During the pandemic, government stay‐at‐home policies, business and school closures, and higher unemployment rates significantly reduced vehicle use, which led to less congested roadways and improved travel times. Lower traffic volumes may have encouraged some drivers to engage in risky behavior, including increased speeding, aggressive and unsafe maneuvers, and evasion of traffic control devices. While travel volumes are returning to pre‐pandemic levels, traffic fatalities and crash rates are not improving. Relatedly, many states note a sharp increase in the number of crash truck attenuator hits over the past year. The high incident rate of these hits is alarming as these hits are most probably caused by distracted or aggressive driving.
Safety, a cornerstone of all State DOTs, the USDOT, and AASHTO, must be improved so that these trends can be reversed. The safe systems approach is a multi‐pronged framework for addressing the safety concerns. As states focus on infrastructure and project designs to address structural safety concerns through five complementary objectives: safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds, and post‐crash care.
Safety and the factors that contribute to crashes have been the topic of extensive research on roadway design, behavior, public information and messaging, vehicle design and technology, and operations. State DOT leadership needs to be well informed on this research and the safe systems approach to advance safety on the multimodal transportation system. The proposed project would include convening activities that bring together safety researchers, staff from State Highway Safety Offices, and state DOT leadership. The activities could be planned for all AASHTO regions and in virtual and in‐person formats. The roadways are the workplace of a large portion of our workforce, and safety is an overarching value for all of AASHTO’s actions. This research would enhance and align with AASHTO’s object to advance a safe, multimodal transportation system. Any action taken related to the safe systems approach at the 2022 AASHTO Annual Meeting should be considered in refining the objective and scope of the project.
The objective of this research is to develop a roadmap for implementation of the safe system approach for use by state DOT leadership. The roadmap will draw on expertise from the safety research community and will be informed by input from state DOT CEOs. The project will include piloting and customizing the roadmap with at least three state DOTs.