Community Involvement

Read “The Road Less Lethal” featuring EWU Urban and Regional Planning faculty and students working on tribal traffic safety. Published Fall/Winter 2020. View the article or read the full issue below.

Tribal Traffic Safety

Traffic Safety is a critical issue on reservations across the United States. It is recognized, but has not gained the importance it could or should hold based on the direct linkage to the ability to save lives, to reduce injuries and crashes that cause unimagined pain and suffering, and that can build safe communities. The Tribal communities our program has worked with have recognized this need, and have multiple programs that represent best cases and very positive actions to address many of the key aspects of tribal traffic safety. Each tribe has created some framework that begins to coordinate across the many departments and programs around traffic safety, generally through a Traffic Safety Committee, which we see as essential to maximize the impact of safety efforts.

Data-driven traffic safety planning is an extremely helpful tool to understand and guide actions that lead to success around traffic safety. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AI/AN) under the age of 44 is unintentional injury due to motor vehicle crashes (CDC, 2015). In Washington State, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database reports that American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AIANs) have higher fatality rates than all other ethnic and minority groups (WA FARS data, 2010-2014). Given these disproportionate high fatality rates among AIANs, traffic safety on reservations is a priority in the Washington State Target Zero plan.

Starting with crash data offers specific identification of issues within each tribe and permits each tribe to make assessments and create action strategies for change. The 4 Es of WSTC’s Target Zero Traffic Safety Plan; Engineering, Enforcement, EMS, and Education along with Leadership can be used to help understand and set priorities for programs in all areas that emerge from understanding the specific problems of each tribe.

Quality data is imperative for informed decision-making and is in short supply across Indian County. Tribal leaders have acknowledged their data is underreported and that traffic fatality numbers are likely higher than what is reported in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Crash data reporting by all jurisdictions on and near reservations are inadequate and err towards significant under-reporting of crashes. In our previous research, we have found that tribes are either not accustomed to collecting data, are not sharing data, are just initiating the process, or are reporting data inconsistently.

The 2010-2014 FARS crash data identified that the major contributing factors to crashes are behavioral. Although engineering can help eliminate safety concerns and promote safer roads, pathways, and transportation issues, major changes need to occur within Native American Reservations and with individual drivers in order to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries.

The top contributing factors of reservation fatalities involve behavioral issues. Behavioral issues include alcohol and drug abuse, distracted driving, driving without seatbelts, patterns of driver education and experience, and driver perception of punishment or determent to the community by not following traffic codes. Another contributing factor is the effectiveness and impact of tribal codes on tribal members and the community.

The EWU Tribal Traffic Safety Program aims to support Tribal Traffic Safety Committees (TTSC) that identify and address all aspects of tribal traffic safety around the four Es (education, enforcement, engineering, and EMS), plus the expanded model developed by EWU. Each tribe is encouraged to develop a TTSC, develop a strategic plan for safety, and apply data-driven processes to identify, examine alternatives, and take actions leading to tribal traffic safety.

Finally, we have found that there are funding sources, programs, and opportunities for action by tribes that are enhanced by using data-driven planning and the Target Zero Model. These act as the basis for solutions in the form of road improvement projects under engineering, support for a wide range of enforcement and EMS activities, and opportunities for initiatives in education.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission itself, as part of its work with tribes and Target Zero planning, is a major resource for innovation and action among tribes, and for overcoming identified problems and issues around all four Es plus leadership. We encourage all tribes from our project to build on their data-driven traffic safety documents, resources, plans, and committee to apply for WTSC grants this year. WTSC also allows multiple applications, so tribes can consider different types of funding for projects. We have used our ‘EWU Model’ based on the four Es of traffic safety and leadership to provide an overview of the types of grants your tribe could consider.

In 2015, The EWU Tribal Traffic Safety Program developed the EWU Tribal Traffic Safety Model to represent the complex interaction amongst the tribal programs and key stakeholders. The model not only recognizes that it is important that all stakeholders do their part to improve traffic safety, but also places at the center of the paradigm the individual tribal member and their behavioral choices.The Four Es of Tribal Traffic Safety plus Leadership from a tribal perspective are:

  • Education
    Education and awareness of traffic safety is perhaps the most important aspect of traffic safety based on crash data analysis for each tribe. Our project found that contributing factors that impact highway safety were for the most part related to the behaviors of community residents. This starts with the national data to state data, and to the crash data for each tribe. Major contributing factors for crashes in Washington are impaired driving, driving at high speeds, inattention. For reservations, failure to use seat belts results in over four times more fatalities for American Indians than the general population, and proper seat belt use by infants and children is also a problem. Through programming and outreach, teaching tribal community members, leaders, and staff about information to make good behavioral choices such as not driving while impaired, making a habit of using seatbelts, and slowing down on reservation roads.
  • Engineering
    Work with tribal roads departments and programs to complete road safety audits, safety plans, design reservation roads departments, and use cost-effective and proven countermeasures as solutions to reduce collisions and fatalities. The ultimate goal under Engineering is to design safe roads, remove safety hazards, address needs for pedestrian and bicycle safety, and build, design, maintain and operate the safest transportation system possible. This safe system may include transit to address key needs of each reservation for access to transportation related to traffic safety. Each tribe should include Traffic/Transportation Safety Projects within their Tribal Transportation Improvement Plan (Tribal TIP) to be coordinated with BIA, FHWA, and State DOT planning and project funding. Maintenance of roads including signs is also critical to safety, and tribes should recognize the need for Safety Management Systems. Tribes should also recognize that in addition to BIA maintenance dollars, tribes may choose to spend up to 50% of their TTP funding allocation for maintenance. These efforts can be centered on or linked to safety projects. There is an ongoing need for reservation roads for safety in design, overcoming deficiencies in current systems, and on-going safety management.
  • Enforcement
    Just as the Engineering component builds on traffic safety crash data and then continues to collect more detailed information, our findings for the remaining three Es also included ongoing assessment and data collection or assessment of best practices for each tribe to consider for ongoing improvement in all aspects of enforcement.  We encourage tribes to utilize a data-driven approach to help tribal police and courts identify behavioral issues contributing to fatalities. We help tribal police identify locations where fatal and serious injury crashes are occurring. Identify crash factors to improve unsafe roads.
  • Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
    EMS is another area of complexity where each tribe developed very different programs to implement services, from contracting with outside agencies to the operation of their own services. We again found that complex research on key structures and guidelines for successful EMS operations exist, as well as a level of service considerations. But, the unique issues of sovereignty and in the large rural tribes’ distance itself impact how each tribe addresses EMS. We encourage tribal leaders to work with tribal EMS staff to understand how to improve and provide high quality, rapid medical emergency to injury collisions.
  • Leadership/Policy
    Our study found that tribal transportation begins and ends with the leadership of tribal elected leaders, staff, tribal members and residents. That leadership develops best through recognition of the complexity of traffic safety across all aspects of tribal programs and reservations. Based on continuing data collections and analysis in coordination with partners for data to drive tribal traffic safety planning, tribes can implement changes and create safer roads on reservations, and achieve Target Zero. We encourage leaders to work with tribal law and order codes to promote best practices to reduce crashes and improve safety for issues such as impaired driving and seatbelt use laws. We use collected data to inform policy creation and to evaluate the effectiveness of regulations.

Our EWU Tribal Planning programs appreciate the opportunity to work with the selected tribes in a grant provided by WTSC, and we hope to continue to support their efforts and those of all tribes toward Target Zero.

Eisenhower Fellowships


Crash Data Reports & Maps

  • Yakama
  • Spokane
  • Colville

In 2016, The EWU Tribal Traffic Safety Program assessed existing tribal traffic safety culture for three tribes; The Yakama Nation, The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and the Spokane Tribe of Indians. The EWU traffic safety team helped form Tribal Traffic Safety Committees with members from diverse tribal programs and key stakeholders with each of the tribes. The team worked to provide direct technical assistance, facilitated with committees a community-led self-assessment, and evaluated the legal framework of tribal traffic safety codes through the tribal justice/health data systems. In addition, the EWU traffic safety team completed three summer multimedia workshops with tribal youth. The youth completed three public services announcements on traffic safety that were developed (written, acted, and created) by tribal youth from the Yakama Nation, Spokane Tribe of Indians, and the Colville Tribes.

Youth Involvement



The EWU Tribal Traffic Safety team hosted a series of webinars throughout 2018 that encompassed Tribal Planning Structures, Data Collection and Analysis, Tribal Law and Order Code, Transportation funding process, and Implementation. The goal of these webinars was to provide technical knowledge on how to collect and analyze crash data. These webinars also provided strategies for Tribal departments to work together to address the four Es across the built environment (engineering), social and economic environment, policies and codes that can address behavioral change and traffic safety in tribal communities. In addition to this effort, we will continue to work with three demonstration tribes: The Yakama Nation, The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and the Spokane Tribe of Indians. We will work to establish and maintain active tribal transportation committees, tribal strategic plans to include actions in all aspects of safety, and develop on-going support and working relations.

Tribal Traffic Safety Analysis



US 395 North Spokane Corridor

Placemaking is the process of creating spaces that are relevant to the community they represent. It is the process by which community members have a voice in the development of places they interact with most often. It seeks to represent the culture, values, and beliefs of the community at large.

Learn more at Project for Public Spaces.

It is the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) policy to assure that no person shall, on the grounds of race, color, national origin or sex as provided by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be otherwise discriminated against under any of its federally funded programs and activities. Any person who believes his/her Title VI protection has been violated may file a complaint with WSDOT’s Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO). For further information regarding Title VI complaint procedures or our non-discrimination obligations, please contact OEO’s Title VI Coordinator at 360.705.7082.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Information

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Our students and faculty, along with WSDOT, have partnered with the City of Spokane to develop the US 395 North Spokane Corridor (NSC) Placemaking and Community Engagement program. The NSC is a multi-modal corridor that maximizes vehicle capacity and freight hauling competitiveness, which includes the Children of the Sun Trail for bicycles and pedestrians.

Through placemaking and community engagement with neighborhood abutting the future corridor, the NSC team facilitates cooperation, communication of neighborhood visions, linkages to places, Children of the Sun Trail connections, and promotes overall neighborhood vitality. Eastern will provide consultation and direct support to carry out the program with the neighborhood councils and all interested citizens.

For further information or questions, please contact Kerry Brooks at or visit the NSC Facebook page.