Collect and Analyze Safety Data Equitably
Data-driven safety analysis is key to the Safe System Approach, and it is an important place to begin addressing equity. Integrating demographic, public health, emergency response, and medical data into safety analyses has many benefits, including filling gaps in crash reporting and incomplete roadway element data. Because agencies rely on complete, accurate data for funding decisions, project prioritization, and countermeasure selection, equitable approaches can improve data completeness and identify high-risk sites.
In fact, equity is a proven predictive and systemic analysis practice that can support transportation agencies in focusing limited resources on countermeasures and interventions in the communities where they will make the most difference.
- The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) found a key correlation: 71 percent of fatal and serious injury non-motorist crashes in Minnesota occur on just 15 percent of roadways that have a high Suitability of Pedestrian and Cyclist Environment (SPACE) score. SPACE is an index that identifies locations with high percentages of underserved populations – including racial and ethnic minority communities, people who have disabilities, households with no vehicle access – and other environmental justice variables. Read more about how Minnesota is using this analysis to direct resources.
- Based on both hospital and police data, 13 percent of San Francisco streets account for 75 percent of the city’s severe and fatal traffic crashes. Half of this High-Injury Network is located in Equity Priority Neighborhoods. Read more about how San Francisco improved fatal and serious injury data quality and completeness by integrating equity.
Equitable approaches are most effective when data is also gathered proactively through a local, community-led process. This information may be gathered through qualitative community engagement, including walk audits, road safety audits, field safety reviews, and health impact assessments. This data is key to providing insights on disparities not captured through traditional quantitative data collection and analysis processes.
Transportation professionals should identify local underserved communities and their specific needs by:
- Working with local public health agencies and integrating health data into transportation safety analyses
- Disaggregating and examining local crash fatality and serious injury data by social and demographic variables regarding the person and place involved
- Coordinating with community organizations to understand which populations face increased traffic risk, and what safety concerns affect their everyday lives
Because advancing equity requires a systemic approach to embedding fairness in decision-making processes, Executive Order 13985 on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government requires Federal agencies to recognize and work to redress inequities in the policies and programs that serve as barriers to equal opportunity. Accordingly, States should incorporate demographic information into their safety data collection and analysis procedures to ensure that the needs of underserved communities are taken into account in their State SHSPs. FHWA also encourages States to consider equity in project prioritization through the HSIP.
- Consider disaggregating or layering crash, roadway volume, road characteristic and travel mode data by social and demographic data to determine if there are disparities in traffic safety outcomes, conditions, or opportunities for underserved communities. Ask:
- “Are specific communities more likely to be killed or injured on our roadways?”
- “Are specific communities less likely to have access to safe infrastructure and facilities?”
- “Are specific communities less likely to have access to safe and comfortable pedestrian or bicyclist infrastructure and facilities?”
- Then, consider using this data analysis to:
- Guide specific outreach to communities in safety planning processes,
- Build partnerships with non-traditional stakeholders, including public health, housing, and education agencies and non-profit organizations that provide services to communities experiencing disparities.
- Direct funding to areas experiencing gaps in safety infrastructure, and
- Implement timely design and construction interventions to improve opportunities for safe and comfortable mobility and access for all road users in underserved areas.
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