BYU and UDOT Partnership Develops Next Generation Transportation Safety Professionals

In 2008the Civil Engineering department at Brigham Young University (BYU) and the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) began a partnership to explore various levels of safety research opportunities between  BYU and UDOT. The early vision of the project was to provide workforce training for students to gain safety-related knowledge and skills, to establish professional contacts, and to preferably stay local and seek employment opportunities in the state of Utah after graduating. 

BYU Civil and Environmental Engineering professor Grant Schultz has been overseeing this program on the BYU side for more than 10 years now.  “There is limited opportunity to have a lot of safety detailed coursework,” says Schultz. “Coursework is such a premium at the university level so we cannot add as many courses as we would like to add.  This was an opportunity to get students involved in safety research and also help out the DOT.   

Ten years later, over 30 civil engineering and statistics students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels have cycled through the program.  They have had opportunities to learn from their peers and work with transportation safety professionals at the highest level in the state. 

How is the Partnership Structured?   

There is a contract every year or two that includes a formal proposal with set deliverables and tasks.  As current projects/contracts close, the partners begin collaborating on potential next steps and discuss where the next advancement can be made.  These are important components in the program’s continuation. Funding is provided by UDOT Traffic & Safety Division. Students are hired on as research assistants and paid through the contract.  

Partnership Accomplishments 

BYU students work with UDOT in developing safety analysis tools.  To date, the partnership has developed three models: the Utah Crash Prediction Model (UCPM), the Utah Intersection Crash Prediction Model (UICPM), and the Utah Crash Severity Model (UCSM).  The students run the models every year with updated data; identify hot spot locations across the state; and create reports on types of countermeasures that could benefit those locations.  BYU provides UDOT Traffic & Safety personnel with the reports, who then pass the information on to their regions.  Once armed with the information, the regions can consider appropriate projects to make improvements at locations identified as hot spots.  BYU is currently developing the Crash Analysis Methodology for Segments (CAMS) to evaluate only roadway segments. 

As the models were developed, a series of training manuals focused on the model were also developed.  The manuals help students understand the safety characteristics and instruct them how to read the crash data and identify countermeasures, and how those can impact safety. Between the manuals and the graduate students who are overseeing the projects under Schultz’s leadership, the program thrives on peer to peer mentorship.  Graduate (and sometimes undergraduate) students train new students on the process and how to analyze the data. Those “new” students then work their way up and become the trainers of a new set of students.  The program has been very effective and because the work and training are taking place at the university level, UDOT time and resources are not diminished, but value is being added.  

Robert Hull, formerly of UDOT, was an early visionary of this collaborative process One of the key components of the continuation of this effort is the fact that there has been great value that has come out of this effort,” says Hull.  “That is a key element. If you can demonstrate value of what you are receiving from this program, then that can help the decision-making process on what to fund and how to allocate the funding.”   

Workforce Impacts 

This partnership is designed to attract students and expose them to hands on research that is advancing the state of the practice in safety.  The students who have graduated and completed their thesis or project are now working in the industry and are leaders in safety.  “I look at UDOT hires of consultants for Traffic & Safety, and those consultants are primarily former students of mine who went through this process with me,” says Schultz.  “They are now helping lead from the consultant side.”  Testament to the strength of a program.  

For more information, contact Dr. Grant Schultz: