TSAP helps Clackamas County establish safety culture

August 30, 2012

When Joseph Marek became the liaison for Clackamas County’s Traffic Safety Commission, he knew the county needed to maximize its public outreach efforts regarding aggressive driving. The county was conducting a public awareness campaign, and Joseph saw the potential to grow it.

He just wasn’t sure how.

A decade later in 2005, Walt McAllister with the Oregon Department of Transportation – Transportation Safety Division approached Joseph and Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts about forming a Safe Communities Program, with a focus on reducing injuries and fatalities caused by vehicle crashes. In 2011, ODOT suggested creating a Transportation Safety Action Plan (TSAP) to help achieve that goal.

“I started to realize that this was a piece of that goal that I’d been searching for since the mid-’90s - how to grow a culture of safety to help drivers make good decisions and prevent crashes rather than trying to engineer solutions,” Joseph says.

Clackamas County, supported by Kittelson & Associates, Inc., crafted the state’s first county-level TSAP, which can be downloaded from the Safe Communities website. The plan outlines a strategy to reduce fatal and serious injury crashes by 50 percent over the next decade by pinpointing the three leading factors in the county’s crash trends—aggressive driving, drivers ages 15-25 years old, and crashes involving vehicles leaving the roadway. The strategy incorporates a “5E” approach: engineering, education, enforcement, emergency medical services, and evaluation activities.

Implementation of the TSAP is being spearheaded by Joseph, wearing multiple hats as the County Traffic Engineer and the Director of the Clackamas Safe Communities Program, and Patty McMillan as the program’s coordinator. The TSAP is currently being implemented internally while sharing the strategy with other agencies within Clackamas County and counties throughout the state. Joseph has presented Clackamas County’s TSAP to Washington and Harney counties, as well as Metro, Portland’s regional government.

“I believe now more than ever that TSAPs are extremely important for other communities. It’s being taken seriously by the agencies and can give them more focus on their mission and help them to be more safety conscious in all that they do,” Joseph says. “The ultimate goal is saving lives and, in my mind, that’s a regional issue and a statewide issue. I travel around just like other people and I want that safety culture to spread.”

Joseph praises the Safe Communities Program approach for its flexibility which, while targeting an overarching goal, still allows communities to craft a plan that best suits their needs and financial resources. For Clackamas County, that meant a collaborative approach that brought diverse sectors together.

“ODOT felt strongly about that connection between law enforcement and engineering, and those two sides aren’t usually as connected as they should be,” Joseph says. “Our program is unique because I came from the engineering division, and Patty has a strong emergency response and broadcasting background, so she brought in the other Es.”

Joseph also credits TSAPs with helping municipalities better manage the way they spend precious financial resources on safety improvements during a time of shrinking budgets.

“A TSAP really brings focus to what we do. One of the things I want to do is spread the word about the TSAP and make the point that everything we do affects safety. We need to think about all of our expenditures in terms of safety,” he says.

It’s clear from Joseph’s passion and commitment to promoting TSAPs that the safety culture is here to stay.

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