Conducting a VRU assessment for the Nebraska Department of Transportation

Between 2016 to 2020, 623 fatal and serious injury crashes on Nebraska roadways involved pedestrians, cyclists, or people using other forms of human-powered transportation. Those using this type of transportation - known as vulnerable road users (VRUs) - account for approximately eight percent of the state’s traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

Every five years, the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) authors a Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) to allow the state and its partners to work together to decrease all traffic crashes, with a specific emphasis on fatal and serious injury crashes.

In 2023, NDOT added a VRU assessment to the SHSP. The VRU assessment uses the Systemic Safety Analysis approach to identify high risk areas and outlines strategies to improve safety.

We collaborated with NDOT to conduct the VRU assessment. Goals of the assessment included identifying contributing factors that lead to VRU crashes; identifying high risk facilities, demographics, and land use; and developing strategies that make progress toward eliminating fatal and serious injury crashes for VRUs.

Our assessment is now an appendix to the SHSP and is NDOT’s first document focusing strictly on improving safety for VRUs.

Our stakeholder engagement included preparing materials, administering online surveys, and conducting workshops to present information and identify goals, objectives, and performance measures.

We worked with NDOT to engage the public, as well as representatives from roadway safety organizations, including AAA Nebraska, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, law enforcement, and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). The meeting format involved a brief overview presentation by NDOT. That overview included an explanation of VRUs, assessment goals, and the plan’s connection to the overarching SHSP goals and plan.

We also conducted specific outreach within Nebraska tribal communities. Outreach efforts included a presentation, followed by a roundtable discussion of safety concerns, barriers to destinations, and possible safety improvement countermeasures.

We developed a survey to broaden the reach of public input across the state. The survey received comments from more than 560 respondents from 43 zip codes.

As a result of these efforts, input from stakeholders, state and federal data, and survey results contributed to the wide range of strategies and countermeasures that address both infrastructure and driver behavior concerns.

We prepared the assessment in accordance with all requirements of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Our work was performed under a compressed schedule to meet the federal deadline of November 15, 2023. We were able to accomplish this schedule through close collaboration with NDOT and use of efficient data analysis techniques. As a result of our efforts, NDOT was able to release the VRU Assessment in November 2023 as planned.

Chris Rolling
Group Leader
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