Safe Systems
Summer Learning Series – 2021

As more organizations seek to understand and adopt Safe System principles, there is a need to create space to unpack complex concepts, examine the nuances, and share in a constructive dialogue on what supports are still needed for Safe System approaches to be successful in meeting community safety, health, and equity needs. In this series, we bring together panelists with diverse perspectives to reflect on core Safe System concepts and the broader system in which our transportation work unfolds.

Format: Free virtual events held on Fridays in July – August 2021. Moderators will guide panelists in a rich discussion about the issues. All sessions are 1:00-2:30 PM Eastern.

Redesigning the System to Support Safety

July 30
Breaking down silos of funding, redistributing power, supporting more authentic public engagement, and participatory approaches to community planning are essential processes for implementing Safe Systems approaches. In this session, we will hear more on how communities are doing this work, and what still stands in the way.

  • Katherine Chen, Senior Policy & Program Analyst, Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), University of California, Berkeley
  • Steve Hoyt-McBeth, Bike Share and Transportation Demand Management Program Manager, Portland Bureau of Transportation
  • Aidil Ortiz, Founder and Principal at Aidilisms LLC
  • Dr. Destiny Thomas, Founder and CEO, Thrivance Group

Moderator: Becky Naumann, Core Faculty at the Injury Prevention Research Center and Assistant Research Professor of Epidemiology at UNC Chapel Hill
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Broadening the Toolbox for Kinetic Energy Management

August 6
A core premise of Safe Systems relates to managing the kinetic energy in the system. Commonly offered solutions include piecemeal engineering treatments to manage speed at individual locations or corridors. In this session, panelists discuss more network-level approaches to managing crash forces in the system through land use policies and transportation decisions that affect core travel behaviors.

  • Chris Cherry, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Offer Grembek, Co-Director, SafeTREC, University of California, Berkeley

Moderator: Noreen McDonald Chair and Professor of City and Regional Planning at UNC Chapel Hill
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Redistributing Responsibility for Safety

August 13
The US has long taken a safety individualism approach, both in its messaging around safety behaviors and in its laws and structures for accountability for a traffic-related injury. As Safe Systems advocates promote a more “shared responsibility” for safety, there is a need to unpack what shared responsibility means and what aspects of our system must change to redistribute the balance of power and accountability to prevent a crash. Panelists will talk about how system structures are designed to protect corporations and roadway owners from responsibility and crash liability, perpetuating a burden on individuals.

  • Tamika Butler, Founder and Principal, Tamika L. Butler Consulting
  • Steve Lavrenz, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Wayne State University
  • Christy Kwan, Co-Founding Volunteer, DC Families for Safe Streets
  • Kelcie Ralph, Associate Professor of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University

Moderator: Seth LaJeunesse, Senior Research Associate, UNC Highway Safety Research Center.
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Change Management Tools for Safe System Implementation

August 27
As communities seek to adopt more Safe System oriented approaches, they are likely to experience policy feedback and unanticipated outcomes. In this session, we explore how communities can equip themselves with more integrated data, adaptive leadership methods, and systems-oriented tools to help them evaluate and better manage the change process.

  • Becky Naumann, Core Faculty at the Injury Prevention Research Center and Assistant Research Professor of Epidemiology, UNC Chapel Hill
  • Steve Orton, Senior Fellow at North Carolina Institute for Public Health and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management, UNC Chapel Hill
  • Keshia Pollack Porter, Professor of Public Health and Vice Dean for Faculty, Johns Hopkins University

Moderator: Steve Marshall, Director of the Injury Prevention Research Center and Professor of Epidemiology at UNC Chapel Hill.
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Previous Sessions

Redefining Safety

July 16
What do we really mean when we talk about safety? Safety from what? Safety for whom? How do we measure it and how do we know when we’ve gotten there? This panel will explore our past and current definitions of “safety” in transportation and how we can expand and redefine that definition under a Safe Systems approach to better advance transportation access and mobility justice.

Audio Version:


  • Charles T. Brown, Founder and CEO, Equitable Cities
  • Jamila Porter, de Beaumont Foundation
  • Megan Wier, Safe Streets Division Manager, City of Oakland

Moderator: Laura Sandt, Senior Research Associate at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center.

What Lies Beneath “Human Error”?

July 23
A misapplied statistic in many traffic reports cites “human error” as the cause for 94% of crashes in the US, most often to make the case for complex technologies to “replace” or “remove” said errors. In this session, panelists will explore the ways, beyond individual mistakes by road users, humans have designed opportunities for making mistakes into our transportation systems, and how we can rethink ways to address human errors.

Audio Version:


  • Missy Cummings, Director of the Humans and Autonomy Laboratory and Professor of Engineering, Duke University
  • Seth LaJeunesse, Senior Research Associate. UNC Highway Safety Research Center
  • Jan Theeuwes, Director of the Institute Brain and Behavior Amsterdam and Professor of Cognitive Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Moderator: Eric Dumbaugh, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida Atlantic University.