March 2018 Vol. 26, No. 1

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Addressing citizen requests for traffic safety concerns

man on phone sitting at computer

Photo: SRF Consulting

A new guidebook from the LRRB provides local agency staff with a best-practice approach for addressing common citizen requests for traffic safety concerns. The guidebook focuses on the importance of communication with citizens when responding to traffic safety concerns or requests.

Topics included in the guidebook—Addressing Citizen Requests for Traffic Safety Concerns—(LRRB 2017RIC05) include:

  • How to address social media
  • Steps to address typical requests
  • Keeping record of requests
  • Case studies
  • Example response template letters/emails

The document provides general guidance that can be modified to meet each agency’s needs.

Following are some tips from the guidebook for creating an open dialogue with citizens.

Tips to create an open dialogue

  • Take the time to listen to citizens to understand where the request is coming from, and try to find the true reason for their concern. Sometimes citizens may request something because it’s the only option they are aware of, not realizing that it may not be the appropriate solution. Confirm the understanding of what the true concern is by asking clarifying questions. Example: A citizen might request a stop sign at an intersection, but the true issue may be perceived speeding.
  • Showing genuine empathy for their request can help you identify the concern or help ease their concern by knowing someone is looking into it. If resources are tight, simply performing additional follow-up emails and phone calls to see if the concern is continually occurring may help direct where resources should be allotted.
  • If you are emailing or leaving a message with the citizen, consider mentioning “I will wait until I hear back from you before investigating further.” This will engage them in the process. Sometimes the effort of talking through the issue with citizens and helping them understand the situation is enough to satisfy their needs, and no further investigation is necessary.
  • If possible, meet the resident at the location of the issue to observe and review the concern.
  • Engaging in a two-way conversation with the citizen to understand the concern thoroughly will help confirm your understanding and reinforce with the citizen that you have received their request and are taking action.
  • Once you determine your course of action to investigate the concern, notify the citizen of the plan.
  • Let the citizen know the anticipated timeframe for your evaluation. If the timing changes, give the citizen periodic updates throughout the process so they know you are working on it.
  • Once a decision is made about how to address the situation, notify the citizen. If the decision is made to not implement the strategy requested, be sure you take the time to explain why and offer other possible alternatives. Frame your response with an approach such as, “I can’t implement what you requested, but here’s what I CAN do…” Focus on what you CAN do and what the citizen can possibly do. Examples: Conduct traffic counts, perform site visits (to identify the problem yourself ), police monitoring/speed, etc.
  • Provide resources (website, brochures, videos, etc.) specific to the topic to educate the citizen on the issue they are concerned about.