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Public Roads - Winter 2019

Winter 2019
Issue No:
Vol. 82 No. 4
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Training Update

Collecting and Interpreting Safety Data

by Mary Burke

When it comes to the road, there is no such thing as absolute safety. That is why safety stakeholders like transportation agencies and law enforcement professionals integrate safety into every step of decisionmaking processes. Safety data, such as crash frequency and severity, are crucial to creating more secure roads. The ability to collect and analyze this information can support critical decisionmaking efforts across an organization.

To help with this task, the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Safety developed a free, Web-based course available through the National Highway Institute. The course offers detailed safety data and analysis training with four different tracks tailored to individual goals. Safety Data and Analysis Fundamentals (course 380122A-D) equips transportation professionals from every level with the knowledge they need to effectively collect and interpret safety data.

In this innovative online training, participants learn key safety data types and terms and walk away with strategies for identifying data weaknesses and strengthening the way they use safety data in their programs, projects, and communities.

“Data-driven safety analysis has been shown to quantitatively measure and even predict reductions in fatal and serious injury crashes,” says course developer Esther Strawder with the FHWA Office of Safety. “As such, FHWA recently put safety data system requirements in place for States to develop performance-based targets and measures. This course will help States better understand why and how data-driven safety analysis leads to safer roadways for everyone.”

Four-Track Curriculum

To target the content to specific audiences, course developers designed four tracks based on the participant’s professional goals, responsibilities, and roles:

Data analysts. This track emphasizes the applicability, uses, strengths, limitations, and requirements of safety data and collection methods. It is intended for anyone responsible for analyzing safety data to identify causes and potential patterns that contribute to crashes and other systemic safety issues, including highway safety engineers, specialists, traffic engineers, highway designers, and technical analysts.

Data collectors. This track emphasizes the ways data collectors support the needs of data analysts and helps managers use data to make strategic, informed decisions about safety priorities. It is recommended for anyone who collects crash, traffic, roadway, behavioral, injury, or other safety data, including law enforcement officers, emergency medical service providers, trauma registrars, driver and vehicle service clerks, and roadway data collectors.

Transportation professionals rely on safety data to identify weaknesses in current practices and improve transportation programs and projects.
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Project/program managers. This track emphasizes the tradeoffs of project alternatives in terms of costs and benefits, including safety impacts of the project/program, as well as the individual components. It is targeted toward professionals responsible for using safety analytics to identify and prioritize safety issues, develop and implement countermeasures, and evaluate project/program effectiveness. The track is recommended for transportation planners, traffic records coordinating committee members, highway safety online directors, and State and local mid-level managers (such as division and district program managers in highway safety, design, traffic, engineering, enforcement, and public health).

Senior managers/safety advocates. This track emphasizes understanding the needs of data collectors, data managers, and data analysts in terms of equipment, human resources, and organizational structure. It helps bridge the gap between the public, practitioners, and those who are responsible for developing or influencing policies and practices, setting budgets, allocating resources, and making safety investments. It is recommended for State and local senior managers, such as division heads/chiefs of transportation, planning, civil engineering, and public health professionals.

“We developed an interactive curriculum that serves targeted content based on participant goals and the role they play in transportation safety,” says Strawder. “This targeted method means professionals get the most from the training.”

For more information, contact Esther Strawder at To register for the course, visit and search for course number 380122.

Mary Burke is the marketing manager at the National Highway Institute.