An Equity-Driven Approach to School Zone Safety to Inform Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Programs

Even as the trends in traffic fatalities for motorists have been improving, vulnerable road users (VRUs, specifically pedestrians and bicyclists) have seen an alarming rise in fatalities in recent years. According to the Center for Disease Control, injuries from road traffic crashes are a leading cause of death for children under the age of 10, hence a critical public health issue. School-age pedestrians in lower-income neighborhoods may be particularly at risk. The proposed research takes a data-driven safe systems approach inspired by Vision Zero (VZ) policy goals. The data-driven approach will be used to develop engineering and educational safety countermeasures for areas near elementary schools serving disadvantaged populations in major metropolitan areas of FL, TX, and CA (three largest states with Center for Transportation, Equity, Decisions and Dollars (CTEDD) consortium partners). The PIs will work closely with the stakeholders to incorporate engineering countermeasures into Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs. Potentially effective education-related activities will be evaluated using Virtual Reality-based (VR-based) pilot testing on elementary school children from schools serving low-income neighborhoods in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. PIs have a long history of working collaboratively with stakeholders, including MPOs, state DOTs, school administrators, and community groups engaged with SRTS programs. The stakeholder engagement plan documented in the proposal will ensure successful tech transfer towards more effective SRTS programs.