Tribal Road Safety Project

ABOUT
The goal of this project under grant from OTS (Office of Traffic Safety) is to improve traffic safety on and near tribal lands in California. Since 2014, SafeTREC has been working to improve traffic safety on tribal lands in California. Although data is limited, Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) and Statewide Integrated Traffic Record System (SWITRS) data suggest that Native Americans are a disproportionately high-risk population for traffic injury. With the data available through SWITRS, SafeTREC staff mapped crashes on tribal lands that were determined based on their physical location within mapped tribal areas.


BACKGROUND & PROBLEM STATEMENT:
It is vital to improve road safety for California’s tribal populations, as well as for all population groups in California that may travel to the state’s rancherias and reservations. Improving the quality and quantity of data collected about traffic collisions that occur within the boundaries of these lands is a necessary step to achieving this goal.

On a practical note, funding for traffic safety improvements is increasingly being awarded based on collision data that document the extent of the safety problem. Projects for which data is required now include roadway upgrades, enforcement efforts, and education programs. However, data documenting collisions on tribal lands is lacking and puts tribal communities at a disadvantage in the competition for safety project funding. It is clearly critical, therefore, to obtain collision data (counts and descriptions), including pedestrian and bicyclist collisions, on tribal lands, and it must be as accurate as possible.

Although data is limited, Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) and Statewide Integrated Traffic Record System (SWITRS) data suggest that Native Americans are a disproportionately high-risk population for traffic injury. Roadway design, pedestrian and driver behavior, and environmental factors contribute to crash risk, the data suggest. In addition, factors such as age, speeding, seatbelt use, time of day, location, and alcohol use increase injury risk. Nationally, the highest at-risk group among American Indians was men ages 35-49. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury-related deaths for Native Americans or Alaskan Natives (AI/AN) age 19 and younger, and that among crashes on reservations between 1982 and 2002, an estimated 65 percent were alcohol-related (compared with a 47 percent nationally).1 In terms of roadway design, one- to two-lane segments of undivided, high-speed urban and rural highways are the most dangerous locations for AI/AN pedestrian fatalities: 35.6 percent of AI/AN pedestrian fatalities occur on urban highways and 27.5 percent on rural highways. A study conducted in Humboldt County further found that collision fatalities occur disproportionately on tribal lands: the Hoopa, Yurok and Karuk tribes’ lands comprise less than 25 percent of the county’s land area, but accounted for 33 percent of fatalities in 2009 and over 50 percent of the county’s fatalities in 2008.2 However, there is almost universal understanding that traffic collisions on tribal areas are under-reported, meaning that the limited statistics just cited likely substantially underestimate the overall problem.

About Tribal Road Safety Data Collection Project:

The goal of this project under grant from OTS (Office of Traffic Safety) is to improve traffic safety on and near tribal lands in California.

During grant year 2015 – 2016, the main project objectives include:

  • To conduct 4 quarterly meetings of the Advisory Committee during the year
  • To extend the pilot survey developed in the first year to all tribal areas, including reservations and Rancherias, with the focus on traffic injury data.
  • To develop final recommendations for standardized reporting policies and procedures, obtain feedback from the Advisory Committee and from state agencies that would be using data from tribal jurisdictions.
  • To implement the database developed in the first year in 10 tribal jurisdictions, prepare a report describing results of the test, including fatalities/injuries not already included in the SWITRS, and prepare a report outlining barriers to data collection as well as recommendations for statewide deployment of the database.
  • To conduct up to 20 analyses for tribal areas as requested and as related to developing and implementing the California Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP).
  • To produce and distribute 4 quarterly reports summarizing injury trends and patterns, with a focus on SHSP challenge area categories.
  • To develop collision mapping and analysis tool for all tribal areas (reservations and Rancherias).

Improving the quality and quantity of data collected about traffic collisions that occur within the boundaries of these lands, as well as exploring under-reporting and existing infrastructure elements, are necessary steps to obtaining additional support for safety. We invite representatives of individual tribes to contact us for more information about traffic safety information on and in the vicinity of their tribal areas.

For more information, please contact David Ragland at davidr@berkeley.edu.

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Injury Prevention and Control: Motor Vehicle Safety.” http://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/native/factsheet.html