FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 3, 2023
Contact: Adam Snider, 202-580-7930, 202-365-8971 (after hours)
Resource-rich guide can help states and communities navigate the unique challenges associated with rural roads and overcome barriers to implementing countermeasures
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rural roads are disproportionately deadly – the risk of serious injury or death is twice as high on a per-mile basis in rural areas than urban areas. Today, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) published a detailed new report and a separate toolkit that will help stakeholders at all levels of the traffic safety planning process identify, implement and adapt programs and initiatives that support safer decisions by road users to reduce crashes and save lives on rural roads.
This in-depth toolkit, Highway Safety Behavioral Strategies for Rural and Tribal Areas: A Guide, can help state and local governments and their partners find the behavioral and engineering strategies that are most appropriate, including laws and regulations, enforcement and adjudication, and public outreach. It also offers a list of possible actions communities can consider, factors to keep in mind when selecting a strategy and ways to adapt best practices to best suit local safety needs. The report and guide were released through the Behavioral Traffic Safety Cooperative Research Program (BTSCRP), which is a collaboration between GHSA, TRB and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The report also identifies key barriers to improved rural road safety and proposes solutions for each one. Embracing the holistic Safe System approach to traffic safety, the toolkit “focuses on merging the traditionally siloed behavioral and infrastructure pieces together,” according to the researchers.
Effectively addressing the unique safety challenges posed by rural roads – including long distances, limited funding for safety resources, poor emergency medical services and risky driver behaviors – will be key to reaching the national goal of zero traffic fatalities outlined in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Roadway Safety Strategy. Rural roads make up 70% of the nation’s road network, but the vast majority are managed by local governments, where funding can be limited and managing many road-miles can compete with other local priorities. Safety strategies that help drivers make better decisions behind the wheel – such as buckling up, or not speeding or driving impaired – can be especially valuable in rural and Tribal areas.
The findings of this new report supplement a 2022 GHSA report, funded by State Farm®, America’s Rural Roads: Beautiful and Deadly. That report includes a comprehensive look at the rural road issue through an in-depth analysis of federal data; input from an expert panel representing government, academic and nonprofit organizations; findings of a survey of State Highway Safety Offices; and peer-reviewed and other relevant literature.
Rural road safety will be one of the topics discussed at the GHSA 2023 Annual Meeting, August 12-16 in New York City. Jaime Sullivan, P.E., Director of the National Center for Rural Road Safety and a researcher on the BTSCRP report, will be among the speakers at a general session focused on the safety of people outside the vehicle.
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The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Visit ghsa.org for more information or find us on Facebook and X/Twitter.