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Directions in Highway Safety Cover - fall 2012 Download Newsletter pdf
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Fall 2012

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New Resource for Improving Rural Road Safety


The Center for Excellence in Rural Safety (CERS) recently published a report to offer the public, engineers and policymakers a variety of methods and tools for increasing rural highway safety. Rural Transportation Safety: A Summary of Useful Practices begins with an introduction to the problem and provides a summary of policy, engineering and organizational countermeasures.

A disproportionate number of crash fatalities occur in rural areas. Contributing factors to rural road deaths include the increased distance to emergency care, the nature of roadways themselves, the increased number of vehicle miles traveled, alcohol, speeding and the lack of seat belt use.

To improve rural highway safety, CERS outlines several policy changes which can influence driver behavior. Solutions offered range from seat belt and universal motorcycle helmet laws to alcohol enforcement policies such as sobriety checkpoints, ignition interlocks and staggered sentencing for DWI offenders. Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs and automated speed enforcement are also discussed. CERS notes that public support is a key consideration when implementing these policy countermeasures.

In terms of roadway design, the report notes that rural highway fatalities tend to occur in one of two broad categories: intersections or roadway departures. It provides seven engineering countermeasures which hold promise for reducing these and other categories of rural fatalities: the Safety Edge(sm) asphalt paving technique; cable median barriers; turn lanes; rumple strips and retroreflective signs; dynamic warning systems; roundabouts; and technical solutions such as CrashHelp, which allows on-scene first responders to record audio, video and still pictures of the crash and patient injuries.

Finally, CERS presents several organizational changes, focusing on Strategic Highway Safety Plans (SHSPs) and Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) movements. The report provides information on SHSPs, TZD programs and presents state, regional and national case studies, including Washington State’s Target Zero SHSP and Minnesota’s TZD program.

To download a copy of the report, visit