Building Capacity in Road Safety Professionals

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Photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash

Following the decade ending in 2016, 320,874 people were killed in traffic crashes in the United States, and it’s estimated about 100 times that number of people were injured. After briefly trending downwards from 2009-2014, The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) is again reporting a concerning rise in fatal motor vehicle crashes. Likewise, researchers with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety noted another alarming trend in that “pedestrian deaths rose by 46% from 2009 to 2016.

The job of road safety management is important, complex, and quite literally a matter of life and death. The purpose of this article is to discuss some of the challenges facing the road safety workforce and offer some insight on how to build capacity within its ranks.


Road Safety Management Requires a Diverse Workforce

Gone are the days when cities could solely rely on traffic engineers and members of law enforcement for roadway safety planning and enforcement. Managing transportation infrastructure decisions now requires a diverse pool of talent, often including economists, urban planners, policy analysts, and mechanical engineers, among others. Further, strategic management skills are expected of road safety professionals, as they are not only technical experts, but also community safety advocates and mentors.

After two years of deliberation, The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) developed a core competency statement covering the knowledge and skills set for an individual to effectively perform work as a road safety professional. They are as follows:

  1. Recognize the management of highway safety as a complex multi-disciplinary system;
  2. Understand the history of highway safety and the institutional settings in which safety management decisions are made;
  3. Understand the origins and characteristics of traffic safety data and information systems to support safety management decisions;
  4. Assess factors contributing to highway crashes, identify and implement potential countermeasures, and evaluate their effectiveness; and
  5. Develop, implement, and administer a highway safety management program


Challenges Facing the Workforce

The challenges facing road safety professionals are twofold. First, the overall transportation workforce is shrinking due to falling birth rates, retiring Baby Boomers, and reduced transportation funding for local and state agencies. Second, urbanization and population density have created transformational changes to traditional transportation management theories and frameworks. In other words, the rate of the industry’s advancements and overall growth is outpacing the supply of its skilled workforce.

For example, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the number of Americans walking to work increased from 3.3 million in 2005 to 4.2 million in 2015. Multi-modal transportation, increased reliance on public transportation, and changing vehicle technologies have re-defined the way people are using roadways. Further, advanced computing and analytical tools have created cutting-edge safety solutions, dependent on your city employing knowledgeable traffic professionals with the skills for implementing these new, and often life-saving technologies.


Accumulating Professional Development Hours

In their 2019 report on the Critical Issues in Transportation, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) emphasizes the importance of workforce capacity: “The ability of transportation agencies to address the challenges highlighted in this report depends heavily on the capabilities of their workforce.”

The transportation industry of road safety professionals has responded with an array of training options for developing the skills of its workers with unique delivery methods for accumulating professional development hours (PDH). Here’s a few examples of courses and content that may qualify for PDHs:

Finally, did you know that Carmanah’s technical experts and road safety professionals often host online seminars, in-house courses, workshops, professional and technical presentations? Our presentations are interactive and qualify for PDHs required by most professional certification renewals!

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