Safety Center Research

Research is a small, but important part of the work that the Safety Center will take on. The ultimate goal for the Safety Center is to improve transportation safety. Transportation safety is impacted not only by road hazards and road user culture, but also by the decisions made by transportation agencies to address these factors to improve transportation safety. Effective decision-making is dependent on the knowledge and skill provided through participation in workforce training and education activities.

As the major task of the Safety Center is training and education, it is important that the Safety Center be founded on an understanding of the operational and cultural environments of transportation agencies that support the awareness, motivation, and utilization of workforce training and education resources. Therefore, this is the focus of the Safety Center’s research.

Phase I: Assessing the Operational and Cultural Environment of the Transportation Workforce (State DOT Focus)

This project, started June 2015, will assess the operational and cultural environments of state transportation agencies. This is necessary for the Safety Center to use in developing relevant training and education resources, implementing effective technology transfer products and services, and compliments the planned marketing for the Safety Center by identifying strategies that can increase agency readiness to engage with the Safety Center for workforce training and education needs. (Safety “workforce” refers to employees of state or federal transportation agencies that make decisions that impact the safety performance of transportation systems.)

The key objectives for this environment assessment are:

The results of this project were presented during the Safety Center’s January 2017 webinar. To view the archived version, click here.

Phase II: Assessing the Operational and Cultural Environment of the Transportation Workforce (Local and Tribal Focus)

For the past two years the Safety Center has been working on a study called ” Assessing the Operational and Cultural Environment of the Transportation Workforce, ” which has focused primarily on state DOTs. Now, we are launching a new study that will specifically focus on local and Tribal transportation agencies. The goal of this new study is to identify strategies to increase access and use of training resources by local and Tribal agencies to improve safety decision making. This study will use an online self-assessment tool to collect data about agency culture. We are encouraging everyone to share their experiences by responding to this self-assessment tool. The more people from these agencies that complete the self-assessment tool, the more valid the results will be. The results of this new study will be compared to the results for state DOT agencies. We will highlight specific factors that are important to the unique cultural and operational environments of local and Tribal agencies.

Phase III: Introduction to Road Safety Culture Training

This three module training was created as part of the new Road Safety Champion Program. It serves as an introduction to growing positive road safety culture within organizations and communities to significantly improve road safety in America. Participants will learn the basics about intentional behavior, how a variety of stakeholders across our communities influence behavior, introduce a basic definition of road safety culture which can be used to improve road safety, and how to apply the idea of safety culture to an organizational setting. Participants will leave the training with a better understanding of how to change behavior, a working definition of road safety culture, and ideas about how they can leverage their role (and the role of others) in growing a positive road safety culture.

Phase IV: Resources and Demonstration of Developing an Action Plan to Grow Traffic Safety Culture in a Rural Community

More and more resources are becoming available that define traffic safety culture and provide guidance on how to grow it. However, rural communities often lack dedicated resources or experience in addressing culture change efforts. Not being able to “see” what growing positive traffic safety culture really looks like in a rural community may inhibit communities from engaging in the process.

This project developed a resource that provides examples gathered from rural communities as they engaged in each of the seven steps of the process for growing traffic safety culture. Tips for each step are also provided. To view this resource, click here.

For additional information on these projects, please contact us at