Roadway Safety Research
Purdue University’s Center for Roadway Safety (CRS) focuses on driver and roadway infrastructure safety through a multi-disciplinary approach to research. Through its collaborations with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), Homeland Security and various offices at the US DOT, CRS has compiled one of the largest traffic-safety databases in the State of Indiana.
Roadway safety is integral to a number of transportation-related majors at Purdue. Students learn that plans for highways, bridges, and other infrastructure must account for roadway safety, according to CRS Director Andrew Tarko. CRS students and professors collaborate to develop solutions from all corners of the campus, as well as the public and private sectors, to address roadway safety problems. Engineering, psychology, human factors, criminal justice, political science, business, economics, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and computer science students and professors work side-by-side to research and develop tools that improve road safety and incorporate driver behavior, vehicle specifications, and roadway characteristics.
In 2010, the INDOT Commissioner declared in Indiana's Strategic Highway Safety Plan that, "safety is one of the three core values at the heart of planning, designing, building and operating a transportation system." CRS students and professors have been partnering with INDOT and local agencies to help improve project implementation transportation safety management through cutting-edge data gathering and synthesis tools. CRS research has developed tools and resources to help decision-makers and stakeholders share data and information freely. Some examples of collaborative research projects that have enhanced transportation safety in Indiana include:
Safety Needs Identification Package (SNIP)
Prior to the SNIP project, INDOT lacked a simplified tool that could collect and integrate different roadway safety data sets. This limited INDOT’s ability to make data-driven decisions about the types of safety countermeasures to deploy. CRS engineering students collaborated with core CRS staff in Information Technology and economics to develop SNIP, a safety-needs evaluation tool used by INDOT to identify area-wide safety issues, including speeding, young driver crashes, and alcohol-related crashes. The tool gives INDOT the locations of road segments, bridges, ramps, and intersections that experience excessive numbers of crashes. These geo-coded locations can be visualized with display features offered by ArcGIS or Google Earth. SNIP helps INDOT identify and prioritize roadway safety interventions and programs. SNIP is also evolving into a platform for informing the development of safety strategies across agencies. For example, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute is interested in using SNIP to help the Indiana State Police develop effective enforcement programs.
Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System (CODES)
CRS, in partnership with the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI), the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, and the Indiana Hospital Association was instrumental in developing data-evaluation and linkage protocols for the State of Indiana’s participation in the federal CODES Program. CODES links the vehicle, crash, and human characteristics of specific crashes to the medical and financial outcomes of those events. Through the CODES project, CRS brought Indiana to the forefront of data management and analysis through improvements to data quality, as well as better access to the data for analysis. For example, CODES data helped ICJI demonstrate the safety and economic impact of Indiana’s seat-belt law. By using CODES data, ICJI was able to show state legislators that hospital charges and length of stays for non-restrained occupants of pickup trucks were almost double those of restrained occupants. This led to the approval of House Bill 1237, which closed the pickup-truck exemption and required all occupants, including back-seat passengers, to use seat belts.1
CRS is already developing the next generation of data-collection tools using its extensive experience in compiling, standardizing, and storing massive amounts of data in data portals. One such tool, Traffic Scanner (TScan), is an innovative remote 3-D laser-scanning technology that uses Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensors to collect highly accurate and real-world traffic data at intersections (including various types of road users – buses, cars, pedestrians and bicycles) in the fraction of the time it would take human observers. TScan collects the same amount of crash data over a three-day period that human observers would collect over three years. As the price of sensors used in TScan applications drops, researchers in CRS see a day when TScan is used throughout a region’s road network to assist decision-makers evaluate safety issues and make better decisions selecting safety countermeasures.
- Purdue's Center for Research Safety http://crs.ecn.purdue.edu/home.html
- SNIP http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jtrp/1492/
- CODES http://crs.ecn.purdue.edu/codes.html
- LIDAR http://www.purdue.edu/discoverypark/nextrans/assets/pdfs/134%20Stationary%20LiDAR%20for%20Traffic%20and%20Safety%20Applications%20 -%20Vehicles%20Interpretation%20and%20Tracking.pdf