2. Understanding the Process of Developing a Local Road Safety Plan
As shown in Figure 2.1, developing an LRSP consists of a general six-step process. The process is cyclical; when the last step of the plan is completed the process starts all over again. The intent of this approach is to provide a framework of the key steps in developing an LRSP, but this can be tailored to the unique needs and circumstances of the locality.
NOTE: Stakeholder Involvement and Communication Utilized Throughout Process
|Step 1: Establish Leadership|
|Step 2: Analyze Safety Data|
|Step 3: Determine Emphasis Areas|
|Step 4: Identify Strategies|
|Step 5: Prioritize and Incorporate Strategies|
|Step 6: Evaluate and Update the LRSP|
When Last Step of Plan is Completed, Repeat Process Starting with Step 1
The safety champion, whether appointed or selected by the plan proponents, will advocate for its successful development, implementation, and evaluation. This person typically will have a keen understanding of the importance of moving forward with plan implementation and have some influence in acquiring and the use of safety resources. Champions may include a public works official, local engineer or transportation official, law enforcement officer, elected official, community administrator, or local citizen.
An LRSP can often be initiated through an informal meeting. The participants may eventually form the foundation of the LRSP working group, which is the team responsible for developing the LRSP. Bringing the right agencies or individuals together to be part of the working group will help foster a long-term commitment and build momentum to implement the plan. The responsibilities of this group include the following:
- Establishing a charter or memorandum of understanding to clarify each working group member’s role.
- Analyzing data (crash, traffic, etc.) to look for trends or potential problem areas.
- Recommending and prioritizing emphasis areas to include in the LRSP;
- Engaging relevant safety stakeholders.
- Identifying public, private, and non-profit funding sources to implement the LRSP.
- Writing the LRSP.
- Marketing the LRSP through a communication plan with key messages for active public involvement.
- Encouraging local groups (civic organizations or business improvement districts) to adopt common safety goals as part of their plans.
- Participating in LRSP implementation efforts and tracking progress after the initial plan is developed.
One strategy to initiate and formalize the function and roles of the working group is to hold a kick-off meeting for the LRSP. A block of time, approximately one hour, should be set aside for this initial meeting which may be useful inidentifying stakeholders, discussing ideas, or planning a future schedule for implementation.
A sample agenda for a working group kickoff meeting is provided in Appendix A. The sample agenda includes introductions, defining the LRSP and describing the benefits, the identification of other agencies or participants that should be invited, and information for the next meeting. The specific topics included in the kickoff meeting agenda should be at the discretion of the organizer. If an initial crash analysis has been conducted, this would be appropriate to present at the project kick-off to identify the scope of the safety challenge within the locality. If possible stakeholders may begin to outline key emphasis areas; however, covering essential items such as the logistics for regular meetings may be sufficient for the kick-off meeting. The most important outcome of the kick-off meeting is to establish a commitment to create the plan and set a meeting schedule for the future.
The working group identifies and contacts LRSP stakeholders—individuals who have a vested interest in road safety. Stakeholders should include decision makers who can further the LRSP process by helping to plan, implement, and evaluate the progress of achieving the safety goals outlined in the LRSP. Typical LRSP stakeholders are listed in Table 2.1.
Stakeholders working together as a team can eliminate redundancy, increase program efficiency, and leverage limited resources. Active communication among organizations, whether at the Federal, State, regional, local, or Tribal level, can create a collaborative environment that results in reduced crashes by allowing diverse agencies to share expertise and unique ideas. It is critical that working group members are identified and make a commitment to pursue the safety vision and goals. As the plan evolves, local citizens should also be consulted for input and feedback. NCHRP Report 501 offers ideas for integrating and coordinating multi-disciplinary (4E) efforts within a jurisdiction and determining the most effective combination of strategies (NCHRP Report 501 Integrated Safety Management Process is available online at http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_501.pdf). While each safety management team is different, common themes of coordination, communication, and collaboration are paramount and are the hallmarks of a successful team approach. Regular meetings, more frequent in the development stages, should be convened to show incremental progress in the plan; this will help maintain momentum and focus. Consistent, effective communication is necessary to disseminate key information to team members and to relay key messages to the community. Finally, a collaborative environment between the involved stakeholders is required to identify barriers and to develop consensus on which safety challenges to address.
Even within a single organization, unique knowledge of assets may be known by different members of the staff or departments. An LRSP provides a framework for sharing and preserving this institutional knowledge.
Having a clear vision is important when beginning to develop an LRSP. A vision is a description of the desired outcome of the LRSP. This may be simple, such as “to improve road safety within our jurisdiction in order to significantly reduce the number of people being killed and seriously injured.” A mission statement supports the overall vision and should provide direction. For example, the 2010 Delaware SHSP lists the following mission statement (http://www.deldot.gov/information/community_programs_and_services/DSHSP/index.shtml):
“Toward Zero Deaths aims to eliminate fatalities on Delaware’s roadways through a multiagency approach that utilizes education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency service strategies.”
Goals are set to achieve a mission and vision. Goals should be linked to the mission statement and should be realistic. For example, “saving lives and preventing serious injuries over the next decade on our local county roads” is concise and easily understood. It creates the need to move forward because it prompts action.
An LRSP can be a grassroots effort. Several LRSPs began as a basic conversation on road safety within a local agency. Gaining support from community leaders, such as a city or county council, will aid in the development of the plan and impact outcomes.
Sharing ideas and gaining feedback from a group of leaders can help gain support. People who are consulted in developing a plan will feel a greater sense of ownership, and will be stronger advocates for a plan they helped develop.
Around the country, a variety of agencies have taken the lead in the development of an LRSP. These range from city or county road agencies to an MPO or a Tribe. In States with limited local roadway ownership, the State DOT may take the lead. Several case studies illustrating how agencies have developed an LRSP can be found in Section 4.
Local road practitioners should analyze safety data prior to identifying the problem and emphasis areas. The State SHSP is a great starting point for communities considering the development of an LRSP (Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP), FHWA Safety Program, https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/safety/legislative-safety-programs/shsp). In most cases, the SHSP has identified, through data analysis, issues on local roads in rural areas. The SHSP may have resources, data, and other information that can be used to develop an LRSP. Each SHSP typically lists the office or person responsible for the plan. In addition, there are several analysis resources available and may be in use at the State level. These resources include:
Crash Analysis Resources – These are guides that detail procedures for analyzing crash data. These resources include:
- Roadway Safety Information Analysis: A Manual for Local Rural Road Owners, located at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/safety/local-rural/roadway-safety-information-analysis-manual-local-rural-road-owners
- NCHRP Report 500, Volume 21: Safety Data and Analysis in Developing Emphasis Areas, which can be found at
The purpose of the latter is to provide guidance on the sources of safety data needed and on the procedures for selecting strategies within a given emphasis area and targeting those treatment strategies to either roadway locations or road-user groups.
Highway Safety Manual (HSM) - The first edition of the HSM provides the best factual information and tools in a useful form to facilitate roadway planning, design, operations, and maintenance decisions based on precise consideration of their safety consequences. The primary focus of the HSM is the introduction and development of analytical tools for predicting the impact of transportation project and program decisions on road safety. Further information may be found at http://www.highwaysafetymanual.org/Pages/default.aspx.
Interactive Highway Safety Design Model (IHSDM) - includes six evaluation modules: Crash Prediction, Policy Review, Design Consistency, Traffic Analysis, Driver/Vehicle, and Intersection Review. The Crash Prediction Module (CPM) implements Part C (Predictive Method) of the HSM for evaluating rural 2-lane highways, rural multilane highways and urban/suburban arterials. Further information may be found at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/research/tfhrc/projects/safety/comprehensive/ihsdm/.
Crash Modification Factors (CMF) Clearinghouse - includes a Web-based database of CMFs along with supporting documentation to help transportation engineers identify the most appropriate countermeasure for their safety needs. Further information may be found at http://www.cmfclearinghouse.org/.
SafetyAnalyst - incorporates state-of-the-art safety management approaches into computerized analytical tools for guiding the decision-making process to identify safety improvement needs and develop a system wide program of site-specific improvement projects. Further information may be found at http://www.safetyanalyst.org/.
Crash and other safety data are used to identify safety issues, select appropriate countermeasures, and evaluate performance. The analysis used in the development of an LRSP usually looks at the bigger picture and does not focus on analyzing crash data for a specific site. If crash data are not readily available, other safety-related data or crash risk assessments (such as locations with geometric similarities as locations of known concern) can help identify safety issues and concerns. Other data may include traffic citations, hospital records, insurance claims, speeds, traffic counts, and in some cases anecdotal evidence from safety partners.
The following additional data sources may be helpful in the development of an LRSP:
- Local law enforcement records.
- State/local crash reporting databases.
- State crash facts report.
If local agencies encounter data challenges, the Road Safety Information Analysis: A Local Rural Road Owner’s Manual provides strategies in the collection and analysis of crash and other roadway data (https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/safety/local-rural/roadway-safety-information-analysis-manual-local-rural-road-owners).
Crash data are the most useful to identify safety issues, however, typically at least three years of crash data are needed. Basic crash data analyses may include identifying trends based on time-based indicators (e.g., time-of-day, day-of-week, or month-of-year), environmental conditions (e.g., weather or lighting), or geographic factors (e.g., location). Examples of analyses include:
- Crashes by severity and type for the entire city/county.
- Crashes by severity and type by roadway functional classification or type.
- Contributing factors:
- Restraint use (seat belts, car seats).
- Alcohol or drug use.
- Weather conditions.
- Distracted driving.
The analyses of these data could range from simply marking locations on a map to tallying common factors in a list, or using a spreadsheet application to determine trends by location, crash type, or other contributing factors.
When State or local-jurisdiction crash data are not available or adequate, other sources to identify safety issues include hospital/emergency responder records, towing company records, insurance databases, or by conducting road safety ratings. Road safety ratings may be based on the presence of specific roadway or roadside designs, traffic control features, or other features that can be used to assess crash risk. For example, the United States Road Assessment Program (usRAP) provides a method to identify major safety shortcomings through a program of systematic assessment of risk. The result is a star rating of roadway safety. Details on the usRAP process and methodology can be found at http://www.usrap.us.
An agency may conduct an observational study or a road safety audit (RSA) to gain a better understanding of safety issues. An RSA is the formal safety performance examination of an existing or future road or intersection by an independent, multidisciplinary team (https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/safety/data-analysis-tools/systemic/road-safety-audits-rsa). RSA’s may also be conducted to identify safety concerns at either a single location or along a corridor. Details on RSAs can be found at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/safety/data-analysis-tools/systemic/road-safety-audits-rsa.
The working group should identify the key emphasis areas of the LRSP. An emphasis area is an area of opportunity to improve safety through a comprehensive 4 E approach (engineering, enforcement, education, and emergency services), if appropriate. The emphasis areas should be consistent with trends identified during the data analysis. In some cases, if data are unavailable, emphasis areas may address concerns of the various stakeholders and the community. Local citizens should be given the chance to identify areas of concern. Methods to reach out to citizens may include public forums, open-house meetings, an internet survey, or via a request for comments advertised in the local newspaper.
Emphasis areas are an opportunity to improve safety and should reflect the input of the group and consider strategies from the 4 E’s of roadway safety improvement when appropriate: (See note below)
- Education gives drivers information about making good choices, such as not texting while driving, avoiding alcohol or medications affecting level of consciousness, wearing a seatbelt, or informing people about the rules of the road.
- Enforcement of traffic laws and a visible police presence tend to deter motorists from unsafe driving behavior.
- Engineering addresses roadway infrastructure improvements to prevent crashes or reduce the severity of collision when they occur.
- Emergency services provide rapid response and quality of care when responding to collisions causing injury by stabilizing victims and transporting them to other facilities.
Combining the efforts of multiple strategies, such as education and enforcement can increase the likelihood of success in improving safety. The emphasis areas chosen for inclusion in the plan should reflect a balance of local issues identified by the working group and the resources (financial, expertise, and time) available to put them into practice. If an emphasis area is critical but does not currently have resources, it should still be included with the constraints listed. Sample emphasis areas are presented in Appendix B.
NOTE: For more information on these countermeasures and strategies, consult the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) 500 Series Guidance Documents, available at http://www.safety.transportation.org, or the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) Crash Modification Factor (CMF) Clearinghouse at http://www.cmfclearinghouse.org. Ideas for education and enforcement countermeasures can be found in NHTSA’s Countermeasures that Work. Tools, training, guidance, and countermeasures for rural and local governments can be found on FHWA’s website https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/other/local-rural/training-tools-guidance-and-countermeasures-locals-practitioners. Several manuals for local rural road owners are available that address intersection safety, roadway departure safety, safety information analysis, speed management and non-motorized transportation.
Each emphasis area may help meet the plan’s overall goal by establishing objectives and performance measures. Performance measures are shorter-term outcomes that contribute to achieving the strategic plan. They provide milestones, indications of progress, and should be established within a specific time period. Performance measures may be set at specified time intervals measured over the life of the plan such as, “reducing roadway departure fatalities each year and an overall reduction of 10 percent within five years.” (See “A Primer on Safety Performance Measures for the Transportation Planning Process” at http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/tsp/fhwahep09043/process.cfm.)
Depending on the amount of time and number of people involved, dividing the emphasis areas among people or groups may be a useful allocation of manpower. If a person or group indicates a strong interest in targeting a particular emphasis area, they may form an emphasis area team. Emphasis area teams would be responsible for tasks such as the data analysis, strategy selection, implementation, tracking, reporting and evaluation of their assigned emphasis area.
One way to present the emphasis areas is through the use of a table that details responsibilities for implementing an action, desired outcomes, dates, and performance measure(s) for monitoring and evaluation, as shown in the example outlined in Figure 2.2. This table is also included as a template in Appendix C.
|EMPHASIS AREA||STRATEGIC LINKAGE|
|Intersection Safety||Intersection safety was identified in the state-wide Strategic Highway Safety Plan as one of seven emphasis areas for the State|
|Reduce the frequency and severity of crashes at signalized and unsignalized intersections||A reduction in intersection crashes, particularly severe intersection crashes for the Town of Sylvia and in the surrounding areas.|
|Actions||Target Output||Organizations and Persons Responsible||Date of Completion||Performance Measures||Monitoring and Evaluation|
|Education||Public service announcements regarding dangers of red light running and stop sign violations||Awareness of the dangers of running red lights and stop signs||Ms. Naomi Fay with the Gazette is coordinating PSAs in paper and on radio station (WKAE)||Dec. 2012||Number of PSAs||Informal survey of public response planned for June public meeting|
|Enforcement||Enforcement blitz for high-crash intersections||Reduction in signal and stop sign violations||Chief W. McGee is organizing both blitzes and coordinating with Ms. Fay for media coverage||May and Sept. 2012||Number of tickets issued||Crashes in 2012 where red light running was cited compared to 2011|
|Engineering||Increase visibility by removing vegetation at intersections; place stop ahead pavement markings||Increased compliance of traffic control because of increased visibility||Mr. Haley with the county maintenance staff||Aug. 2012||Number of intersections improved||Number of intersection crashes in 2012 where sight distance was cited compared to 2011|
|EMS||Install emergency signal outside ambulance depot||Increased response time to intersection crashes||Mr. Luca Burton from County Public Works||Sept. 2012||Ambulance response time||Compare average response times to 2011 times|
Emphasis areas are based on the data analysis completed early in the LRSP process. Some examples include pedestrians, intersections, roadway departure, impaired driving, distracted driving, aggressive driving, commercial motor vehicles, motorcycles, and improving data.
For other examples of emphasis areas, consider reviewing the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Strategic Highway Safety Plan (AASHTO SHSP: http://safety.transportation.org/), which focuses on 22 key emphasis areas and contains strategies designed to improve each area’s major problem areas or to advance effective practices by means that are both cost-effective and acceptable to a significant majority of Americans. The AASHTO SHSP divides the 22 key emphasis areas into six major categories: Drivers, Special Users, Vehicles, Highways, Emergency Services, and Management.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) Countermeasures that Work also includes a variety of behavioral-related strategies that address specific emphasis areas that may be included within an LRSP (Countermeasures That Work: A Highway Safety Countermeasure Guide for State Highway Safety Offices, http://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nti/pdf/811444.pdf.). Strategies address the following emphasis areas:
- Distracted and/or drowsy driving
- Occupant protection
- Impaired driving
- Speed management
- Teen drivers
- Hazardous locations
- Roadway/lane departures
- Intersection safety
- Non-motorized road users
- Older drivers
- Incident response
- Nighttime crashes
- Crash data
Appendix B provides examples of additional emphasis areas, possible performance measures, and potential strategies. Not all of the potentialstrategies may be applicable to all locations and their effectiveness, if applied, may vary.
An LRSP should include a list of strategies focused on addressing the emphasis areas. Strategies will be based on identifying, categorizing, and reviewing high-priority corridors or intersections for improvement. These are locations where safety improvements are most needed to achieve the goals in the LRSP and can form the basis for system-wide improvement strategies. Strategy selection will also be based on effective and validated practices.
For example, if reducing excessive speed is an emphasis area, consider the following measures:
- The education component may include campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of speeding.
- The enforcement component may involve the use of automated enforcement.
- The engineering component may call for the installation of speed feedback signs.
- The emergency service component may require the enactment of strategies targeted at reducing response time for first responders, thus increasing the chance of survival for a person involved in a crash.
A variety of resources are available for selecting effective and validated countermeasures, including:
- Crash Modification Factor (CMF) Clearinghouse.
- FHWA Proven Countermeasures.
- Highway Safety Manual.
- NCHRP 500 Series.
- NHTSA Countermeasures that Work.
- Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) Manual.
- Roadway Safety Noteworthy Practices Database.
- Intersection Safety: A Manual for Local Rural Road Owners.
- Roadway Departure Safety: A Manual for Local Rural Road Owners.
Please see the resources section for links to these references.
Local ordinances and local government policies addressing local road safety may help support efforts to meet the goals and objectives of the LRSP and increase public awareness of driver behavior issues. For example, if speeding is identified as an emphasis area, certain agencies may be able to pass local ordinances targeting speeding through increased fines or the use of automated speed enforcement. A champion sitting on the local council may be helpful in identifying additional policies and passing appropriate ordinances. This is often a good time to initiate an educational campaign to increase public awareness of the ordinances.
Formalizing policies can also help to improve and institutionalize safety. For example, a locality can develop polices related to maintenance of signs and pavement markings, provision of pedestrian features, transverse rumble strips, or vegetation removal. These policies can also serve as proactive risk management tools if they improve and institutionalize safety, by showing a measured approach towards improving safety.
The proposed strategies for each key emphasis area should be prioritized by comparing the benefits and costs of implementation. This comparison can help the implementation phase by starting with the strategies that provide the highest benefit (e.g., reduction in crashes) for the least cost. However, costs and benefits are not the only considerations. Other considerations for prioritization include the availability of manpower (e.g., does the county maintenance staff have time available to trim vegetation over the summer), the schedule for implementation (e.g., are there short-term strategies that can be implemented rather quickly), and the relative importance of each emphasis area. The working group can determine an agreed upon priority for the strategy with these considerations in mind.
The Lafayette MPO case study, included in Section 4, includes three of the MPO’s highest-priority challenges. These were used to define the four main goals of the plan, and the final recommendations proposed can be traced back to the priorities.
Before drafting the plan, some thought should be given to the various approaches that will be used to implement the strategies. Some strategies will be implemented as part of a systematic improvement process such as providing rumble strips along rural corridors as part of a summer paving program. Other strategies may be part of a one-time event such as an enforcement blitz or a spot improvement program such as installing protected left turn phasing at critical intersections. Because the plan will involve multiple agencies and different types of strategies, several approaches for implementation will be used.
Depending upon the resources available, a draft plan can be created to cover the basic elements, as shown in Figure 2.3, or to create a more advanced framework for anticipated growth. An advanced framework may include emphasis areas with resource or institutional barriers or may require assistance from another level of government (e.g., adopting a primary seatbelt law).
- Mission and Vision Statements
- Findings from Crash Analysis
- Emphasis Areas
- Performance Measures
- Action Plans
After a brief introduction that discusses the current condition of the local jurisdiction with respect to roadway fatalities, the purpose of the plan and how the plan will help reduce fatalities and serious injuries, the plan should state the mission and vision for safety partners to work towards. The plan should discuss what data were gathered and analyzed and present the decision process regarding which emphasis areas were selected to include in the plan. Each emphasis area should identify an objective, goal, performance measures, and strategies. Defining the objective should tie back to the overall vision statement (e.g., to reduce roadway departure fatalities by 10 percent by 2020). The performance measures should monitor the progress in attaining the objective. The strategies should be listed by priority actions that can be performed by the 4 E’s as appropriate. Each strategy should include a performance measure. These strategies will be incorporated in the action plans that are created for each emphasis area, as suggested in Figure 2.2.
Each section should be expanded with supporting information, such as tables or charts describing the crash data analysis results, maps detailing the area included within the plan, and photos representing areas of concern. A template for an LRSP can be found in Appendix D.
Successful LRSPs are monitored for implementation progress. This helps provide accountability and can be used to keep stakeholders informed and engaged. Milestones should be set to measure progress, which may entail meeting periodically to determine if strategies that support emphasis areas are being implemented. By monitoring progress opportunities for collaborating on implementing strategies could be realized, which may assist with implementation. It is also important to keep a record of the implementations to serve as a historical record of completed strategies. This data will be essential in scheduling evaluations of the strategies implemented.
Evaluation of the LRSP strategies should be ongoing to ensure the effectiveness of the projects and the overall plan. After strategies have been in place for at least one year (several years may be necessary for sufficient data), an agency may wish to evaluate their effectiveness for larger-scale implementations. In many cases a before-and-after study using crash data will not be feasible because of the unavailability or lack of crash data. When sufficient crash data are not available, other measures of effectiveness (MOEs) can be used to evaluate the safety performance of an implemented strategy. Some example MOEs include the following:
- Number and type of public comments and concerns.
- Numbers and types of police citations.
- Number of fence/wall/sign impacts.
These MOEs are observed during a field study. The MOEs should be observed under similar periods and durations before and after implementation. Traffic volume data can help provide context on the results.
If sufficient crash data are available, a simple before-after study that compares the number of crashes before implementation to the number of crashes after implementation can be conducted to determine the effectiveness of implemented strategies. Typically a decrease in crashes would indicate that the treatment has successfully improved safety. However, to verify that a decrease in crashes is due to the strategies implemented and not a reduction in trips, before and after traffic data should be collected and compared between periods. The effectiveness of each strategy should be compared to the goals for each emphasis area. This is the ultimate measure if the LRSP is achieving the desired improvements in safety.
The working group should review the LRSP, examine progress, evaluate effectiveness, and, if needed, suggest changes or modifications to the plan. This ongoing evaluation of the LRSP may present opportunities to improve the plan. Advances in roadway development, legislation, and technology may also invite opportunities to update the plan. The working group should review these advances for possible incorporation into the plan. Regularly scheduled updates allow the working group to review what is working well and adjust what needs improvement. Establishing a regular evaluation and update cycle can assure routine examination of the plan and maximize the plan’s effectiveness.