skip navigation
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
pdf version


More than 40,000 persons are killed and nearly three million injured on the Nation’s highways every year. Reducing the number of deaths and injuries is such a big problem that it cannot be resolved alone by the State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) — the lead coordinator for traffic safety programs in each State. They need to partner with a variety of State and local partners in order to meet safety goals. And State and local organizations and agencies want to partner with the SHSO because they can receive information and support in return.

But what does it mean to be a partner? Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines a “partner” as a person who takes part in an activity in common with another or others; the relationship of partners; joint interest; or association.

Partnerships have been the cornerstone of the highway safety movement for more than 30 years. When you share a concern about an issue and you collaborate with others who feel the same way, you are forming an important partnership. These can be formal or informal, but they are almost always more effective than working alone.

In a partnership, each side brings something to the table: knowledge, experience, technical assistance, access to decision-makers, motivated personnel, training, funding, an institutional infrastructure, etc. These shared resources allow the partners to work together more effectively on an issue or cause.

Each side also benefits from the partnership. For example, a State agency needs assistance addressing a specific issue or problem. They may turn to another State agency, local government or nonprofit organization for program implementation. In turn, that organization may receive training, knowledge, experience, technical assistance, and other resources from the State agency that help ensure success.

A partnership is more than a State agency giving funding to another group in order to implement a specific program. A partnership is a two-way street. Successful partnerships are those in which organizations and agencies both share their strengths, experiences, and resources, and where both receive benefits.

In order to build a partnership with an SHSO, the organization or agency must understand the State program needs and show what it has to offer to get the job done. It also has to identify its own needs and where it fits in the State highway safety plan. The SHSO, in turn, has to determine how it can help the organization or agency meet its safety goals and satisfy its needs.

It is common for an organization or agency to approach the SHSO without fully understanding the State’s planning and funding processes. Moreover, the organization’s leaders may not have fully considered what they can do to help meet the State’s highway safety goals and objectives. This guidebook was developed to help those organizations and agencies better understand how SHSOs operate, the kind of funding they administer, and the requirements that organizations must satisfy. The guidebook also identifies several different safety activities that organizations can undertake in partnership with their SHSO — not all of which involve the use of funding.

The guidebook is intended for use by the following:

  • State and local chapters of national nonprofit organizations
  • Local governments
  • Other State agencies
  • SHSO to provide to potential partners
  • Community organizations.

For purposes of clarity, in this guide we will refer to these organizations and agencies as “potential partners” prior to receiving a grant and “grantee organizations” after receiving a grant. Potential partners may be organizations or agencies that collaborate with the SHSO on issues in which no funding is involved.

After reading the guidebook, potential partners should have a better understanding of what an SHSO is, how it operates, and how to form linkages with it in a mutually beneficial and productive way to reduce deaths and injuries on the nation’s roadways.
It is important to note that this is a guidebook and not documentation of what occurs in each State. Planning processes and requirements differ from State to State. As you review the material, remember that your SHSO procedures may differ.

Abbreviations and Acronyms Used in This Guide

Blood Alcohol Concentration
U.S. Department of Transportation
Emergency Medical Services
Federal Highway Administration
Governors Highway Safety Association
Governor’s Representative (or Governor’s Highway Safety Representative)
Highway Safety Plan
Internal Revenue Service
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Public Information and Education
Section 402:
the State and Community Highway Safety grant program (found in Section 402 of the U.S. Code)
State Highway Safety Office
The 50 States, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Indian tribes, and the four U.S. Territories

Chapter 1















Case Study # 1

The President of the Gateway Chapter of MADD (formerly Mothers Against Drunk Driving) credits Missouri’s “incredible Highway Safety Coordinator” as a main factor in the success MADD has enjoyed in that State. During his term as President, he quickly realized the importance of developing a relationship with the Coordinator based on mutual respect. Such a relationship is crucial, as it opens opportunities that might not happen in a more traditional business arrangement.

The Gateway Chapter received minimal Federal grant funding from the Missouri Highway Safety Office – $10,000 – and made it grow. The organization turned to other sources of funding and, as a result, in-kind donations exceeded the Federal funding. “Look at how many people you can reach with just a little Federal funding and by establishing good working relationships at the State and community level,” they note.



Highway Safety Terminology

Within the professional highway safety community, there are certain terms that are more accurate than phrases in common usage. The preferred terms are used throughout this guide, and you should learn and adopt these terms in your dealings with the State Highway Safety Office, and other highway safety entities.
  • Crash – preferred over “accident” when dealing with motor vehicle collisions since most crashes are predictable and preventable and are not “accidental.”
  • Safety belt – often used interchangeably with “seat belt” to describe occupant restraint systems. However, since most seating positions in vehicles now have three-point shoulder-and-lap belts, the term “seat belt” is a misnomer and “safety belt” is the preferred term.
  • Impaired driving – preferred over “drunk driving” because it includes anyone who is using a substance (alcohol or drugs) that is negatively impacting their driving ability.
    • Driving while intoxicated (DWI) – in most States, DWI means the driver’s bloodalcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds the State’s legal level; they are presumed to be impaired regardless of their actual driving performance.

    • Driving under the influence (DUI) – in most States, DUI the driver’s BAC is below the legal level, but their driving is still impaired and they have been observed driven erratically or have caused a crash.
  • Countermeasures – specific safety strategies designed to solve a highway safety problem.