Transportation Safety


From airplanes and driverless cars to school buses and the conditions of roads, bridges, and transportation systems, the issue of transportation safety affects everyone. RAND research examines insurance liability and corporate and government policies, as well as how the three interact to promote safety on the ground, at sea, and in the air.

  • Project

    Tracking the Spread of COVID-19 with Air Travel Data

    As the pandemic enters a new phase, punctuated by emerging hot spots and continuing global spread, a new RAND tool lets policymakers predict regional risks of importing cases of COVID-19.

    Jun 5, 2020

  • Report

    When Can Automated Vehicles Be Considered Safe Enough?

    Establishing whether automated vehicles are acceptably safe is not straightforward, and continual technology development adds complication. Agreeing on the approaches to assess AV safety and improving communication about safety are important for building and sustaining public trust.

    Oct 29, 2020

Explore Transportation Safety

  • A self driving car, often referred to as a robotaxi, at the Embarcedero in San Francisco, California, August 17, 2023, photo by Gado Images/Reuters


    Reining in the Risks of Robotaxis

    Robotaxis are a complex tangle of technology and services with multiple stakeholders, so regulation is messy. There is, however, a process that has been designed to deal with such messy situations. It's called decisionmaking under deep uncertainty.

    Feb 5, 2024

  • Undated photo of Virgin Galactic Spaceship Cabin Interior, handout photo by Virgin Galactic/ABACA via Reuters Connect


    Enter Outer Space at Your Own Risk?

    Since 2004, federal law has barred most participant safety regulations and leaves nearly all issues of safety up to the discretion of the company providing the service. It's time to allow the moratorium on regulation to expire and allow the development of safety standards, led by the FAA.

    May 16, 2023

  • A rocket ship flying in front of the moon. Photo by Adobe Stock / NASA


    Assessing the Readiness for Human Commercial Spaceflight Safety Regulations

    What is the progress of the commercial space industry in adopting voluntary standards for participant safety, and towards meeting key metrics that would indicate readiness for regulation?

    Apr 3, 2023

  • Drone footage of the freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, February 6, 2023, photo by NTSBGov via Reuters


    Ohio's Train Derailment—Not Spy Balloons—Is the Real National Security Threat

    The slow degradation of infrastructure and disaster response is less a spectacle than an overflying balloon, but the train derailment and chemical spill in Ohio highlights just how bizarre such a focus on perceived external national security threats has become. The far greater threat may be from within.

    Feb 20, 2023

  • Stranded passengers wait at Orlando International Airport as flights were grounded after the FAA system outage, in Orlando, Florida, January 11, 2023, photo by Lou Mongello via Reuters


    Grounded: The FAA Alert System Failure Could Be a Wake-Up Call

    It turned out to be a system failure that grounded thousands of flights on January 11, but U.S. critical infrastructure faces a range of threats—from Russian hackers, to weather events, to angry individuals with guns. The government and organizations responsible for critical infrastructure can take steps to actively manage these risks.

    Jan 13, 2023

  • Cannabis green leaves in medical plus sign emblem frame on white background, photo by Amax Photo/Getty Images

    Journal Article

    The Kids Aren't Alright: The Effects of Medical Marijuana Market Size on Adolescents

    Combining a novel measure of market size with two shocks to U.S. federal enforcement policy, researchers find that legal medical market growth increases youth cannabis use and alcohol-involved car accidents, suggesting complementarities for youths. It’s unclear whether these results apply to cannabis legalization for nonmedical purposes.

    Dec 9, 2022

  • RAND Weekly Recap


    Refugees, Women's Health Research, Supporting Incarcerated Parents: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the humanitarian fallout from a Russian invasion of Ukraine, investing in women’s health research, supporting incarcerated parents, and more.

    Feb 18, 2022

  • Video game of cars from driver's point of view, image by artbalitskiy/Adobe Stock


    Developing a Winning Safety Strategy for Automated Vehicles

    When policy problems involve many different groups with diverging interests along with significant uncertainty about the future, games can be a valuable way to explore the potential consequences of important policy decisions. What could gaming bring to the area of AV safety?

    Feb 18, 2022

  • A young man is pulled over for speeding, photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

    Research Brief

    Black Motorists Face More-Serious Charges for Excessive Speeding Than White Motorists Do

    In many states, motorists accused of excessive speeding can face either a criminal misdemeanor or a traffic infraction. Data on speeding violations in Virginia show large racial disparities in who is convicted of a misdemeanor.

    Oct 4, 2021

  • Report


    Racial Disparities in Misdemeanor Speeding Convictions

    In this report, researchers use data on speeding violations in Virginia to examine whether there are racial disparities in who benefits from the discretion of law enforcement and the courts to discount or downgrade misdemeanor violations.

    Oct 4, 2021

  • Two men ride electric scooters on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., March 20, 2020, photo by Gripas Yuri/ABACA via Reuters


    Micromobility: How Will We Know When It's Working?

    Micromobility was positioned as a solution for every urban problem from traffic congestion to air pollution to transit deserts and inequality. Is there a way to know if micromobility can fulfill these ambitious goals?

    May 18, 2021

  • Autonomous vehicles driving on a city road with a graphic circle representing sensors. Photo by JIRAROJ PRADITCHAROENKUL / Getty Images

    Journal Article

    Older Adults, New Mobility, and Automated Vehicles

    Many older adults have fewer transport options, even as the transportation landscape is rapidly shifting. What are the potential benefits and harms to older adults that arise from the introduction of autonomous vehicles?

    Feb 18, 2021

  • News Release

    News Release

    No Silver Bullet for Determining Safety of Automated Vehicles; Public Trust in AV Technology Rides on Multiple ...

    No single method is sufficient to determine whether an automated vehicle is safe enough for the road, and ultimately consumers are most likely to trust the government about AV safety.

    Oct 29, 2020

  • Passengers on a flight, photo by vovashevchuk/Getty Images


    COVID-19 Was Spreading Globally for Weeks Before It Was Declared a Pandemic

    Worldwide exports of COVID-19 cases began increasing at an accelerating rate on February 19, 2020. That was three weeks before the World Health Organization declared the pandemic. By the end of February, nearly 40 cases per week were spreading around the globe via air travel.

    Sep 22, 2020

  • Airplane about to land on a runway in Cape Town, South Africa, photo by brazzo/Getty Images


    Which African Countries Are Most at Risk of Importing COVID-19?

    U.S. forces in Africa are usually in unstable areas that have low levels of international air travel. Those regions are less likely to import COVID-19. The near-term driver of COVID-19 risk in Africa will more likely be the flow of travelers from Western Europe to Morocco, South Africa, and Algeria.

    Sep 22, 2020

  • Toyota-backed self driving company begins to provide autonomous electric vehicles to deliver packages from local e-commerce platform Yamibuy during the outbreak of COVID-19 in Irvine, California, April 28, 2020, photo by Mike Blake/Reuters


    How States and Localities Might Approach Operational Design Domains for AVs

    An operational design domain (ODD) is a description of the conditions in which an autonomous vehicle is designed to operate safely. No nationwide ODD policy exists, but because ODD is partly about the characteristics of a specific location, state and local policies could be useful.

    Aug 20, 2020

  • A police vehicle stops a sedan on a routine traffic stop photo by ASP Inc/Adobe Stock


    Autonomous Road Vehicles and Law Enforcement

    Autonomous vehicles promise many benefits, but questions remain about how law enforcement officers will interact with them. What will be the biggest challenges—and how can law enforcement prepare to address them?

    Jul 16, 2020

  • News Release

    News Release

    New Tool Employs Air Travel Data to Predict Global Spread of COVID-19

    As the pandemic enters a new phase, punctuated by emerging hot spots and continuing global spread, a new RAND tool allows policymakers to predict regional risks of importing cases of COVID-19.

    Jun 5, 2020

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    COVID-19 Cases in China Were Likely 37 Times Higher Than Reported in January 2020

    Based on officially reported cases in China in January 2020, the odds of the novel coronavirus appearing by January 22, 2020, in Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the United States, and Taiwan—as it did—would have been minuscule.

    Jun 5, 2020