The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has published an updated roadway safety plan to identify key needs and help direct funding to improvements that reduce fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads.

MassDOT developed the 2023 Strategic Highway Safety Plan for Massachusetts in cooperation with a range of federal, state, local, private and public sector safety stakeholders. The state safety plans are required by the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program and are updated every five years.

The data-driven, strategic plan includes key roadway safety data, identifies safety needs and goals, and suggests potential action areas. Over the course of several months, stakeholders considered more than 400 ideas in 14 areas and ultimately outlined six core initiatives:
1. Implement Speed Management to Realize Safer Speeds
2. Address Top-Risk Locations and Populations
3. Take an Active Role to Affect Change in Vehicle Design, Features and Use
4. Accelerate Research and Adoption of Technology
5. Double Down on What Works
6. Implement New Approaches to Public Education and Awareness

The plan reflects a desire to identify locations that are top risk for fatalities and injuries; recommendations to implement automated enforcement and expand targeted enforcement; and recommendations to increase transportation-focused maintenance and operations.

The plan indicates that the Commonwealth would identify locations and populations that are at the highest risk for fatal or serious injury crashes, so that projects there can be prioritized.

The plan recommends amending state law to allow for automated enforcement of traffic violations and using pilot programs to introduce and test such efforts.

The plan also recommends expanding the use of targeted enforcement and increased police presence. This could include impaired driving checkpoints and police presence at high-risk locations and work zones.

Improved maintenance and operations, such as roadway monitoring, snow removal, tree trimming, and maintained signage, are cited as playing a key role in safety.

Many of the proposed initiatives will require municipal involvement and additional resources or support for municipalities. The report calls for increased resources to be provided to municipalities, while also stating that the Commonwealth will partner with communities to help achieve the goals and initiatives outlined in the report.

The plan uses a holistic and comprehensive analysis and planning process, known as the Safe System Approach, to assess safety needs and identify strategies and countermeasures. The Safe System Approach designs a system with reinforcing layers of protection to prevent deaths and serious injuries.

The Safe Systems Approach focuses on five elements (safer people, vehicles, speeds and roads, as well as post-crash care) and assumes six principles: death and serious injury are unacceptable; humans make mistakes; humans are vulnerable; responsibility is shared; safety is proactive; and redundancy is crucial.

The approach incorporates input from stakeholders focused on these categories to then suggest behavior or practice changes that will make people and places safer. The Safe System Approach is used and endorsed by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The MMA was a member of the Executive Leadership Committee and among the 270 people that engaged in the development of the safety plan.

The next step is the creation of an action plan to outline more specific steps to be taken by various departments and stakeholders.

The previous Strategic Highway Safety Plan was published in 2018.

Written by