New Project: CHSC Explores Connection Between Impaired Driving and Traffic Safety Culture

Cannabis use by U.S. adults has increased by 50% over the last decade, and over the same period, cannabis use by drivers has increased by an estimated 8 -12%.  Cannabis impairs psychomotor functions that can impair driving ability, which in turn may increase crash risk.  As a result, drug-impaired driving is a growing traffic concern.  While traditional approaches have focused on enforcement and education, another approach is to build a positive traffic safety culture, which can be described as shared values and beliefs that influence safe driving decisions.

Through this project, the Center for Health and Safety Culture will conduct research to develop a better understanding of belief systems that predict intention to drive after using cannabis. The research will include surveys of cannabis users and non-cannabis users in the state of Washington.  The findings will guide the development of culture-based interventions and strategies to sustainably reduce impaired driving.

Project Title and Webpage: Traffic Safety Culture and Impaired Driving

New Project: Phase 2 Planned for New WVC Data Collection System

Project logo with graphic image of deer leaping across highway and title Federal ROaDSThe National Park Service (NPS) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have partnered with the Western Transportation Institute – Montana State University (WTI) to develop a federal lands wildlife-vehicle collision (WVC) data collection system. This system is being designed to efficiently and effectively collect information on large animal – vehicle crashes, to address motorist safety concerns on federal land management agency (FLMA) roads, as well as carcass data of medium- and smaller-sized fauna relevant to FLMAs’ conservation missions. This project offers user-friendly tools to collect and manage data key for analyses identifying specific areas where measures may be used to reduce WVCs on roads in National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges.

Phase 1 of the project entailed developing “ROaDS” (Roadkill Observation and Data System) as a mobile device application (an “app” for smart phones and tablets) for collecting WVC data in the field.  In this Phase 2 project, the research team will continue development of the application, by developing data standards and refining the data collection fields that will be incorporated into the next version of the app.  The final system will help agencies identify and monitor locations where wildlife vehicle collisions occur, and facilitate the planning and implementation of transportation, conservation, and safety efforts on federal lands.

Project Title and Webpage: Federal Lands Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Data Coordination Project Phase 2

New Project: Safety Improvements for Low-Volume Roads in Montana

Highway agencies systemically screen the road network to identify those sites that are expected to yield the greatest safety benefits from an investment of available improvement funds.  Traditional methods for identifying candidate locations tend to focus on well-travelled roadways that experience higher crash frequencies, despite the fact that many low-volume roads may have high levels of risk due to their geometric and roadside features (e.g. curves, low visibility). Further, many of the crashes on remote local roads, particularly those with lower severities, may go unreported.

On behalf of the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), WTI will develop a methodology for identifying and prioritizing hazardous locations on local roads at the network level that are deserving of safety improvement funds. Another objective is to engage Montana counties to work closely with MDT on the development of both the methodology and future safety improvement projects.  This project will provide MDT with guidance for its safety improvement programs, enhance its outreach efforts to local agencies, and support its Vision Zero safety initiatives.

Project Title and Webpage: Developing a Methodology for Implementing Safety Improvements on Low-Volume Roads in Montana

Bozeman Commuter Project Launches Pilot Vanpool Program

Riders sought from Three Forks, Livingston and other nearby towns

The Western Transportation Institute (WTI) in partnership with the City of Bozeman and Montana State University is working to reduce the number of drive-alone trips and make more efficient use of current transportation systems. This project aims to connect more people to the places they want to go via bus, walking, biking and ridesharing/carpooling.

As part of that effort, the Bozeman Commuter Project is organizing a pilot vanpool program. Vanpools can save people money, reduce the wear and tear on personal vehicles, and reduce the stress of commuting. The pilot vanpools will be free to users. For each vanpool, project coordinators are looking for 4-9 people with similar destinations and schedules who are interested in trying their commute via vanpool. The specific route and schedule of the vanpool will be determined by the members. In case of necessities such as family illnesses, vanpool members will have access to a guaranteed ride home.  So far, there are 18 people interested from Three Forks, Manhattan, Churchill, Belgrade, and Livingston. A meeting will be scheduled in the next few weeks, to work on specific details, with the intent of starting the vanpools in January.

“Providing transportation options that are convenient, healthy and affordable — in addition to drive alone commuting — is important as Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley grow,” said Vanpool Coordinator Taylor Lonsdale. “By introducing area residents to the many benefits of vanpools, we hope this project will continue and grow, so more commuters can participate.”

For more information and to sign up for a vanpool contact Taylor Lonsdale at WTI. paul.lonsdale@montana.edu or (406) 994-7031.

NEW PROJECT: CHSC to Develop Safety Culture Training Modules

Transportation, law enforcement, and public health organizations are showing growing interest in incorporating the principles of traffic safety culture into their safety programs.  As a result, there is new demand for training materials on these topics for engineers, planners, emergency responders, public health professionals, and other practitioners.

Through this project, the Center for Health and Safety Culture will create three safety culture trainings for safety staff. The training modules will cover the basics of safety culture, organizational safety culture and road user safety culture.  CHSC will develop supporting materials, such as a facilitator guide, videos, interactive handouts, and assessment tools.  These modules will be made available to the Local Technical Assistance Programs (LTAPs) in each state, expanding access to culture-based training throughout the country.

As the project progresses, more information will be available on the CHSC website and the WTI project page.

NEW PROJECT: Helping DOTS Create a Strong Safety Culture

Many state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) have adopted the Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) vision as part of their work towards the elimination of fatal and serious injury crashes.  These efforts are facilitated when a DOT has a strong, internal safety culture of its own.

The Center for Health and Safety Culture (CHSC) has initiated a research program to grow a strong safety culture among a cohort of DOTs by providing tools and guidance to assess and transform organizational safety culture to support safety programs and achieve the TZD vision.  These resources will include:

  • A standard measurement tool to assess the safety culture of each participating DOT;
  • A set of relevant strategies and a process for transforming identified aspects of the safety culture of the DOT;
  • A range of support services to help guide and support implementation; and
  • An evaluation of the effectiveness of the implemented transformation process.

CHSC will work with each DOT to develop and implement individualized tools.  This project will launch the effort with the North Dakota Department of Transportation, the first DOT to join the cohort study.  CHSC will provide research services to NDDOT and administer the NDDOT Safety Culture Training which encourages new resources and novel strategies to work towards the elimination of fatal and serious injury crashes.

As the project progresses, more information will be available on the CHSC website and the WTI project page.

NEW PROJECT: WTI to Create a Guidebook for Transportation Agencies on Unpaved Roads

Gravel road in rural Montana with mountains in the background
The guidebook will aid agencies in making effective decisions regarding conversion of paved roads to unpaved.

For roads with very low traffic volumes, some transportation agencies have found that that these roadways can be maintained more economically and at a higher level of service with an unpaved or granular surface, as compared with attempting to maintain an old paved surface. Through this project, WTI will develop a comprehensive information resource on effective practices for converting severely distressed paved roads to acceptable unpaved surfaces. The guide will be developed based on needs identified in a previous WTI project, NCHRP Synthesis 485 Converting Paved Roads to Unpaved.

Laura Fay, who led the NCHRP Synthesis, will also serve as Principal Investigator for this effort. The main benefit of this project will be the availability of an easy to use guidance document for agencies that operate and maintain low volume roads. The guide will help agencies select candidate roads for conversion, conduct more effective and safer conversions, and communicate with the public on how and why a conversion is taking place.

Additional project information is available on the project page of the WTI website.

NEW PROJECT: MDT and WTI to Continue Research on Bridge Support Systems

WTI, MDT Research on concrete cap for bridge deck support
WTI & MDT Will continue research on concrete cap for bridge deck supports as a long lasting, safe and cost effective solution.

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) has found concrete-filled steel tube (CFST) piles connected at the top by a concrete pile cap to be a very cost-effective support system for short and medium span bridges. This type of system offers low initial cost, short construction time, low maintenance requirements, and a long service life. While the gravity load performance of these systems is well understood, their strength and ductility under extreme lateral loads (e.g., seismic events) is more difficult to reliably predict using conventional design procedures.

MDT has sponsored previous WTI research to investigate the performance of these systems under extreme lateral loads and to develop appropriate analysis/design procedures. The primary objective of this research, led by Michael Berry, is to further validate/improve MDT’s CFST to concrete pile cap connection design/analysis methodologies, and to ensure the efficacy of these methodologies for a wide variety of potential design configurations. This research has important potential benefits for evaluating and enhancing bridge performance during earthquakes and other seismic events.

Additional information is available on the project page of the WTI website.

New Project: Exploring Driverless, Electric Paratransit Systems for Rural Areas

A Feasibility Study of a Driverless, Electric Para-Transit System in Rural Areas

PI: Yiyi Wang

Paratransit systems can improve transportation access for disabled, elderly, and other populations that don’t drive or own a personal vehicle; however, in rural areas, providing these services to small populations over long distances can be cost-prohibitive. This project will conduct a feasibility study on a pilot paratransit system operated by driverless, electric vans that connect rural towns. Three research questions will be explored:

• What is likely to be the benefit/cost ratio of an automated paratransit system, compared to that of existing rural transit systems?

• What are community perceptions and attitudes toward autonomous systems in rural areas?

• What are the barriers or incentives of providing a smart, electrical paratransit system in rural areas?

The answers to these questions will help strategically plan smart infrastructure for the rural poor and elderly to improve their quality of life while reducing social and environmental costs.  Specifically, it will investigate whether the deployment of autonomous, electrical vans can accommodate unmet transportation needs in rural areas.

This project will be conducted by the Small Urban, Rural, and Tribal Center on Mobility, a federally-authorized University Transportation Center housed at WTI.  The research will be led by Principal Investigators Yiyi Wang, Mike Wittie, and Ahmed Al-Kaisy.  Updates on the project will be available on the WTI website project page.