The Eight Components of a Comprehensive Safety Action Plan

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Whether you’re putting together a plan to improve traffic safety or preparing to apply for an SS4A grant, a Comprehensive Safety Action Plan is often the first step on the path to eliminating traffic fatalities within your community. With traffic deaths reaching a 16-year high and pedestrian fatalities reaching a 40-year high in 2021, cities across the U.S. have started to take action, from implementing strategies like the Safe System Approach and Vision Zero to accessing and leveraging federal grant funding. A necessary piece of the puzzle? A strategic plan.  

A Safety Action Plan provides transportation officials with a powerful roadmap to achieve their goal — typically to reduce or eliminate traffic fatalities within the community by a future date. The plan compiles necessary resources, such as collision data and actionable strategies, to identify roadway safety needs and support investment decisions. But creating your own Safety Action Plan can be a daunting task — especially if you’re unsure of how to get started.  

How to Begin Creating Your Safety Action Plan 

While each state has a Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP), a Safety Action Plan specific to your community allows you, as a traffic official, to focus on localized safety goals. Creating a tailored Safety Action Plan can help you address city-specific issues that might not necessarily be a concern on a state-wide level. But to get started, it’s essential to follow a structured approach to ensure your Safety Action Plan is as effective as possible. There are typically eight essential components of a successful Safety Action Plan. And we’ve broken down each one to help you navigate creating your own. 

1. Assign Leadership and Set Goals 

The first step of any Safety Action Plan is establishing an individual to publicly lead your community’s safety efforts. This is often a public official, such as a mayor or city council member, who should have a deep understanding of the plan and can leverage or acquire resources to ensure it remains on track. In addition to selecting a champion for your Safety Action Plan, a goal should be set. Depending on your community’s current roadway challenges, this should either target a reduction in the number of roadway fatalities and serious injuries or eliminate them altogether. Additionally, the set goal should include a target date and a timeline. 

2. Identify a Planning Structure 

To ensure your Safety Action Plan is successful in the long run, a committee or task force is key. These stakeholders are tasked with overseeing the Safety Action Plan and will meet regularly to manage its development and execution. This often involves analyzing data, identifying safety strategies and funding opportunities and engaging relevant community members to advance the plan’s goals. While members can include anyone in the community, typical stakeholders can include (but is not limited to) local transportation officials, law enforcement, elected officials, non-profit organizations and local school districts. 

3. Analyze Safety Data

Before it’s possible to identify a community’s roadway problems and establish emphasis areas of a Safety Action Plan, officials must first analyze available safety data. Crash data can unveil historical trends and problematic roadways, as well as identify contributing factors of past crashes. An analysis of data should also look for patterns in a variety of areas, including road users, crash type, roadway design and socioeconomic factors. After a comprehensive overview of community data has been gathered, officials can then identify strategies based on the findings. If you’re unsure of where to begin with finding relevant data, your state’s SHSP is a valuable resource to access the data you need.  

4. Engage With the Community 

When establishing your Safety Action Plan, collaborating with stakeholders outside of your task force can help ensure your bases are covered when deciding which strategies are the best fit for your roadways. Requesting feedback from the public can unveil key insights from active community members to help inform future planning. And, including a diverse range of stakeholders in the development of your Safety Action Plan can help establish comprehensive coverage of potential problem spots and their solutions, leading to a well-rounded plan. 

5. Consider Equity 

Not all communities are equal — which means when there are clear disparities between neighborhoods, the needs of any underserved communities must be addressed within your Safety Action Plan. Research has shown that people of color are impacted by traffic crashes at disproportionate rates, and any available data from your community should be taken into consideration (USDOT). Population characteristics and the equity impact of proposed strategies should be included when analyzing data to ensure your plan is on the right track to close any existing gaps. 

6. Assess Current Policies 

As roadway strategies shift to better align with the Safe System Approach, it’s important to assess your community’s current standards to identify any areas of improvement. Depending on the needs of your roadways and existing guidelines, developing new policies can help your municipality better navigate your new Safety Action Plan and its outlined traffic safety strategies. Any revisions should be included within your Safety Action Plan and outline the reasoning behind the changes and the role they play in achieving your future goal. 

7. Select Strategies and Projects 

Once you’ve established a team to back your Safety Action Plan and conducted a comprehensive audit of available data, the next key step is taking all community factors into consideration to identify the optimal projects for your roadways. Your Safety Action Plan should include an extensive set of strategies — ideally aligning with the Safe System Approach — that can address the main issues your community is facing. Selected countermeasures should focus on factors such as design, driver behavior and roadway operations, and each project’s inclusion should be accompanied by an implementation timeline. Want to check out an example to help you get started outlining future planned projects? Download the 2018 Marin County Travel Safety Plan and head to theCountermeasures Toolkit. 

8. Monitor Progress 

Finally, no traffic safety project is complete without assessing its results. This step not only helps your task force understand what’s working and what isn’t, but also gives community members insight into the projects affecting their travels. As different strategies are introduced and evaluated over time, your Safety Action Plan should be updated to measure each project’s results. This means your Safey Action Plan should be housed in a public place, ideally in an online location like your municipality’s website. 

I’ve Created My Safety Action Plan — What’s Next? 

Creating a Safety Action Plan is a considerable accomplishment (great job!) — but it’s just the beginning of the path to safer roadways. A complete Safety Action Plan gives your community a comprehensive roadmap to follow, allowing your agency to move forward with its outlined safety plans. Plus, it can unlock new opportunities and open the door to federal funding programs like Safe Streets and Roads for All — and many others.  

Need a hand with putting your projects into action? Our team of experts is happy to chat through any safety concerns you have. 

Robert Kurka

TAPCO | Product Manager

With over a decade in business development, marketing and product management, Robert strives to improve transportation safety through innovation.

He is a pedestrian safety solutions expert who especially enjoys working with the TAPCO family to develop lifesaving products and solutions, such as the SafeWalk® Crosswalk Illuminator and the VizMark™ Pavement Marking Enhancement.

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