402 Advertising Space Guidance

    Revised December 2006

    Guidance for States Using Section 402 Funds for Purchasing Advertising for Highway Safety Messages



    State Highway Safety Offices have had the authority to use funds apportioned to States to purchase advertising in a variety of mediums including television and radio, cinema, internet, print, outdoor and sports marketing for highway safety messages. While the TEA-21 reporting requirement was not continued in SAFETEA-LU, States are still required to report on the purchase of media with Federal funds and its effectiveness in their Annual Reports. This guidance will help those interested in purchasing advertising.

    Based on several years of research from conducting national, regional and local campaigns, NHTSA has created guidance on implementing a strategic communications approach to promote traffic safety. Research clearly shows that the cornerstone of any successful traffic safety program is high visibility enforcement. While the current High Visibility Enforcement (HVE) model of chiefly promoting issues once a year has made record gains possible in safety, in a number of States and/or localities it has nearly been maximized. (For example, States that have achieved high safety belt use rates such as 90 percent and above.)

    NHTSA is advocating the use of a sustained HVE model that focuses on strategically deploying enforcement and communications resources at targeted times and locations throughout the year based on state problem identification. The objective is to influence and sustain year-round behavioral change while getting higher returns on investment and further improvements in traffic safety.

    The following is an outline of the revised strategic communications guidelines. These fundamental guidelines can be applied universally to all traffic safety enforcement campaigns:


    Implementation Guidance

    The intent of this document is to provide guidance to any State using Section 402 and other highway safety grant funds to purchase advertising for highway safety messages.

    Paid advertising can be a very powerful tool when used in conjunction with other known effective countermeasures. By itself, there is no known persistent effect on traffic safety related behavior at least nothing powerful enough to result in crash or injury reductions. However, there are some countermeasures that have been proven to have a bottom line effect on traffic safety related behaviors in a variety of situations. Examples of these include new laws, improved/more enforceable laws, and enforcement itself. However, these countermeasures can work only when the public is aware of them. In order to maximize the effectiveness of paid media, it should be used only in conjunction with proven, effective programs, and when the message of the media is designed to call attention to these countermeasures.

    When a state plans to use funds for this purpose the state shall document in their annual Highway Safety Plan (HSP) information describing:

    (a.) what program/policy the advertising is supporting;
    (b.) how the advertising will be implemented to support an on-the-ground program;
    (c.) the amount allocated for paid advertising; and
    (d.) the measures that will be used to assess message recognition.

    As with other activities in the HSP, paid advertising must be part of a comprehensive program designed to address specific highway safety goals identified in the state's Performance Plan. This clearly means that advertising should not be a stand alone program or activity. For example, the communications plan should be preceded by the enforcement plan. If promotional items/giveaways are part of the overall strategy they must be justified as furthering the program and be distributed in a systematically planned manner. Similarly, if the state enters into a sponsorship agreement it must be justified as furthering the program.

    Recommendations for Developing State Communication Plans








    Technical Assistance will continue to be available from NHTSA's Office of Communications and Consumer Information (OCCI) on a variety of communication/marketing issues, as follows:



    Contact your Regional Office to obtain technical assistance from OCCI.