In 2019, traffic collisions in California caused over 3,900 fatalities and 16,000 severe injuries, resulting in both human tragedy and an economic burden of over $53.5 billion annually. California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has committed to eliminating fatal and serious injury collisions by 2050.
Caltrans Division of Safety Programs has implemented several initiatives that address high-priority safety challenge areas. One of these strategies is the introduction of the HM-4 Safety Pilot Program utilizing the Highway Maintenance (HM) programs’ delivery process, which has a unique ability to install, implement, and maintain safety enhancements more quickly than other traffic safety improvement programs. On average, traditional project delivery methods take three years to develop and two years to construct.
In contrast, the HM-4 Safety Pilot Program has created a funding source to implement Proven Safety Countermeasures through the HM Program’s quick delivery process. The program funds capital costs for stand-alone safety projects in three areas: Wrong-Way Driver Prevention Countermeasures, Horizontal Alignment Curve Warning Sign Packages, and Pedestrian Safety Enhancements. The last area is critical as approximately 20 percent of fatal crashes on the State Highway System involve pedestrians. In response to the rise in fatalities and serious injuries among non-motorized users over the last decade, Caltrans has identified locations for safety enhancement. The criteria for location selection include disadvantaged communities, communities with proximity to school campuses, and vulnerable populations consisting of seniors and youth.
The Divisions of Maintenance and Safety Programs collaboratively manage the HM-4 Safety Pilot Program, which is funded at $21.6 million per year. In the two fiscal years (FY) of the HM-4 Safety Pilot Program (FY 21/22 and F Y 22/23), Caltrans has been able to deliver safety enhancements at 4,540 locations, exceeding the Pilot Program’s goal by almost 1,290 locations.
The innovative HM-4 Safety Pilot Program is delivering quick and efficient safety projects and has been proven effective. Because of the success of the Pilot Program, Caltrans has expanded the HM-4 Safety Pilot Program to include other high-priority challenge areas. The program now also includes Bicyclist Safety Enhancement, Run-Off-Road Collision Prevention, and Cross-Over Collision Prevention Countermeasures. The HM-4 Pilot Program is also an example of Caltrans’ commitment to the Safe Systems Approach, which is based on six key principles that define how we respond to safety challenges, implement interventions, and evaluate progress. By accounting and planning for human error, and by taking proactive and expedient steps to protect all roadway users, the HM-4 Safety Pilot Program showcases Caltrans’ innovative effort to implement the Safe Systems Approach.
Rachel Carpenter, PE, Chief Safety Officer at Caltrans accepted the Award at a Capitol Hill ceremony on November 29th.