July 2, 2024 BY Tiffany Smithin News

Leveraging SS4A Funding to Right-Size Enforcement

You’ve probably heard about the tremendous number of road safety improvements being planned and implemented in more than 1,000 communities across the nation thanks to new federal Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) funding. This includes new bikeways, sidewalks, pedestrian-scale lighting, traffic calming, safe speed strategies, safe routes to schools and parks, projects to reconnect neighborhoods that have been torn apart by past highway expansion projects, and more. 

But did you know that SS4A funds can also be leveraged to invest and improve on other elements of Vision Zero work? This includes assessing and right-sizing the role of traffic enforcement in a community’s road safety efforts. As with all strategies, enforcement measures should be evaluated regularly, asking the important questions: Are these actions effective in improving public safety? Are they carried out in equitable ways and resulting in equitable outcomes?

This is particularly important because, in the U.S., communities of color and low-income communities suffer disproportionately in traffic crashes and also suffer disproportionately from racialized policing, particularly non-safety traffic stops that do little to improve roadway safety while exacerbating inequities and injustices.

Vision Zero Network is collaborating with the Vera Institute, a national criminal justice organization, and Local Progress, a movement of local elected officials advancing a racial and economic justice agenda through all levels of local government, to promote how communities can leverage SS4A funding to plan and pilot more effective and equitable strategies than the status quo approach to traffic enforcement.  You can explore our slidedeck and read ideas, below, to leverage SS4A funds to make your Vision Zero efforts more effective and equitable.

Ideas to Evaluate, Rightsize Enforcement in Road Safety

In addition to a broad array of funding to build safety infrastructure, the SS4A program guidelines also state that projects can “focus on equitable and effective enforcement techniques, including police enforcement of the most dangerous driver behaviors (e.g., excessive speeding, impaired driving), speed safety cameras, civilian traffic enforcement, and alternatives to traffic enforcement as part of a holistic Safe System Approach.” 

Excerpts taken from USDOT’s info page on eligible supplemental planning & demonstration grants

Following are some ideas to right-size the role of traffic enforcement to be more effective and equitable:

  • Revise a community’s enforcement strategy in a Vision Zero, or road safety, plan to ensure equitable actions and outcomes. This is a chance to revisit and update a traditional E’s-style plan (Education, Enforcement, Engineering, etc.), which often over-emphasizes reactive, punitive policing strategies. Read more about the benefits of shifting to a Safe System approach, which is built on the recognition that people will inevitably make mistakes, so transportation systems should be designed to be more forgiving and survivable when mistakes do occur. This prioritizes upstream strategies, such as designing the built environment and vehicles to be safer, managing speeds and setting policies to help make safe behavior the easiest choice. Read more here.

Excerpts taken from Lancaster, PA Vision Zero Action Plan (page 33) and Tacoma, WA Vision Zero Action Plan (page 12), both of which explicitly prioritize upstream strategies over enforcement in their planning processes

  • Develop data systems to better inform road safety strategies to be more effective and equitable. This includes working with hospitals and first responders to improve post-crash evaluations to identify the most common risk factors in traffic deaths and serious injuries and to better assess the most effective and equitable strategies. Troublingly, police-reported crash data tells only part of the safety story. According to Smart Growth America’s 2024 Dangerous by Design report: “half of pedestrian and bicyclist crashes in the U.S. are underreported to police, not equitably distributed across socioeconomic and racial/ethnic lines, with higher hospital admission rates—and lower police-reported crash rates—for injuries sustained by those who are Black or Hispanic compared with those who are white.” (Thanks to report contributor Seth LaJeunesse, University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center.)
  • Pilot policies to de-prioritize non-safety traffic stops & evaluate impacts. Assess whether and how policies that de-prioritize non-safety related stops impact roadway safety outcomes. For example, localities from Philadelphia to Ann Arbor have enacted policies that remove police from enforcement of non-safety traffic infractions, often made as pretext stops. These are used as a general crime-fighting tool, not focused on road safety, and analysis of national and state data show that these offenses do not have a clear connection to traffic safety. If your community is considering right-sizing their traffic enforcement by discouraging these pretext stops, SS4A funding could be used to track and measure how eliminating these stops impact road safety as well as equity disparities roadway safety risk. 
  • Develop programs to test variable fines to minimize income inequities in safety-related traffic tickets. However, traffic-related fines and fees can set into motion a cascade of interrelated, unintended harms. While we have seen communities offer payment plans or implement fine waivers for specific income levels, there are currently no fines and fees models in the US that are completely scaled based on income. So, consider leveraging SS4A funding to test out a similar fines and fees structure, known to be the most equitable approach to traffic citations, on speed cameras placed on high crash corridors that often overlap with BIPOC or low-income communities. This allows all road users, not just those with lower incomes, to face a financial reason to avoid driving dangerously.

Other examples include:

  • Pilot a public safety ambassador program on your transit system in which unarmed patrol teams equipped with radios can contact first responders and social services when needed (Check out these examples in L.A. & Austin)
  • Pilot the deployment of a crash investigative team that visits crash sites and conducts robust analysis on key factors such as the vehicle, road design, environment, and conditions that may have lead to a fatal or serious crash.
  • Engage your community in a process to consider alternative safety strategies to traditional enforcement that is not proving both effective and equitable
  • Pilot Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) technology in your community’s fleet vehicles
  • Develop communications and messaging to build public understanding and support to assess and right-size enforcement efforts within road safety work.

Note that none of these ideas are intended to replace the most important, upstream road safety actions, such as redesigning streets, improving vehicle safety and ensuring policies align with a true safety first approach. These are preferable to focusing on downstream approaches, such as traditional enforcement and education. But in cases where a role for enforcement is deemed appropriate, these and other strategies can help consider and prevent unintended consequences that exacerbate inequities.

Have additional ideas? Need support in considering ways to right-size the role of enforcement in your Vision Zero work? Let us know by reaching out to info@visionzeronetwork.org

We suggest focusing proposals on the Planning and Demonstration category, which offers opportunities to pilot innovative strategies, facilitate learning and gain community buy-in, and it is also far less competitive than the other category, which funds Implementation and is over-subscribed.

Within the Planning and Demonstration category, there are three main activities: 

  1. Develop a comprehensive Road Safety Action Plan - Within a Vision Zero Plan, dedicate efforts to assess traditional traffic enforcement actions and impacts, and consider testing out new and alternative strategies.
  2. Supplemental safety planning - Enhance an existing road safety plan with Safe System-based strategies that reduce reliance on traditional police enforcement, such as non-safety traffic stops, and scale alternatives that improve public safety without increasing disparities.
  3. Demonstration activities - Pilot innovative models, such as the ones listed above, to inform or develop a road safety plan.

Importantly, there is room to combine these areas in support of each other. Read more on our SS4A resource page. Learn more about strategies and opportunities to address racial disparities in traffic enforcement with the following resources:

Check out Vision Zero Network’s SS4A resource page to learn more about this funding, gather inspiration for your community and see more examples of how to make the most of this opportunity to lift up the most effective and equitable road safety strategies.

You’ve probably heard about the tremendous number of road safety improvements being planned and implemented in more than 1,000 communities across the nation thanks to new federal Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) funding. This includes new bikeways, sidewalks, pedestrian-scale lighting, traffic calming, safe speed strategies, safe routes to schools and parks, projects to reconnect neighborhoods that have been torn apart by past highway expansion projects, and more. 

But did you know that SS4A funds can also be leveraged to invest and improve on other elements of Vision Zero work? This includes assessing and right-sizing the role of traffic enforcement in a community’s road safety efforts. As with all strategies, enforcement measures should be evaluated regularly, asking the important questions: Are these actions effective in improving public safety? Are they carried out in equitable ways and resulting in equitable outcomes?

This is particularly important because, in the U.S., communities of color and low-income communities suffer disproportionately in traffic crashes and also suffer disproportionately from racialized policing, particularly non-safety traffic stops that do little to improve roadway safety while exacerbating inequities and injustices.

Vision Zero Network is collaborating with the Vera Institute, a national criminal justice organization, and Local Progress, a movement of local elected officials advancing a racial and economic justice agenda through all levels of local government, to promote how communities can leverage SS4A funding to plan and pilot more effective and equitable strategies than the status quo approach to traffic enforcement.  You can explore our slidedeck and read ideas, below, to leverage SS4A funds to make your Vision Zero efforts more effective and equitable.

Ideas to Evaluate, Rightsize Enforcement in Road Safety

In addition to a broad array of funding to build safety infrastructure, the SS4A program guidelines also state that projects can “focus on equitable and effective enforcement techniques, including police enforcement of the most dangerous driver behaviors (e.g., excessive speeding, impaired driving), speed safety cameras, civilian traffic enforcement, and alternatives to traffic enforcement as part of a holistic Safe System Approach.” 

Excerpts taken from USDOT’s info page on eligible supplemental planning & demonstration grants

Following are some ideas to right-size the role of traffic enforcement to be more effective and equitable:

  • Revise a community’s enforcement strategy in a Vision Zero, or road safety, plan to ensure equitable actions and outcomes. This is a chance to revisit and update a traditional E’s-style plan (Education, Enforcement, Engineering, etc.), which often over-emphasizes reactive, punitive policing strategies. Read more about the benefits of shifting to a Safe System approach, which is built on the recognition that people will inevitably make mistakes, so transportation systems should be designed to be more forgiving and survivable when mistakes do occur. This prioritizes upstream strategies, such as designing the built environment and vehicles to be safer, managing speeds and setting policies to help make safe behavior the easiest choice. Read more here.

Excerpts taken from Lancaster, PA Vision Zero Action Plan (page 33) and Tacoma, WA Vision Zero Action Plan (page 12), both of which explicitly prioritize upstream strategies over enforcement in their planning processes

  • Develop data systems to better inform road safety strategies to be more effective and equitable. This includes working with hospitals and first responders to improve post-crash evaluations to identify the most common risk factors in traffic deaths and serious injuries and to better assess the most effective and equitable strategies. Troublingly, police-reported crash data tells only part of the safety story. According to Smart Growth America’s 2024 Dangerous by Design report: “half of pedestrian and bicyclist crashes in the U.S. are underreported to police, not equitably distributed across socioeconomic and racial/ethnic lines, with higher hospital admission rates—and lower police-reported crash rates—for injuries sustained by those who are Black or Hispanic compared with those who are white.” (Thanks to report contributor Seth LaJeunesse, University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center.)
  • Pilot policies to de-prioritize non-safety traffic stops & evaluate impacts. Assess whether and how policies that de-prioritize non-safety related stops impact roadway safety outcomes. For example, localities from Philadelphia to Ann Arbor have enacted policies that remove police from enforcement of non-safety traffic infractions, often made as pretext stops. These are used as a general crime-fighting tool, not focused on road safety, and analysis of national and state data show that these offenses do not have a clear connection to traffic safety. If your community is considering right-sizing their traffic enforcement by discouraging these pretext stops, SS4A funding could be used to track and measure how eliminating these stops impact road safety as well as equity disparities roadway safety risk. 
  • Develop programs to test variable fines to minimize income inequities in safety-related traffic tickets. However, traffic-related fines and fees can set into motion a cascade of interrelated, unintended harms. While we have seen communities offer payment plans or implement fine waivers for specific income levels, there are currently no fines and fees models in the US that are completely scaled based on income. So, consider leveraging SS4A funding to test out a similar fines and fees structure, known to be the most equitable approach to traffic citations, on speed cameras placed on high crash corridors that often overlap with BIPOC or low-income communities. This allows all road users, not just those with lower incomes, to face a financial reason to avoid driving dangerously.

Other examples include:

  • Pilot a public safety ambassador program on your transit system in which unarmed patrol teams equipped with radios can contact first responders and social services when needed (Check out these examples in L.A. & Austin)
  • Pilot the deployment of a crash investigative team that visits crash sites and conducts robust analysis on key factors such as the vehicle, road design, environment, and conditions that may have lead to a fatal or serious crash.
  • Engage your community in a process to consider alternative safety strategies to traditional enforcement that is not proving both effective and equitable
  • Pilot Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) technology in your community’s fleet vehicles
  • Develop communications and messaging to build public understanding and support to assess and right-size enforcement efforts within road safety work.

Note that none of these ideas are intended to replace the most important, upstream road safety actions, such as redesigning streets, improving vehicle safety and ensuring policies align with a true safety first approach. These are preferable to focusing on downstream approaches, such as traditional enforcement and education. But in cases where a role for enforcement is deemed appropriate, these and other strategies can help consider and prevent unintended consequences that exacerbate inequities.

Have additional ideas? Need support in considering ways to right-size the role of enforcement in your Vision Zero work? Let us know by reaching out to info@visionzeronetwork.org

We suggest focusing proposals on the Planning and Demonstration category, which offers opportunities to pilot innovative strategies, facilitate learning and gain community buy-in, and it is also far less competitive than the other category, which funds Implementation and is over-subscribed.

Within the Planning and Demonstration category, there are three main activities: 

  1. Develop a comprehensive Road Safety Action Plan - Within a Vision Zero Plan, dedicate efforts to assess traditional traffic enforcement actions and impacts, and consider testing out new and alternative strategies.
  2. Supplemental safety planning - Enhance an existing road safety plan with Safe System-based strategies that reduce reliance on traditional police enforcement, such as non-safety traffic stops, and scale alternatives that improve public safety without increasing disparities.
  3. Demonstration activities - Pilot innovative models, such as the ones listed above, to inform or develop a road safety plan.

Importantly, there is room to combine these areas in support of each other. Read more on our SS4A resource page. Learn more about strategies and opportunities to address racial disparities in traffic enforcement with the following resources:

Check out Vision Zero Network’s SS4A resource page to learn more about this funding, gather inspiration for your community and see more examples of how to make the most of this opportunity to lift up the most effective and equitable road safety strategies.




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