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An Assessment Tool to Measure the Effectiveness of Integrating Safety into Transportation Safety Planning Processes and Products


To lower transportation-related fatalities and serious injuries, state departments of transportation (DOT) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) are required to consider and implement projects, strategies, and services to enhance the safety of the transportation system for motorized and nonmotorized users. In other words, include an explicit consideration of safety in the transportation planning process and documents. NCHRP Report 811 - Institutionalizing Safety in Transportation Planning Processes: Techniques, Tactics, and Strategies Guidebook (2015) introduces the following seven step Transportation Safety Planning (TSP) Framework:

  1. Include safety expertise on transportation planning committees.

  2. Include safety in the vision, goals, and objectives of transportation planning documents.

  3. Include safety in all relevant transportation planning documents.

  4. Develop safety performance measures.

  5. Identify safety data and conduct analyses.

  6. Establish safety as a decision factor.

  7. Monitor and evaluate safety performance.

DOTs and MPOs can use NCHRP Report 811 to consider safety more comprehensively and establish a baseline of activities. To date, the information in this Guidebook has been shared through workshops with transportation planners in sixteen states, but many other state and local planners may be using it.

With the introduction of safety performance requirements, DOTs and MPOs, even more so, need to incorporate safety considerations into their transportation programs and projects. As more initiate the process and others continue to build on their safety efforts, a tool or model for assessing safety planning and implementation effectiveness would be useful and necessary. Other transportation areas, most notably transportation systems management and operations (TSMO), are now using a tool to assess and evaluate implementation progress and provide future direction.

A safety planning assessment tool would record a baseline set of practices from which implementation could be measured. As organizations utilize the TSP Framework, it will be important to quantify the level to which safety is institutionalized to keep management and safety stakeholders engaged in the process and committed to more long term strategies. The assessment tool will not only demonstrate the efficacy of the TSP approach, but also could point to enhancements. It could be used to start a conversation about the benefits of implementing the framework and institutionalizing safety in the transportation planning process.

This research is related not only to AASHTO’s Committee on Safety’s Strategic Research Plan, but also to TRB’s Critical Issues in Transportation. A recent practitioner and researcher survey based on the AASHTO plan established priorities among the many research needs in the Plan. Specifically, this research would support #2 Case studies and guidelines for safety management practices & principles, as well as #5 Roadway design and traffic controls for pedestrian safety. Safety and Public Health is one of the “critical issues” in the TRB paper, but the project relates closely to others areas as well, such as Serving a Growing and Shifting Population, Governance, System Performance and Management, and other areas.

By understanding and using a safety planning assessment framework, DOTs and MPOs can:

  • Develop consensus around needed agency improvements
  • Identify immediate priorities for improvement
  • Create concrete actions to continuously improve safety planning, design, and implementation capabilities

The research objective is to develop, calibrate, and test a transportation safety planning model and a user’s guide to examine the status of TSP in overall State DOT and MPO functional areas. It could be used to create a self-assessment tool for use by DOTs and MPOs to assess progress in institutionalizing safety into transportation safety planning processes. The tool should be useful for assisting State DOTs, MPOs, and decision makers to evaluate current levels of safety planning capability based on the seven principles of the TSP framework. Ultimately, the assessment tool has the potential to help DOTs and MPOs ensure the planning processes are structured to make steady progress in reducing fatalities and serious injuries.


The assessment tool and user’s guide could lead to substantial shifts in not only decision making processes, but also resource allocation. It could have the added benefit of providing incentives for closer collaboration among the functional areas within transportation agencies. The human and economic costs of fatalities and serious injuries on the roadways is unnecessary and unacceptable. With enhanced attention to and guidance for safety in planning and decision making capabilities and practices, it is possible to produce dramatic reductions in the numbers, but it is not possible without focused expertise and effort. This project could make the effort feasible and more likely.

Related Research:

NCHRP Report 811 - Institutionalizing Safety in Transportation Planning Processes: Techniques, Tactics, and Strategies Guidebook (2015) is the latest significant research into the actual implementation of the 1998 law (TEA-21) which required states and MPOs to consider safety a fundamental planning requirement. The research attempted to assess progress in safety integration, but did not have a tool for doing so. Nevertheless, the findings at the time were disappointing; therefore, AASHTO wisely saw fit to continue the research with a project to develop a workshop to train and assist DOTs and MPOs to accomplish the objective. The effectiveness of the workshops and other materials have not been reviewed to determine effectiveness.


Unless substantial progress has been accomplished since the 2014 research and the 2015 report, it can be assumed a group of “early adopters” at both the state and MPO levels would be needed to start the process. Hands on workshops with the planners would ensure the tool is used successfully and the user’s guide is clearly understood. The end result would be a checklist describing potential improvements and the steps toward course correction. This is essentially the process used for every state in FHWA’s assessment program on transportation systems management and operations, and it has been deemed highly successful.

Additional activities might include journal and newsletter articles describing the tool and how to access them, webinars, and presentations during various conferences at all levels. Following assessments and a period of time for implementation, peer exchanges targeting MPO and State DOT planners and managers might also prove useful. target audiences, and development of work plans for pilot testing or verification and validation of the research results.

Sponsoring Committee:ACS10, Transportation Safety Management Systems
Research Period:12 - 24 months
Research Priority:Medium
RNS Developer:Dan Magri, Connie Porter-Betts, Susan Herbel, Danena Gaines
Source Info:Dan Magri, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, 225.379.1871, dan.magri@LA.GOV

Connie Porter-Betts, Transportation Planning Administrator, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, 225.379.1297, Connie.porter@la.gov

Susan Herbel, President, SBH Consult, 202.494.5539, susan.b.herbel@gmail.com

Danena Gaines, Senior Associate, Cambridge Systematics, 404.460.2605, dgaines@camsys.com
Date Posted:03/29/2019
Date Modified:05/21/2019
Index Terms:Evaluation and assessment, Safety management, Transportation planning, Transportation safety,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Planning and Forecasting
Safety and Human Factors

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