Org Working To Identify Roads Safest Traveled

By Bill Visnic June 2, 2011

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A pilot program designed to more-efficiently guide state governments’ investment in road improvements soon could have the side benefit of informing individual drivers about the safest or most dangerous roads in various states if the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and GPS map-development giant Navteq proceed with a plan to provide the information for in-vehicle or handheld navigation systems. The AAA Foundation, a research and education organization formed by the AAA in 1947, began a pilot study in 2006 to begin a road assessment program in the United States modeled after well-established similar efforts in Europe and Australia. The goal was to evaluate the safety of various types of roads in order to generate data individual states could use to most effectively direct highway-improvement dollars.

The resulting U.S. Road Assessment Program, or usRAP, now has detailed risk-assessment maps for eight states: Florida, Iowa, Michigan and New Jersey from the program’s first and second phases and most recently, Illinois, Kentucky, New Mexico and Utah from the usRAP’s third phase. Now the AAA Foundation and Navteq are exploring the potential for embedding the information in the Navteq map software used for Global Positioning System-based software used throughout the automotive and personal-electronics industries, said AAA Foundation president and CEO Peter Kissinger at last week’s Edmunds.com Safety Conference in Washington, D.C. Kissinger couldn’t provide a timeline for when GPS software in vehicle navigation systems or personal-electronic devices might incorporate the new information, but he said it should be soon.

Although details of how the information would be presented apparently haven’t been finalized, Kissinger suggested in a presentation at the conference that in addition to the common options of choosing “fastest” or “shortest” routes, nav system users might be offered the option to use the “safest” route based on the usRAP data. He said that teaming with Navteq also will improve deployment of the usRAP information thanks to Navteq’s own technology and ability to help automate the overlaying of usRAP data onto established maps.

Safety Thru Road-Improvement Efficiency
The AAA Foundation said the usRAP program maps the relative risk of road segments based on available crash data using a unique protocol first tested in Europe’s EuroRAP program. These risk maps are then used by state and local road agencies to guide strategic investments in highway infrastructure and the allocation of enforcement resources, as well as benchmark progress over time. “The long-term plan,” the AAA Foundation said on the usRAP website envisions expanding the pilot into a fully operational program across the country, which will lead to fewer deaths and serious-injury crashes on our nation’s road network.

usRAP Kentucky charts.jpgThe program’s stated objectives: Reduce death and serious injury on U.S. roads through a program of systematic assessment of risk that identifies major safety shortcomings that can be addressed by practical road improvement measures; Ensure that assessment of risk lies at the heart of strategic decisions on route improvements, crash protection and standards of safety management; Forge partnerships among those responsible for a safe road system.

The usRAP data was developed using four distinct risk “maps” from which any stretch of road’s safety rating was derived: crash density; crash rates; crash-rate ratio and potential crash “savings” -- the number of serious or fatal-injury crashes that could be saved in three years if subsequent road improvements reduced a road’s crash rate to the average crash rate for similar roads. At the usRAP site, visitors can view the ranking of the relative safety of individual road sections in the eight states (see Kentucky, left) completed in the program’s first three phases. Users can examine risk maps for a variety of roads ranging from interstates to state primary and secondary routes and see a breakout of crash data for the various types of roads. The information proves the widely-distributed fact that 2-line undivided roads have serious or fatal-crash rates many times those of limited-access divided highways.

The AAA Foundation said usRAP is affiliated with iRAP, the International Road Assessment Program, along with EuroRAP, the European Road Assessment Program, and AusRAP, the Australian Road Assessment Program. The program operates under cooperation with federal, state and local highway agencies and has a variety of partners and other stakeholders.

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