Investigating Rural Safety: A Minnesota Case Study
Lee Munnich, Senior Fellow, SLPP, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
The Center for Excellence in Rural Safety is a federally funded research center charged with enhancing the understanding of rural transportation issues. In this project, researchers conducted a case study of five eastern and central Minnesota counties to identify the prominent traffic safety issues facing rural America. The profile included a demographic analysis, a crash profile, a matrix of existing safety programs, and an examination of public perception. The study served three ends: first, it highlighted and characterized successful practices already in place; second, it identified areas that were lacking and researchers made policy recommendations to ameliorate these problems; and third, it illuminated areas of need and helped to direct the future subjects of rural-safety research projects. Several recommendations were proposed as a result of this case study project that focus on improving rural roadway safety data and analyses, as well as evaluations of safety improvement programs/campaigns. Recommendations included: 1) Examine more rural roadway crash factors and combinations of factors for additional clarification, 2) Improve the metrics used to describe or define rural roadways in the United States, 3) Use the primary characteristics of rural roadway crashes as the basis for safety improvement measures and programs implemented in rural areas, 4) Include measures and strategies that improve driver decision-making as one of the focus or emphasis areas of a comprehensive safety program, 5) Fund projects that continue to help upgrade and apply GIS tools to plot and evaluate safety data with respect to driver behavior and roadway conditions, and 6) Scientifically evaluate the impacts of the safety improvement programs described in this report.