Safety Sidekick Newsletter

Vol. 3, March 2016

TopThis is the first Safety Sidekick newsletter of 2016, and on behalf of the team, I hope that this issue marks the beginning of what will be a year of safety advancements for all.
The National Center for Rural Safety is proud to announce that registration is now open for our National Working Summit on Transportation in Rural America. To find out more, please see our article on the summit below. We have also rolled out our monthly webinar series, and if you have not yet participated, I encourage you to look at the archived recordings and make sure you register for the upcoming trainings
On a more personal note, I am saddened to share with you the loss of one of our Stakeholder Group members, Mr. David Brand.
Dave served Madison County, Ohio as the county engineer for 15 years. During his career, Dave was a safety advocate and an active member of the National Association of County Engineers, where he had been an executive committee member and Chair of their Roadway Safety Committee. Dave was notably instrumental in the progress of the Ohio Department of Transportation's committee toward zero deaths.
Dave, a licensed professional engineer, was a graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College of Engineering and served as Madison County, Ohio engineer for four terms. He leaves behind a wife and two children. His presence will be greatly missed by not only his home base, but by all of those who knew him in his pursuit of roadway safety.


Steve Albert
National Center for Rural Road Safety
In This Issue
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Safety Center Update
Create, Connect and Communicate:
Initial accomplishments of the National Center for Rural Road Safety

As the Safety Center begins its second year, it's a good time to reflect on what we've accomplished, as well as where we're headed next.

Our long-term vision is to empower rural road owners with information and resources that can help them save lives.  To accomplish this, our short-term goals were to create a useful center, connect with potential users, and to begin to communicate effective methods and strategies for improving safety.

We're proud to say that we achieved all three of these goals.   Looking back, we can point to a number of specific accomplishments that help to illustrate how we are making a difference:
  • A Digital Gateway - The Safety Center website is a centralized, easy to access resource that contains issue briefs, updates on noteworthy practices by other agencies, a repository of training resources and guidance documents, and a calendar of upcoming training and related events.  Less than a year old, the website has had more than 13,000 views by nearly 3000 visitors.
  • Successful Monthly Webinars - The Safety Center has hosted four popular webinar trainings, presented by national experts on subjects including systemic safety, organizational culture, and rural signage.  On average, more than 100 attendees from around the country have participated in each training, and 119 attendees have received Continuing Education Units or Completion Certificates.  The webinars are archived on the Safety Center website, so they are easily accessible to users on an ongoing basis.
  • Original Videos - In order to offer customized, multimedia training options, the Safety Center is developing original training videos.   In January, we released our first training video, "Introduction to Road Safety Culture" which has already been viewed almost 150 times on our website.  A second training video on road safety audits on tribal lands is currently under development.
  • National Summit - The Safety Center spearheaded the development of the Moving Rural America Summit, a National working Summit on Transportation in Rural America that will be held in September 2016 in Denver, CO.  The summit will bring together stakeholders from around the country, and allow the Center and our partners to make a meaningful contribution to national transportation policy and initiatives. Registration for this summit is now available...join us to "Advance the Change."
  • Technical Expertise and Assistance - Our team members offer valuable expertise and assistance on a broad range of safety issues.  Over the last year, they have been invited to represent the Safety Center at nationally prominent safety and rural transportation forums sponsored by NHTSA, NADO, and the National Operations Center of Excellence.
  • FHWA "Extension" -- As an FHWA sponsored program, another overarching goal for the Safety Center has been to support the development of FHWA rural safety resources and extend the reach of their services.  Already, we have broadened the marketing efforts for their existing toolkits and trainings, and we are currently in the process of updating and expanding their Rural Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Toolbox and their Road Safety 365 training for local government.  These efforts, combined with our outreach and training activities, make it possible for FHWA safety resources and assistance to reach more road agencies than ever before.
With a solid foundation of programs in place, the Safety Center is well-positioned to continue and expand on our successful initiatives.  

We look forward to what's ahead. As we like to say: Let us be your trusted "safety sidekick" to make road travel safer!

Safety Center Blog
Every Day Counts (EDC) - Cost Effective Highway Projects Delivered Quickly and More Efficiently 

Starting in 2011, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in cooperation with the American Association of State and Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) launched the Every Day Counts program in order to deliver cost effective highway projects quickly and more efficiently. Through a mix of technological advances and programmatic improvements, the EDC initiative has sought to deploy proven, but underutilized innovations to enhance roadway safety, reduce congestion, improve environmental sustainability, and shorten the project delivery process. The FHWA, in conjunction with transportation agencies and industry stakeholders from all over the country, identify the innovations that would most easily be adapted and institutionalized around the country every two years.

To read more about the Every Day Counts Program, please visit the Safety Center Blog.

Upcoming Safety Center Trainings and Events
Registration Now Open for the National Working Summit on Transportation in Rural America

Recognizing that rural roads are a foundational building block for commerce, agriculture, tourism, and technology development, the center is coordinating a national working summit for 2016 - the National Working Summit on Transportation in Rural America: Advancing SAFE Transportation Systems to Enhance Economic Development and Quality of Life .
So why a working summit?
First , we want a solution. We know that if we make it a goal for the Summit to produce a white paper outlining solutions to the serious issues surrounding rural transportation - we have something to help us move forward; and secondly, this Summit will provide an opportunity for organizations and individuals with various concerns and interests to collaborate in a manner that will advance the deployment of a safe, efficient, seamless and financially sustainable rural transportation network."
Where do we start?
We already have by inviting people like you to join this working summit ...people from diverse groups with different needs and perspectives and TOGETHER we form solutions! We can advance the change - now. By doing so, we will save lives, as well as millions of dollars and jobs (and futures) each year."
The please join us September 7-9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado to help us "advance the change!" To learn more about the summit including an example of the agenda please visit our Safety Center events page. To register for the working summit please visit our registration page here.
FHWA Road Safety 365: A Workshop for Local Governments

Sunday, April 24, 2016
12:30 pm - 3:30 pm Pacific
2016 NACE Annual Meeting and Technical Conference - Tacoma Convention Center, WA
National Associate of County Engineers (NACE) is offering the pre-conference workshop "FHWA Road Safety 365:  A Workshop for Local Governments" with the assistance of the National Center for Rural Road Safety.  Instructors will be Keith Knapp, PE from the National Center for Rural Road Safety and the Iowa Local Technical Assistance Program and Ronald Eck, PE from the West Virginia Local Technical Assistance Program.  
Local rural agencies will learn practical, effective ways to incorporate safety solutions into daily activities and the project development process. The workshop incorporates notable learning approaches for conveying information and conducting exercises. 
In addition, the Safety Center will be updating the course for future presentations.
Upcoming Safety Center Webinars

April Webinar:
Crash Risk Factors for Low-Volume Roads: an ODOT Case Study
Thursday, April 28, 2016
11:00 AM - 12:30 PM Mountain/1:00 PM - 2:30 PM Eastern

For more information or to register for this training, click here.

May Webinar: 
An Overview of Louisiana's South Central Regional Safety Coalition's Strategic Highway Safety Plan Regional Efforts and Destination Zero Deaths Program
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
11:00 AM - 12:30 PM Mountain/1:00 PM - 2:30 PM Eastern

Check the Safety Center Trainings page for registration to open soon for this webinar.

June Webinar: 
Local and Rural Safety Plans
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
11:00 AM - 12:30 PM Mountain/1:00 PM - 2:30 PM Eastern

Check the  Safety Center Trainings page for registration to open soon for this webinar.
Safety Culture
U.S. DOT Announces Steep Increase in Roadway Deaths Based on 2015 Early Estimates and Convenes First Regional Summit to Drive Traffic Safety Behavior Changes 

Image Credit: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced recently that preliminary data from 2015 shows a steep increase in roadway deaths compared to previous years.
More information about these findings can be obtained in NHTSA's Feb. 5, 2016 press release  and in their new Traffic Safety Facts Sheet.

The Traffic Safety Facts document includes a map showing the percentage change in road fatalities over the past year for each region of the U.S.  Some regions have increases as high as 15 - 20%.  If your state is in region with an increase and you would like assistance in identifying new or revised safety strategies, please contact us at

Road User
Review of Tribal Transportation Safety Provisions in the FAST Act
By Ron Hall, President, Bubar & Hall Consulting, LLC

In 2016, roadway safety is an impending and critical challenge facing tribal governments.  While the overall national trend for fatalities in vehicle crashes is historically trending downward, fatal crashes on Indian reservations have increased over the last few years, and data to support safety improvements on tribal lands is lacking.  There is a possibility that those increased fatal crash rates are actually underreported.  According to Congress, without more reliable data it is difficult to understand the nature of the problem and for tribes to develop effective strategies to respond. Here is perhaps an unforeseen consequence of the Indian Self-Determination Policy; if a tribe does not assert its sovereignty to implement lifesaving highway safety strategies on tribal lands, nobody else has authority to act in their place. 

On December 4, 2015 President Obama signed a five-year, $305 billion transportation bill called the "Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act" (FAST Act).  The bill passed Congress with broad bipartisan support (House 356 in favor-65 opposed and Senate 83 in favor-16 opposed).  Within the bill itself are provisions that tribal governments can use to implement transportation safety programs.  Included in the bill are resources for effective technology in crash reporting and other strategies proven to reduce motor vehicle crashes, save lives and reduce injuries.  The FAST ACT also mandates two national reports indicating that the quality of roadway safety data in Indian Country will be evaluated and those findings incorporated into future policies and initiatives.  
Tribal Transportation Program Funds (TTP)
In general, the Tribal Transportation Program (TTP) will benefit from increased authorizations totaling $2.425 billion over the next five years. 

FAST Act Tribal Transportation Program (TTP) Funding
$465 M
$475 M
$485 M
$495 M
$505 M

This funding is distributed to tribes under a formula determined by the FAST Act's predecessor, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21).  In addition to road construction, TTP funds can be used for a wide range of eligible activities, including any transportation project eligible for assistance under 23 U.S.C. that is located within, or that provides access to, tribal land, or is associated with a tribal government.  This includes virtually all transportation safety activities authorized under federal law.

The FAST Act builds on the legacy of ISTEA, SAFETY-LU and MAP-21 by emphasizing data driven planning and project selection.  Tribes continue to have lead responsibility for roadway safety on BIA and tribally owned roads.  Tribes that invest in safety data collection and program reporting expertise will find funding and support resources that will assist in tribal efforts to save lives and reduce injuries from motor vehicle crashes.  Since the remaining federal safety programs are competitive and designed to direct funds to verifiable safety issues, the TTP funds are the only secure source of tribal transportation funds available.
Tribal Transportation Program Safety Funds (TTPSF)
Administered by Federal Lands Highways in the Federal Highway Administration, the TTPSF emphasizes the development of Strategic Transportation Safety Plans using a data driven process, helping tribes determine how transportation safety needs will be addressed in tribal communities.  The FAST Act did not directly alter the Tribal Transportation Program Safety Fund that was created in MAP-21, beyond increasing the base TTP funding.* Each year under the FAST Act, 2% of the available TTP funds are set aside to address safety issues in tribal communities in the TTPSF (approximately $9 million subject to take downs in FY 2016).

Funding is based on competitive proposals solicited in a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) each year.  In 2015 the TTPSF funded projects of all eligible types, including projects that are eligible under the Highway Safety Improvement Program based on four categories: 
  1. Safety plans and safety planning activities (40 percent)
  2. Engineering improvements (30 percent)
  3. Enforcement and emergency services improvements (20 percent)
  4. Education programs (10 percent)
The 2016 NOFA for the TTPSF has not yet been published.

Additional information on the TTPSF is on our  website or contact:
*It is possible that changes to HSIP spending criteria (see below) could apply to TTSP spending eligibility, but that interpretation is yet to be determined.

Indian Highway Safety Program (IHSP)
The Indian Highway Safety Program (IHSP) has been in place since the Highway Safety Act of 1966 created what is now 23 U.S.C. Section 402.  The FAST Act did not change the IHSP.  Though the funds originate in the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the IHSP is administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Office of Justice Services.  The BIA IHSP is performance-based and data driven.  According to the instructions for FY 2016 IHSP applications: "A traffic safety problem must be identified and all applications must contain measurable targets and performance measures and be justified by data.  Insufficient data to justify a traffic safety problem will significantly reduce the possibility of funding for your Tribe."  (Emphasis in original).  IHSP funds are intended to supplement an existing traffic safety program within a tribal government.  Applications are accepted for:
  1. Law Enforcement full-time
  2. Law Enforcement overtime
  3. Impaired Driving
  4. Child Passenger Safety
  5. Traffic Records 
To learn more about the IHSP, click here.
Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP)  
Tribes are urged to look closely at the opportunities presented in the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP).  Even in today's difficult federal fiscal environment, the HSIP has grown significantly.  Consider the following:

During 2005-2009 SAFETEA-LU authorized the HSIP at $5.06 billion over four years as follows:

SAFETEA-LU Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) Funding
$1,236 M
$1,256 M
$1,276 M
$1,296 M
During 2013 and 2014 MAP-21 authorized the HSIP at $4.8 billion over two years as follows:

MAP-21 Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) Funding
Estimated Funding
$ 2.39 B 
$ 2.41 B 
The FAST Act nearly maintains the MAP-21 funding level for HSIP and provides $11.586 billion over five years as follows:

FAST Act Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) Funding
Estimated Funding
Tribal governments are eligible recipients of HSIP funds available to the states.  In fact, each state must provide at least 40 percent of all Federal funds apportioned under the HSIP to be expended by the political subdivisions of the state, including tribal governments.  Tribes have to compete at a state level for HSIP funds.  One important change in the FAST Act is to remove from eligibility the use of HSIP funds for non-infrastructure safety programs, such as education and enforcement activities.  Many states are evaluating their HSIP accessibility by tribal governments through their Strategic Highway Safety Plan process.   

To see a table containing FY 2016 Federal-Aid Highway Program Apportionments under the FAST Act, including each state's apportionment under the HSIP, go to FHWA's website
FAST Act Studies Directed at Safety and Data in Indian Country
The FAST Act requires two national studies on tribal safety data be conducted by the Secretary of Transportation.  The first, due one year after enactment, will examine the quality of transportation safety data collected by states, counties, and tribes for transportation safety systems and the relevance of that data to Native American tribes.  The purpose of this report is to improve the collection and sharing of data on crashes on Indian reservations.  It also requires identification of federal transportation funds provided to tribes by agencies other than the Department of Transportation and the Department of the Interior.  Finally, states, counties and tribes will be provided with options and best practices for transitioning to a paperless transportation safety data reporting system that uses data to improve safety on Indian reservations. 

The second study, due within two years of enactment, must identify and evaluate options for improving safety on public roads on Indian Reservations.  This report is to be developed in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior, the Attorney General, states and tribes. 

Federal Lands Highway will author these reports on behalf of the Secretary of Transportation and will do so in coordination with the Tribal Transportation Safety Management System Steering Committee.  If you are interested in being interviewed during the development of these reports, please contact Adam Larsen, 360-619-7751.
Other National FAST Act Safety Provisions
Other nationwide roadway safety provisions of the FAST Act include:
  • The FAST Act removes eligibility of HSIP funds for most non-infrastructure safety programs, such as education and enforcement activities, which were allowed in MAP-21.
  • Requires FMCSA to remove safety scores assigned to truck companies from a public website.
  • USDOT is asked to conduct a study on the impacts of marijuana-impaired driving.
  • Prohibits rental car agencies and car dealers with fleets of more than 35 cars from renting vehicles that have been recalled but not repaired. The bill does not require used-car dealers to repair recalled vehicles before selling them.
  • Triples the maximum fine the NHTSA can levy against an automaker that violates safety defect regulations from $35 million to $105 million per violation.
  • Doubles the time automakers would have to retain safety records from five years to ten years.
  • Requires the government to revise the five-star rating system for new cars to reflect not only the ability of a vehicle to protect passengers in a crash, but also whether the vehicle comes equipped with crash avoidance systems like automatic braking and lane-change monitoring.
  • Provides $21 million for research into in-vehicle sensor technology that can determine if a driver has a dangerously high level of alcohol in his or her body and automatically lock the ignition.

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The Element of Surprise...Is that a Tractor Down the Road?

Although agricultural equipment may not be one of the principal "road safety challenges" that comes to mind, it is important to remember that slow-moving vehicles are indeed a key consideration as a road user in rural areas.  This reality is especially prevalent during the planting, growing, and harvesting seasons coming upon us. Many communities are comprised of predominantly rural road mileage traversing farms, forests, and sparsely populated areas where motorists may not be expecting - or even aware of the possibility - that they may encounter a slow moving farm vehicle during their travels. Population growth has resulted in more high-speed traffic to roads that were not designed for that type of traffic speed and volume. Similarly, drivers who are over-confident in navigating rural roads may be caught off guard when they have become accustomed to driving at excessive speeds on routes they typically feel very safe on because there is less traffic. Farmers frequently travel rural roads to move equipment or produce, often moving from one parcel of land to another. This means they are using the travel lanes that you will be in, with slow moving and sometimes awkwardly wide vehicles, adding to the potential for a crash.

Motorists need to exercise caution when approaching farm vehicles and be prepared and able to slow down when they recognize slow moving equipment.  It is also important to avoid reacting to possible delays with impatience, such as trying to pass when it is unsafe to do so.

Image Credit: NYSDOT

While requirements vary state by state, many farm vehicles display slow moving vehicle emblems or placards, which indicate they consistently travel at speeds of 25mph or less; some also have flashing lights to improve the chances of being seen. When a motorist approaches a farm vehicle, the motorist should slow down immediately, increase their following distance, and pass with great caution. The farm vehicle may appear to be stopping on the right side of the road, when in fact they are approaching a left hand turn and are swinging wide to line up to a driveway or fence line gate. Before passing, make sure there is no indication that there is a driveway, gate, or access road on the left that the farmer may be heading toward.

Motorists should pass a slow moving vehicle only when they can see that the road is clear of oncoming traffic far enough to safely complete the pass; passing is permitted even in a no-passing zone provided you yield the right of way to oncoming vehicles. Drivers should consider that farm equipment, such as tractors, are often wider than a passenger vehicle and may require extra space in both lanes of traffic.

Some communities conduct special outreach activities to promote safely sharing the road with farm equipment, e.g. Pennsylvania, which has an annual Rural Safety Week celebrated each April. The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture, Transportation and State Police collectively promote safe driving on rural roads through press conferences, legislative proclamations, and public awareness brochures. Similarly, both Oregon and New York are two more states with rural road safety resources for the public, showing that this is indeed a national issue wherever rural roads are encountered. 

Seat Belt Use in 2015- National Occupant Protection Use Survey

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently published their Seat Belt Use in 2015- Overall Results report that reflects data collected in the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS). This survey, which is the only nationwide probability-based observed data on seat belt use in the U.S., is collected each year by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The survey observes seat belt use on randomly selected roadway sites, with data collected by trained observers on probabilistically sampled roadways during the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Observers do not stop or interview occupants.

The report shows seat belt use to be an increasing trend since the turn of the century, which correlates to the decrease in unrestrained passenger vehicle occupant fatalities during the daytime. Use in both passenger cars and pickup trucks has improved.

Rural areas are showing slightly more than a 7% increase in seatbelt use from 2014, with an 86.8% rate (95% confidence interval of 84.1-89.1%). Observations were collected for the following significant characteristics: occupant group, states with primary/secondary/no enforcement laws, expressways/surface streets, fast/medium/slow moving traffic, heavy/moderately dense/light traffic, light precipitation/fog/clear weather conditions, passenger cars/vans and SUVs/pickup trucks, geographical region, urban/rural areas, and weekday/weekend travel.

To review the Traffic Safety Facts Research Note, a PDF may be found here.

Guardrail, Guiderail.....and Sometimes a Beam Guard

It seems some call it guardrail and some call it guiderail, and in Wisconsin you may call it beam guard, but it is all the same thing. The terms "guardrail" and "guiderail" are synonymous ( FHWA, 9/2015 ) for a safety barrier intended to shield a motorist who has left the roadway from striking something else or going down steep embankments. We'll use the term "guiderail" for the remainder of this article, as it has become the more prevalent terminology in recent years, in part due to the legal interpretation the word "guard" is thought to imply in some jurisdictions.

Image Credit: Peter Griffin
Guiderail is used in rural areas where there is a possibility that a vehicle that has run off the roadway will not be able to come to rest without encumbering a fixed object or a precarious roadside feature. The roadway may be bordered by side slopes, trees, retaining walls, or utility poles that pose a greater threat of danger when struck than that of the guiderail. Guiderails are often installed to lessen the potential severity of crashes, and can function to deflect a vehicle back to the roadway, slow the vehicle to a stop, or slow the vehicle and let it proceed past the guiderail.

So, how do engineers know how to place the guiderail? The guiderail has two primary functioning components- the end terminal, which is the starting point of the guiderail or "end treatment", and the guiderail face, which is the length extending from the end terminal alongside of the road. The function of the guiderail face is to redirect vehicles back to the roadway. Guiderails function as a system, which means that all of the guiderail itself, including the posts, the soil the posts are in, the connection of the guiderail to the posts, the end terminal, and the anchoring system at the end terminal, all play a role in the function of the system. The system is placed in an optimal position where it will work for most drivers in the most conditions. This data driven decision making process is not taken lightly.

Transportation engineers select guiderail based on system performance that has been evaluated through crash tests in controlled environments and noted in crash test criteria. A barrier is deemed "crashworthy" if it meets the crash test criteria in effect at the time of the testing established for that type of roadway device- both the guiderail face and the end treatment are tested. The desired effect is for the system to redirect vehicles back to the roadway.

Most state departments of transportation have their own guidelines for installing guiderail. There are many considerations to be made, and suitable research should be conducted before any selection of placement or system type is made, since factors such as size, speed, and orientation of vehicles can affect performance.

There are guidelines available from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) that detail crashworthiness: NCHRP Report 350 and the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH) published by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) also maintains a Frequently Asked Questions page about barriers and other roadway departure related structures.
What's Hot Off the Press?      
FHWA/NHTSA Release New State Traffic Records Coordinating Committee Noteworthy Practices

The USDOT Traffic Records Coordinating Committee (TRCC), FHWA Office of Safety, and NHTSA Office of Traffic Records and Analysis recently collaborated to develop the State Traffic Records Coordinating Committee Noteworthy Practices guide. For more details on these noteworthy practices and steps for enhancing State TRCCs, download a complete copy of the Guide. Please contact Esther Strawder at  for more information.
Companion Guide to the Handbook for Designing Roadways for the Aging Population

In 2014, FHWA published a comprehensive resource entitled the Handbook for Designing Roadways for the Aging Population. FHWA has now published a companion guide to the handbook that is designed to serve as a quick-reference resource focused on the five broad categories of roadway features presented in part I of the larger handbook. Ideal for use in the field or as an abbreviated source of basic information, each chapter contains a number of specific design elements and guidance on implementation. 

For more information about FHWA's Older Driver program, please contact Rebecca Crowe at .
2015 Traffic Safety Culture Index Report Released by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

Since 2006, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has been sponsoring research to better understand traffic safety culture. The Foundation's long-term term vision is to create a "social climate in which traffic safety is highly valued and rigorously pursued." In 2008, the AAA Foundation conducted the first Traffic Safety Culture Index (TSCI), a nationally representative survey, to begin to assess a few key indicators of the degree to which traffic safety is valued and is being pursued. The 2015 TSCI report continues this groundbreaking work.