Methods to Improve Needed Highway Safety Improvements in South Dakota

In order to fully utilize all available federal safety funds for highway improvements, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requires analysis of existing crash information to determine the most beneficial safety improvements to be made to our highway system. There is concern that analysis relying heavily on the accumulation of crashes to identify hazardous locations may not lead to proactive adoption of improved roadway designs and safety features, especially in a state with low traffic volumes and crash numbers. A detailed analysis that encompasses all of South Dakota's roadway attribute, traffic accident, and other relevant data on a statewide basis is needed to identify significant crash causation factors, prioritize effective remediation methods, and allow for the most beneficial use of highway safety funds that can ultimately improve the overall safety of South Dakota's highway system. FHWA will play a vital role in helping to identify the specific data analysis needed in order to allow for increased flexibility in the use of federal highway safety funds. The objectives of this research project are to: (1) identify essential data analysis methodologies that would allow for prioritization of needed highway safety improvements in a more proactive versus reactive approach, and that would also present more options to facilitate optimization when using federal highway safety funds; (2) review state, and local government roadway data sources to identify the requirements and desirable data relationships that could ultimately prioritize needed highway safety improvements through the performance of alternative analysis methodologies; (3) develop estimates of costs, benefits, and timeframes necessary to instill duly defined highway safety analysis capabilities at the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT); and (4) demonstrate the optimum analysis methodologies to a targeted audience, principally represented by key transportation and safety officials in South Dakota. Research tasks for this project are as follows: (1) Review and summarize available literature on highway safety data and corresponding analysis techniques, including NCHRP Report 500, Volume 21: "Safety Data and Analysis in Developing Emphasis Area Plans."( 2) Meet with the project's Technical Panel to review the project scope and work plan. (3) Review procedures performed by state and local government agencies in South Dakota that are currently being used to define and prioritize highway safety improvements across jurisdictional boundaries, and also review the South Dakota "Strategic Highway Safety Plan" to assess how outputs can be better derived from safety data analyses' correlated with the plan. (4) Perform appraisals of the SDDOT state trunk highway system data and non-state trunk roadway systems data relative to the quality and completeness of roadway attributes that would facilitate better definition and prioritization of needed safety improvements on a statewide basis. (5) Review the availability, quality, and completeness of other state and local government data, such as the database used for the Department of Public Safety's "South Dakota Accident Reporting System", any of which could conceivably be relational to roadway attribute data for the most robust analyses. (6) Based on the findings of Tasks 1 - 5, develop alternative analysis methodologies that have the following considerations: (a) More proactive approaches that optimize prioritization of needed highway safety improvements; (b) Feasible to implement given available data, or else non-prohibitive costs that might be associated with the need to collect newly supporting data; (c) Supportive of the South Dakota "Strategic Highway Safety Plan"; (d) Do not pose cumbersome processes and are, in fact, "user-friendly" (e) Provide benefits that outweigh the costs or resource needs necessary to operate, support, and maintain methodology processes. (7) Provide an interim report for review and approval by the project's Technical Panel that presents the findings of Tasks 1 - 5, recommends the analysis methodologies that are considered as the "best fit" for the SDDOT through a ranking of the various alternatives, and also includes quantified estimates of the costs versus benefits of each alternative. (8) Upon concurrence between the research team and the Technical Panel on the analysis methodologies that are deemed to be the best choices for implementation at the SDDOT, design and develop an actual prototype of the application(s), including full user documentation that steps though the procedural operations. (9) Demonstrate the prototype for review and approval by the Technical Panel. (10) Upon delivery, testing, and final acceptance of the prototype and supporting user documentation by the Technical Panel, prepare a final report and executive summary of the research methodology, findings, conclusions, and recommendations. (11) Make an executive presentation to the SDDOT Research Review Board at the conclusion of the project.