Collaborating with American Indian Communities to Re-Interpret and Strategize About Transportation Safety Risks in Tribal Lands

Principal Investigator:

  • Kathryn Quick, Assistant Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs


  • Guillermo Narvaez, Research Associate, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Project Summary:

The premise of this study is to better characterize and improve strategies to address the unusually high rates of fatalities and severe injuries from transportation-related crashes among American Indians in the United States. The rate of death and significant injury from motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) is much higher for American Indians than for any other racial or ethnic identity group in the United States. Tribal transportation and safety professionals; tribal, state, and federal agencies; and a range of policies and programs identify this situation as an area of elevated concern and priority.

The design of this research is as described in the project title: Collaborating with American Indians to Re-Interpret and Strategize About Transportation Safety Risks in Tribal Lands. The focus is transportation safety risks specifically in tribal lands, not the population of American Indians as a whole. It is not restricted to only those who identify as American Indian, but rather to all persons facing transportation-related risks in tribal lands. The research is being conducted in collaboration with American Indian tribal governments and transportation leaders in Minnesota. Through qualitative research, the project gathers data from these stakeholders to enhance interpretation of the nature and sources of transportation safety risks in their particular contexts. Collection of these data has now been largely completed, following a period of relationship building and case selection in coordination with the tribe, a review of the literature, and preliminary analysis of data and refinement of the research questions and design. Coding and analysis of data collected through interviews, surveys, and field notes is now underway. Approximately 10 additional interviews are remain to be done to follow up on areas of interest and ensure consistency across study areas.

The data collected for this project has already led to practical safety improvements in some tribal communities. For example, the Red Lake Nation has used the information to develop a comprehensive tribal transportation safety plan and to identify specific pedestrian safety concerns along a main highway through the reservation. The tribe used the study data to apply for and receive funding from the State of Minnesota to develop a new walking trail and street lighting on that highway to provide a safer walking environment for the reservation's residents.

Related research

Project Details:

  • Start date: 07/2014
  • Project Status: Active
  • Research Area: Transportation Safety and Traffic Flow

Reports or Products:

"New methods for identifying roadway safety priorities in American Indian reservations (TRB webinar presentation and handouts)" (2016)

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