SafeTREC Spotlight: Garrett Fortin

"It’s an accumulation of experiences and interactions that sparked my interest in transportation safety research and, more broadly, my passion in health policy and equity."

September 13, 2018

Welcome to the SafeTREC Spotlight Series! Each month, we highlight SafeTREC staff and share their stories, work and interest in the transportation and safety research realm. In today's post, meet Garrett Fortin, Policy and Program Analyst.

Garrett Fortin hails from a small town outside of New Orleans, Louisiana. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at Grinnell College in 2011, and his Master of Science in Social Policy at University of Pennsylvania in 2015. Garrett is a Policy & Program Analyst at SafeTREC and has been working at the research center for almost 1 year.

What sparked your interest in transportation safety research?

It’s an accumulation of experiences and interactions that sparked my interest in transportation safety research and, more broadly, my passion in health policy and equity. I lived in a small town in the swamp outside of New Orleans, where there was very little safety infrastructure for pedestrians, including even commonplace improvements such as sidewalks. Throughout the region, infrastructure and accessibility to resources varied greatly by race and socioeconomic status, disparities which were linked to the social and historical context of racial segregation in America.  

Prior to SafeTREC, I worked at TransForm where I primarily focused on database management and development but was able to collaborate with colleagues who worked in active transportation issues, Bay Area transit policy, and affordable housing access. In the past, I have enjoyed canvassing for political campaigns because this provides an opportunity to walk in new neighborhoods, listen to diverse perspectives from all walks of life, and observe the differences in physical space and infrastructure. At the core of it all is my introspection, self-awareness and the ability to connect things, people and places to structural entities (the what and why).

What are current projects you're working on now at SafeTREC?

Right now, I’m working on two projects.  One is connected to providing TA to communities in order to reduce bicycle and pedestrian fatalities, focusing on providing transportation professionals with resources to learn more about the Safe Systems approach to road safety. The Safe Systems approach aims to eliminate traffic-related fatalities and severe injuries, by creating and improving system-wide layers of protection to reduce risks to road users. In writing these research briefs, it is imperative to capture a system-wide approach in addressing upstream contributors to traffic safety issues. This means being mindful of the language used to convey this message, the shift away from victim-blaming to shared responsibility, and encapsulating the multifaceted dimensions and factors including the built environment, city planning, policy implementation and evaluation, vehicle operators and more.

The second project I am working on is the Tribal Road Safety Project. There is currently no state system that records all crash data from road collisions on tribal lands in California. SafeTREC, in partnership with the National Indian Justice Center, is seeking to establish the database structure and provide analysis tools for tribal governments.  Such a database would support the efforts of tribal governments to apply for grant funding and invest in road safety infrastructure.

What are issues you are particularly interested or passionate about?

I believe that strongly-protected civil rights are crucial to a healthy democracy. In particular, I am interested in voting rights, and the barriers many vulnerable populations face in order to exercise their right to vote.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I like walking and reading, but not at the same time.

This Spotlight interview was conducted in collaboration with UC Berkeley SafeTREC. The opinions and perspectives expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily those of SafeTREC.

SafeTREC Staff Garrett Fortin