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Helping research pay off: The highway community is intensifying its efforts to create a nationally coordinated R&T program for road safety.

Statistics show that highway safety has improved significantly over the last two decades. Fatalities have decreased by 19 percent during a period when the number of drivers increased by 47 percent and the level of travel (as measured in vehicle miles of travel) increased 76 percent. However admirable ad·mi·ra·ble  
Deserving admiration.

admi·ra·ble·ness n.

 these statistics are, highway-related fatalities and injuries (more than 42,000 and 3 million annually, respectively) remain at an unacceptably high level. Furthermore, future trends, such as the growing number of older drivers, will increase the challenge even more.

In order to be successful in improving road safety, the entire highway safety community must improve the coordination of research, development, and technology programs. Coordination is necessary to leverage the limited funding available for research and development, to accommodate the full spectrum of multidimensional driver-vehicle-roadway interactions, and to improve the likelihood of successful technology implementations and adoption of best practices.

In December 1997, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) adopted a Strategic Highway Safety Plan. "[For] long-term savings in lives and serious injuries," says Tony Kane Tony Kane is an Northern Irish footballer. He was born on August 29, 1987 in Belfast, Northern Ireland and plays at full-back for Blackburn Rovers

He has represented Northern Ireland at under-18 and under-19 levels, and was part of Blackburn's successful Academy squad that
, director of engineering and technical services for AASHTO, "we must expand our knowledge through more expenditures on coordinated research among all Federal, State, and local governmental agencies; the private sector; and the universities. We can't afford to act on our own--we must work as a team."

AASHTO Safety Plan

In 1998, the State departments of transportation (DOTs) approved AASHTO's Strategic Highway Safety Plan. Development of the plan was a milestone for bringing together the many diverse experts (roadway, vehicle, driver behavior, emergency medical services An Emergency medical service (abbreviated to initialism "EMS" in many countries) is a service providing out-of-hospital acute care and transport to definitive care, to patients with illnesses and injuries which the patient believes constitutes a medical emergency. ) involved in improving highway safety. Work on the plan significantly increased the level of communication and coordination among members of the highway safety community, particularly those conducting research and development.

Mindful mind·ful  
Attentive; heedful: always mindful of family responsibilities. See Synonyms at careful.

 of the need to put the plan into action quickly and aggressively, the AASHTO Standing Committee on Highway Traffic Safety developed and received approval for an initial implementation plan through the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP NCHRP National Cooperative Highway Research Program ), a joint program of FHWA FHWA Federal Highway Administration (US DoT) , AASHTO, and the Transportation Research Board (TRB TRB Transportation Research Board
TRB Technical Review Board
TRB Teacher Registration Board
TRB Test Review Board
TRB Total Relationship Balance
TRB Tap-Rack-Bang (shooting procedure)
TRB Theodore Roosevelt Building
). The implementation project became NCHRP Project 17-18. One of the first actions of the multidisciplinary technical panel that was assembled as·sem·ble  
v. as·sem·bled, as·sem·bling, as·sem·bles
1. To bring or call together into a group or whole: assembled the jury.

 by TRB to guide the project was to inform others of the project's status and direction through creation of a Web site on implementation of the safety plan and development of a marketing program to better identify the needs of the highway safety community. See http.//

NCHRP 17-18 also facilitated initiation of a major effort to prioritize pri·or·i·tize  
v. pri·or·i·tized, pri·or·i·tiz·ing, pri·or·i·tiz·es Usage Problem
To arrange or deal with in order of importance.

 and develop a series of guidance documents to assist State and local transportation agencies in implementing effective safety strategies. Six guidebooks were developed to help State and local agencies reduce highway crashes related to aggressive driving, drivers with suspended sus·pend  
v. sus·pend·ed, sus·pend·ing, sus·pends
1. To bar for a period from a privilege, office, or position, usually as a punishment: suspend a student from school.
 or revoked licenses, run-off-road crashes, head-on crashes, crashes into trees, and unsignalized intersections. A number of States are piloting the use of the draft guidebooks on crash countermeasures That form of military science that, by the employment of devices and/or techniques, has as its objective the impairment of the operational effectiveness of enemy activity. See also electronic warfare.  through deployment and demonstration of best practices. Twelve additional guidebooks are under development.

The Pooled Fund Initiative

Implementation of the AASHTO safety plan was further advanced in 2000 when FHWA placed a call to the States for a pooled fund initiative. Eleven States, the District of Columbia District of Columbia, federal district (2000 pop. 572,059, a 5.7% decrease in population since the 1990 census), 69 sq mi (179 sq km), on the east bank of the Potomac River, coextensive with the city of Washington, D.C. (the capital of the United States). , and FHWA contributed funds to develop guidebooks in seven additional crash-related areas: curves, older drivers, pedestrians, signalized intersections, trucks, unbelted drivers and occupants, and utility poles.

To ensure a coordinated and consistent approach, the pooled funds were transferred to TRB for inclusion with NCHRP Project 17-18. FHWA also contacted the universities involved with the University Transportation Center (UTC (Coordinated Universal Time, Temps Universel Coordonné) The international time standard (formerly Greenwich Mean Time, or GMT). Zero hours UTC is midnight in Greenwich, England, which is located at 0 degrees longitude. ) Program to inform them of the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan and solicit interest in conducting research in the gap areas identified in the plan.

Additional Opportunities For Coordination

The AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan significantly influenced the selection of FHWA's highway safety focus areas. Crashes involving roadway departures, pedestrians and bicyclists, speed, and intersections became the agency's safety priorities for program initiatives and funding. The knowledge and technology gaps identified in the AASHTO Plan were explicitly considered for inclusion in the FHWA highway safety research and technology roadmaps.

During this same time period, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA NHTSA National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (US government) ) also was seeking comment on its proposed safety research and development program. This public comment opportunity, as well as NHTSA's and FHWA's participation on development of the AASHTO safety plan, the AASHTO Standing Committee on Highway Traffic Safety, and the NCHRP 17-18 technical panel, improved the opportunity for communication and coordination between R&T initiatives at the Federal level and those at the State level, as well as with AASHTO and TRB.

Partnership Forum

Notwithstanding this progress, future improvements in highway safety require significantly higher levels of coordination. The National Highway Research and Technology Partnership, an initiative begun by AASHTO, TRB, and FWHA, and involving more than 170 organizations, presented an excellent case for increased emphasis and funding for safety R&T in a 2002 report, Highway Research and Technology: The Need for Greater Investment. The report states, "The call for greater investment in research is unprecedented in terms of scope and outreach Outreach is an effort by an organization or group to connect its ideas or practices to the efforts of other organizations, groups, specific audiences or the general public.  and comes from the owners and operators of the highways and numerous highway-related industries" [italics added].

A safety working group within a forum convened by the National Highway R&T Partnership identified specific highway safety R&T gaps and needs, grouping them into eight safety themes. The level of uniformity and consistency shown in this listing of safety research needs reflected the historical coordination and collaboration of all the parties involved in the forum.

The safety working group and safety community as a whole, however, strongly expressed the need for further coordination and organization in conducting safety R&T. The group identified the following potential outcomes from increased formal collaboration among Federal, State, university, and private research organizations: more focused and integrated research efforts; increased opportunities for developing an integrated approach to the crash problem; more resources targeted to areas that have the greatest potential for improving safety; greater input from end users; increased development of implementation strategies throughout the research process; improved efficiency, speed, and effectiveness in implementation of safety innovations; and ability to track safety research initiatives of the various public and private entities.

National Highway Safety R&T Program

Action to create a climate for improved coordination resulted in a new task added to NCHRP Project 17-18, namely, to create a more cooperative national highway safety R&T program. The task consisted of three stages: (1) formulating annual and long-term research budgets and programs, (2) conducting the actual research and creating new knowledge, and (3) implementing research results.

Under NCHRP Project 17-18, TRB sponsored a workshop on September 17 and 18, 2002, for State and Federal agencies, TRB, academia, associations, foundations, and industry to draft a national highway safety R&T program. The participants began to identify a continuous means for any organization that is interested in conducting highway safety R&T to access a central database to (1) review the national program, (2) identify existing research work, (3) avoid duplication duplication /du·pli·ca·tion/ (doo-pli-ka´shun)
1. the act or process of doubling, or the state of being doubled.

 of highway safety research, and (4) increase the opportunity to partner efforts and leverage limited funds.

Follow-up activities from the workshop will include designation of a safety research stakeholder stakeholder n. a person having in his/her possession (holding) money or property in which he/she has no interest, right or title, awaiting the outcome of a dispute between two or more claimants to the money or property.  oversight
For Oversight in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Oversight.

Oversight may refer to:
  • Government regulation — The role of an official authority in regulating a separate authority.
 committee for the coordination process; determination of a group to provide organizational support to the committee and the process; identification of other parties that should be represented on the committee and in the process; selection of additional technical and expert input to refine and focus the research and development areas; and, of course, identification of the financial support needed to implement the above process and activities.

The output from the pilot process would include a National Highway RD&T Plan for Infrastructure and Operations Aspects of Highway Safety. Other outputs expected over the next year will be renewed effort by all highway researchers to summarize sum·ma·rize  
intr. & tr.v. sum·ma·rized, sum·ma·riz·ing, sum·ma·riz·es
To make a summary or make a summary of.

 completed and current research for inclusion in TRB's Transportation Research Information System (TRIS TRIS tromethamine.
tris (tris)
1. tromethamine.

2. tris(2,3-dibromopropyl) phosphate.
) and Research in Progress (RIP), respectively; establishment of a mechanism for parties to review past and current research and partner on new projects that are contained in the national research plan; and creation of a group that could be available to conduct voluntary quality peer review of research projects (proposed, underway, or concluded) with special emphasis on research methodology and data and statistical analysis. This last item was widely endorsed by the participants due to the importance of statistically valid results from highway safety research and the lack of adequate training for researchers in the engineering and highway safety profession. Finally, researchers will be encouraged to consider and identify implementation strategies to move useful products, technologies, and information effectively to practitioners in the field.

Other Calls for R&T Coordination

TRB's Research and Technology Coordinating Committee (RTCC RTCC Responding to Climate Change
RTCC Real Time Crime Center (New York City Police Department)
RTCC Research and Technology Coordinating Committee
RTCC Regional Transit Coordinating Council
RTCC Real-Time Computer Complex
) emphasized the need for greater coordination of R&T in its report, The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology (Special Report 261). The RTCC recommended that the "FHWA's R&T program should be more responsive to and influenced by the major stakeholders Stakeholders

All parties that have an interest, financial or otherwise, in a firm-stockholders, creditors, bondholders, employees, customers, management, the community, and the government.
 in highway innovation." The RTCC viewed the National R&T Partnership Forum as a noteworthy first step toward obtaining broad stakeholder input. See

The RTCC recommendation for greater stakeholder input was reinforced recently by the General Accounting Office (GAO) report, Highway Research, Systematic Selection and Evaluation Processes Needed for Research Program. FHWA, in response to these recommendations and its internal organizational assessment, has adopted the role of "Innovators innovators

people who will try new things.

early innovators
important figures in the farming or client community because they are the leaders in the introduction of new techniques and management systems.
 for a Better Future." FHWA is committed to obtaining greater partner and stakeholder involvement as a way to raise the bar on R&T and innovation deployment and in the process significantly increase communication, coordination, and cooperation among R&T initiatives.

A Look to the Future

There are no "silver bullets" to improving highway safety Our success will need to come from movement toward a coordinated national highway safety research and technology program. The program needs to increase cooperation in identifying the right targets to pursue, selecting the right research space, building on prior research results, coordinating and communicating our initiatives with other researchers and practitioners, and actively planning for the transfer of new technologies and research results.

The reauthorization of the highway legislation, Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century
''For the 2005 Transportation Equity Act, see

The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) was enacted June 9, 1998, as Public Law 105-178.
 (TEA-21), and follow-up initiatives, provide a timely opportunity for improved program coordination across federally funded research and technology initiatives.

Together, we are making and can make a difference.

R&T Safety Themes and Emphasis Areas

Theme                      Emphasis Area

1. Safety Management and   * Recommendations for implementing
   Data Systems              research and evaluation results
                           * Case studies and guidelines for
                             safety management practices and
                           * Collection, management, and
                             analysis of crash data
                           * Crash causation research

2. Driver                  * Novice drivers
   Competency              * Countermeasures for managing
                           * Safe mobility for older drivers
                           * Learning opportunities and
                             resources to improve driver

3. High-Risk               * Impaired driving by targeted
   Drivers                   drivers (e.g., high blood-alcohol
                           * Use of restraints for children
                             and adults
                           * Automated enforcement equipment
                           * Drivers without licenses or with
                             revoked licenses
                           * Aggressive driving
                           * Understanding of risk-taking

4. Light-Duty Vehicle      * Crash avoidance capabilities--
   Safety                    vehicle handling and stability,
                             branking and traction control,
                             conspicuity, lighting, and
                           * Human-machine interface in
                             light-duty vehicles
                           * Restraint system designs and
                             passenger compartment integrity
                           * Vehicle compatibility
                           * Biomechanics evaluation protocols
                             and crash dummies
                           * technology for monitoring driver
                           * Child safety
                           * Performance of vehicles

5. Highway Infrastructure  * Human factor safety guidelines
   and Operations          * Consequences of leaving the road
                           * Intersection safety
                           * Intelligent infrastructure
                           * Work zones
                           * Inclusion of safety in the
                             highway design process

6. Vulnerable Road Users   * Crash and use data regarding
                             walking, bicycling, and
                           * Safer road sharing for
                             pedestrians and bicyclists
                           * Off-road facilities for
                             pedestrians and bicyclists
                           * visibility and conspicuity
                           * Educational meterials

7. Heavy Truck and         * Truck and bus crashes and their
   Bus Safety                precursors
                           * Driver errors
                           * Heavy vehicle safety equipment
                             and technologies
                           * Enforcement of commercial motor
                             carrier safety regulations
                           * High-risk carriers and drivers
                           * Commercial driver training and
                             performance management
                           * Driver alertness and fatigue
                           * Driver physical and medical
                           * Highway infrastructure and

8. Post-crash              * Emergency medical systems
   Management                interventions for motor vehicle
                             crash victims
                           * Trauma system effectiveness
                           * Interventions and technologies
                           * Intelligent vehicle systems
                           * Simulated patient training using
                             emerging electronic technology

Source: Highway Research and Technology: The Need for Greater
Investment. (Table 2) A report of the National Highway R&T Partnership,
April 2002.

RELATED ARTICLE: Research Space (Niche)

Basic research: "fundamental" long-term research aimed at achieving breakthroughs in the understanding of various phenomena.

Advanced research: exploration into basic research results in order to develop their utilization in achieving highway objectives through nontraditional means.

"Traditional" research: research at the Federal level aimed at significant research gaps not addressed in other R&T programs and research of emerging issues with national implications.

Applied research: specific problems addressed through application of known methods and technologies.

Technology innovation: development of innovative technologies and methods to solve specific problems through nontraditional means.

Level of Risk and Returns from Research Programs

As individual research programs are developed, decisions are made regarding the level of risk and potential return desired from the research. Once these decisions are made, the objectives of the research project are selected, followed by the methodology to be used. The risk-return relationship of federally funded research provides a framework for coordination across the projects. This research "space" or niche can vary from projects aimed at solving limited knowledge and technology problems (applied research) all the way to investigating the science underlying different phenomena (basic research).

The State-based R&T programs--State Planning and Research (SP&R) and NCHRP--attempt to solve problems in the applied research space. The FHWA Surface Transportation Research (STR STR
synchronous transmitter receiver
) Program typically involves higher-risk and longer-term research with opportunity for higher returns, especially regarding emerging issues or national research gaps. The Intelligent Transportation Systems/Intelligent Vehicle Initiative (ITS/IVI) program is aimed at still higher-risk, higher-payoff research.

The safety element of the Future Strategic Highway Research Program (F-SHRP) is focused on even higher-risk, longer-term research on crash causation causation

Relation that holds between two temporally simultaneous or successive events when the first event (the cause) brings about the other (the effect). According to David Hume, when we say of two types of object or event that “X causes Y” (e.g.
. F-SHRP draws on concepts and research methodologies resulting from traditional research, such as NHTSA's pilot studies on speed management being conducted in Atlanta and FHWA's advanced research into data visualization See information visualization. . F-SHRP potentially could extend those concepts and methodologies to a scope not possible in the traditional programs. Finally, the Innovations Deserving de·serv·ing  
Worthy, as of reward, praise, or aid.

Merit; worthiness.

de·serving·ly adv.
 Exploratory Analysis Program (IDEA) and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR SBIR Small Business Innovation Research (program/grant)
SBIR Space Based Infra-Red
SBIR Speaker-Boundary Interference
SBIR Site Backsurface-referenced Ideal Plane/Range (silicon wafers) 
) programs are aimed at development of near-term innovations, mainly from individual entrepreneurs.

In order to achieve more efficient and coordinated programs, the projects selected within this research space would follow the needs and gaps presented in the agenda of the National R&T Partnership Forum. For example, highway safety research would be aimed at the eight themes and emphasis areas selected by the partnership's safety working group. The program managers would survey existing or planned research related to areas they are considering; coordinate with and build on those efforts; and ensure that their new research, results, and recommendations are made known and available to others. The program managers would ensure that their research is not duplicative du·pli·cate  
1. Identically copied from an original.

2. Existing or growing in two corresponding parts; double.

 of other efforts and not outside their research niche (space).
Federally Funded Program

FHWA/STR:  Surface Transportation Research
           Program as provided by Title V of
           TEA-21 (FHWA)
F-SHRP:    Future Strategic Highway Research
           Program (States/AASHTO/TRB)
IDEA:      Innovations Deserving Exploratory
           Analysis Program (TRB)
ITSIVI:    Intelligent Transportation Systems/
           Intelligent Vehicle Initiative
NCHRP:     National Cooperative Highway
           Research Program (AASHTO/TRB)
SBIR:      Small Business Innovation Research
           Program (USDOT/FHWA)
SP&R:      State Planning and Research program

Michael F. Trentacoste has been the director of FHWA's Office of Safety Research and Development since 1998. Previously he was director of FHWA's Office of Highway Safety. Prior to that position, he was with the Office of Motor Carriers and directed research, rulemaking, field operations, and policy and planning functions. He has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Manhattan College and an M.S. in transportation from the Transportation Center at Northwestern University Northwestern University, mainly at Evanston, Ill.; coeducational; chartered 1851, opened 1855 by Methodists. In 1873 it absorbed Evanston College for Ladies. .
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Author:Trentacoste, Michael F.
Publication:Public Roads
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2003
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