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Traffic Safety Culture: TSC Pooled Fund

This program is a cooperative effort of participating state DOTs and other organizations vested in traffic safety.

Traffic Safety Culture Pooled Fund

TPF-5(444) Study Description

Study Description

Growing safety culture has been identified as a core strategy by USDOT Safety Council, FHWA’s Joint Safety Strategic Plan, The National Towards Zero Deaths (TZD) Safety Initiative, and the Road to Zero Coalition. Growing a positive traffic safety culture would not only support traffic safety goals by reducing risky behaviors and increasing protective behaviors, it would also increase public acceptance of other effective traffic safety programs. Traffic safety culture can be defined as the values and beliefs shared amongst road users that determine their choice of behavior which affects traffic safety. Traffic safety culture also includes the values and beliefs of stakeholders across the social environment whose actions can affect those behaviors and traffic safety. Critical stakeholders may include state departments of transportation, state offices of public safety, public health officials, law enforcement leaders, elected officials, business leaders, etc. In 2015, the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) initiated a 5-year transportation pooled fund program on traffic safety culture ( partnering with the Center for Health and Safety Culture (CHSC) at Montana State University as the principal research entity. This program began as a cooperative effort amongst participating state DOTs and other (traditional and non-traditional) stakeholder organizations sharing a vested interest in the role of traffic safety culture to achieve the Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) vision. The total budget was $1,204,000 with support from 14 state departments of transportation (DOTs) including:

  1. California Department of Transportation 
  2. Connecticut Department of Transportation
  3. Idaho Transportation Department 
  4. Illinois Department of Transportation
  5. Indiana Department of Transportation 
  6. Iowa Department of Transportation 
  7. Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development
  8. Montana Department of Transportation
  9. Nevada Department of Transportation 
  10. New Hampshire Department of Transportation 
  11. Texas Department of Transportation 
  12. Utah Department of Transportation
  13. Vermont Agency of Transportation
  14. Washington State Department of Transportation

Projects conducted in this first funding period examined the role of culture in impaired driving, distracted driving, law enforcement, and intervening to prevent risky driving. Completed projects include the following: 

  1. An Assessment of Traffic Safety Culture Related to Driving After Cannabis Use
  2. An Assessment of Traffic Safety Culture Related to Engagement in Efforts to Improve Traffic Safety
  3. Traffic Safety Cultures and the Safe Systems Approach (an international technology transfer project)

Active projects include the following:

  1. Key Information for Effective Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis (DUIC) Policy 
  2. Traffic Safety Citizenship Communication Tools 
  3. Traffic Safety Culture Primer

Pending projects to be completed under this current pooled fund program, TPF-5(309), include the following:

  1. Evaluation of Traffic Safety Culture Strategies 
  2. Guidance on Cultural-Based Strategies to Grow Engaged Driving 
  3. Guidance on Messaging to Avoid Reactance and Address Moral Disengagement

The program is producing several tools including primers, an online video, and webinars on key topics relevant to traffic safety culture, including tools to facilitate the implementation of research results. Given the success of the current pooled fund program, the members unanimously recommend the continuation of another five-year cycle. The pooled fund is actively seeking additional partners for the funding cycle to begin October 1, 2019.


Only through the growth of a positive safety culture can significant and sustainable reductions in crash fatalities and serious injuries be achieved. Towards that end, this pooled fund program will:

  1. Conduct research to identify solutions to specific culture-based traffic safety problems, taking advantage of the implementation opportunities to improve traffic safety
  2. Develop resources to enhance understanding and application of traffic safety culture strategies
  3. Provide technology transfer of best practices in traffic safety culture strategies.

Scope of Work

This program will support integrated and multiyear research to guide the transformation of local, state, and national traffic safety culture. Funding partners determine the priority issues each year, and work plans are developed for the selected issues. Three types of effort are expected in this pooled-fund program: First, the program could propose culture-based research directed to specific traffic safety problems. For example, there are common behavioral risk factors amongst most state Strategic Highway Safety Plans (SHSP) such as impaired or distracted driving that can be influenced by culture. Second, the program may generate ideas for general “services and tools” to support the understanding and application of traffic safety culture in the safety plans of project partners. For example, online courses on traffic safety culture for workforce development or a repository of relevant literature and case studies of best practice relevant to addressing the cultural factors of a risky behavior could be created. Third, the program can be used to implement a limited number of demonstration projects to evaluate specific strategies to transform traffic safety culture in select communities, which could then be applied elsewhere.


Subjects: Safety and Human Performance


General Pooled Fund Resources