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Tribal Highway Safety Improvement Implementation Guide

Tribal Traffic Safety | Executive Summary | Model Process | Tribal Highway Safety Improvement Implementation Guide | Acronyms, References, and Bibliography

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Highway Safety Funds

The implementation plan for a THSIP or a highway safety project will depend immensely on which funding sources the Tribe pursues, since each source has different program eligibility requirements. The funding sources introduced in the following paragraphs are intended to highlight a few important government traffic safety-funding sources, but are not a comprehensive listing.

Some funding sources are exclusively dedicated to highway safety improvements, while other sources can be used for highway safety, as well as other activities. Following is a list of potential safety funding sources segregated by transportation and other organizational sources. Different funding sources can be used for various activities in the highway safety improvement process.

Federal and state transportation funding

Funding from these programs will need to be used for transportation activities. Some of the programs are dedicated specifically to safety, while others have broader application. Federal funding agencies and some state agencies, such Wisconsin Department of Transportation, [33] provide information on the availability and eligible uses of program funds.

  • FHWA funds, administered by the states for safety only, include:
    • HES
    • Highway-Rail Grade (public) Crossings
  • FHWA funds, administered by the states for activities, including safety:
    • Surface Transportation Program (STP)
    • Interstate Maintenance (IM)
    • Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program (HBRRP)
    • Intelligent Transportation System (ITS)
    • Highway Planning and Research (HPR)
  • USDOT sponsored training programs, including safety topics:
    • National Highway Institute (NHI)
    • Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP)
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) funds administered by the states through the Governor's representative (safety only):
    • State and Community Highway Safety Grant
    • Intoxicated Driver Prevention Program
    • Alcohol-impaired Driving Countermeasures Incentive Grants
    • Safety Incentive Grants for the Use of Seat Belts
    • Occupant Protection Incentive Grants
    • State Highway Safety Data Improvement Grants
    • Child Passenger Education Program
    • Research and Demonstration Grants
    • Training
  • IRR Program jointly administered by BIADOT and the Federal Lands Highway Office and funded by FHWA:
    • 2% Planning Funds
    • Construction Funds
    • SMS
  • Highway Safety Programs administered by BIA Highway Safety Office program (BIAHSO) and funded by NHTSA (safety only):
    • State and Community Highway Safety Grant
    • State Highway Safety Data Improvement Grants
    • Child Passenger Education Program
  • State funded and administered (not all states):
    • State Highway Funds State Safety Funds
    • Transportation Loan Programs
    • Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP)

All Surface Transportation Reauthorization legislation currently under consideration proposes expanding the federal commitment to highway safety. Some proposed Reauthorization legislation may provide funding set-asides for tribal highway safety programs.

Other organizational programs with potential application for highway safety

  • Centers for Disease Control (CDC) MVC injury reduction programs.

  • Indian Health Services (IHS):
    • Injury prevention training program for tribal injury prevention capacity building
    • MVC reporting and analysis training
    • Fellowships for Epidemiology and Tribal Capacity

  • Other federal departments, such as Energy, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Justice and Health and Human Services may offer grants with safety applications.

  • Private sources, such as the American Automobile Association (AAA).

  • Tribal Funding.

Multiple funding sources may be necessary for some projects. IRR funds are unique because they can be used to match these other funding sources.

Policy Components

The three policy components focus on tribal policy issues that will need to be addressed when implementing a HES project. These policy components complement the six technical components, which focus on the HES requirements established by the FHWA and the states.

Intergovernmental policy issues

When participating in a federal or state highway safety program, a Tribe must take into consideration issues related to self-determination. Program compliance and safety capacity are two significant related issues.

Complying with Requirements for Programs Administered or Funded by States or Their Subdivisions

Several federal highway safety programs are administered by states or their subdivisions. These include the HES and Rail Grade Crossing Programs funded through FHWA and the NHTSA behavioral safety programs. In addition, some states also fund highway safety programs. Governance issues will need to be addressed, if a Tribe anticipates program participation. The following general guidance is provided.

Tribal Considerations:

  • Become familiarized with the highway safety program requirements.
  • Determine the issues associated with meeting the program requirements.
  • Work with the administering agency / state transportation department to resolve issues.

The following guidelines focus on specific issues associated with the HES.

  • Data Requirements

    Traffic, roadway and MVC data are required to support HES project applications. The issues associated with data are:

    • What data does the Tribe have?
    • What data will be shared outside of the Tribe?
    • Who will have access to the shared data?
    • What are the purposes for using the data?
    • How will the Tribe be involved in the process (i.e. oversight, reports, review)?

As a general rule, most data stored in government owned databases are available to the public. There can be exceptions when individual rights are a factor, but this is often determined on a case-by-case basis. It follows that if a Tribe has data that it does not want made public or is legally restricted from making data public, those data should not be included in highway safety databases.

Traffic and Roadway Data

Traffic and roadway characteristics for many roads crossing tribal lands are already available in the public domain through BIA, state, and county files. If the traffic and roadway data are not available, the information can be collected thru simple field inspections and included in the safety management system (SMS) required for the BIA and Tribes who have compacted for the total IRR program.

MVC Data

MVC data is specific to each crash and contains information regarding the circumstances and individuals involved. MVC data can be used for individual identification purposes, including profiling and citing individuals, insurance claims, and litigation. However, MVC data, such as driving record, age, gender, seat belt usage and blood alcohol level, are essential for determining crash causes and patterns and identifying highway safety improvements for eliminating or mitigating future crashes. The location for storage and maintenance of the MVC data can become a discussion item with state HES personnel.

Tribal Considerations:

  • Determine what data will not be shared based on governance considerations.
  • Consider limiting restrictions to only data that profiles specific persons.
  • Work with the administering agencies / state transportation department to reach.
    1. Agreement on data to be shared.
    2. Format and procedures for sharing.
    3. Location for storage and maintenance of data.

The individual tribal governments must determine the extent to which data will be shared. The protection of civil rights and personal information will need to be balanced with public safety. A Tribe willing to share data may consider implementing a data management system that provides compatibility with external data systems. The tribal data management system will need to include provisions for backing up data.

A Tribe may want to consider filtering MVC data through BIADOT or trial sharing, with the state, MVC data for federal and state highways crossing tribal lands. If the data sharing works out acceptably, the Tribe may decide to expand the information sharing to include MVC data specific to tribal roads.

  • Hazardous Location Identification and Prioritization

    The HES requires that hazardous locations be identified by using MVC history or potential, and prioritized based on benefits and costs. However, other considerations can drive tribal priorities as well. Planning and programming processes, required under the IRR negotiated rule making, could include factors, such as equity in distributing funding among tribal districts, environmental enhancement, and protection of tribal cultural values.

Tribal Consideration:

  • Determine if any tribal planning and programming procedures are inconsistent with the HES hazardous location identification and prioritization requirements.
  • Project Development and Implementation
    Design, environmental clearance, right-of-way (ROW) acquisition and construction of projects, using federal funds, require compliance with federal procedures. However, in some instances, state procedures must be fulfilled also. Many state-administered programs have established FHWA-approved procedures for design, environmental clearance, ROW acquisition and construction of federally funded projects.

Tribal Considerations:

  • Determine if state and federal project development and implementation procedures present tribal government issues.
  • Work with the state transportation department to resolve the issues.

Federal and state project development and implementation procedures can have significant consequences for a Tribe. For example, if a Tribe cannot certify that it has sufficient project development and implementation qualifications, the Tribe may be precluded from administering the project. The IRR negotiated rulemaking surfaced numerous differences between tribal and federal interpretations and positions associated with project design and construction procedures.

Tribal Capacity for Developing and Implementing HES Projects

  • Project Administration

    Building tribal capacity for the development and implementation of HES projects would involve two elements - 1) project administration and 2) the technical aspects of project development and implementation (e.g. design, ROW acquisition, environmental and construction oversight). A Tribe can administer and/or perform technical aspects of the HES project or rely on BIADOT, Regional Branch of Roads, state transportation departments or other public agencies to complete the process.

Tribal Consideration:

Investigate the capacity building

  1. Alternatives.
  2. Requirements.
  3. Benefits.
  4. Costs.

Thoroughly before deciding the direction to pursue.

If a Tribe decides to administer the project, two levels of administration may be considered. Each of these levels will require considerable capacity building within a Tribe.

  1. Level One - Partial Administration.
    A Tribe will administer some or all project activities, subject to state oversight and approval.

  2. Level Two - Complete Administration
    A Tribe will demonstrate through the FHWA certification acceptance process that it has the capacity to fully administer a project in accordance with federal (and state) requirements. [14]
  • Technical Aspects
    The technical aspects of project development and implementation can be performed either by tribal staff or through the use of consultants. The advantage of using tribal staff is the commitment to serving the Tribe's needs, promoting internal capacity and retaining control of the process and project. Maintaining tribal technical staff can be expensive, so there will need to be a sufficiently large, ongoing highway program to justify maintaining tribal staff and a support structure (office, equipment and supplies) to perform parts or all of the technical work. In comparison, consultants can provide quick access to technical expertise, particularly when the need for expertise is not continuous or uniform.

Structure for Tribal Highway Safety Improvement Program (THSIP) Including Intra-tribal Roles and Responsibilities

As described elsewhere in these guidelines, implementation of a THSIP involves a multi-step process of data collection, integration, storage and analysis; hazardous locations identification and prioritization; and project development; prioritization; implementation; and evaluation. This process can require a complex tribal structure to promote interaction among tribal administration, staff and organizations outside the Tribe. It will be important for a Tribe to define this structure at the onset to ensure that roles and responsibilities are clear and accepted.

Program Governance

Overall governance of a THSIP resides with the Tribal Council. However, the Council may not have the time to direct the program activities on a regular basis, so the routine program management can be assigned to a project team or specific staff person. The HES contains elements that are likely to involve several tribal departments. Examples may include:

  • MVC data may be compiled by the tribal or BIA law enforcement, but utilized by the tribal health department or IHS.
  • The tribal management information system (MIS) department may maintain the computer systems, while the tribal transportation staff administered the HES.

The involvement of several tribal departments suggests the consideration of establishing a multi-departmental team to coordinate the activities. If a project team is established, consideration should be given to include Tribal Council members, and BIADOT, Regional Branch of Roads, and state transportation department representatives to assure federal and state program compliance.

Tribal Consideration:

  • Determine a structure to assure the effective delivery of the HES, while maintaining accountability and coordination.

At least one tribal staff person should have expertise on the HES process, so the administration may consider assigning one individual to manage the HES project(s). To promote project continuity and minimize delays, it will be important for this individual to have a long-term commitment to serving the Tribe. The tribal HES project coordinator can report to a tribal department, a program or project team or the Tribal Council.

Interaction and Coordination with Other Tribal Programs

A THSIP will interrelate with other tribal programs. Examples are: MVCs are a primary component of the law enforcement's mission. Injuries and deaths resulting from MVCs are important to health services. Road improvements are a key component to community development. Safety is just one of several factors that can trigger road improvements and maintenance projects funded with IRR and other sources of funding.

Tribal Considerations:

  • Identify related tribal programs/grants when initiating the a THSIP or project.
  • Assure an evolving interaction and coordination between the THSIP or project and related programs.

Safety projects from different funding sources can also be related. Funding from several sources can be coordinated for various aspects of a THSIP. For example, law enforcement funds can be used to improve MVC reporting, and IRR funds can be used for safety project planning. Tribal leaders will face determining funding priorities among competing programs.

These relationships suggest the need for staff interaction among related programs to find opportunities to coordinate activities and maximize the effectiveness of limited resources. At the initiation of a THSIP, representatives of potentially related programs can meet to identify related programs features, program coordination and shared funding opportunities. The representatives can develop a THSIP plan to optimize program coordination, and report activities and policy recommendations to the Tribal Council. The program representatives can comprise part of the THSIP or HES Implementation Team as described in the Policy Components section under "Program Governance."

Roles and Responsibilities for THSIP Process Elements

Since several tribal departments can be involved in elements of the THSIP process, the roles and responsibilities will need to be outlined and assigned at the beginning to promote a thorough process. Considerable guidance for developing a task oriented implementation plan, as well as assignments based on activity type and tribal organizational structure, are contained throughout this document.

Whether undertaken by a THSIP Team or a project coordinator, the first step will involve identifying the existing tribal resources and who is currently responsible for the delivery of these services. Step two will be to develop an implementation plan; charting the tasks, schedules and responsibilities. Roles and responsibilities for carrying out the timely implementation of the tasks can be assigned, after consultation with the departments or staff involved.

Tribal Considerations:

  • Assign roles and responsibilities in accordance with a HES implementation plan.
  • Consider assigning roles and responsibilities to existing personnel within or available to the Tribe that is currently performing related work.

The most efficient use of existing resources will need to be a major consideration when assigning roles and responsibilities. If existing tribal departments or individuals are performing related tasks, they can be considered for THSIP or HES responsibilities. Examples are:

  • A Tribe can utilize health or law enforcement personnel to provide MVC information to the IHS, CDC, Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) or NHTSA. These personnel might also provide MVC information for hazardous highway locations.

  • A Tribe can employ a transportation planner to oversee the transportation program. This planner can be assigned to direct the development of the HES project or THSIP.

In some cases, non-tribal personnel can perform THSIP or HES roles. If BIA law enforcement provides highway patrol activities for a Tribe, BIA law enforcement can be responsible for providing MVC reports for the HES database. If the state transportation department maintains a MVC database with tribal data, it can provide the MVC analysis for identifying, prioritizing and scoping hazardous highway localities.

However, if workloads preclude assigning additional tasks to some departments and individuals, external assistance may need to be contracted, as discussed under $quot;Tribal Capacity$quot; within the Policy Component section of this document.

Integration of Data, Equipment, and Software.

Much of the data compiled for a THSIP or project have uses in related programs. For example, MVC data are used for a variety of statistical studies involving injuries, deaths and causation. Tribal and state vital records, drivers licensing and motor vehicle registration agencies also use this type of data. In addition, MVC data can apply to tribal and federal court proceedings. Traffic and roadway data are contained in the IRR Inventory. The planning, design and construction of roadway projects completed by BIADOT, Regional Branch of Roads, and Tribes, state, county and city transportation departments require the same data.

Tribal Considerations:

  • Identify THSIP and HES data requirements.
  • Look for opportunities to integrate the data needs for all related programs.

In planning the implementation of a THSIP or project, a Tribe will need to know what data to assemble. The existing data systems for related programs can be examined to determine what required highway safety data are currently available and reasonably accessible.

The Tribe can develop an integration plan to link additional data within existing data systems to meet the needs of all data users. By executing an integration plan, a Tribe can reduce the cost of maintaining MVC, traffic and roadway data and improve program effectiveness. Integration can involve bringing the THSIP data requirements within existing computer systems, or it may involve restructuring components of the Tribe's data system to accommodate several programs.

Education and training requirements

Whether a Tribe integrates a THSIP within an existing program or establishes a new program, implementation will require an investment in education and training for staff and tribal leadership. It is important to note that education and training will be ongoing to accommodate new participants and any changes in program requirements and features. Several areas for education and training are discussed below.

Decision Making

A Tribe will face many decision-making phases within the development of a THSIP or a project, as the following examples indicate:

  • Does the Tribe have a highway safety problem?
  • Which funding sources would match a Tribe's safety goal?
  • How will the Tribe organize a highway safety program?
  • Which projects are priorities?

A Tribe may not be familiar with many of the requirements for implementing a THSIP or HES project. Consequently, training may be necessary to prepare the Tribe for making informed programmatic decisions. Decision-making training can be appropriate for both tribal leaders and key staff. This training can occur in two stages.

  1. The first stage would feature an overview of available highway safety improvement programs and their applications. This stage would also provide a Tribe guidance for determining whether a highway safety problem exists. A Tribe could approach either federal or state sources for training, such as the TTAP, NHTSA, FHWA, BIAHSO, state transportation departments, and Governors' safety representatives.

  2. The second stage would highlight the overall requirements for the selected highway safety programs. This type of training would position a Tribe to compose an efficient program. The best sources for specific program training are agencies directly responsible for administering the selected programs. For example, state transportation departments or FHWA could be the best training sources for the HES.

Data Collection, Storage, Maintenance and Integration

Data are the backbone of an effective highway safety improvement program. Data collection, storage, maintenance and integration can be highly complex and resource intensive. Assistance for Tribes to develop comprehensive safety management systems exists, as well as federal and state aid to secure computer and software training from vendors.

  • Data Collection Resources
    MVC reporting and investigative training for law enforcement personnel could be available through statewide law enforcement associations, major city or county police departments and state patrol agencies.

BEO of BIADOT, and state transportation departments could be sources of training for traffic and roadway data as a result of their involvement with the IRR Inventory and the HPMS programs.

Data Storage, Maintenance and Integration Resources

The TTAP centers, federal and state health and transportation agencies, and tribal epidemiology centers could be sources for training on methods for data storage, maintenance, integration, and evaluation. NHTSA, IHS, CDC, state health departments and state transportation departments could provide guidance on MVC data collection and analysis. FHWA and Iowa Department of Transportation could offer instruction on the TraCS software. State transportation departments could be a training source for data integration for the HES.

Equipment and Software

Staff training for handling either acquired or existing computer systems and software would be an essential component of a highway safety improvement program. Training can be negotiated during procurement of new equipment and software. If training is needed for existing hardware and software, dedicated time and resources will be necessary to transfer skills to new users or for external courses.

Hazardous Location Identification and Prioritization

Hazardous location identification and prioritization requires the analysis of MVC, traffic and roadway data. If a Tribe decides to build internal capacity to perform this analysis, staff will require training in the application of HES requirements. In addition, project prioritization is a requirement under the IRR negotiated rulemaking. Assistance from the state transportation departments and BIADOT, Regional Branch of Roads, should be requested for hazardous location identification and prioritization.

A Tribe may decide to develop internal capacity to perform significant aspects of the HES project development, implementation and evaluation. In this instance, instruction will be necessary on specific requirements for federal and state funded projects, in addition to the technical requirements for implementation. Training on process requirements will be important for a Tribe interested in maintaining oversight of the project, but preferring not to administer the project.

Project Development, Implementation and Evaluation

TTAP centers, state transportation departments, FHWA and BIADOT, Regional Branch of Roads, may be consulted for project development, implementation and evaluation training opportunities. A Tribe interested in building internal capacity may initially consider contracting services with additional provisions to train tribal staff to administer future projects.

Tribal Considerations:

  • Identify training needs based on the tribal implementation plan for a THSIP or a project and/or the need to build internal capacity.
  • Develop an ongoing training program for new staff and for maintaining the effectiveness of existing staff.

Technical Components


Considerable flexibility is offered with the HES funds. The funds may be used on any public road. HES funds can be used for projects at specific locations or on a system-wide basis to address broader roadway safety issues. They cannot be used for maintenance projects, except if they augment maintenance funds to add safety features to a project. The HES is a reimbursement program, but if the funding is channeled through the BIADOT, Regional Branch of Roads, the funds can be obtained in advance. Some states may limit the level of HES funding for each project. Since the HES provides the most direct funding for public highway safety improvements, the following planning elements are presented to assist Tribes to prepare an acceptable HES application.

Data requirements, collection, storage and maintenance

Data are the foundation for the development of the HES and other safety improvement programs. Many agencies use some form of Global Positioning System (GPS) to accurately locate MVCs. MVC data collection involving only fatalities or injuries provides an incomplete history; so it is important to record all crashes. Traffic records and highway safety data must be:

Basic Tribal Requirements

  • Recorded soon after the MVC to ensure completeness and accuracy.
  • Consistently defined to provide for effective comparative analysis.
  • Sufficiently thorough to precisely portray the location, conditions and circumstances at the time of MVCs, as well as, potential crashes.

Federal Requirements

Tribes will need to be prepared to meet the federal HES requirements, by instituting processes to:

  1. Collect and maintain traffic records and highway safety data pertaining to crash, highway and railroad-highway grade crossings features, and highway and train traffic characteristics.
  2. Analyze available data to determine hazardous roadway locations, based on crash experience or potential.
  3. Conduct engineering studies of hazardous locations to recommend improvement projects.
  4. Prioritize project implementation by considering.
    • The potential reduction of the number and severity of crashes.
    • Project costs.
    • Available resources.
    • Relative hazard of railroad-highway grade crossings.
    • The potential danger of grade crossings to large numbers of people.

It is important to note that the federal HES data requirements go beyond collecting just MVC data. Requirements include information on traffic characteristics and the physical configuration of the road and railroad-highway grade crossings. These data, together with MVC data, are essential to analyze the causes of MVCs and to develop highway safety improvement projects that will target the reduction of MVCs at a specific locality, fatalities or the severity of injuries and property damage.

By federal law, the present HES funds are administered by the states for public road safety improvements. Pending the Surface Transportation Reauthorization legislation for the future FY2004-2009 programs, FHWA may provide BIADOT a small portion of HES funds. However, the bulk of the federal HES funds will remain under state administration. On a continuing basis, each state is required to develop and implement a HSIP objective to reduce the number and severity of crashes and decrease the potential for crashes on all public highways. At a minimum, states are required to satisfy the four data-related federal requirements cited previously, but the state data requirements can be more specific than the federal requirements. Hence, each state- administered HES may have different requirements to meet its unique highway safety needs.

MVC records and two types of highway safety-related data are required for HES eligibility. Specific data requirements are state determined and in some cases, the state may flex its data requirements.

State and Local Requirements

By federal law, the present HES funds are administered by the states for public road safety improvements. Pending the Surface Transportation Reauthorization legislation for the future FY2004-2009 programs, FHWA may provide BIADOT a small portion of HES funds. However, the bulk of the federal HES funds will remain under state administration. On a continuing basis, each state is required to develop and implement a HSIP objective to reduce the number and severity of crashes and decrease the potential for crashes on all public highways. At a minimum, states are required to satisfy the four data-related federal requirements cited previously, but the state data requirements can be more specific than the federal requirements. Hence, each state- administered HES may have different requirements to meet its unique highway safety needs.

Discussion of Application of Federal and State Requirements

MVC records and two types of highway safety-related data are required for HES eligibility. Specific data requirements are state determined and in some cases, the state may flex its data requirements.

Data Requirements

  1. MVC data for each MVC include the crash location, crash description, crash site description, time of day, vehicles involved, persons involved, configuration of vehicles prior to and after the crash, roadway conditions, number of injuries, number of deaths, property damage and possible factors leading to MVC.
  2. Traffic data include vehicular and pedestrian volumes, mix of vehicles, vehicle movements and speeds. Time of day, day of week and season can be important factors when counting and documenting traffic.
  3. Roadway data include the physical description of the roadway, such as the number and width of lanes and shoulders, surfacing type, roadway grades and curvature, steepness of slopes, intersection details, bridge and culvert locations and sign, striping and marker locations.

Tribal Considerations:

  • Document MVC, traffic and roadway data for all roadways on the reservation to successfully access HES funding and compete for additional traffic safety resources.
  • Reach an early agreement with the state on data requirements to secure HES funds.

Data Collection

The data collections used to support HES applications can come from several sources. Organizations collect MVC roadway and traffic data for different reasons or in some cases more than one reason. Data collection and reporting requirements must be consistent among collecting agencies for an effective HES. The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) provides guidance for consistent data collection and reporting in the Arizona Highway Safety Improvement Program Manual.[14] Some agencies obtain data from other agencies. For example, ADOT can provide information from its MVC database to support another agency's HES project application.

  1. MVC data are collected by a variety of sources including law enforcement agencies, fire departments, emergency medical services, hospitals and clinics, IHS, CDC, state health departments, universities, courts (litigation records) and insurance companies. Agencies often utilize the data for public safety. Many state and local law enforcement organizations offer training on traffic accident reporting.
  2. Traffic and roadway data are usually collected by Tribes and federal, state and local transportation agencies for purposes including project justification, development and funding (such as HES projects), and transportation statistics.

Tribal Considerations:

  • Maximize the use of data currently being collected.
  • Meet with agencies, collecting MVC, traffic and roadway data for the reservation, to determine if the data collection meets the HES data requirements.
  • Determine whether the Tribe or the collection agencies will be responsible for providing additional information to support the HES application.

Data Uniformity

Data uniformity involves providing identical coding and defining data elements to compare data. Since tribal HES applications will be competing with other jurisdictions, it will be necessary to provide standardized information to compare all statewide applications. Many transportation agencies have established such standards. For example:

  • FHWA initiated a national Traffic Records and Criminal System (TraCS) model to collect MVC data. [21]
  • FHWA and the National Association of Governor\'s Highway Safety Representatives developed the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria (MMUCC) to determine the model data elements necessary to observe and analyze national trends in crash occurrences, rates, outcomes, and circumstances..[28]
  • FHWA created the Highway Performance Monitoring System HPMS) for traffic and roadway data.
  • BIADOT compiled traffic and roadway data for the IRR System.

Many Tribes, states and local government law enforcement and transportation agencies have standardized MVC, traffic and roadway data collection.

Tribal Considerations:

  • Standardize data definitions, collection procedures, and formats to assure data quality and utilization.
  • ork with collection agencies to achieve standardization, or at least establish compatibility for data definitions, collection procedures and formats.

Data Management for Integration, Storage, and Maintenance

The Tribe must establish a system to manage the traffic records. Data can be filed manually or electronically within separate departments or within an information network for the Tribe. The maintenance of the files can become the responsibility of a single entity or several. Regardless, the assignment of responsibilities and the standards for data storage and maintenance must be clearly established.

A methodology must also be established for data integration from multiple sources for use in analyzing HES and other program needs. As with data storage, data from the collection and storage sources can be integrated manually or with computers. Ease of data access will be an important factor.

NHTSA has developed guidelines for establishing a traffic records program. [18] As a complement to the traffic records guidelines, NHTSA has also published a "Traffic Records Assessment On-Site Workbook" [20] for use by Tribes and other agencies to assess their progress on a traffic records program. The workbook includes a comprehensive list of questions to steer the assessment of the highway traffic records program. The major question topics include:

  • Information components and information quality
  • Uses of a traffic record system
  • Management initiatives

The workbook also includes a recommended outline of a traffic records assessment report.

Equipment and Software Requirements

A majority of tribal traffic records have been maintained in isolated files, within multiple departments, without oversight responsibility from any one department. This type of system has resulted in inaccurate and out-of-date traffic information, which, in turn, has impeded crash and injury prevention efforts.

Tribal Considerations:

  • Meet with highway transportation data collection and storage agencies to establish:
    • Responsibilities for storage and maintenance.
    • Standards for integrating data to meet program needs.
    • Methodology for integrating data to meet program needs
  • Establish tribal policies for a traffic records management system including:
    • Internal data storage
    • Maintenance responsibilities.
    • Standards for integrating data to meet program needs.
    • Methodology for data integration.
  • Consider the NHTSA guidelines when developing a traffic records system.

Manual Safety Management System

Manual data collection, storage, and maintenance require less tribal funds to establish and minimal investment in staff training. However, the manual archives are not the most effective systems to access, share and analyze data. The minimal savings made on filing and training is soon spent on overhead for personnel to maintain, copy, disburse and analyze data. For manual data handling, it is important to have standardized forms for recording collected data, clearly specified file storage locations and maintenance and access procedures.

Automated Safety Management System

Automation includes computer and software systems that can provide for remote entry of data collection from multiple sources, data integration from multiple sources, data sharing among agencies, data storage, maintenance and analysis for a variety of purposes, and computer networking. A substantial commitment of staff and financial resources are required.

Tribal Considerations:

  • Determine its highway traffic safety data collection, storage and maintenance requirements.
  • Inventory and analyze the internal automated system for application to its highway safety data needs.
  • Work with other highway data users to assess the data management system best suited for the Tribe's needs.

Many Tribal governments have automated systems in place that are being used for purposes other than traffic records and highway safety data, yet can be expanded to include traffic safety data. Because of the financial investment associated with purchasing or upgrading an information system, it will be critical for the Tribe to perform a thorough analysis of benefits, scope and cost. It may be feasible for a Tribe to provide some elements of an automated system and for other users of the data to provide other system elements. Clearly, the need and justification for an automated system for highway traffic safety data will be a function of the size and nature of the road network on the reservation and the resource capability of the Tribe to provide, operate and maintain the system.

There are substantial automated systems in place with most state transportation, motor vehicle and law enforcement agencies for collection, storage and analysis of MVC, traffic and roadway data. BEO of BIADOT has automated system components for the IRR Inventory and will likely automated system components for the IRR SMS. Many local government agencies also have automated systems that are used for traffic safety related data or for other purposes. In many cases, these systems can be accessible to Tribes, and free or inexpensive software and training available for tribal staff. For example, the FHWA TraCS [21] software for the MVC data collection and coordination is available at no cost to users.

The Rhode Island experience may be of interest to Tribes. The state started with a manual MVC system. Reporting was incomplete and inaccurate. Only about 50 percent of MVCs were reported. It took up to two years for data to reach traffic-engineering staff. The results of MVC needs analysis, determined that the crash reporting form needed o be upgraded to add state-of-the art features, such as the capability to: collect diagrams and record digital photographs; better locate crashes using a menu driven system; communicate with existing police records management systems; print the new form; access the form on a laptop and upload the data onto a computer at the station; and conduct validation checks and transmit data easily and efficiently to a central State repository. The recommendations were implemented and within two years, 70 percent of the State's communities, representing over 90 percent of the crash data collected, were transmitting data electronically to a central State repository. [23]

Hazardous roadway locations can be either a spot location, such as an intersection or curve in the roadway, or they can be a segment of roadway, which can be several miles in length. In either case, there are two aspects to identifying hazardous locations:

  1. Locations where there is MVC experience and
  2. Locations where there is the potential for MVCs.

The approaches for these two aspects are entirely different.

Hazardous roadway locations identification

The identification of hazardous roadway locations with crash experience comes from MVC and traffic data.

  • MVC Data

    To identify the locations, it is necessary to have a method for combining data elements from all reservation MVCs for analysis. Data can come from several sources, such as traffic crash reports, hospitals, vital statistics records, and state transportation department records. Critical data elements needed for this analysis include those identified in Table 1.

Table 1

Critical MVC Data Elements for Hazardous Location Analysis

  1. Crash Location Identification
  2. Number of Crashes by Location
  3. Number of Fatalities by Location
  4. Number of Injuries by Location
  5. Severity of Injuries by Location
  6. Number of Property Damage Only MVCs by Location
  7. Number of Unknown Severity MVCs by Location
  8. Types of Crashes by Location
  9. Environmental Conditions when Crashes Occurred

[Source: Arizona Department of Transportation, Traffic Engineering Group. "The Arizona Highway Safety Improvement Program Manual, Draft." December 23, 2003. ]

The Tohono O'odham Nation, Police Department, developed a database using Microsoft Access to accumulate much of these critical data elements acquired from MVC reports. The Police Department can produce monthly MVC reports of the Nation or individual districts by compiling the MVC information. The reports can be important tools in identifying hazardous roadway locations.

Tribal Consideration:

  • Determine who will be responsible for storing data and providing reports:
    • Tribal department.
    • Tribal organization.
    • State agency.
    • Federal agency.

The ADOT maintains a central automated database for MVC information. The database known as the "Accident Location Identification and Surveillance System" (ALISS) [?] is developed from MVC reports submitted by state and local law enforcement agencies. Tribes in Arizona participate on a voluntary basis. The ALISS database contains over 140 data elements. ADOT has developed a standard Traffic Crash Report format that is used by most jurisdictions reporting MVC data. As an incentive for jurisdictions to participate, ADOT does not require all data elements be reported, and will code partial MVC data into ALISS. Using its automation features, the ALISS can supply reports with information, such as those identified in Table 1, to identify hazardous locations.

  • Traffic Data

    Location, traffic volume, and traffic characteristics are significant contributing factors to the number of crashes. Statewide and national average crash rates have been developed for various roadway classifications, based on these three factors. A comparison of MVC data with traffic data provides a method for identifying and prioritizing hazardous locations.

Tribal Considerations:

  • Consider utilizing available data for roadway information, including traffic data.
  • Concentrate efforts and resources to collect traffic information at other reservation locations (roads owned by the Tribe), where MVC data suggests an existing roadway hazard.

Obtaining traffic data usually means physically counting traffic in the field. State, county and local transportation agencies usually perform traffic counts for their systems. BIADOT can require the inclusion of traffic counts in the IRR inventory updates. Traffic counts can be obtained from the BIADOT Regional Office Branch of Roads or the Branch of Engineering Operations (BEO).

Tribes may have to collect traffic data for their tribal roads. State departments of transportation are required by federal law to maintain state roadway information in the HPMS database that includes traffic data, although not necessarily for all roads in the state.

Identification of Hazardous Roadway Locations Based on the Potential for MVCs

In the case of hazardous locations without a significant MVC history, the analysis of traffic and roadway data is more complex. However, as with locations that have significant MVC history, traffic data can be used to demonstrate the MVC potential.

  • Traffic data examples:
    • Location
    • Traffic volume
    • Traffic characteristics, such as vehicle mix and speed
  • Roadway data examples:
    • Roadway width
    • Limited shoulder width
    • Sight distance
    • Poor signing
    • Uncontrolled cross traffic

Sources of roadway data are state, county and local governments and the BIADOT IRR Inventory. The HPMS system provides substantial roadway data for roads throughout the United States. Collecting roadway data, not in other agency databases, can be the responsibility of a Tribe.

Tribal Consideration:

  • Consider community concerns about potentially hazardous roadway locations, even in the absence of MVC history.

Used in conjunction with traffic data, roadway characteristics can be justification to support the potential occurrence of MVCs at a location.

Hazardous roadway locations prioritization

If a Tribe has identified several hazardous roadway locations, it will be necessary for the Tribe to prioritize the projects to be submitted for HES funds. The prioritization of hazards should give consideration to locations that will derive the most benefit from highway safety improvement projects. Both types of locations, those with actual MVC history and locations with MVC potential, will need to be considered.

Tribal Considerations:

  • Prioritize the hazardous locations.
  • Concur on hazardous roadway locations with the state department of transportation before beginning the project development process or the identification and prioritization of safety improvements.

    This can preclude the state questioning the tribal application of hazardous roadway locations.

Fatalities, injuries and property damage are assigned monetary values in calculating benefits. Currently, the USDOT and the Minnesota Department of Transportation assign the benefit values shown in Table 2. Other methods of determining benefit, such as number of potential MVCs eliminated, can be used.

Table 2 - Benefits for Each MVC Outcome Eliminated
Outcome Type FHWA Unit Benefits Minnesota Unit Benefits
Fatality $3,000,000 $3,400,00
Incapacitating Injury $210,000 $270,000
Non-incapacitating Injury $42,000 $58,000
Possible Injury $22,000 $29,000
Property Damage Only $3,000 $4,200
Unreported $3,000  

[Sources: USDOT Office of the Assistant Secretary of Transportation Memo titled "Departmental Guidance: Treatment for Value of Life in Preparing Economic Evaluations", dated January 29, 2003. State of Minnesota HES Program Criteria dated July 2003.]

Scoping, prioritization and funding application

The completion of a tentative priority list of hazardous roadway locations will position a Tribe to scope the specific project solutions for location. The tentative prioritization helps determine which locations will receive attention first. In addition, prioritization it can provide a means to restrict the number of locations that will receive initial studies when a Tribe does not have the resources to study all identified hazardous roadway locations.

Federal HES requirements include a process for conducting engineering studies of hazardous locations for developing highway safety improvement projects. This process can be accomplished in two steps - project scoping and project design. The two-step process is cost effective because scoping can form the basis for project funding and design.

Project Scoping

Highway safety project scoping involves matching specific solutions to the types and causes of MVCs at a hazardous roadway location. The extent of the scoping will depend on the complexity of the MVC circumstances and the potential to reduce and mitigate the MVC causes and effects. Environmental studies can be required for projects impacting the environment. The scoping documentation is often a traffic study or design concept report. In Arizona, these requirements are incorporated into a "safety report". Some states require specific HES project scoping to be included in the project funding proposal.

Analysis of MVC reports will be important to determine what types of crashes (e.g. head-on, rear end, turning movements, hit obstacle, hit pedestrian, and run-off-the-road) are occurring at a hazardous roadway location. They will also be a valuable source of information on causes of crashes (e.g. traffic law violation, under the influence, poor decision, driving conditions, and fell asleep). Crash diagrams on the MVC reports show the types, specific location and number of vehicles involved in the MVCs. Traffic data developed under the "Hazardous Roadways Locations Identification" within the Policy Components can also be useful in identifying expected causes of MVCs, since they can be likely indicators of traffic conditions at the crash location.

Tribal Consideration:

  • Reach agreement with the state department of transportation on the project scoping requirements prior to undertaking this phase of the work.
  • Project scoping can be expensive, so a Tribe may want to limit the number of scopings, particularly if some projects are complex. The tentative priority list should be a factor in determining which projects to scope.

Another critical component of the scoping study is a description of the existing roadway features at the MVC locality. Existing roadway features can be contributory to the causes of the MVCs or to the severity of the MVC outcome. In fact, the purpose of a HES project is to modify roadway features to reduce the number of MVCs or reduce the severity of the fatal, injury and property damage effects. The descriptions of roadway feature will normally take the form of roadway maps or plans. Roadway owners often have "as-built" plans that show existing roadway features. Additionally, databases, such as the IRR Inventory and HPMS, contain existing roadway information. If sufficient existing roadway information is not available, a Tribe can perform field survey work to gather the information.

Combining MVC data with traffic data and the existing roadway descriptions aids a Tribe to propose roadway improvement alternatives to reduce the number of crashes or to mitigate their effects. Some states provide examples of roadway improvements that are eligible for HES funding, but the lists are not limiting.

After developing the scoping study, an estimate of cost and a benefit/cost calculation is required for the project. The benefit/cost calculation is determined by the ratio of the project benefits in dollars to the estimate of project cost. The project benefits are the expected reduction in fatalities, injuries and property damage valued in dollars.

States maintain lists of MVC reduction factors for each type of safety improvement (e.g. shoulder widening, two-way left turn lane, guard rail, slope flattening, traffic signal and signs). Using the MVC reduction factors, MVC data, and personal and property loss values such as those shown in Table 2, a Tribe can determine the benefit/cost ratio for a project. Some states, such as Wisconsin, offer HES applicants the alternative to write a risk narrative to demonstrate significant crash potential for locations where there is not a significant MVC history.

Project Prioritization

If a Tribe decides to scope and seek HES funding for more than one project, a prioritization of the projects submitted for funding will be required. The federal criteria for prioritization include considering potential reduction in the number and severity of crashes, cost of projects and available resources. Some states, such as Arizona [13], Minnesota [17] and Oregon [22], require a project to have a benefit/cost ratio of at least 1 to be eligible for HES funding. Other states, such as California [15], add potential for problem resolution and timely implementation to the prioritization criteria.

Tribal Consideration:

  • Consider carefully the state criteria for prioritizing HES projects.

    This should occur at the time a Tribe is considering seeking HES funds to assure that the Tribe is willing to meet these requirements.

Project Funding

After the hazard elimination projects have been scoped and prioritized, a Tribe will be ready to apply for HES project funding. Each state has different funding application procedures and requirements. Some states have specific application formats, while others have more general application guidelines. Some state departments of transportation, such as California [15], require applications to be submitted through their district offices. Other states, such as Arizona [13] and Minnesota [17], require applications to be submitted through regional planning organizations outside the department of transportation.

Tribal Consideration:

  • Become familiar with the state HES application procedures and requirements.

    This should occur at the time a Tribe is considering seeking HES funds to assure that the Tribe is willing to meet these requirements.

In the State of Washington (WSDOT), HES program management is handled through the Highways & Local Programs Division of WSDOT. [32] All cities, counties, transit organizations, tribal nations, and WSDOT are eligible to compete for HES funds. The Division's HES software is available free to all agencies, including WSDOT, to use to pre-qualify or pre-score the projects before actually submitting grant applications. This process assists the agencies to maximize resources and to submit only projects that have a reasonable chance of being selected. All agencies do their own project scoping or have assistance from either the Regional Local Program Engineers or consultants.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has developed a document entitled "Northwest Wisconsin Tribal Governments Federal Aid Transportation Program Guidelines" [33] to assist Tribes interested in applying for funding from federal transportation programs, including HES and Highway-Rail Grade Crossing safety funding. The guidelines include information on types of eligible projects, eligible costs, funding availability, application procedures and contacts.

Safety Project Implementatin and Evaluation

Following the HES funding approval, a safety project is ready for implementation, which includes project design, right-of-way (ROW) acquisition (if any), and construction. After improvements have been constructed, a project evaluation is conducted to learn the effects of the project on MVC experience. Typically, all of these activities are eligible for HES funding.

Project Design and ROW Acquisition

A Tribe will be required to follow the project design process established by the state. This process entails:

  • Designing a HES project to FHWA or state standards for the type of roadway involved.
  • Focusing on safety-related roadway improvements.
  • Submitting design work to certify the design standards are met, should the state require pre-approval.
  • Complying with stringent state and federal procedures for acquiring consultants and ROW.

All ROW acquisitions on Indian Trust Lands must receive BIADOT approval. Environmental documentation is required for projects on Trust Lands according to BIA Western Region.

Tribal Considerations:

  • Consult with the state and BIADOT Regional Branch of Roads to determine design and ROW acquisition requirements at the start of the project scoping phase.
  • Review state and federal procedures for consultant selection and ROW acquisition before deciding to use HES funds for these purposes.
  • Consider contracting with consultants who are familiar with the state and federal requirements for project design and ROW acquisition to gain experience with HES procedures.

Project Construction

A Tribe will be required to comply with state and federal procedures for construction contracting and administration. This may require negotiating procurement procedures with the state DOT. Contract administration includes contractor oversight and contract reporting. Construction contracting and administration costs are eligible for HES funding reimbursement. Some states will perform construction contracting and administration on behalf of other jurisdiction, if reimbursed for its costs.

Tribal Considerations:

  • Consult with the state to determine construction contracting and administration requirements at the start of the project scoping phase process is conducted.
  • Consider requesting the state to perform some or all aspects of the contract process, if a Tribe lacks capacity and desires to learn how the process works.

Project Evaluation

A Tribe will be required to provide an evaluation of HES-funded safety improvement after it has been constructed. HES funding can be used for evaluation activities. Federal conditions provided in Section 924.13 of Title 23 of the CFR, require analyzing the following components: [24]

  1. The cost of and the safety benefits derived from the various means and methods used to mitigate or eliminate hazards.
  2. A record of crash experience before and after the implementation of a highway improvement project.
  3. A comparison of crash numbers, rates, and severity observed after the implementation of a highway safety improvement project with the crash numbers, rates, and severity expected if the improvement had not been made.

States have guidelines for meeting the federal HES project evaluation requirements. Arizona calls for a one-year and two-year traffic engineering crash analysis before and after the improvements, but prefers that post project evaluations contain a minimum of three years data. California [15] wants two years of "before" data and two years of "after" crash data. Oregon [22] expects each applicant agency to contribute to the annual state evaluation, as requested.

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