Road safety

Enhancing SS4A Grant Applications with Road Safety Analytics

April 10, 2024

The Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) program has helped the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) work towards eliminating roadway fatalities and injuries across thousands of communities. Counties, cities, towns, transit agencies, and planning organizations can apply for SS4A grants to create and improve their safe driving initiatives.

With the SS4A application period in full swing, CMT recently hosted a virtual panel discussion to help representatives understand what they should think about to secure funding.

The discussion featured former USDOT leaders and Miami-Dade County’s Commissioner, Eileen Higgins. The panel spoke about the nuances of SS4A grants and how a data-driven approach can help communities identify and prioritize dangerous roads in their road safety plans to get funding.

Watch the full webinar recording

One main takeaway from the webinar was that SS4A applications require a multifaceted approach. In 2023, Miami-Dade County received $16.2M from USDOT following a successful SS4A application.  Miami-Dade Commissioner Higgins attributed the county’s successful application to a blend of compelling storytelling with data and innovative solutions to show a deep understanding of local road safety challenges and opportunities for improvement.

“People cannot understand tens of thousands of people being killed on our roads, but they can accept, be activated by, and understand the impact of one life lost and the impact on one family. When you bring that intersection to life and how it affects people negatively, it’s all part of how we tell stories and helps applications be successful,” said Commissioner Higgins.

Ryan McMahon, SVP of Strategy at CMT, discussed how Miami-Dade County leveraged CMT’s Road Safety Analytics to identify high-risk areas based on aggregate driving behaviors. With this information, Miami-Dade enhanced its road safety plan and SS4A application. 

“In the case of Miami-Dade County, we actually worked together to analyze the level of risk that was exhibited on the roads in the county and compared that to the national average. We found the amount of distracted driving, speeding, and emergency stopping is about double the nationwide average in the county, which yields the need for additional strategies and resources to facilitate the County’s highway safety plan and roadway safety plan.”

Ryan went on to explain that aggregated driving behaviors give insight into roadway infrastructure challenges and help safety planners prioritize road safety initiatives. For instance, safety planners can see where drivers in their community hard brake frequently — an indicator of where crashes are likely to occur. 

“We can take this type of research and this type of work that has been used to help analyze individual driving behavior, and we can use that same methodology to help understand the aggregate risk and prevent crashes before they happen. What that means relative to the Safe Streets and Roads for All program is we can help articulate the needs of where those risks are, and then ultimately, put in strategies, and look at the difference in behavior after those strategies are exhibited.”

“The more that we move to decision-making based on data overall, the more that we’ll have a faster ability to actually improve on the National Roadway Safety Strategy because we will know affirmatively which strategies are yielding the best results, the fastest.” 

Emily Schweninger, Senior Advisor at Epicworks and former Senior Policy Advisor for Transportation Health and Safety at USDOT, says that data-driven insights strengthen SS4A applications by being a step ahead in identifying problem areas before fatalities or injuries occur. 

“We’re at a stage where we can start to accelerate the way we’re responding and getting ahead and identifying risk before it results in these serious injuries and fatalities. [This] is the future that we are working towards. That’s an exciting place for us to end up.” 

Commissioner Higgins explains how using Road Safety Analytics to identify Miami-Dade’s most dangerous roadways helped it form its Vision Zero plan.

“What we’ve learned through our data analysis, in some ways, is obvious. But until you have the data to prove it, it’s hard to say ‘we know’ versus ‘we think.’ We now know that it’s our arterial roads, and we know that it’s roads where the speed limit is higher than 30 miles an hour. Now that we have that data that enables us to prioritize.”

Using data-driven analytics, local governments can refine their road safety strategies for their SS4A applications and then measure their road safety impact. 

There’s still over $3 billion in funding available for communities to tap into to make their streets safer. 

The fiscal year (FY) 2024 Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for Safe Streets and Roads for All grants is open.

The FY 2024 NOFO has multiple deadlines, depending on the grant type:

  • May 16, 2024, 5 p.m. (EDT): Sole deadline for Implementation Grants. Deadline #2 for Planning and Demonstration Grants.
  • August 29, 2024, 5 p.m. (EDT): Deadline #3 for Planning and Demonstration Grants. NOFO closes.

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