FHWA is establishing a Safety Training and Analysis Center at Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will be establishing a Safety Training and Analysis Center (STAC) at Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) to assist the research community and State departments of transportation (DOTs) in using data from the Second Strategic Highway Research Program’s (SHRP2) Naturalistic Driving Study (NDS) and Roadway Information Database (RID).
Technical Support, Training, and Tools
The STAC will advance the design, development, and execution of training to support research and analysis focused on addressing the safety of the roadway environment, specifically the impact of roadway features on driving behavior. It will also provide technical assistance to highway safety data stakeholders (primarily State DOTs), including access to subject matter experts from the academic and scientific community working at TFHRC to expand the roadway safety body of knowledge.
Knowing the exact problem researchers would like to examine—for example, the adverse impacts of work zones on rural, two-lane highways—will be essential for researchers in optimizing this resource. “Subject matter experts will offer guidance on how to approach and analyze a particular problem using the NDS, RID, and other data,” says Monique Evans, FHWA Director of Safety Research and Development.
FHWA will utilize the STAC to analyze the data, conduct research, and develop tools to address high priority issues of national significance. “The STAC will support the mission of FHWA’s Office of Safety Research and Development to use a data-driven, systematic approach to reducing highway fatalities and making our roads safer,” says SHRP2 Safety Implementation Coordinator Aladdin Barkawi.
The NDS data was collected from approximately 3,100 volunteer drivers at data collection sites in six States. The drivers allowed researchers to install instruments in their vehicles that captured specific information about the driver and vehicle. Data such as where the driver was looking and what the driver was doing, the controls that were engaged, and the location of the vehicle were recorded.
Data was also collected on a portion of the roadways on which they drove. This information is included in the Roadway Information Database (RID). The database encompasses detailed information about road grade, curvature, cross slope, lane and shoulder widths, posted speed limits, medians, rumble strips, intersections, and other roadway characteristics.
In addition to integrating driver behavior with the vehicle instrumentation and roadway data, the SHRP2 data integration effort will include supplemental data on cell phone use and weather conditions. This integration effort is likely to continue. As expertise in using the SHRP2 data grows, other high-value safety datasets (such as the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, Geographic Information Systems, and the Highway Safety Information System) might be used in conjunction with SHRP2 safety data to further expand research capabilities. Other types of data related to pavement conditions and lighting, for instance, could also be leveraged.
Future STAC pursuits will explore how integrating additional data with what comes from the SHRP2 effort could further amplify the potential these data have to reduce fatalities and serious injuries.
To ensure the STAC will provide relevant and useful services to its stakeholders, FHWA is in the process of identifying critical user needs for training, technical assistance, and tools. The plan is to look at how these needs are currently being met and what services the STAC could provide.
Engaging with stakeholder communities will be essential for establishing requirements and making SHRP2 safety data and other data useful. FHWA intends to refine the STAC concept among internal stakeholders. To that end, a workshop was recently held where stakeholder representatives exchanged ideas and offered suggestions for desired services to be provided by the STAC.
“There will also be an environmental scan of other data support centers in the U.S. Department of Transportation, other agencies, and quasi-public organizations,” says Carol Tan, who heads FHWA’s Safety Management Team. “Data from this scan, especially information about how these centers have met customer needs, will be incorporated into the assessment.”
In addition to refining the scope, form, and function of the STAC, FHWA will be considering governance structures and processes, developing a cost model for operations, and determining how the STAC will be staffed and sustained over the short- and long-term. FHWA will also evaluate requirements needed to provide secure, remote access to the personally identifiable information in the SHRP2 database.
“The STAC could provide qualified researchers with secure access to the full dataset or to reduced datasets without jeopardizing the privacy of those who participated in the study,” adds Barkawi. “Driver video data that contains personally identifiable information will only be used by qualified researchers for research purposes. This and other personally identifiable information in the database must be protected in accordance with consent agreements signed by the study participants.”
“This is exciting work,” says FHWA’s Office of Safety Associate Administrator Tony Furst. “Having such rich data and technical support at Turner-Fairbank will be of great value to States that want to dig deeper into roadway characteristics and driver behavior issues that impact highway safety.”