The National Academies

NCHRP 17-96 [Pending]

Traffic Safety Culture Research Roadmap

  Project Data
Funds: $375,000
Contract Time: 24 months
Staff Responsibility: David M. Jared



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.


Accomplishment of the project objectives will require at least the following tasks.





Task descriptions are intended to provide a framework for conducting the research. The NCHRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objectives. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers’ current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objectives.


Task 1. Review literature and identify stakeholders.


Task 1a. Review literature and research in progress. Identify completed and active TSC research, and remaining research questions and gaps. Both domestic and international resources should be consulted. Conduct gap analysis to describe research gaps and guide the development of research problem statements in the research roadmap. 


Task 1b. Identify stakeholders to be engaged in Task 2 and develop a stakeholder engagement plan. At minimum, the following types of organizations should be consulted: public, private, academic, and advocacy organizations in both the transportation and non-transportation sectors, such as public health and emergency medical services.


Submit a technical memorandum covering the findings of Tasks 1a and 1b for NCHRP review. Present findings to NCHRP at an online meeting. NCHRP approval is required before work on Task 2 may begin.


Task 2. Engage TSC stakeholders. With input from a broad set of stakeholders, identify (a) principles and elements of a positive TSC; (b) opportunities for creating a positive TSC; (c) existing constraints to implementing a positive TSC; (d) considerations for a positive TSC across the social ecology and for eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries; (e) stakeholder research priorities; and (f) next steps for TSC implementation. Submit a technical memorandum covering the findings of Task 2 for NCHRP review.


Task 3. Develop an outline for the research roadmap. At minimum, the outline should include the results of the literature review and gap analysis, stakeholder input, a description of research that should be conducted within the next five years, and 10 or more research problem statements suitable for submittal to NCHRP. Also, at least one problem statement should provide a framework for incorporating and creating a positive TSC under existing national safety programs such as the Highway Safety Improvement Program. The roadmap should identify relevant, active, and completed research that could benefit from a focused implementation effort and develop implementation plans. Finally, the roadmap should prioritize all research recommendations.


Task 4. Submit an interim report summarizing the findings from Tasks 1-3. Present findings to NCHRP at an interim meeting. NCHRP approval of the interim report is required before work on Task 5 may begin.


Task 5. Develop a research roadmap and follow-up plans.


Task 5a. Develop a research roadmap and research problem statements. It is acknowledged that it may not be possible to develop problem statements for all identified research needs, since prerequisite research may be need to be substantially completed first, but sufficient detail should be provided to fully describe the nature of the research that should be conducted later.


Task 5b. Develop a communication plan. Develop a plan for (a) disseminating the research roadmap and other products to key partner organizations, especially those previously involved in the stakeholder engagement activities in Task 2, and (b) creating awareness and understanding of the roadmap. The goal of the plan is to explain (a) the roadmap to potential users and why it is important to safety partner agencies, and (b) how users will be able to implement the results of the research described in the roadmap to improve traffic safety. Innovative means of disseminating the plan should be considered, and the plan should include a list of key venues where this information could be presented as well as materials that can be used by others to present the information.


Task 5c. Develop a process management plan. Develop a plan to sustain ongoing TSC research and identify stakeholders who could take ownership of the plan. Recommend a limited set of research problem statements from the nearly implementation-ready and short-term list identified in Task 5a that should be submitted to NCHRP’s next funding cycle.


Submit a technical memorandum covering the findings of Tasks 5a, 5b, and 5c for NCHRP review. Present findings to NCHRP at an online meeting. NCHRP approval is required before work on Task 6 may begin.


Task 6. Submit final report and project deliverables. Project deliverables shall include the research roadmap, the communications and process management plans, related outreach materials, the research problem statements identified in Task 5c, and a final report documenting the entire research effort.


Status: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP. The panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.

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