The strategic highway safety plan in Puerto Rico: accomplishments during the first two years of its implementation

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Benjamín Colucci
Juan Carlos Rivera
Alexis Nevárez
Kenneth Vélez

In the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a 3,500 square mile island located in the Caribbean, highway safety is a vital factor for all citizens which depend primarily on the private vehicle for the mobility of people and goods. According to the crash data in the Critical Analysis Reporting Environment (CARE), the six main contributing factors for fatal crashes along the Commonwealth’s highway network are: aggressive driving (43%), vulnerable users (32%), alcohol impaired drivers (28%), roadway departure (25.5%), young drivers between 18-24 years of age (25.4%), and intersections (13%). As part of the efforts to reduce the frequency of severe injury or fatal motor vehicle crashes, public agencies, the private sector, and non-profit organizations established the Puerto Rico Strategic Highway Safety Plan (PR-SHSP) for years 2014 - 2018. The vision of the PR-SHSP is that “all users of the transportation system move safely and effectively to their destinations”, and the mission is to “provide a safe, efficient and cost effective transportation system taking into account the needs of all users”. The goal of this five-year plan is to “achieve a reduction in serious crashes, injuries, and fatalities on Puerto Rico’s public roadways.” The slogan for the PR-SHSP is "Working together toward highway safety to save more lives.” The PR-SHSP five-year plan was prepared in alliance with the Puerto Rico Highway and Transportation Authority (PRHTA), the Puerto Rico Traffic Safety Commission (PRTSC), the Department of Health, the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The plan was developed following guidelines from the FHWA adapted to the local conditions and opportunities. The PR-SHSP development included case studies, crash data analysis, a survey of highway safety stakeholders, and a Safety Summit. The nine safety Emphasis Areas in the PR-SHSP include three core areas, which are expected to remain in future SHSPs, are: emergency medical response, occupant protection, and traffic records and information systems. The six non-core Emphasis Areas, in the order of highest to lowest percentage of fatal crashes, are: aggressive driving, vulnerable road users, alcohol impaired driving, road departure, young drivers, and intersections. Ample participation from academic, non-profit, private and governmental stakeholder organizations have ensured acceptance of the plan and participation during the implementation process. This makes it possible to achieve positive results for the benefit of all road users. This paper primarily describes the principal components of the Puerto Rico Strategic Highway Safety Plan, the analysis of historical trends of fatalities and serious crashes using the five year moving average, the identification and participation of stakeholders in the process, and the accomplishments during the first two years of its implementation. Furthermore, the proposed action plan, as well as, the challenges for the remaining three years, will also be described. Finally, general guidelines on how the PR-SHSP can be adapted to be implemented in other countries with similar traffic, infrastructure, and climatic conditions, with the potential to increase awareness in road safety and save lives, will also be discussed.

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