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Chapter 3: Policy and Planning for Older Road User Safety

As described in the previous chapter, systematic safety planning is an important element of policy development. In both countries, it was clear that safety needs to be a consideration both at the highest levels of government and the local level. Federal and state legislative bodies discuss road safety and, specifically, older road user issues. Also, at the highest level of government officials, state premiers (governors) have roadway safety as important policy initiatives. The involvement of political officials is key to securing longterm funding and building societal support for road safety initiatives. In Australia, the long-term strategic road safety plans adopted by each state had champions in the federal parliament and relevant ministry offices. The policies developed permeated the entire the department of transportation, regardless of departmental organization. Across the three states visited, the scan team observed different organizational structures of the functional groups of transportation planning; operation, construction, and maintenance; risk management; and drivers' licensing and testing. The road safety goals and culture operated across agency and divisional boundaries.

Another important factor in the success of safety planning was the way long-term, aspirational goals were combined with short-term action plans. State safety plans typically covered a 5- to 10-year period, with ambitious crash reduction goals clearly stated. These plans were always accompanied by action plans, typically in a 1- to 3-year framework, that could be used to set funding and legislative priorities.

In Japan, as well, federal research and safety improvement plans were being applied by government entities at the prefecture (state) and city level. This focus on data-driven decisionmaking was dominant in all of the Japanese programs reviewed. This was true for national, regional, and local agencies. Historical crash data were used to garner political and popular support for infrastructure investment and safety program and policy development.

This integrated use of data from multiple sources to guide safety planning was prominent in both countries. Data sources for plan development included the items listed below. Subsequent report sections present examples of how some of these data elements are used to guide strategic safety plan and policy development.

Examples of Evidence-Based Planning and Policy Development for Older Road Users

Personal Travel Surveys

One example from Australia of how planning tools directly guide policy is at VicRoads. The state of Victoria is conducting a large personal travel survey that will guide transportation planning through 2030. The Victorian Integrated Survey of Travel and Activity (VISTA) will provide data for land-use planning, transit services, and other programs. Results of the last large survey, conducted in 1999, showed that two-thirds of men over age 65 made their daily trips by driving. The policies and programs that arose from this finding are in four areas:

Long-Range Land-Use and Development Plans

Transit service planning can also be aided through data examination. The Roads Alliance, mentioned in the previous chapter, provides regional planning coordination and resource sharing and accelerates the achievement of safety goals. The coastal areas of Queensland are popular locations for large planned retirement communities, but they are located in rural and suburban areas that are not well served by transit. By examining land-use development plans, local agencies can work with developers to improve roadways serving these communities in ways that specifically aid older drivers. For instance, agencies may recommend protected turn phases at signalized intersections serving the development. To serve residents who have stopped driving, local transportation officials may recommend improved pedestrian access to transit stops in the development. The Community-Based Transport Toolbox (25) includes suggestions on establishing ride-sharing programs at congregate living facilities and retirement communities.

Transit use in Australia and Japan is complemented by government policies that support urban infill and concentrated development near transit stops and stations. The scan team was impressed by the number and variety of transportation options available and the general mix of residential, institutional, and light commercial development located along or near the arterial roadway network. Sidewalks and bicycle paths were typically included as part of the roadway design, and automobile parking restrictions and enforcement further supported their nonmotorized and public transportation investments. Throughout the Australian cities visited, the team noticed a significant number of outdoor public recreation and athletic facilities. Taken together, these policies and practices contribute to the development of walkable and livable communities and the opportunity for older road users to age in place. One such example of a transit-oriented development is in the Melbourne suburb of Box Hill. (29) The state of Victoria has invested in expanding tram and bus services in this area. Other communities also benefit from the state's Transit Cities program. (30)

Local Government Safety Planning

An example of how data are used as performance metrics was observed in Whitehorse, a Melbourne, Australia, suburb with a population of 143,000. There the city council funds a traffic safety staff position through city tax revenue. This person develops a 2-year safety improvement plan based on analyses of local crash data, citizen input, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of past educational and infrastructure programs. This plan is presented to the council, which endorses it and provides funding that is administered by the traffic safety staff person. This action plan is tied closely to the state strategic plan. (31) One program in the strategy is the Wiser Driver behavioral education program for older drivers, which was developed by Hawthorn Community Education Centre in Victoria, Australia. The city traffic safety officer works as a partner with his or her counterpart in the district state department of transportation office to deliver an education program over 4 weeks to seniors that, apart from driver safety, focuses on planning for future mobility, training on ticketing systems for transit, encouraging women to drive more while their husband is still alive to maintain their skill level, training on map reading, and trip planning to avoid high-risk left-hand turns.

Roadway Infrastructure Inventory

Queensland Main Roads uses modeling software to predict safety based solely on roadway and roadside design features, without looking at actual historical crash rates. The NetRISK software provides a tool for local maintenance and engineering staff members to inventory their current roadways and assess factors that may be more likely to cause crashes. (32) Examples include shoulder width, condition of pavement markings, and horizontal alignment. Weights in the model can be modified to emphasize particular data elements to target specific user groups, such as older road users.

Surveys of Transport System Users and Citizens

In Japan, the scan team found an example of using citizen survey data to prioritize investment and programs. The Japanese federal transport agency recognizes that local and regional priorities vary based on land use, commuting patterns, and existing infrastructure. Because of the relatively late start in the construction of expressways in Japan in general, the main concern in the past in all prefectures was expressway construction. Today, however, an increasing number of local governments rate the importance of other infrastructure elements higher than expressways. These include taking disaster preparedness measures, burying utilities, and improving roadway accessibility for disabled and elderly users primarily through sidewalk improvements and barrier removal. In the face of the diversified needs in the towns and prefectures, the federal agency wants to know if the performance measures it has developed are really sufficient to meet these needs. Federal laws and policy development are now based solely on crash data.

Logically, addressing the high-importance items identified by the citizen survey will affect crash rate. For instance, burying utility lines eliminates many casualties due to struck-object crashes. Likewise, improving sidewalk facilities will minimize vehicle-pedestrian conflicts and should reduce pedestrian crashes, a prominent problem for older road users. The aim is not just to improve safety, but also to improve the aesthetics and usability of the road scene. The Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism is developing performance metrics that capture both the safety improvement due to these changes and the more intangible benefits to the roadscape and livability of the affected areas.

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