2017 Research Project

Structures of Stakeholder Relationships in Making Road Safety Decisions

Principal Investigator
Seth LaJeunesse
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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Co-Principal Investigator
Steve Marshall
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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Jill F. Cooper
University of California, Berkeley
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A growing number of U.S. cities are beginning to incorporate more comprehensive, safe systems approaches to road safety. As a field, we have developed a robust understanding of the safety effectiveness of various countermeasures. Yet we lack a deep understanding of the social, economic, political, and demographic contexts in which safe systems strategies are conceived and applied. Further, we know little of the structure of relationships among actors and organizations that are responsible for making transportation safety decisions.

The purpose of this project is to reveal potential new partners for engagement in transportation safety, as well as uncover effective, efficient, and equitable relationship network structures that ultimately result in relatively high quality transportation safety decisions.

The key research questions we aim to address over the course of this project include:

  • Which organizations and actors are involved in influencing the safety of cities’ transportation systems?
  • How do these organizations and actors make transportation safety decisions?
  • What is the quality of final transportation safety decisions in terms of process (e.g., equitable distribution of funding) and outcome efficacy (e.g., selected countermeasures’ safety effectiveness)?

The project will be divided in two phases.

In the first phase, trained content analysts will conduct a systematic review of the content in existing plans, policy documents, programs, and municipal proceedings to look for activities, practices, and routines that enable organizations to understand and engage other organizations in their networks. Doing so will help the research team uncover relationships among organizations and how such relationships translate into transportation safety decision-making processes and outcomes. Between the first and second phases of this project, we will conduct a practitioner survey to identify the six most frequently cited cities that transportation safety practitioners highlight as inspiration for developing safety programs. The purpose of this survey will be to increase the likelihood of organizations’ adoption of safe systems approaches to transportation safety.

In the second phase, we will conduct site visits with the six cities identified in Phase 1A to carry out an organizational network analysis using semi-structured interviews and focus groups with key informants. During the visits, we will explore relationships among organizations within cities based on their communication patterns, use of funding and labor, and the rules and roles involved in making decisions related to project implementation. We will then compare the structure of relationships and networks between the six leader cities and assess which structural forms appear to lead to higher quality safety decisions (e.g., based on the known efficacy of selected countermeasures, the degree of equitable distribution of projects and programs, and the efficiency of project implementation).

Anticipated products and outcomes of this project include detailed maps describing the structure of organizational network in six leading cities, as well as at least two reports that outline ways of using network analytic methods to better understand and advance safe systems approaches.

Project Details

Project Type: Research
Project Status: Active
Start Date: 3-1-2017
End Date: 9-30-2018
Contract Year: Year 1
Total Funding from CSCRS: $200,000
Collaborating Organizations: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; University of California, Berkeley