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Thursday, September 22, 2011
John Milton, Director Enterprise Risk Management, 360-704-6363
Steve McKerney, Director Internal Audit Office, 360-705-7004
OLYMPIA – Not all highway crashes can be prevented, but knowing the causes and contributing factors is helping the state to manage the risks and use that information to reduce collisions.
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) report, “State Risk Management Practices in Washington,” found that the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) consistently applied risk management principles to help recognize, manage, and monitor risk.
“Our strategies show clear results. We are saving lives, stopping injuries and protecting taxpayer money,” said WSDOT Chief of Staff Steve Reinmuth. “Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond and Governor Gregoire have made risk management a clear priority and we will continue to show meaningful results.”
In its review of WSDOT’s risk management practices, JLARC found that WSDOT consistently uses the five key principles for reducing loss throughout its highway safety program. Those principles include identifying risk factors and costs, analyzing risk, prioritizing risk, addressing risk, and finally, reviewing and reporting.
Rather than focusing on the individual incidents, WSDOT uses collision data to identify patterns and contributing factors. This data is used to determine whether specific highway locations or highway corridors have a higher-than-expected accident rate, and whether an engineering solution is available to address the causes and contributing factors. This information is then applied statewide in the department’s planning process for future roadway safety projects, such as guardrail, cable-median barrier and rumble strip installations.
These efforts are paying off. In 2005 there were more than 53,000 crashes on state routes. In 2009 that number dropped to about 43,000, a reduction of nearly 20 percent. During the same five-year period, 275 fatal crashes occurred in 2005, compared to 212 fatal crashes in 2009, a reduction of approximately 23 percent.
JLARC’s review also included the departments of Corrections and Social and Health Services, which together with WSDOT, accounted for 75 percent of the state’s total tort payouts. WSDOT accounts for approximately 22 percent of overall tort expenditures from 2004 to 2010. The majority of tort claims for WSDOT, 68 percent, is related to highway crashes.
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