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Public Roads - September/October 2014

September/October 2014
Issue No:
Vol. 78 No. 2
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Internet Watch

Leveraging Data for Safer Highways

by Carrie Boris

In 2012, more than 33,500 fatalities occurred on U.S. highways — an increase of 3.3 percent over the previous year, and the first increase in fatalities since 2005. As part of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) commitment to reducing highway deaths and injuries, the Office of Safety established the Roadway Safety Data Program (RSDP) to advance State and local systems and capabilities to analyze and evaluate safety data. The program’s mission includes developing, evaluating, and deploying life-saving countermeasures and advancing data-driven decisionmaking.

To help promote an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to safety and provide a resource for safety data professionals, RSDP launched a new Web site in January 2014 at The site provides the safety community with technical applications, best practices, and relevant reports and publications.

Simplifying Access

The site’s home page welcomes visitors with a clean, uncluttered design. “The development team’s goal was to create a simple and intuitive interface that enables easy access for users,” says Stuart Thompson, a transportation specialist with FHWA’s Office of Safety. “It offers multiple ways to find and view content, or just browse.”

New projects, programs, and publications are highlighted in rotating images at the top of the home page. Links to the most recently released resource — an application or report, for example — and a “noteworthy practice” are featured at the bottom of every page.

From the home page, visitors can read a brief overview of and get one-click access to each of the three primary areas of the site: Collect, Analyze, and Manage. The data collection page provides information about what safety data to collect and how to do so. The data analysis page offers tools to get the most out of available data to help agencies maximize the value of their investments. The data management page explains the development and implementation of policies, practices, and procedures to manage a safety data program effectively — activities critical to a program’s long-term success. Each of these pages offers lists for guidance, tools, and reports.




The top of every page includes links to the three primary content areas, as well as to four other key pages on the site:

  • Technical Assistance — This page provides information about the Office of Safety’s Peer-to-Peer Program. The program offers a variety of free assistance to agencies, including referral to technical experts via phone, email, or onsite visits; training workshops; or facilitated peer exchanges.
  • Projects — This collection of other Office of Safety projects gives an overview of additional sources of information and assistance available to State highway organizations.
  • MIRE — The Model Inventory of Roadway Elements (MIRE) is a listing of critical roadway and traffic elements. It is intended as a guide to help transportation agencies use performance measures to assess data quality and ultimately improve their roadway and traffic inventories.
  • HSM — The Highway Safety Manual (HSM), published by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, presents methods for quantitatively estimating crash frequency or severity at a variety of locations. This page includes links to supporting materials including guidelines, training courses, and a discussion forum.

Keeping Customers Happy


The site is continually updated with new reports, projects, and other content to keep the resources current. In addition, the development team is responsive to user recommendations and welcomes feedback. “We want to know how we’re doing,” says Thompson. “If you see something that could better serve, contact me to let us know.”

The initial effort has been successful according to positive feedback received and measurements of unique visitors since the launch. (Unique visitors mean repeat users are only counted once — a basic metric for how many individual people use a site rather than how many times a site is visited.) “We’ve seen a 16-percent jump in unique visits for the first 5 months of 2014,” says Thompson, “compared to the same period in 2013. We’re very happy with that result, and it shows users are happy with the site.”

Visit for more information or contact Stuart Thompson at 202–366–8090 or

Carrie Boris is a contributing editor for Public Roads.