Safe roads and roadside environments are an integral part of a safe-systems approach to eliminating traffic deaths and injuries. Traditional methods for managing road safety require multiyear, geo-located crash data that point to areas with high crash, injury and death rates. State departments of transportation have the resources and capacity to record, maintain and analyze this level of data, but many agencies at the local/county level do not.
With local and county highway departments responsible for about 75% of the lane-miles of road in the U.S., a substantial proportion of roads potentially lack network-level safety performance assessment.
Instead of relying on crash history data, the Roadway Safety Foundation's U.S. Road Assessment Program (usRAP) uses a risk-based approach based on crash prediction models driven by road design and traffic control characteristics. The program was developed to offer highway engineers, safety planners and transportation officials tools for evaluating the safety of their road networks and directing limited resources to areas that will have the most impact.
Using video logs and other data, usRAP uses a 1-5 scale to rate the safety of a road segment according to its design features and operating conditions. For each star rating increase a road segment earns, the socioeconomic costs of crashes on that stretch are roughly halved. Program software will prepare a "safer roads investment plan," an analysis of engineering treatments and crash countermeasures that might be considered for the segment in question, and a rank-ordered cost-benefit list of each.
Program software can be applied to any road network, and data can be collected from user-friendly tools like Google Earth or Google StreetView. While usRAP protocols, research basis and software are mature and validated tools, the program needs to be dramatically scaled-up to affect lasting, real-world change.
In the past, usRAP training has been done in classrooms, which has been expensive and limits the number of people reached. The online program will be rigorous, technical, free of charge, and designed to fully prepare participants for preliminary usRAP accreditation – the same status achieved by attending a 1.5-day class.
Civil engineers, transportation officials, road building consultants and researchers are the primary audience for the interactive web-based training. The course will include:
- usRAP's history and lifesaving potential as a unique data-driven safety planning tool
- Data collection methods
- Data coding/quality control procedures
- Use of ViDA Software for generating ratings/investment plans
Upon completion, trainees will receive access to the ViDA Software, the usRAP Coding Manual and other materials enabling them to conduct independent usRAP studies. Prior to full accreditation as a usRAP provider, the usRAP technical team will review the first real-world project trainees complete to verify quality of work.
The long-range expected outcomes are evolution in how data-driven safety analysis is performed, with video/photologs providing a unique source of information in data-starved locales, and a substantial decrease in traffic crashes as the nation's roads move from 1- and 2-star averages to 3-star or better.