What do State Highway Safety Offices Really
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 www.nhtsa.dot.gov or GHSA at www.ghsa.org.
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
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
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
- 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.
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
- 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
The Performance Plan must also include:
- A description of all highway safety
- 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.
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
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
- 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.
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
a list of projects by program area (occupant protection,
- Indicate which organization or agency will receive funding
the funding amount
- Ensure that at least 40 percent of the 402 funding
either goes directly to local governments or benefits local governments
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