Western Transportation Institute - Center for Health and Safety Culture

Center for Health and Safety Culture

Health and safety are impacted by culture. While science and technology have made great strides in creating a safer world, transforming culture is key to further improvements.

VISION: Healthier Environments - Safer Communities

MISSION: Improving Health and Safety through Cultural Transformation

Culture is complex and multi-faceted—it is the collection of shared values, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, rules, policies, and laws present in a community. Due to its complex nature, transforming culture to achieve lasting outcomes is challenging because it involves fundamental shifts in the way we view things. While change can be temporary, transformation is lasting, deep, and often involves paradigm shifts.

At the Center for Health and Safety Culture, we understand the challenges of cultural transformation because we have been at the forefront of using science to address social issues for decades. We have extensive experience and a unique model.

Transportation Issues Addressed:

  • Transportation Safety
  • Automated Enforcement
  • Impaired Driving
  • Distracted Driving
  • Seatbelt Use
  • Farm Safety
  • Workplace Transportation Safety

I know firsthand that enforcement, road design, and vehicle technology can only go so far. It is critical that we address the driving cultures in our communities in order to reduce vehicle crashes and fatalities. Changing human behavior is the next important strategy toward lifesaving improvements in our public health system.

— Colonel Mike Tooley, Montana Highway Patrol

Leading the way in transforming culture

As nations strive to keep people safer, transportation leaders are embracing the need to both continually improve technology and transform culture. The Center has led efforts in increasing seatbelt use, decreasing impaired driving, and reducing underage drinking and tobacco use.

We use a unique approach called the Positive Community Norms (PCN) model. The PCN model focuses on three components: leadership, communication and integration of strategies unique to each issue.

We work side-by-side with our clients to ensure the project is a success and to build their capacity so they are able to sustain efforts into the future. PCN is not a program; it is a process. Our role is work with clients as this process is applied in their communities.

Who is the Center for Health and Safety Culture?

We are an inter-disciplinary team of researchers and practitioners from across North America dedicated to using science to address social issues. We believe cultural transformation is the way to improve health and safety and increase livability.

Solving challenges using the power of community

We believe in the power of community – whether that community is a state, county, city, workplace or school. The PCN model is based on seven distinct steps to create a clear road map to success.

  1. Identify issues and prepare environment
  2. Measure baseline
  3. Make meaning, gain understanding
  4. Design and plan strategies
  5. Test and refine strategies
  6. Implement strategies
  7. Evaluate, reflect, and learn

Enhancing our traffic safety culture, in my opinion, is the key to moving towards a zero death future. And, I look forward to the contributions the new Center can make to overcome the challenges associated with this cultural change.

— Peter Kissinger, President and CEO, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

Working towards healthier environments and safer communities with a variety of partners

The Center works with a variety of clients and sponsors including local, state and federal governmental agencies (e.g., state departments of transportation), private businesses, corporations, community coalitions and private foundations.

By building dynamic relationships through collaborations and partnerships with other research organizations, universities and consortia, the Center ensures that all research efforts are cost effective and relevant.

If cultural transformation matters to you, then the Center for Health and Safety Culture is your partner.

Recent project partners include:

  • City of Edmonton Office of Traffic Safety
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Indian Health Services
  • Montana Office of Public Instruction
  • Minnesota Department of Human Services
  • Wyoming Department of Health

Recent Activities of Center Researchers

Center Director, Nicholas Ward presents on the Safety Culture National Webinar - July 10, 2014. A recording of the webinar can be viewed here: https://connectdot.connectsolutions.com/p1f2z2622k5/

CHSC staff have collaborated with AASHTO to include the transformation of traffic safety culture as part of the National Toward Zero Death Initiative. Read the pdf on the TZD website, http://www.towardzerodeaths.org/dld/TZD_Strategy_4_30_2014.pdf

CHSC staff work with the CDC to develop a framework for transforming culture by growing positive norms that already exist in communities. Read the pdf on the CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/efc-promoting-positive-community-norms.pdf.pdf

The center published a primer on traffic safety culture in the ITE Journal to help advance this paradigm amongst traffic safety practitioners. Link to paper: A Primer for Traffic Safety Culture

Nic Ward, Jeff Linkenbach, Sarah Keller and Jay Otto wrote a white paper for "Towards Zero Deaths: A National Strategy on Highway Safety" entitled White Paper on Traffic Safety Culture. Link to paper: "Toward Zero Deaths: A National Strategy on Highway Safety", White Paper No. 2


Nicholas Ward
Director, Center for Health and Safety Culture
Western Transportation Institute
(406) 994-5942

Event Archive - Summit for Traffic Safety Culture

We have archived presentations, proceedings and agendas from the summit on this page in order to provide access to important reference materials. Please contact us directly if you have questions regarding any of these materials.