The Transportation Problem
While progress has been made in improving traffic safety and reducing deaths nationally, the number of rural fatalities remains disproportionally large. In 2008, 18,762 people were killed in rural motor vehicle crashes, accounting for 55 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities. The fatality rate for rural crashes is more than twice the fatality rate for urban crashes. Seat belt use is lower, speeding and impaired driving fatalities are higher and emergency response times are greater.
The ITS Opportunity
To address the challenges of rural safety, USDOT initiated the Rural Safety Initiative in February 2008. The focus of the Rural Safety Initiative is to highlight available options to help reduce highway fatalities and injuries on the nation's rural roads. This targeted national campaign is taking advantage of opportunities to raise awareness of the risks drivers face on America's rural roads and provide communities with tools and assistance to address these risks where the Department's resources can be leveraged quickly and effectively.
The Rural Safety Innovation Program (RSIP) is one element of the Rural Safety Initiative. This one-time opportunity is using funds from the ITS Program and other funding streams. Ninety-six (96) applications were received, which resulted in awards to nine state and local transportation agencies for 11 projects:
- California: California Department of Transportation (2 grants)
- Colorado: Colorado Department of Transportation (2 grants)
- Illinois: Illinois Department of Transportation
- Iowa: Iowa Department of Transportation
- Kansas: Kansas Department of Transportation
- Minnesota: Minnesota Department of Transportation
- South Carolina: South Carolina Department of Transportation
- Washington: King County Department of Transportation
- Wisconsin: Wisconsin Department of Transportation
Recipients of RSIP funds have agreed to collaborate with an independent entity in the evaluation of their projects. Projects funded through the ITS Program will be evaluated through a combination of evaluation studies that examine system component performance and the systems impact on enhancing safety on local and rural roads. As part of the evaluation process, institutional and technical challenges, as well as lessons learned and best practices, will be addressed and documented to assist other state and local transportation agencies. The independent evaluator will engage each funding recipient early in the development process to ensure that the results of the evaluations are as useful as possible to others considering similar projects.
State and Local Programs Team Leader
Office of Safety Programs
Federal Highway Administration