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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - November/December 2011

November/December 2011
Issue No:
Vol. 75 No. 3
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Training Update

Updated Course Can Help With Designing Safer Highways

by Lilly Pinto

In 2010, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) expanded the Crash Prediction Module of the Interactive Highway Safety Design Model (IHSDM), a suite of software tools that analyze the safety of design decisions on two-lane rural highways, multilane rural highways, and urban and suburban arterials. The update included implementing the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' Highway Safety Manual Part C, which provides a predictive method for estimating the expected average crash frequency of a highway facility. The updates support an industry-wide push to evaluate the safety of highway designs quantitatively.

To reflect the changes to the IHSDM, the National Highway Institute (NHI) recently released an updated version of its IHSDM training course. The updated course, Using IHSDM (FHWA-NHI-380100), is based on an instructor-led course that was released in 2003. The course is offered in a blended format that includes both Web conferences and independent self-study portions, greatly expanding the accessibility of the training to more transportation professionals.

"As a result of the 2010 update, the Crash Prediction Module of IHSDM has become a faithful implementation tool for the Highway Safety Manual," says Clayton Chen, a highway research engineer on the Safety Management Team in FHWA's Office of Safety Research and Development. "IHSDM's critical role in advancing the state-of-the-practice in quantifying highway safety is why NHI's updated IHSDM blended training course is so important."

Increased Training Availability, Flexibility

Before the change in format, many transportation professionals who could benefit from the course were not being reached through the classroom-based delivery method. Among them were highway project planners, designers, and traffic and safety reviewers in State and local highway agencies and engineering consulting firms. "By and large there is not a large user community in any one location, making face-to-face training difficult to schedule, especially with many agencies' limitations on travel," says Thomas Elliott, NHI's training program manager for highway safety, business, and public administration and quality. "So, when FHWA updated the IHSDM, it was the perfect opportunity to update the delivery format as well as the course materials."

The course now is delivered through a series of self-paced activities (including Web-based trainings and evaluation activities) and virtual instructor-led sessions known as Web-conference trainings. This blended format eliminates the need for participants in remote locations to travel to a centralized location, saving travel costs and enabling a much larger segment of the target audience to benefit from the training. In addition, the new delivery method provides participants with greater flexibility because it eliminates travel time and enables them to complete the Web-based trainings as their schedules permit.

This screen capture from the Crash Prediction Module of IHSDM shows crash prediction summary results for a sample highway.

What's Covered in the IHSDM Course

NHI's updated course instructs participants on how to use and apply the IHSDM software, and it provides guidance on interpreting the output data. Developed primarily for highway design professionals and traffic and safety reviewers, the IHSDM software gives users the opportunity to make and justify their design decisions. The course is highly interactive; participants receive hands-on experience with the software by working through tutorial exercises to evaluate a case study and generate outputs. Participants also are encouraged to experiment with real project data.

During the Web-conference trainings, the instructor presents lecture materials on IHSDM functionality and capabilities, including the six IHSDM Evaluation Modules (crash prediction, design consistency, policy review, traffic analysis, intersection review, and driver/vehicle). After each Web-conference training, participants complete self-paced activities with the IHSDM modules to evaluate various highway design alternatives. In the last Web-conference training, participants work in small groups to select a preferred alternative design for the highway that they have evaluated throughout the course. Each group then reports back to the entire class to explain and justify its selection.

"The IHSDM blended training is effective because participants actually use the system, not simply watch an instructor move through screens," says Elliott. "This enables the participant to explore, modify, change, and manipulate data, and see the effects. Results are in real time and in the same kind of outputs that participants will use on actual projects."

Lilly Pinto is a contractor for NHI