The National Academies

NCHRP 20-24(44) [Completed]

Highway Safety Leadership Organizational Issues; A Survey of States and Recommendations for Sustaining Progrss
[ NCHRP 20-24 (Administration of Highway and Transportation Agencies) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $100,000
Principal Investigator: Thomas M. McGovern
Effective Date: 10/25/2005
Completion Date: 8/31/2007


Reducing highway deaths to a national rate of 1.0 fatalities per 100 million vehicle-miles-traveled by 2008 is an AASHTO goal, and State Departments of Transportation are being encouraged to adopt a strategic approach to safety within their State. States have responded well – many DOTs have volunteered to step forward to implement specific elements of the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan.

Top-level leadership and support within DOTs is an essential ingredient for success. In addition, strong alignment among organizations responsible for safety across the spectrum of engineering, education, enforcement, and emergency services (the 4Es of highway safety) is critical for success. Responsible State entities receive funds for these activities from a range of sources; including Federal-Aid Highway funds for safety from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Highway Safety Grants from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and Motor Carrier Safety Assistance funds from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). In addition to the DOT and any other State entities responsible for these programs, participants in a strategic highway safety approach should include motor vehicle licensing/registration departments, traffic enforcement agencies, and emergency responders.

States currently have diverse institutional and organizational arrangements for carrying out '4E' safety initiatives. In some States, the NHTSA-managed programs are located within the DOT while in others they are separate entities such as a Department of Public Safety. The same is true of FMCSA programs, traffic enforcement organizations, and motor vehicle entities. Successful leadership strategies that can be sustained over time will be different within each organizational framework. No matter what type of organizational diversity exists, the objective should be to achieve a comprehensive and strategic approach in which all State organizations are united toward a highway safety goal utilizing data-driven decision making and consistent safety performance measures.


The objectives of this project are to (1) describe where responsibilities for key highway safety functions reside in State transportation organizations, (2) describe examples of successful safety leadership initiatives within these organizational contexts, and (3) formulate appropriate conclusions regarding how best to create and sustain safety leadership efforts within various organizational frameworks.

This work will also: (a) describe the necessary preconditions to successful leadership efforts among different State organizations, (b) clarify the principal challenges/barriers to achieving a comprehensive, strategic approach to highway safety, (c) suggest potential alternative models of institutional configurations/activities which contribute to success, and (d) identify supportive activities (technical, policy, and programmatic) by AASHTO and other associations and other levels of government and stakeholders.


Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks: (1) Survey States to identify current organizational arrangements to carry out 4E activities, (2) Formulate and describe the key factors associated with successful leadership initiatives for highway safety, (3) 3. Convene and conduct a Safety Leadership Focus Group discussion among key leaders, (4) Describe desirable internal and external State DOT institutional configurations, (5) Describe steps that can be taken by AASHTO and its partners to support positive transitions at the State DOT level, and (6) Prepare a final report summarizing the full effort.

Status: The draft final report has been submitted by the contractor.

Product Availability: The draft final report is available.

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