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PROMOTING CSET OUTREACH ACTIVITIES THROUGH SAFETY DATA MANAGEMENT AND ANALYSIS IN RITI COMMUNITIESTraffic crashes are one of the leading causes of death among all people in the United States, but the rates among American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) populations are significantly higher than other groups. In fact, rural areas in general are disadvantaged from a traffic safety perspective due to the lack of funding and challenges in safety improvement decisions. This may contribute to the much higher fatality rate on rural roadways than on urban roadways. Additionally, there is a known issue of underreporting of fatal crashes of tribal members. Thus, an increased focus on rural, isolated, tribal, and indigenous (RITI) community traffic safety is necessary in order to progress towards zero fatalities. The need for quality data is recognized, and even included in many tribal transportation plans, but implementation and collection of the data varies. Quality data enables better safety analysis and enables greater support for traffic safety improvements. An easy-to-use and multisource database would enable tribes throughout the state and other rural communities to more readily manage data and apply for improvement funding. In order to reach this point, it is necessary to have agreements with tribes on crash data collection and usage, and understand local customs, needs, and current practices. This research aimed to form trusting and lasting relationships with tribal leaders in Washington State in order to facilitate crash database management and traffic safety analysis in their communities. The outreach activities included meetings with local tribal leaders, interviews, and attendance and presentations at tribal conferences. Ultimately a formal research agreement was signed with one tribe in Washington State granting access to the fatal and serious injury crash data they had collected.
Reaching Out to Tribal Communities: Lessons Learned and Approaches to ConsiderWhen transportation safety decision-making is desired, the involvement and engagement with a community is essential. A streamlined delivery of a project or program is more likely to occur when active dialogue and an exchange of ideas occurs in advance and occurs frequently. This is particularly important in tribal communities, who value sustained relationships and represent the focus population of this study. The research team, on six separate occasions, met with local and regional tribal leaders to explore and discuss transportation safety needs within and outside tribal communities, as well as discern the recommended approaches to foster ongoing dialogue about these needs. In all cases these discussions closely correlated with existing research studies or activities; transportation safety and equity is not seen as separate from other tribal foci and community needs. Specific recommendations to consider, in no particular order, included the following: invest respectfully enough time for people to talk; tribes think long-term and consider the impact of any decision from a long-term viewpoint so an iterative process and re-sharing of ideas is critical; the power of decision is in the hands of the tribe and its members; do not lump tribes together as each tribe is sovereign and unique and every community should be expected to think differently; all tribes are unique as is the environmental and social context; to disseminate information widely and iteratively, do so when there is a large group or event; be sure to understand the Tribal governance, decision making, and organizational structure; know who is the tribal Chairman or Chairwoman; and develop an emic and etic understanding of the community.