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SECTION: SYSTEM DEMAND

SAFETY ––

Coordination with PennDOT District 8-0 has resulted in the identification of priority crash segments in the HATS region where the actual number of crashes exceeds the predicted number of crashes, which are calculated based on road conditions and crash history. The segments depicted in the map reflect areas that have a repeated number of crashes or "crash clusters" as identified by PennDOT. “Crash cluster” locations can be used as an initial identification for focus areas in order to analyze underlying causes of vehicle crashes.

In January 2020, the HATS Technical and Coordinating committees adopted a safety motion reaffirming the ultimate goal of eliminating crashes in the Tri-County region. The motion emphasized reducing crashes that result in fatalities and serious injuries, in part by educating the public about unsafe driving practices such as distracted and aggressive driving as well as driving under the influence. As a result of this motion, HATS is engaging in an ongoing safety planning effort and is working to create partnerships with organizations and agencies in the region to promote safety. This includes regional Traffic Incident Management (TIM) teams and other special interest groups.

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Safety interactive map application

In February 2021, HATS committees adopted the PennDOT 2017-2021 state targets for performance measure for safety improvement, which calls for a 2 percent annual reduction in fatal and major injury crashes based on five-year running average crash rates. By adopting PennDOT targets, HATS agreed to plan and program projects which directly support these safety targets to reduce the number of fatalities, serious injuries, and reportable crashes in the HATS region.

As part of the adoption of the PennDOT State Targets and the ongoing safety data collection efforts, HATS staff has compiled some of the key safety data points for PM-1 into 20 year trends. Below are three figures which show motorized vehicle fatalities, motorized vehicle suspected serious injuries, and non-motorized fatalities and suspected serious injuries from 2000 to 2019 (the latest year of crash data).

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Trends of motorized vehicle fatalities in the HATS Region. Source, PennDOT 2001-2020

The above chart shows the latest 20 year trend of motorized vehicle fatalities. Overall, it can be seen that there is a general downward trend in vehicle fatalities. Below is a chart noting the trends in suspected serious injuries within the HATS region. Starting in 2016, there is a significant increase in suspected serious injuries. This is due to both safety enhancements in motor vehicles that have reduced fatalities and a change in injury classification.

A note from PennDOT’s Pennsylvania Crash Information Tool is “that beginning January 1, 2016, PennDOT adopted the Federal standard for collecting injury severity data. The field descriptions and definitions changed from the state standard that had been in use for decades. This resulted in a substantial shift in severity levels. Therefore, comparison of the “Suspected Serious Injury”, “Suspected Minor Injury” and “Possible Injury” categories will not be consistent for crashes taking place before versus after the adoption of the new standard.”[1]

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Trends of motorized vehicle suspected serious injuries in the HATS Region. Source, PennDOT 2001- 2020

Below is a chart noting trends in non-motorized fatalities and suspected serious injuries within the HATS region. The PennDOT targets and PM-1 combines suspected serious injuries and fatalities for non-motorized vehicles. There has been an overall increase in non-motorized fatalities and suspected serious injuries.

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Trends of non-motorized suspected serious injuries and fatalities in the HATS Region. Source, PennDOT 2001-2020

In an effort to meet the performance targets and overall goal of eliminating fatal and serious injury crashes, HATS has also adopted a process of conducting detailed studies in corridors like those depicted here or as otherwise identified by constituent municipalities where crash causes and roadway conditions are evaluated, enabling a range of recommendations to be made to reduce future crashes. These may include large-scale engineering improvements, but also low-cost safety improvements, often using Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funding. Examples of low-cost improvements include curve warning signs, tree cutting, lighting and pavement markings. These are characterized by high cost-benefit ratios and short implementation times. HATS has been successful in completing corridor-based safety studies and programming implementation projects so the recommendations can be rapidly implemented once such studies are completed. While this approach has been historically successful, HATS intends to refine this approach through a more detailed and ongoing analysis of crash data across the region.

Publicly available datasets dating back to the year 2000 have been downloaded and stored in a central repository. This data gives HATS a greater capacity to analyze longer term trends of data. Additionally, HATS staff has created an online GIS web application which allows the public to view, filter, and select crash data. The application can be accessed here. Building on this online tool, HATS staff, with consultant assistance, are developing an analysis tool to more accurately define regional priority corridors, intersections, and segments for further study in an effort to further optimize our programming efforts aimed toward safety enhancement.

An example of the current approach to safety planning can be seen through the I-81 Improvement Strategy that is currently ongoing in cooperation with the Franklin County and Lebanon County MPOs.  PennDOT conducted a study in 2018 to update the cost estimate found in the 2005 I-81 Widening Study to widen I-81 from the Mason-Dixon Line to the interchange with I-78, resulting in an estimate of approximately $3,000,000,000. 

Recognizing the wide variety of safety, congestion and asset condition along this nearly 100-mile corridor, the I-81 Improvement Strategy is designed to take a detailed look at available data along the corridor and identify a range of conceptual improvements closely tailored to address the range of existing needs.  Partnering with PennDOT, FHWA, and key stakeholders along the corridor, it is hoped that this effort can transition directly into the design phases for short-, medium, and long-term improvements that can be accommodated within available funding levels.  The Improvement Strategy planning efforts began in Fall 2019 with initial planning. Estimated completion of the Improvement Strategy is scheduled for Summer 2021.  For more information regarding the I-81 Improvement Strategy or to provide feedback, click here.

[1] Pennsylvania Crash Information Tool, https://crashinfo.penndot.gov/PCIT/welcome.html

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Based on the listing of top crash corridors provided by PennDOT and the safety planning tools under development by HATS, and in coordination with the region’s municipalities and stakeholders, conduct a series of corridor studies that seek to identify a range of recommended safety improvements.

  • Integrate implementation of corridor studies and/or other safety planning efforts into existing Project Pipeline process, minimizing delay between the planning and construction phases for safety enhancements.

  • Annually update crash data and evaluate conformance with the safety performance measures adopted as part of this plan. This ongoing effort will be used to focus safety programming efforts and evaluate crash frequency in areas where improvements have been implemented as part of the RTP process.

  • Establish a safety education program within the HATS region build upon the TIM Team initiative and promote safe transportation practices consistent with FHWA and PennDOT guidance.