Center for Safety Equity in Transportation

rural • isolated • tribal • indigenous

Developing Data-Driven Pedestrian Safety Assessment Methods for RITI Communities

  • Active

    CSET Project #: 2006

    Project Funding: NPRA

  • Start Date: August 2020

    End Date: July 2022

    Budget: $225022

Principal Investigator(s)

Yinhai Wang

Dr. Yinhai Wang is a professor in transportation engineering and the founding director of the Smart Transportation Applications and Research Laboratory (STAR Lab) at the University of Washington (UW). He also serves as director for Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium (PacTrans), USDOT University Transportation Center for Federal Region 10 and visiting chair for the Traffic Information and Control Department at Harbin Institute of Technology. He has a Ph.D. in transportation engineering from the University of Tokyo (1998), a master's degree in computer science from the UW, and another master’s degree in construction management (1991) and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering (1989) from Tsinghua University in China. Dr. Wang’s active research fields include traffic sensing, e-science of transportation, big-data analytics, traffic operations and simulation, smart urban mobility, transportation safety, etc. He has published over 120 peer reviewed journal articles and delivered more than 130 invited talks and nearly 220 other academic presentations.

Dr. Wang serves as a member of the Transportation Information Systems and Technology Committee and Highway Capacity and Quality of Service Committee of the Transportation Research Board (TRB). He is currently a member of the steering committee for the IEEE Smart Cities and an elected governor for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Transportation and Development Institute (T&DI), scheduled to serve as president of ASCE T&DI in 2018. He is a co-chair of the Third IEEE International Smart Cities Conference to be held in Wuxi China in 2017 and the ASCE International Conference on Transportation and Development to be held in Indianapolis in 2018. He was a principal investigator for 75 important research projects with a total amount of funding over 51 million dollars. Additionally, Dr. Wang is associate editor for three journals: Journal of ITS, Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering, and Journal of Transportation Engineering. He was the winner of the ASCE Journal of Transportation Engineering Best Paper Award for 2003.

Ziyuan Pu

Dr. Ziyuan Pu is currently a research associate in the department of Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE) at the University of Washington (UW). He earned a Ph.D. (2020) and a M.S. (2015) in CEE from UW, and a B.S. (2010) in transportation engineering from Southeast University, China. His primary research focuses on Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Connected & Autonomous Vehicles (CAV), Internet of Things (IoT), urban computing, and transportation data science. He has published over 50 peer reviewed journal articles and conference proceedings.

Dr. Pu serves as a member of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Standing Committee on Transit Capacity and Quality of Service (AP015), a member of the TRB Standing Committee on Visualization in Transportation (ABJ95), a younger member of Connected & Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) Impacts Committee of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Transportation & Development Institute (T&DI), and a member of ASCE T&DI Committee on Younger Members. He is the recipient of 2020 Excellence in Highway Safety Data Research Award presented by Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the third prize of 2019 Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium (PacTrans) annual conference poster competition.

Project Summary

Through the outreach and research activities in previous years’ CEST projects, the research team has fully understood some of the existing challenges and issues of the RITI communities on traffic safety that require immediate actions. One of such outstanding issue is pedestrian safety, which is getting increasing attention from the government agencies to transportation researchers and practitioners and to the residents living in the RITI communities. According to the FHWA (Federal Highway Administration), 54% of collisions occurred on rural roads while only 19% of the country’s population lives in rural areas (2012).  Per capita, it is much more likely that fatalities occur in rural areas rather than urban areas.  The disparity is even more stark when considering Native American populations in the U.S.  Native Americans are three times more likely to be killed in a traffic incident than Non-Native populations according to the Washington Safety Traffic Commission (2013).

The research team has been in close communication with engineers from Yakama Nation Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Engineering department and learned that Yakama Nation has the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in Washington State. The research team have conducted a site visit to Yakama Nation and several teleconferences with engineers and planners of the Yakama Nation DNR Engineering department and recognized the pressing needs to improve the pedestrian safety conditions. One of the most critical issues faced by pedestrians in Yakama Nation is lacking pedestrian facilities.  For most of the roadways throughout the reservation there are no existing pedestrian facilities.  Most roads don’t even have a shoulder, and instead have an embankment or a drainage ditch.  This forces pedestrians to walk essentially on the fog line or in the live traffic lane along most of these roads.  Additionally, there is a relatively high population that have no access to a car, instead relying on either public transportation or walking.  Considering public transportation has limited routes and does not run every day and high levels of amenities along roads without pedestrian infrastructure, high levels of pedestrians use these roadways and are exposed to vehicles.  Winter months are particularly problematic due to fog regularly limiting visibility for drivers.  Additionally, there are several intersections that are only stop controlled by stop signs that have poor visibility, even without fog, that also increase the risk for pedestrians. In addition to the lack of accommodations for pedestrian, other factors such as roadway geometrics, traffic characteristics, roadway and intersection operation characteristics, weather conditions, and cultural and human behaviors, also contribute greatly to the pedestrian safety issues. However, due to practical challenges, most of the relevant data to measure the pedestrian exposure risk are limited/lacking in Yakama Nation.

Many state and local governments, especially in the rural and tribal areas, are experiencing pedestrian safety issues similar to Yakama Nation. There is an urgent need for systemic and data-driven pedestrian safety assessment methods that provide guidance on the collection and analysis of necessary data, identification and investigation of contributing factors, development of pedestrian safety indices, identification of high-risk roadways and intersections, etc.