Tribal Transportation Specialists’ Priorities for Reservation Roadway Safety: Results of a National Survey

Kathryn S. Quick, Adam Larsen, Guillermo E. Narváez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The focus of this study is roadway safety in American Indian tribal lands. American Indians’ motor vehicle crash fatality rate is the highest among all ethnic and racial groups in the United States. Roadway safety in tribal areas, where approximately 656 fatalities occur each year, is an important aspect of this problem. Following a review of crash statistics from recently published research, we present our empirical analysis of the expressed concerns of roadway safety managers with the most informed, direct knowledge of reservations and tribal areas. The data source is the 2016 Tribal Transportation Safety Data Survey, including 151 tribal government and 22 state government respondents. Qualitative methods were used to analyze their perceptions and priorities for roadway safety. We identified: 1) tribes’ and states’ highest priorities for roadway safety in tribal lands, and 2) their concerns about state government relationships relating to data quality, data sharing, and coordination. Tribes consistently named four concerns: road quality engineering and repair; reckless driving (speeding, impaired, distracted driving); seatbelt/car seat use; and pedestrian safety. Tribes and states both expressed a wish to improve their relationships, particularly relating to data quality and sharing, with both sides identifying the need for tribes to have more resources for data documentation and analysis. We conclude with recommendations to improve tribal roadway safety plans, strengthen data quality, create a common framework for identifying roads of interest to tribal governments and communities, and conduct additional research on pedestrian safety, emergency medical service response, roadway departures, and nonfatal crashes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)652-661
Number of pages10
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge the individuals who responded to the survey. We appreciate the generosity of the Tribal Transportation Safety Management System Steering Committee in sharing their knowledge and time in helping to develop the scope of the study, proposing questions for the survey, and encouraging potential survey respondents to participate. The study would not have been possible without FHWA resources?particularly management time and software?to develop the survey, collate the data, and write up the two reports to Congress (8, 32). The authors thank an anonymous, external peer reviewer for helpful comments on a preliminary version of some of this data analysis, which was part of a related report (36) and eight reviewers who provided useful suggestions and critiques on the original submission of this manuscript. Three University of Minnesota graduate students were involved: Brynn Saunders and Sara Dufour assisted with the literature review and Ben Gronowski helped with copy editing. Quick and Narv?ez applied part of FHWA UTC grant DTRT13-G-UTC35 toward data analysis and writing time.


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