Colorado, Wyoming and Minnesota launch Rural Road Safety Challenge

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In an effort to address a variety of problems that contribute to rural road fatalities, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), in partnership with other state agencies in Colorado, Wyoming and Minnesota, is hosting the Rural Road Safety Challenge.

Rural roads carry less than half of the USA’s traffic, yet they account for over half of the country’s vehicular deaths. In 2015, rural areas accounted for 5% of the 35,092 traffic fatalities nationwide.

To help address this situation, CDOT has launched the Rural Road Safety Challenge, which is a multi-year incentivized prize competition that asks innovators, entrepreneurs and problem-solvers to submit ideas for technological innovations that would improve the safety of rural roads.

The goal of the challenge is to solicit innovative technological solutions to protect people from the potential hazards that can arise on rural roads across the USA. The challenge is open to innovators, rural safety groups and entrepreneur communities, or anyone looking to address real transportation safety issues across the country.

The challenge will consist of three separate, incentive-based ‘Idea-thons’, each focused on a different key rural transportation issue: Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions, Soft Shoulders, and Sharp Turns. Just launched, the first challenge will focus on Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions.

Without warning, at almost any time of day or night, motorists can suddenly encounter wildlife crossing rural roads. These dangerous wildlife-vehicle collisions occur year-round and pose a threat to rural area residents and visitors alike. These collisions are not only a matter of safety, but can also be quite costly. The US insurance industry pays out nearly US$1.8bn a year in claims for all wildlife-vehicle collisions nationwide, with the average property damage cost of animal-vehicle collisions is estimated at US$4,000. As an example, CDOT cites a 9 mile-long (14.5km) stretch of Highway 550 in western Colorado, where 66% of vehicular deaths over the last five years have involved wildlife.

To incentivize the Challenge, CDOT’s RoadX program and its partners have announced that winning entrants will receive a cash prize of US$10,000, and the winners will receive an additional US$5,000 to engage in an implementation strategy development with the state(s) that would like to deploy the concept.

The Challenge partners will engage constituents and stakeholders to proactively deploy these ideas in rural areas across the country, ultimately improving national rural road safety. Proposals for the first challenge are due January 31, 2019, and deadlines for the next two challenges will be announced early next year.

“People die on our rural roads,” said CDOT spokesperson Amy Ford. “We know that, right now, technology is moving forward rapidly, and the reality is, a lot of that is focused in our urban spaces. What we wanted to do with the RoadX Challenge is challenge innovators, technologists and others to think about the rest of our state and how we actually harness technology to help protect and save lives.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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