News

Time for Kids Introduces Wildlife Crossings to Young Students

WTI Road Ecologist Rob Ament is featured in a recent issue of Time Magazine for Kids. A feature article called “Safe Travels” describes the large number of animals that are killed in roadway collisions each year, and how wildlife crossing structures work to protect animals as they move across their habitats. Rob discusses successful designs – like the crossing structures in Banff National Park – and how they are models for new efforts around the world, including a project he is working on in Kaziranga National Park in India.

Time for Kids is a weekly magazine for elementary school children. It offers age appropriate learning material for students and is designed to complement curriculum.

MSU Research Expenditures Hit an All-time High

logo of Montana State University

Congratulations to Montana State University (MSU), for achieving a record high level of research expenditures for 2019-20. The total of $167 million represents an 8% increase over the previous year.

WTI is proud to be part of the high achieving MSU research team. Read about the accomplishments of our research colleagues across campus.

National Safety Council Selects Safety Center as Finalist for Green Cross Award

Logo for National Center for Rural Road Safety

Congratulations to the National Center for Rural Road Safety, which was recently named as one of three finalists in the country for the 2020 Green Cross for Safety Award – Safety Advocate!

Each year, the National Safety Council selects honorees for demonstrating leadership in keeping people safe, with awards in three categories: Safety Advocate, Safety Excellence, and Safety Innovation.  The Safety Center is a finalist for the Safety Advocate Award, which “recognizes those who have made a significant impact on safety by raising awareness and bringing about change.”

“We’re excited to be recognized as a finalist, especially in the company of other national safety leaders from public, private, and non-profit agencies,” said Jaime Sullivan, Director of the Rural Safety Center.  The full announcement is available in a news release on National Safety Council website. The winners will be announced in a virtual celebration on October 1.

Will Passenger Rail Return to Southern Montana? Join the Conversation on Sept. 17!

black and white image of train wheels

Passenger rail service through southern Montana ended 41 years ago, and now advocates across the state are working to bring it back. Interested in learning more? Plan to attend the virtual Montana Passenger Rail Summit on Thursday, September 17!

WTI is a sponsor of this event, which will bring together elected officials, business leaders, passenger rail experts and others from across Montana who are interested in establishing safe, reliable, and affordable passenger rail service through the region, and connectivity to other transportation services. More details and registration are online at www.montanapassengerrailsummit.org.  The summit is free to attend, and registered participants will receive a personalized Zoom link a few days before the event.

New Publication: Safe Interactions Between Vehicles and Bicyclists

Truck passing a bicyclist on a rural highway

The Journal of Safety Research has published an article that examines the influence of traffic safety culture on a driver’s behavior when interacting with bicyclists on the roadway.

“Traffic safety culture and prosocial driver behavior for safer vehicle-bicyclist interactions” is based on a research collaboration between the Center for Health and Safety Culture (CHSC) and the Small Urban, Rural, and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM) at WTI.  Authors include CHSC researchers Nic Ward, Kari Finley and Jay Otto of CHSC, and David Kack, Rebecca Gleason, and Taylor Lonsdale of SURTCOM.

Bicyclist safety is a growing concern as more adults use this form of transportation for recreation, exercise, and mobility. Most bicyclist fatalities result from a crash with a vehicle, and the behaviors of the driver are often responsible for the crash.  The researchers conducted a survey study of Montana and North Dakota residents and found that prosocial driver behavior was most common and appeared to be intentional. They also found that this intention was increased by positive attitudes, normative perceptions, and perceived control. The findings can be used to develop strategies to increase prosocial intentions and driver behavior, thereby increasing bicyclist safety.

CITATION: Ward, N. J., Finley, K., Otto, J., Kack, D., Gleason, R., & Lonsdale, T. (2020). Traffic safety culture and prosocial driver behavior for safer vehicle-bicyclist interactions. Journal of Safety Research. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsr.2020.07.003

Save the Date: Rural Road Safety Awareness Week

Graphic with logo and dates for Rural Road Safety Awareness Week 2020

The National Center for Rural Road Safety is proud to announce the inaugural Rural Road Safety Awareness Week (RRSAW), which will take place the week of September 28th – October 2nd, 2020.

The goal of RRSAW is to dedicate a week to promoting rural road safety to the public, community leaders, and potential partners by telling the “rural story.” This event will shine a light on rural needs, challenges, and solutions, especially those that help all stakeholders make progress on the Rural Road to Zero fatalities and serious injuries.

RRSAW will be a social media driven campaign, so high levels of social media interaction will be the key to success for RRSAW.  The Center encourages individuals and agencies to use their own social media platforms to extend the reach of RRSAW’s stories and messages:

  • First, please friend the Center on Facebook (@ruralroadsafety) and follow it on LinkedIn (@national-center-for-rural-road-safety) to see daily posts during the week of RRSAW.
  • Next, please share or repost messages (or create original ones that highlight your own agency). Event organizers will be using hashtags #RuralRoadSafety and #RRSAW2020 for posts and encourage you to use the same ones. 

The Rural Safety Center has created daily themes for the week and will release targeted materials for each one:

  • Monday: Defining Rural
  • Tuesday: Rural Safety Champions
  • Wednesday: Rural Road Modes
  • Thursday: Proven Rural Safety Countermeasures
  • Friday: Rural Safety Culture

Through these topics, everyone will have a chance to share their experiences, answer fact-check questions, and learn about the topic of the day. Use the generic hashtags #RRSAW2020 and #RuralRoadSafety AND the specific hashtag of the day to makes sure you are included in the nation-wide conversation. The Rural Safety Center will be releasing a RRSAW Toolkit complete with social media messages and graphics at the end of August on the RRWAW webpage. Please feel free to share this with your colleagues and contact the Rural Safety Center with any questions you might have about the campaign.

NEW PROJECT: WTI to Conduct Transit Study for Humboldt County, CA

WTI recently launched a new project to conduct a transit study in Humboldt County, a coastal county in northern California. The goal is to provide the Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG) and the Humboldt Transit Authority with a review of all current transportation services, and to investigate the potential for new service in the town of McKinleyville.

Led by Principal Investigator Andrea Hamre, the study will begin with the collection and analysis of data from the existing public transportation services in the county and a review of demographic and travel data to explore new transit service scenarios within McKinleyville as well as between McKinleyville and other communities in the region. Tasks will include the development and assessment of potential service and route options, preparation of cost estimates, identification of management impacts, and development of recommendations based on the findings. The project is jointly sponsored by HCAOG and the Small, Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM). As the study progresses, updates will be available on the project webpage.

WTI Co-hosts National Event on Rural Transportation Safety

vehicle on two-lane rural highway near barn with mountains in background

On Wednesday, August 12, the Western Transportation Institute (WTI), Montana State University (MSU), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) co-hosted a national forum to raise awareness on “The Importance of Focusing on Transportation Safety in Rural America.”

NHTSA officials had originally planned August field tours to western states and public lands to view rural safety conditions and engage with state and local stakeholders on initiatives to enhance rural transportation safety. WTI was slated to host one of the public meetings on the MSU campus. Due to current travel restrictions, the entire field visit was transformed into a virtual forum.

Jason Carter, MSU Vice President of Research, Economic Development and Graduate Education, served as the webinar host, providing the welcome address and introducing remarks by NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens, USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao, U.S. Senator Steve Daines (MT), and U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte (MT).

In a panel discussion moderated by WTI Director David Kack, presenters provided an overview of critical rural transportation issues that impact the safety and effectiveness of the entire national transportation network, as well as current initiatives to enhance travel through rural areas:

The webinar attracted a large, national audience of more than 250 attendees.  To view the presentations in full, download the recorded webinar from the NHTSA website.

STUDENT NEWS: MSU ITE Student Chapter Honored at Annual Meeting

Group photo of members of MSU ITE Student Chapter
MSU ITE Student Chapter (Photo credit: Prof. Eric Shen, USC)

The Montana State University (MSU) Student Chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) has worked hard in recent years to grow its membership and its professional opportunities for engineering students, and the effort has paid off!  At the annual meeting of the Western and Mountain ITE Districts, the MSU Chapter was selected for the Momentum Award, which recognizes the student chapter that has most improved over the last year.  The MSU attendees also took second place in the Collegiate Traffic Bowl, a team competition that tests the knowledge of students on a variety of transportation planning and engineering topics.

ITE is a national association for transportation professionals, offering technical resources, training, and professional development.  To attract and prepare the next generation of professionals, ITE encourages student involvement through university ITE chapters, leadership summits, competitions, and awards. The student chapter at MSU currently has about 35 active members. WTI research engineer Dr. Ahmed Al-Kaisy serves as the chapter’s faculty advisor.  They have been very busy over the last academic year, with activities that included attending a student leadership conference in Los Angeles, CA, leading activities for K-12 students at the annual MSU Engineer-a-Thon, hosting professional speakers and networking events, and conducting hands on technical activities like traffic data collection.

Chapter President Bryce Grame and four other members attended the District Meeting held in early July.  Although virtual this year, the attendees found it very rewarding.  “With some virtual sessions having upwards of 200 attendees, the access to industry knowledge was expanded exponentially by moving the conference online,” said Bryce. “As a student, I had the privilege of learning about new industry findings and best practices through technical sessions, participating in student leadership workshops to better serve our ITE@MSU student chapter, receiving feedback from professionals on my resume, networking with my peers through online social events, and competing in the annual Student Traffic Bowl Competition.”

WTI is pleased to work with the MSU ITE student chapter each year, collaborating on research project activities, providing speakers, and sponsoring activities.  For more information about the chapter, contact ITE.montanastateuniversity@gmail.com or visit https://montanastateite.weebly.com/

Rural Road Safety Summit – Registration Now Open!

Logo for Rural Road to Zero Virtual Summit in September 2020

The National Center for Rural Road Safety is excited to announce that the Third National Summit on Rural Road Safety will take place September 29 – October 1, 2020. Registration is now open for this action-oriented event, which is designed to provide professionals with plans and strategies for meeting their region’s Rural Road to Zero goals. 

This year’s virtual Summit will feature knowledgeable speakers and interactive sessions, including:

  • Results oriented safety strategies for rural areas
  • Action plans for growing positive safety culture in rural communities
  • A safe system approach for rural areas

In addition, attendees can participate in training sessions for the new Road Safety Champion Program, or in a poster session with the theme “How to Make Rural Roads Safe for Everyone.”

The summits have become a national forum for engaging a wide variety of stakeholders and raising awareness on critical rural road safety issues.  In 2016, the first summit, Moving Rural America, invited stakeholders to articulate critical issues and identify collaborative safety initiatives.  The second summit, held in 2018, focused on Bridging the Gap, highlighting proven safety measures and other strategies that participants could implement in their regions.  Previous summits have attracted participants from across the country and presenters from FHWA, CDC, National Association of Counties (NACO), Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), and more.  Registration for the 3rd Summit is open until September 21, 2020. There are also numerous opportunities for sponsors and vendors to participate and support the event.