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Excellence in Highway Safety Data Awards

Awards program encourages students to prepare for a career in highway safety by using high-quality data and prioritizing safety in research.

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Award Details

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is pleased to announce the Excellence in Highway Safety Data Award, part of the Highway Data Analysis Excellence Awards Program. The award is designed to encourage university students to use Highway Safety Information System (HSIS) data to investigate a topic that advances highway safety and to develop a paper to document their original research.

The Excellence in Highway Safety Data Award encourages university students and potential future highway safety professional to use HSIS data. The goal is to introduce students to using high-quality safety data and appropriate research methods to derive recommendations, and the practice of using data to make decisions.

View the award flyer

Eligibility and Guidelines

The Excellence in Highway Safety Data Award research paper competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students in degree-granting programs that support highway safety.

Current graduate and undergraduate students are encouraged to develop papers for the competition based on their use of HSIS data for class projects or for their graduate theses and dissertation projects. Individuals who have graduated from a program within 6 months prior to the submission date are also eligible, if the paper is based on work conducted as part of their program.

The following requirements must be met by all applicants and submissions for the 2024 Award:

  • Eligibility
    Applicant(s) must be enrolled as a graduate or undergraduate student in the 2023– 2024 academic year or have graduated from a university located in the United States during the 2023– 2024 academic year or have recently graduated in the Spring, Summer, or Fall semester of 2023.
  • Topic
    In their submitted papers, applicants must use HSIS data, which includes data from the States of California, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Washington, and the city of Charlotte, NC, to investigate a topic that advances highway safety. Analysis must be conducted on data requested and acquired from HSIS.

    While not mandatory, applicants are encouraged to use data from other sources in support of the primary analysis using HSIS data, such as data from the following sources: Other States or localities; Long-Term Pavement Performance program; Motorcycle Crash Causation Study database; Roadway Lighting Database; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; second Strategic Highway Research Program, such as Naturalistic Driving Study or Roadway Information Database; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; and/or U.S. Census Bureau.

    For more information, please contact Carol Tan, Safety Data and Analysis Team Leader at
  • Word count
    The length of each paper must be 2,500–5,000 words, including the abstract, text, references, and tables. Each table counts as 250 words. If 4 tables are submitted, the abstract, text, and references may total no more than 4,000 words. Papers not meeting this requirement may be rejected without review.
  • Original research
    For authors who have submitted papers to, and received awards for, previous competitions, HSIS expects that 2024 papers contain new, original material. All 2024 papers should contain at least 50 percent new, original content, and the remaining 50 percent should not be verbatim to previously published work and/or a manuscript previously submitted to the HSIS paper competition.
  • Individual or group work
    Submissions by individual students or groups of students will be considered. Teams, however, must define one lead student and contributing students for the project (prizes reflect this requirement). Faculty can participate in an advisory role but cannot be coauthors on the paper.

Evaluation Criteria

Papers submitted to the 2024 competition will be evaluated on the following criteria and assigned point values:

Objective of the paper and emphasis on safety (10 points)
Is the objective of the paper clearly stated and relevant to the safety community? For example, using the HSIS data to model the impacts of signal spacing on capacity does not have an emphasis on safety. However, using HSIS data to model the impact of signal spacing on crashes is a more appropriate topic.

Importance of HSIS data to paper topic (20 points)
Was the use of HSIS data critical to achieving the objective of the paper? The paper should focus on the use of  the HSIS and how critical it is in completing the objective of the study. HSIS can be used in conjunction with other data sources linked together.

Soundness of methodology (20 points)
Is the approach appropriate for the data? The paper should describe and use appropriate data analysis techniques that suit the objective.

Analysis of HSIS data (40 points)
Was the analysis of the HSIS data specifically, correctly, and clearly conducted? The paper should analyze the HSIS data using the proposed statistical analysis techniques.

Discussion of results (10 points)
Were the results discussed appropriately? The specific findings of the analysis are not part of the evaluation criteria; instead, this evaluation focuses on the discussion of results. For example, if a study on signal spacing found no effect on crashes, this will not affect the evaluation of the paper. The student should discuss the implication of the results, including a critical review of methodology and potential for future research.

Submission Details and Deadline

The 2024 online submission process is open, via the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Awards website and process.

  • Step 1: Develop and write paper per above requirements and guidelines.
  • Step 2: Download 2024 Submission Cover Sheet.
  • Step 3: Submit PDF (of all materials) via instructions/process outlined on the ITE website.
    Note: Make sure to “Login with ITE” before submitting a paper.

Papers due: May 1, 2024, 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

The turnaround time for requested HSIS data is normally less than 2 weeks; however, time needed to conduct analysis of these data varies per project. Please be sure to plan accordingly and in advance of the paper submission deadline.

Download the award flyer for prize information.

Click on drop-downs below to see all Excellence in Highway Safety Data Award winners.

About HSIS


HSIS is a safety database that contains crash, roadway inventory, and traffic volume data for a select group of States and cities. The participating agencies were selected based on the quality and quantity of data available, and their ability to merge data from various files. FHWA uses the HSIS to support the FHWA safety research program and provides input for program policy decisions.

The FHWA has used HSIS data to analyze a large number of safety problems. These safety problems can range from the more basic "problem identification" issues to identifying the size and extent of a safety problem to modeling efforts that attempt to predict future crashes from roadway characteristics and traffic factors.

The FHWA also provides HSIS data to professionals conducting research under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, universities, and others studying highway safety. Results from many of the studies have been used to develop new safety policies and establish improved safety practices.

The HSIS Research Paper Competition is jointly administered by FHWA and the Institute of Transportation Engineers.