|NHTSA Report Number DOT HS 809 815||October 2004|
I. Introduction. As part of its goal to reduce alcohol-related traffic deaths and injuries, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed an assessment process that gives States an opportunity to conduct a review of their efforts to control impaired driving by an outside team of nationally recognized experts. Similar assessments are conducted also in other highway safety areas, including occupant protection, emergency medical services, motorcycle safety and traffic records.
Upon State request, NHTSA convenes the assessment team and facilitates the process. The assessment team meets with State officials including highway safety personnel, and hears testimony from individuals invited by the State to testify concerning the strengths and weaknesses of the State's program. The team then uses this information to assess the State's impaired-driving program. Each assessment examines the strengths and weaknesses of a State's overall impaired-driving program. It should be noted that these assessments are not typical or traditional program evaluation efforts (i.e., process or outcome evaluations, etc.). Assessments contain recommendations, some of which have been designated as priority recommendations, concerning ways in which the State can improve or enhance its impaired-driving programs. Since the assessment report "belongs" to the State, it is solely within the State's discretion how it will use the document. There are no sanctions if the State does not implement the recommendations. Based on State requests, NHTSA has facilitated 42 impaired-driving assessments since 1991, including 32 initial assessments and 10 re-assessments.
a. Assessment Process. The assessment process begins when a State Highway Safety Office submits a written request to one of the NHTSA Regional Offices. This request is then referred to the appropriate program office at NHTSA headquarters to initiate the assessment process. NHTSA selects and convenes a multidisciplinary assessment team consisting of experts from outside the agency. The team's experience correlates with the various components of a comprehensive impaired-driving program that are reviewed during the assessment process.
The requesting State arranges for State impaired-driving program representatives to meet with the assessment team during the weeklong technical review. The State representatives brief the assessment team and, as appropriate, provide written materials. Team members may initiate an open discussion with presenters to gain a clearer understanding of a subject.
The assessment team uses the information provided by these representatives to analyze the State's impaired-driving program by comparing it to a NHTSA-developed uniform guideline. The team members develop consensus recommendations (including priority recommendations) after considering what reasonably could be accomplished within the State and what actions are most likely to have an impact. While the uniform guidelines are the same for each State, the assessment team considers unique State factors that may impact the applicability of the State to adopt certain recommendations. These factors may include, but are not limited to, demographics, geography, political structure, and institutional support for impaired-driving activities. The assessment team then develops a written report containing its consensus recommendations, and the report is provided to the State Highway Safety Office.
b. Uniform Guidelines. The Highway Safety Act of 1966 called on NHTSA to promulgate uniform standards for highway safety. In 1976, the Act was amended to provide more flexibility. The amendment provided that the uniform standards were to become more like guidelines for the States to use. This change was codified in 1987, changing the uniform standards to uniform guidelines.
Uniform Guideline Number 8 (see Appendix A) of the State Highway Safety Program provides that each State, in cooperation with its political subdivisions, should have a comprehensive program to combat impaired driving. Guideline Number 8 describes the five standard program areas that State impaired-driving activities should address, including: (1) Program Management; (2) Prevention; (3) Deterrence; (4) Driver Licensing; and (5) Treatment and Rehabilitation. States are encouraged to use these guidelines as a framework for problem identification, countermeasure development, and program evaluation.
Since 1991, assessment teams have used these NHTSA-developed guidelines to assess the status of State impaired-driving programs. The team compares State activities to these guidelines, and assesses each of the five areas individually as well as the inter-relationship between them. These guidelines were considered to be state-of-the-art when they were last published. They are currently in the process of being updated to reflect more recent changes in the impaired-driving arena.
III. Study Purpose. Each assessment examines the strengths and weaknesses of a State's overall impaired-driving program. Assessment teams seek to develop a variety of recommendations, including priority recommendations, for a State to use for the enhancement or improvement of its impaired-driving program. Therefore, the recommendations invariably address areas of need or weakness. This study effort was an attempt to sort, categorize, and quantify the very large number of diverse and often complex recommendations by guideline area. This includes summarizing the many recommendations and identifying those that are prevalent across the many States. The results of this effort are intended to assist NHTSA in a review of the assessment process and to serve as a catalyst for potential enhancements to the process. In turn, an improved assessment process will better help States to determine ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their impaired-driving programs.
IV. General Findings. There were 2,982 recommendations produced in 38 (out of 42) examined assessment and re-assessment reports, including 852 that were identified as priority recommendations by the assessment teams. Two assessments were completed too late to be part of this effort (Illinois 2003 and Puerto Rico 2003). Records could not be located for two others (American Samoa 1991 and Utah 2001).
The number and breadth of recommendations reflect broad areas of impaired-driving program needs and limitations. In general terms, most of the recommendations fit into one of 10 broad thematic areas. Some of these themes (e.g., DUI data and records) cut across several different guideline areas. These themes include (listed in descending order based on number of recommendations):