Research Issue Area Two: Rural Transportation: Implications for Safety and Health

Managers: Thomas Adler, PhD (1)

Jean-Pascal Assailly PhD (2), Advisor, Sonja Forward PhD(3) Advisor (1) RSG Inc., (2) INRETS, Paris, France, (3) Swedish Road and Transport Institute, Stockholm, Sweden


NETI will examine the behavioral basis of transportation patterns with major safety implications, with a particular emphasis on the question of rural speeding by younger drivers, working on a collaborative basis with other major researchers in this research area.

The Research Approach

The proposed project will document attitudes toward speeding, and other aggressive driving behaviors from a widely based sample of areas in the Rural Northeast.

As a related activity using data collected under Issue Area One, the implications of present modal patterns in rural areas will be documented in terms of the propensity of various transportation/land use patterns to support non-motorized transportation, with their subsequent implications for health.

NETI is now involved in a major issues definition process to be undertaken jointly with the University of Minnesota, Hubert Humphrey Policy Center, based on the results of a Summer Seminar in July of 2006. At that meeting, experts from the Northeast and the Midwest came together to better define the research questions associated with the relationship between rural transportation and both safety and health.

NETI will research the current state-of-the-practice of the rural states of the Northeast to serve as the basis for better understanding the attitudinal basis associated with risk-taking behavior in rural driving patterns, and to document variations of in use of non-motorized transportation in the study area. The result will be both a freestanding report for public distribution, with the actual technical results in "Appendix" format. This report will also document the results of work jointly undertaken with the University of Minnesota and other partners. This work will be made available via the Institute web site, including information formats consistent with the requirement of Section 508.

Technical Approach

The NETI research team will conduct a major survey effort to document the attitudes of drivers in the rural states of the Northeast towards a variety of risk taking behaviors, including speeding and elements of aggressive driving. The data will be organized in a manner to emphasize the comparison of attitudes from those in "more-rural" and "less rural" locations. This will reflect the variety of forms of settlement patterns that exist in these areas, e.g. both Burlington (less rural) and the Northeast Kingdom (more rural) will be included in study area. Revealed variation in attitude toward risk taking behavior (speeding) will be compared with epidemiological data about the location of highway accidents in rural areas. Work has commenced to include some questions about attitudes towards speeding into the survey instruments used in the Dartmouth Medical School project on rural adolescent behavior.

The task will also collect data on the use of non-motorized transportation throughout the study areas. Members of the NETI research team are currently supporting Dartmouth College researchers on two related research projects: (1) Environmental and Family Influences on Adolescent Overweight supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and (2) Obesity and the Built Environment – Additional Observational Measures, supported by the Active Living Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Both these projects involve studying travel patterns of an established cohort of 2567 adolescents and their parents, representing 26 stable and largely rural communities in Vermont and New Hampshire. The 3 D measures described in Issue Area One, (i.e., density, diversity & design) will be applied in this work. In addition, the possibility of including identical survey questions in the Dartmouth College and NETI work will be explored. As a result, NETI will be able to describe variation in travel patterns associated with a wide set of independent variables, including the rural nature of the participant's location.