In 2019, 16,340 people died in vehicle crashes on rural roads in the U.S. While less than 20% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, almost half of all traffic fatalities occur in rural areas. Growing traffic safety culture is critical to reducing fatalities and serious injuries on roadways. However, efforts to improve traffic safety culture can be more challenging in rural areas due to limited resources, distributed populations, and limited time and expertise of road safety professionals serving rural areas.
The Traffic Safety Culture Primer defines traffic safety culture as “the shared belief system of a group of people, which influences road user behaviors and stakeholder actions that impact traffic safety.” Because traffic safety culture resides in multiple layers of the social environment (i.e., individuals, families, schools, workplaces, organizations, local governments, law enforcement, etc.), growing traffic safety culture involves many diverse stakeholders working collaboratively over many years.
Research has shown that efforts to improve traffic safety culture are more effective when stakeholders engage in a process. Growing traffic safety culture is a process (Figure shown in the full document)– not a single intervention or countermeasure. A process is different than an intervention or countermeasure. A process describes generalized steps, a context for performing those steps, and the skills required to be successful.
This document 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.