Center for Safety Equity in Transportation

rural • isolated • tribal • indigenous

Focus Areas

  • Research, Education and Outreach

    culturally sensitive safety efforts that focus on preservation of heritage

    Lack of access to transportation is an important issue in rural environments. Further, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Hawaii are among only a select few locations across the United States where Native Americans have greater representation in rural areas. These populations are also aging and are projected to more than double by the year 2045. How do we maintain safe travel options for these populations in RITI communities where fixed-route (do not have density to support) or flex-route (too expensive) services are not an option? In addition, under reporting and non-reports, community self-governance, no or limited access to licensing programs, and over-representation of crashes involving speeding, alcohol, and unrestrained passengers are of significant concern.

    Targeted outreach and educational pedagogy for safety-related material that is culturally sensitive and acceptable is needed. Heritage is a critically important part of RITI communities and many are transitioning back to and embracing the use of native and cultural languages. Transportation plays a critical role in their subsistence lifestyles. Solutions (e.g., transportation signage) and outreach material needs to be tailored to this trend but also based on quantitative assessments of safety barriers due to cultural habits, traditions, and local policies. This should be done in such a way that responds to the particular sensitivities involved and establish a level of communication that leads to a clear understanding of procedural and product needs.

  • Coordination and Context-Sensitive Solutions

    promote community-agency partnerships and recognize limited staff and budgets

    CSET understands that RITI communities do not always have the resources and tools that are available to larger transportation organizations. There are gaps in education materials that relate to building capacity to support local engagement in planning, decision-making, and resource allocation. Further, many of the conversations surrounding pervasive transportation safety, such as the use of all-terrain and off-highway vehicles, are being had in isolation. CSET intends to work directly with and be the catalyst by which RITI communities can come together to assess their needs and identify possible common resources. We envision the development and utility of an on-line comprehensive compendium that focuses on transportation safety, education, training, and workforce development programs for RITI communities.

    Available technologies in many RITI communities either do not meet the need or are too expensive for them to afford. Consequently, RITI communities cannot collect the data necessary to avail themselves of funding for safety projects. Portable, cost-effective, and user-friendly technology and data collection tools that work in a RITI context are needed. Examples include: unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology applications for traffic monitoring; remote sensing for roadway condition information; real-time social media platforms for safety data collection and dissemination.

  • Changing Social and Environmental Climates

    consider unique forms of transportation and mitigate impacts of extreme weather

    RITI communities are seeing trends opposite those of the rest of America. While some communities value and are making considerable efforts to maintain culturally traditional forms of travel, others are experiencing significant social pressures on traditional ways of mobility. Non-traditional vehicles (i.e., all-terrain or off-highway vehicles) often serve as the only travel option, is becoming increasingly utilitarian, and fulfills basic mobility needs in RITI communities but presents significant planning and safety challenges.

    RITI communities are also disproportionately affected by and are at the forefront of climate change impacts; the livelihood of entire communities are at risk. Landscapes are being carved and shifted as more dramatic and extreme weather events become more frequent. Many major routes through rural areas are still unpaved and in many cases poorly maintained. The robustness of these rural systems to climatic events is much less than those that are urban. Damage or loss of these facilities results in a community being completely cut off or isolated for extended periods of time We need to ensure that the critical lifelines serving these communities not only exist but also remain safe.

    CSET plans to conduct research on:

    1) the application of advanced sensing technologies to monitor the condition of vulnerable RITI infrastructure; and

    2) develop models to quantify the infrastructure network resilience for safe and reliable transportation in RITI communities.