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Tribal Highway Safety Improvement Program Model And Implementation Plan for Hazard Elimination Projects Guide

Prepared For
Federal Highway Administration
June 29, 2004


Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc.
Robert Mickelson
Esther Corbett


This document was developed through the efforts of representatives from the following Indian tribal governments and government agencies:

Indian Tribal Governments
Colorado River Indian Tribes
Gila River Indian Community
Hopi Tribe
Navajo Nation
Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin
Samish Tribe
San Carlos Apache Tribe
Tohono O'odham Nation
White Mountain Apache Tribe

Government Agencies

Arizona Department of Health Services
Arizona Department of Transportation
Arizona Governor's Office of Highway Safety
Bureau of Indian Affairs, Branch of Roads
Federal Highway Administration
Indian Health Services, Environmental Health Office
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Washington Department of TransportationWisconsin Department of Transportation


Traffic safety is a critical area that affects numerous tribal members and their families, and impacts the limited tribal government resources. During 1990 thru 2000, in Arizona, the average annual mortality rate for Native Americans related to motor vehicle crashes (MVC) was 74.3 per 100,000 population exceeding the state rate of 21.3. [1] According to 1998-2002 data provided by the Arizona state departments of health and transportation, 15 of 21 Tribes lost 565 members with an estimated economic impact of $575,240,000. (See references 2,3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11,12) Tribes, as sovereign nations, have a need to develop traffic safety capacity, and resources to plan and integrate a comprehensive highway safety infrastructure to address to MVC injuries, fatalities, and prevention.

Why this Model Process and Guidelines were Composed?

The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, an association of nineteen tribal governments in Arizona established the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. (ITCA) to provide member Tribes with a united voice and the means for united action on matters that affect them collectively or individually. Transportation and traffic safety are areas of interest for ITCA.

ITCA undertook this project, which is sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), to address unsafe roads and highway safety (engineering) projects on Indian reservations. A process, consisting of four tasks, three policy components, six technical components, and guidelines was developed to help Tribes compete for and access the Hazard Elimination Program (HES) funds. HES is a FHWA data driven program to identify and eliminate hazardous highway locations on public roads.

The intent of these guidelines is to assist Tribes to:

  1. Incrementally develop and tailor a system for managing traffic safety, and
  2. Provide decision support:
    1. To identify safety programs to match tribal needs
    2. To meet program requirements and
    3. To apply for HES and other traffic safety funds.

Traffic safety champions advocate working comprehensively in four "E" areas: 1) Engineering, 2) Enforcement, 3) Education, and Emergency Response. Within the transportation arena, two agencies in the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) fund highway (engineering) safety reconstruction and behavioral safety (education) efforts. Highway engineering funding and programming is available to Tribes and States thru the Federal Highway Administration. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration assists Tribes and States by funding education programs for occupant protection, impaired driving, data management and public education. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is primarily responsible to support law enforcement and judicial. Although DOJ efforts and programs are outside of this project's scope of work, there is a definite link to USDOT safety programs. Tribes need assistance to access all safety-related resources to organize a comprehensive traffic safety program.

The following four-task model has been developed to assist Tribes in organizing a Tribal Highway Safety Improvement Program, securing highway safety funding and implementing a highway safety project.

  • Tasks one thru three of this model address integrating a Tribal Highway Safety Improvement Program (THSIP) or a single highway safety project within the tribal government framework. A THSIP is a comprehensive tribal program to identify and address the highway safety needs, whether they be unsafe highways, impaired driving, traffic records, child passenger safety education; or safety assessments. The basic THSIP tasks are interrelated and address the necessary internal and external collaboration; MVC data management; program research; matching needs to resources; planning, implementation and evaluation.
  • Task four is specific to implementing a Hazard Elimination Program (HES) project on a reservation highway.

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