Intuitive Safety Management on US Highways: The Case for Safety Management

If two jumbo jets crashed and killed every passenger on board each week there would be a mass outcry by politicians and citizens alike. Inquiries and investigations into the safety standards of planes, the airport infrastructure and the technologies they use would ensue. And rightly so.

So why is it on US roads 41,000 people are killed annually – that’s in effect the equivalent of two jumbo jets crashing every day. In addition to these deaths there are also 2.1million people injured in road incidents each year too. Astonishing. And there seems to be little or no public ‘outcry? Why?

Apart from the obvious social and economical impact these accidents have on family life. There are the hidden cost burdens on our healthcare, social security systems and of course the wider economical impact of road closures, delays and repairs. The hard fact is there is a huge social and emotional burden for US citizens and also an unseen financial burden placed on all taxpayers of the US.

In fairness the Federal Government in 2005 initiated the passage of SAFETEA-LU which signaled a major change to the way Government viewed the importance of safety on our highways, with the aim of reducing the number of accidents and deaths. Interestingly best practice from around the world offers some startling comparisons with the Swedish Government setting stringent goals of zero deaths and accidents on its road infrastructure.

As a consequence planning departments, regulatory policy makers and state transportation focus has now changed considerably, and a greater emphasis on the condition of the roadway and surrounding environment with an aim to reduce incidents and deaths. As a result state governments are employing strategies to improve their road assets and deploying advanced, sophisticated measures through the use of integrated management systems in their jurisdictions.

Safety as a Critical Component of the Planning/Design Process
All transportation plans are having to establish safety as a goal, but they often do not integrate safety throughout the process.  The concept of an integrated safety management system defines a system, organization and process for managing the attributes of the road environment, driver, and vehicle to achieve the highest level of safety by integrating the work of disciplines and agencies involved in highway safety within a jurisdiction.

These disciplines include the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of the roadway infrastructure; injury prevention and control through emergency medical services; the design and manufacture of vehicles; and those disciplines involved in controlling and modifying road use behavior (education, enforcement), and department of motor vehicles to ensure that proper licensing procedures are observed for both drivers and vehicles.

In order to manage the system and to achieve the level of integration required meeting the highest levels of safety, two key components are needed. The first is an organizational structure that will allow for the integration of the agencies involved in highway safety. And secondly a formal management processes that will direct activities of participating agencies in a manner that will efficiently achieve the mission and vision of the system.

New Technologies Recognize the Critical Importance of Safety
The evolution of new technologies into the safety process is taking the form of both improvements in transportation infrastructure as well as motor vehicles.  Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) are using technology to improve the operation as well as the safety of the nation’s roadway.

Safety is now an operational component of new vehicles.  Innovative safety components are becoming part of new vehicles and will continue to improve as experience indicates the technologies that are most appropriate for safety needs.

The convergence of automated roadways and automated vehicles provides a continuing form of integration to yield benefit to safety programs at all levels.

Transportation Network is a Key Component
While safety improvement comes in all forms whether it be better drivers; proper licensing to ensure that drivers and vehicles are qualified or enforcement from the public safety programs; the overarching element is that the incidents occur on our transportation network.  Consequently, the relationship of the network environment to where the crash occurred; the outcomes of the incident and the contributing cause of the incident all starts from the concept of the transportation network.

The network serves as the key point of integration and brings together all components of the incident.  Location of the incident is essential to successful and meaningful analysis and the relationship between the location and the characteristics of the network then serve as the nucleus to also provide historical analysis of what occurred, when and where and ultimately; why.

Temporal Data is Essential
The ability to find out the current situation; what has previously occurred and what might be expected in the future requires that any base of data has a temporal or chronological aspect.  Safety programs need to know if the value of program expenditures and safety concepts are yielding their expected returns.  Temporal data provides the added dimension needed to perform analysis of where incidents occurred; what were the contributing factors; what steps were taken to mitigate the situation and then analyze the benefits of the investments made to mitigate future incidents to determine if the expected results were attained.

The network and its associated environment also serve as a powerful tool to predict where future incidents are most likely to occur.  In concert with “designing safety in” is the ability to identify characteristics of incident prone locations and the use those models to analyze the network and identify locations having similar characteristics.  In effect, the best tool is one that provides intelligence about where incidents are most likely to occur and allow proactive actions to take place in advance of the incidents.  Without an effective network management system and proper analysis tools, this capability will not happen.

Safety professionals are already making great strides towards improving the safety on our nation’s roads. They are doing this through improved communication, raising awareness and questioning the success of their actions. To help catapult our Safety Engineers to the leading edge of their business we need to provide them with the tools that allow them to implement the new concepts in safety management. This includes the ability to integrate data from across their organization so that the road environment is considered in analysis and so proactive analysis can be performed against other similar locations on their road network.

For many safety professionals these new concepts have been a vision and a goal to work towards, With software products like the new Safety Manager module from Exor Corporation  that make the required integration reality these visions can finally be recognized and implemented.

To discover more about Exor Corporation and Exor Safety Manager visit:

A Complex Environment
Increasing Safety Management awareness involves many organizations that span different disciplines, different funding mechanisms as well as different programs

Engineering agencies are becoming more conscious of safety with safety audits being performed against new and existing road design and the introduction of more innovative approaches to the design of intersections that will help reduce the occurrence of incid

Enforcement agencies serve to reduce crash statistics through the enforcement of laws that have been introduced as a result of studies and experience to cite drivers that contribute to traffic accidents and fatalities.

Emergency medical services make significant contribution by analyzing injury data to determine statistics and medical costs that help to raise the importance of road safety with politicians and help prioritize where the overall road safety efforts should be focused.

Education agencies play an important role in educating the users of the road network how they themselves can help to reduce the incidents of road crashes. Notable education campaigns in recent years have been the encouragement of motorists to buckle up and continuing importance of safety helmets.