Collaboration in Roadway Safety: Why Partnerships Between Public Agencies and Industry Works

Infrastructure safety can be improved for everyone through collaborative efforts between public agencies and private companies

ATSSA / April 16, 2020
ATSSA committee members, made up of DOT officials and industry leaders, met in January in New Orleans to discuss the future of the roadway safety industry.
ATSSA committee members, made up of DOT officials and industry leaders, met in January in New Orleans to discuss the future of the roadway safety industry.

Collaboration is vital to the success of many industries, but it’s crucial in advancing roadway safety. Public agencies working together with industry leaders can improve infrastructure safety, benefiting all of society.

“It’s critical that industry and public agencies work together to reduce fatalities and serious injuries on U.S. roads,” said Nate Smith, vice president of government relations for the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA). “Without that close cooperation and partnership, the overall goal of ‘zero deaths’ may be out of reach.”

For 50 years, ATSSA has shared information between state and federal departments of transportation (DOTs), as well as with manufacturers, suppliers, designers, and installers of roadway safety infrastructure. Networking allows sharing of past experiences and solutions, so organizations don’t need to reinvent the wheel. An example of an innovation is the temporary rumble strip.

“Our number one type of crash in a work zone is by distracted motorists,” said David Rush, Virginia DOT work zone safety manager. “We needed a product that could reach the driver of a vehicle who’s not paying attention to the roadway.” Several manufacturers developed a portable rumble strip to be placed across the roadway, immediately capturing the driver’s attention before coming to a lane closure or worker waving a flag.

Ideas like this are presented at the Circle of Innovation session at ATSSA’s Annual Convention & Traffic Expo. “Agency officials have been able to offer their roadway safety challenges to the industry, which in turn develops life-saving countermeasures to address those challenges,” said Smith. The annual event has led to improvements in signs, guardrail and cable, roadside safety devices, intelligent transportation systems, vehicle-to-infrastructure innovation and technology, positive guidance and separation, and more.

Another annual program based on cooperation is National Work Zone Awareness Week, held every spring before the start of construction season to encourage safe driving and extra caution through work zones. “National Work Zone Awareness Week is a great way to bring together the entire industry, to focus on worker and work zone safety,” said Chuck Bergmann, work zone tech specialist for the Michigan DOT construction field services.

Collaborations also include ATSSA’s strong chapter network, which allows industry leaders, legislative advocates, the roadway safety infrastructure industry, and manufacturers/suppliers to exchange information and ideas about roadway safety. “Members hear firsthand about state department of transportation needs, concerns, and ways to address them,” said Pamala Bouchard, director of member engagement for ATSSA. “All traffic safety services companies and professionals that join ATSSA are highly encouraged to participate in their local chapter. There is no additional membership fee to belong to the chapter.” ATSSA has 28 chapters across the U.S., representing 44 states.

ATSSA scholarships provide financial assistance for those who might not otherwise be able to attend the organization’s Annual Convention & Traffic Expo. Financial awards include the Marty Weed Engineering Scholarship, for new public agency engineers specializing in work zone safety and temporary traffic control. A Public Agency Officials Scholarship allows local DOT employees to connect with peers, exchange information, see the latest technology, and network with industry leaders and influencers. This year, ATSSA covered registration and travel assistance for 130 public agency employees to attend, said Bouchard.

Outcomes of collaborative efforts may not be noticed by the public, but they make a difference. “The motoring public sees orange, not individual companies as they drive through work zones, so it is imperative to have safety products developed and promoted in a way that improves and provides safe work zones for all,” said Bergmann.

Manufacturers and suppliers have the same underlying goal: providing a safe road and driving environment for all road users. And that takes collaboration.

For more information, visit ATSSA.com/MemberCenter to learn about membership opportunities.

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