given to communication, coordination, collaboration, leveraging resources, and applying a safe systems approach to traffic safety that requires a change in the culture – both among road users and traffic safety partner agencies, tied to education, engineering, enforcement, and emergency services (hereafter, the 4E’s).


The goal of the traffic safety culture (TSC) paradigm “is to develop a process for changing values and attitudes so that safety is part of every transportation decision, whether individual or organizational” (ITE Journal, May 2014). The context of TSC and this research is all users of the roadway transportation system. Roadway user behaviors include actions that influence crash risk and crash severity. Promoting TSC has been identified as a core strategy by several national initiatives. Promoting a positive TSC would support traffic safety goals by reducing risky behaviors and increasing protective behaviors, and it would also increase public acceptance of other effective traffic safety programs.


TSC is relatively new for safety partner agencies, and these agencies do not typically have staff with TSC expertise. In addition, while more research is being conducted on TSC, the majority of research exists on the 4E's. The lack of research on TSC has resulted in insufficient knowledge in how to effectively and efficiently apply TSC strategies either alone or in combination with the 4E’s. A TSC research roadmap would identify the critical research needed to identify practices, tactics, techniques, and tools that can be implemented by safety partner agencies. A TSC research roadmap should also address plans and programs such as Strategic Highway Safety Plans and regional- or community-based safety programs and plans where a positive TSC could be a critical factor in eliminating traffic fatalities.


Traffic safety is a significant public health issue, and gains in the 4E’s have produced significant improvements in safety. However, the number of crashes resulting in fatalities and serious injuries continues to be unacceptable. To use TSC to take traffic safety to the next level, TSC needs to be better understood and more broadly, and it needs to be strategically applied.





The objectives of this research are the following:


1.      Identify TSC research questions, gaps, and stakeholders;


2.      Produce a prioritized TSC research roadmap with stakeholder input that includes fully developed research problem statements suitable for submittal to NCHRP;


3.      Develop a communication plan to disseminate the research roadmap; and


4.      Develop a process management plan to systematically revisit research priorities to guide research and ensure its future relevancy.


The roadmap should indicate why each research need is critical to improving traffic safety, why it is important to safety partner agencies, and how these agencies will be able to implement the results to improve traffic safety.



STATUS: Research is in progress. 

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