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Research Projects (2000-01)

Identifying Number


Project Title

Defining a Road Safety Audit Program for Enhancing Safety and Reducing Tort Liability


University of Wyoming

Project Investigator

Eugene Wilson
University of Wyoming

External Project Contact

A Panel of Legal Professionals including WYDOT Legal Services

Project Objective

  • Identify the areas of tort liability for local rural road jurisdictions.
  • Develop guidelines for tailoring a Road Safety Audit (RSA) program to identify common areas of tort liability for local (MPC-Region) rural road jurisdictions.
  • Develop an RSA Program to enhance road safety.
  • Develop a Program approach for a defense to tort liability.

Project Abstract

The unique problems faced by local rural road jurisdictions, when coupled with the modern decline of the traditional defense of sovereign immunity, expose these jurisdictions to tort liability settlements or judgments. Road jurisdictions, in addition to safely serving road users, also need to effectively manage their assets. To maximize the use of their dollars, they need to be able to minimize their tort liability. Road Safety Audits have been used globally since the late 1980s to improve road safety in countries worldwide and has been used by some U.S. DOTs since 1997. The validity and practicality of this approach to help local rural road jurisdictions enhance road safety and minimize their tort liability is the focus of this project.

Task Descriptions

Year 1 - Action Items

  • Task 1 – Integrate previous MPC research (in Tort Liability and Road Safety Audits) consistent with the expansion of the Road Safety Audits Program.
  • Task 2 – Identify common liability areas for local rural road jurisdictions and explore use and status of the Road Safety Audits program.
  • Task 3 – Based on Tasks #1 and #2, determine questions for Survey questionnaire.
  • Task 4 – Develop Focus Group of transportation legal experts.
  • Task 5 – Test Survey questions and revise, as needed.
  • Task 6 – Deliver interim MPC report focusing on the identification of the liability areas and the development of the survey.
  • Task 7 – Structure specific action items for year 2 of the project based on findings from Task 1-6.

Year 2 - Tentative Action Items

  • Task 1 – Send out Survey to Expert Focus Group and revise and resend if needed - E. Wilson, June 2000).
  • Task 2 – Calculate survey results.
  • Task 3 – Analyze and draw conclusions from survey results.
  • Task 4 – From conclusions, develop guidelines for utilizing the RSA to target roadway safety using the RSA and the identification and minimization of tort liability.
  • Task 5 – Deliver final MPC report, including the program to enhance roadway safety using the RSA and the identification and minimization of tort liability - E. Wilson, April 2001).
  • Task 6 – Deliver MPC brochures, checklists, etc. with guidelines for minimizing tort liability - E. Wilson, May 2001).

Milestones, Dates

  • Starting Date: July 1, 1999
  • Project Milestones:
    • Determine questions for survey questionnaire December 1999
    • Deliver interim MPC report describing tort liability areas and development of the survey May 2000
    • Send out survey to expert focus group - revise and resend if needed June 2000
    • Deliver final MPC report April 2001
    • Deliver MPC brochures, checklists, etc with guidelines for minimizing tort liability May 2001
  • Ending Date: June 30, 2001

Yearly and Total Budget

Year 1
Federal Share $ 60,000
Matching Share $ 77,400
Total Cost $ 137,400

Year 2 - Estimated
Federal Share $ 38,655
Matching Share $ 64,500
Total Cost $ 103,155

Student Involvement

One graduate student will use this project for a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering and a Juris Doctor.

Relationship to Other Research Projects

Tort Liability - MPC Research Reports #91-7, 94-36, 97-69

Road Safety Audits - MPC Research Reports #97-87, 98-96A&B

Technology Transfer Activities

Results of the research will be used in a TEL8 conference on road safety in the Fall of 2000.

Potential Benefits of the Project

Results of the research completed in this project will be of use by local rural road jurisdictions in the MPC region. Guidelines will be developed to assist these jurisdictions in determining an d staying within the legal boundaries while managing local rural roads.

TRB Keywords

Safety, road safety audits, traffic operations, tort liability, sovereign immunity, local rural roads.

NDSU Dept 2880P.O. Box 6050Fargo, ND 58108-6050