Partnering with State Highway Safety Offices: Tips and Tactics for Success
Table of
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
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What do State Highway Safety Offices Really Do?

Federal Grant Administration
One of the most important responsibilities of the SHSO is to administer Federal highway safety grants.

Congress periodically enacts authorizing legislation to continue existing Federal programs or to launch new ones. When Congress reauthorizes Section 402 and other highway safety incentive grant programs, it establishes the purpose, parameters and eligibility criteria for Federal grants. NHTSA and FHWA then draft regulations that describe how the grant programs are to be implemented. The SHSO administers these grant programs in a manner that is consistent with Federal law and regulations.

States must also comply with certain requirements to avoid Federal penalties and sanctions. For a detailed explanation of the grant programs, penalties and sanctions, and a listing of funds each State has recently received under the grant programs, check these web sites: NHTSA at or GHSA at

TIP #3
Federal Grants
Federal grant programs are usually authorized for a five- or six-year period. As a result, Congress must periodically reauthorize all highway safety grant programs, penalties and sanctions. They may eliminate or consolidate programs, create new programs, penalties or sanctions, change program eligibility criteria, change funding levels, etc. Additionally, States may be eligible for a grant in one year but not the next. The web sites listed above will have the most current information about Federal grant programs and State funding.

States administer the Federal Section 402 and incentive grant program through their annual safety plans. States must submit plans explaining how Section 402 funding will be spent. Many States also incorporate plans for incentive grants funds into their annual plan as well. States make an educated guess about their eligibility for a particular incentive grant program and generally indicate how the incentive funds will be spent if they do qualify. Later, they submit a more detailed application for the incentive grant showing how they qualify. When States receive incentive grants, they must spend the funds in the manner indicated in their annual plans.

If a State is in non-compliance with certain Federal requirements, the penalty may be that they must transfer some of their Federal highway construction funds into safety programs. If so, the SHSO must include information in their annual plan on how they intend to use the penalty transfer funds.

Every State is required to submit two plans: a Performance Plan and a Highway Safety Plan. Many States submit the two required plans as one single document.

The Performance Plan must set measurable highway safety goals for the State. The SHSO must first identify and use reliable sources of data (such as crash, travel, population, location, or other data sources) to help identify its leading highway safety problems.

Not all States conduct problem identification the same way. Many States consider a variety of sources of information.

  • Some States have elaborate systems for ranking safety problems by jurisdiction in order to identify the jurisdiction (usually a city or county) that has the most severe problems.
  • Some hire consultants (usually experts from local universities) to perform that function.
  • Other States do all the data analysis internally using State highway safety staff.
TIP #4
SHSO Planning Process
When you contact the SHSO, ask about how and when the SHSO plans its annual highway safety program, and where your agency or organization may fit into the planning process. Start with the problem identification process and review how the State identifies and targets its most serious problems. If a State has a pre-application conference, plan to attend that conference because it may answer your questions about the State planning process.

Once the State has identified its major problems, then it must consider highway safety performance targets such as:

  • Reduced number of impaired driving fatalities, injuries, or crashes
  • Increased safety belt use
  • Reduced pedestrian fatalities and injuries.

The State identifies the direction in which it wishes to go and then sets relevant goals. These may include both interim and longer-term goals within the national priority areas and any other program areas. Often a State will consider past trends and extrapolate into the future. The goals it sets may be “stretch” goals that are based on past trends but which require the State to work harder (hence “stretch”) to reach the goals.

Each goal must be accompanied by a performance measure that will allow the State to track its progress in meeting the goal. For example, a State goal could be to increase safety belt use from 75 percent in 2002 to 79 percent in 2003, as measured by the number of restrained occupants in outboard seating positions in passenger motor vehicles.

The Performance Plan must also include:

  • A description of all highway safety processes for:
    • Identifying problems
    • Setting goals
    • Setting performance measures
    • Selecting projects or activities
    • Involving constituency groups in the planning process
  • A list of data sources and information used in its development.

States are encouraged, but not required, to involve constituency groups in the planning process. Constituency groups can be local governments, other State agencies, nonprofit organizations, community programs, State or local chapters of national organizations, or even members of the public at large.

Nearly every State works with organizations and agencies outside the SHSO, although the involvement of constituency groups varies considerably. An SHSO will contact the constituency groups that they have worked with in the past or those that they have identified for future involvement. A constituency group may be:

  • Solicited to submit highway safety project proposals
  • Asked to serve on panels or committees to help evaluate the project proposals
  • Asked to be involved in the planning process
  • Participate in outreach meetings regarding the proposed HSP.
TIP #5
SHSO and constituency groups
SHSO efforts to reach out to constituency groups present a good opportunity to become involved with the State planning process. When you contact the SHSO, be sure to ask how the office works with constituency groups in your State.

In addition, every State must submit a Highway Safety Plan (HSP) that describes specific highway safety programs and projects and relates how performance goals can be reached through these programs and projects. The HSP functions as a State strategic safety plan or road map and describes how the State will reach its goals.

The HSP must, at a minimum:

  • Include one year’s worth of Section 402-funded projects
  • Include a list of projects by program area (occupant protection,
    impaired driving, etc.)
  • Indicate which organization or agency will receive funding
  • Identify the funding amount
  • Ensure that at least 40 percent of the 402 funding either goes directly to local governments or benefits local governments
  • Be approved by the Governor’s Representative.

States also have to submit multiple financial plans showing the division of Federal highway safety funds between the different program areas. In addition, States must submit statements providing assurances that they will comply with applicable Federal laws and regulations, financial regulations and other special Federal funding conditions.

Further details about the State planning process, particularly as it relates to project selection and grant applications, are discussed in Chapter 5.

Chapter 3














Case Study # 3

Oklahoma’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) was the first FCA chapter to partner with a highway safety office. According to the FCA State Director, working with the SHSO “provided a good team opportunity” to promote traffic safety through an alcohol and drug education program. The State Director encourages other FCAs to contact their local highway safety offices.

Working with organizations such as FCA gives the SHSO an “in” with a target population that they might not otherwise be reaching (in this case, junior high, high school and college students). FCA’s prominent members include local celebrities such as athletes and coaches, who serve as great role models and promote the safety message. The partnership between the two entities is mutually beneficial and allows for a more concerted safety effort.