Extreme weather impacts on driver safety

Focus Area

Climate Change


Air Quality, Environmental Process




Over $750k


2-3 years

Research Idea Scope

Extreme weather impacts on driver safety and the development of next generation analytical tools to improve hazard analysis and causal factor traceability of those impacts is an important next step in the evolution of transportation and extreme weather. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT) State Engineer’s Office, “Pull aside, stay alive – four words that could save your life if a dust storm hits while you’re driving. ADOT has been spreading these words for more than two years now. It’s a simple way to remind all motorists never to drive into dust. Instead, pull aside until the dust clears. Stay out of the dust and stay alive.” Dangerous dust storms occur year-round in Arizona and throughout arid regions of the Southwest. One of the worst fatal crashes in Arizona attributed to dust happened in late October 2013. Three people died when 19 vehicles piled up on Interstate 10 south of Casa Grande. Thick dust diminished visibility in minutes. May 2014, seven people were killed in a crash on I-10 in New Mexico, seven miles east of the Arizona border. A sudden dust storm reduced visibility to near zero, causing a chain reaction of rear-end crashes. According to Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center’s, “Delay and Environmental Costs of Truck Crashes,” Report, “The costs of a truck crash are not always as obvious as a broken leg or a crushed bumper. After an accident, drivers get stuck in stop-and-go traffic or they seek alternate routes; both scenarios increase emissions and pollution. An average accident involving a truck leads to 3.2 tons of CO2 emissions due to detours and delays, with nearly 11 tons of CO2 emitted for an accident on an urban expressway.” In addition Volpe stated, “to help inform Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations aimed at reducing truck-involved crashes, deaths, and injuries, economists and environmental scientists at Volpe developed sophisticated data models that accurately show the range of consequences from an average truck crash.” http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/48000/48200/48200/Crash-Costs-Final-Report.pdf Volpe has also developed SafetyHAT: A Transportation System Safety Hazard Analysis Tool. According to Volpe, “the transportation systems Safety Hazard Analysis Tool (SafetyHAT) is a software tool that facilitates hazard analysis using the System-Theoretic Process Analysis (STPA). STPA is a hazard identification method based on a top-down system engineering approach and control systems theory. While some familiarity with STPA is expected before using this tool, one of the primary goals of SafetyHAT is to help safety analysts become proficient with the STPA method. SafetyHAT includes transportation-oriented guide phrases and causal factors that tailor the STPA method to transportation systems.” http://www.volpe.dot.gov/advanced-transportation-technologies/advanced-vehicle-technology/safetyhat-transportation-system Anticipated Tasks – Synthesize whate State DOT tools may already be inuse or could be adopted to do extreme weather and driver safety analysis. – Develop a state by state extreme weather and driver safety road map that categorizes known extreme weather hazards. – Customize Volpe’s truck crash data models for use with extreme weather development of next generation analytical tools to improve hazard analysis and causal factor traceability of those impacts. – Customize Volpe’s Safety Hazard Analysis Tool (SafetyHAT) that uses the System-Theoretic Process Analysis (STPA) methodology for use with extreme weather development of next generation analytical tools to improve hazard analysis and causal factor traceability of those impacts. – Convene an annual extreme weather and driver safety conference to discuss next generation mitigation strategies and best practices

Urgency and Payoff

Immediate – Would allow State DOTs to formalize extreme weather and driver safety program analysis, development and mitigation strategies within their respective operations. In addition, raising awareness at the national level would allow private sector entities (i.e. insurance companies) to deepen their own risk assessment capabilities related to this new area of hazard risk analysis.

Suggested By

Steven Olmsted / Emily Lester Arizona Department of Transportation 602-712-6421

[email protected]