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On September 29 and 30, 2003, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA) convened a meeting of criminal justice association leaders to address strategies for reducing traffic crashes and the resulting death and injury.  The Criminal Justice Associations Leadership Meeting, Traffic Safety Today, was held in Washington, D.C.  This report summarizes the meeting and highlights priority actions the professional groups identified as crucial within their fields and across the criminal justice system to improve traffic safety. The points of view and opinions expressed at the meeting and in this report are those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or of the National Criminal Justice Association.

Meeting participants were charged with addressing four major issues:

  • Changes made or that must be continued following a November 2002 Criminal Justice Summit on Impaired Driving.
  • Changes needed in the speed management culture.
  • Performance measures for traffic safety.
  • Ways to transform traffic safety to a high priority on the national agenda. 

The leaders also provided feedback to NHTSA on its three strategies for addressing impaired driving:

  • Maintenance of high visibility enforcement.
  • Creation of statewide, specialized prosecutor positions around the country and expansion of specialized Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) courts.
  • Increased use of alcohol screening and referrals to treatment, when appropriate, for offenders. 


ISSUE ONE: Criminal Justice Summit on Impaired Driving:  What's Happened and What's Next

The leaders of the criminal justice associations shared some of their organizations' initiatives that hold promise in increasing system efficiency for dealing with impaired driving in this plenary session.

The major outcome of this discussion was the reported increase in visibility of impaired driving enforcement, as is evident by the number of local and regional initiatives implemented or reenergized since the Summit; however, much more is needed to bring awareness of the issue to the national level and to increase comprehensive system efficiency for handling impaired drivers

Some of the recommendations for next steps included the following:

  • Seek top federal level leadership on the issue of impaired driving, starting with the White House.  The example of the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy was given and how its media campaigns have shed national light on drug abuse. A similar public safety campaign on impaired driving ought to be initiated.
  • Utilize the National Criminal Justice Association's role as a national catalyst or convener of the criminal justice system to help maintain the dialogue among the system components and facilitate cross professional partnership building around the issue of impaired driving.
  • Develop a national DWI database that integrates existing state and local databases, to help provide better access to driving records and prior arrest information.
  • Implement demonstration projects to help address interoperability of paperless systems.  Standards must be developed for data sharing.

ISSUE TWO: Culture Change:  Transforming Speed Management

This issue discussion focused on changes needed in the speed management culture and the obstacles that impede such change.

The major outcomes of this discussion were the need for greater coordination and regulation of speed management efforts. 

Participants raised the following considerations for state and local speed management efforts:

  • Brief judges on speed management plans.
  • Review state speeding laws and regulations.  Solicit input from the judiciary.
  • Consider tying variable speed limits to automated enforcement efforts.
  • Consult with transportation engineers, including students, on road design and its contribution to traffic flow.
  • Consider ways of addressing slow drivers and traffic backups, including clearing accident scenes quickly, when developing speed management plans.

ISSUE THREE: Performance Measures

In this issue discussion, participants explored how performance measures can be developed and used in their local traffic safety efforts.

A major outcome of this issue discussion was that standards are necessary, but a balance is needed between qualitative and quantitative standards.  The outcome is more important than the process, and standards should be flexible to accommodate the needs of various agency sizes and the duties of each discipline.

Participants raised the following points during discussions:

  • Be cautious in emphasizing numbers.  There must be balance between qualitative and quantitative measures.  
  • Consider the core values and mission of each discipline when developing performance measures.
  • Allow for flexibility to accommodate various agency sizes and jurisdictional laws.
  • Hold leadership accountable.  Leadership must be persistent with assessment and follow-up.

Transforming Traffic Safety to a High Priority

Participants addressed what prevents traffic safety from becoming a priority issue in their respective disciplines and how it can be changed.

The major outcomes of this discussion were that transforming traffic safety to a high priority will take leadership, commitment of resources and the identification and adoption of best practices.

Suggestions for making traffic safety a higher priority included the following:

Law Enforcement:

  • Increase DWI training in the academies.
  • Consider departmental incentives, such as equipment, to encourage greater emphasis on traffic safety.
  • Recognize officers' efforts in traffic safety.
  • Use what works best for the state or jurisdiction.
  • Make a concerted effort to bring the media on board.

Training of Special Prosecutors:

  • Increase dialogue with elected district attorneys around policy setting for traffic safety.
  • Create state level traffic safety resource prosecutors to serve as cross jurisdiction and interstate liaisons on traffic safety.

Judges and Expansion of DWI Courts:

  • Convene a national conference on DWI/drug courts.
  • Identify and adopt best practices from drug courts and other problem solving courts.
  • Increase training for judges and court personnel on impaired driving.
  • Develop strategies to avoid legislation setting what types of cases should be high priority.
  • Explore sources of private sector funding to support the expansion of DWI/drug courts.


In these sessions, the participants met by profession and later in small multidisciplinary groups to review the issues raised during the plenary sessions on the four topic areas and to identify and prioritize possible actions that will improve traffic safety.

The major outcomes of the breakout sessions were the need for improved information sharing among and understanding of the roles of the justice system components, and for leadership support to increase overall system efficiency.

Priorities for Law Enforcement

  • Streamline paperwork through technology.
  • Gain law enforcement leadership support for 24/7 DWI enforcement.
  • Develop performance measures for traffic enforcement programs.

Priorities for Prosecutors

  • Build an infrastructure for the traffic safety resource prosecutors.
  • Increase training and knowledge exchange.
  • Increase resources for DWI prosecution.

Priorities for Judges and the Courts

  • Develop national standards on the handling of traffic cases.
  • Increase understanding of the court's role in traffic safety among other components of the criminal justice system and the public.
  • Expand DWI Courts and key elements of DWI courts.
  • Increase funding for the courts.

Priorities for the Multidisciplinary Groups

  • Simplify and streamline the entire process, from a review of current legislation to an improvement of courtroom procedures.
  • Use technology to increase efficiency, communication and knowledge.
  • Increase training and education, using traffic safety resource prosecutors.
  • Make impaired driving a high priority.