What Can Your Organization do to Partner with
the State Highway Safety Office?
Now that you have a better understanding of SHSOs and their planning
and funding processes, it is important to consider what your agency or
organization can contribute to State highway safety programs) — not
all of which involve the use of Federal highway safety grant funds.
Effective laws are the foundation for every highway safety program.
Potential partners should consider activities to educate decision-makers
so that they will enact new highway safety laws or strengthen existing
safety laws. Nonprofit organizations can help advocate for appropriate
highway safety laws. However, local governments are often subject to
ethical standards or limitations on lobbying by their employees. State
agencies typically are subject to more stringent State lobbying restrictions.
Additionally, Federal law restricts the lobbying activities of State
officials whose salaries are supported, in whole or in part, by Federal
funds and the use of Federal appropriations to fund lobbying activities.
Consequently, it is important to explore Federal, State, and local
lobbying restrictions before taking any action.
Direct lobbying occurs
when an individual or organization:
- Urges a legislative official to take a certain position or action
on a piece of legislation
- Encourages a specific position when elected officials, legislative
staff or other government officials are drafting legislative language
- Expends funds to influence the drafting of or action on proposed
Grassroots lobbying occurs when an entity:
- Urges the public to contact
members of Congress or a State or local legislature in an attempt to
- Attempts to influence legislation by affecting
public opinion or the opinions of a specific segment of the public
funds for that purpose.
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) laws allow nonprofits to lobby as long
as “no substantial part” of the organization’s resources
(e.g. no more than five percent) are expended for that purpose. Advocacy
can be conducted by uncompensated board members without restriction and
does not have to be reported to the IRS. In other words, a nonprofit
organization can write letters to legislators, make personal visits to
legislators’ offices, submit testimony, be part of a coalition
that advocates for highway safety legislation, and do all the things
that lobbyists do as long as the expenditures relating to the lobbying
activities do not violate the IRS rule and the organization does
not receive Federal grant funds.
Nonprofits and State agencies that receive Federal highway safety funds
(grantees) are subject to additional restrictions. Federal law prohibits
the use of Federal funds, either directly or indirectly, for the purposes
of influencing a member of Congress, a State or local legislature, or
an official of any government to favor or oppose legislation, whether
or not the legislation is pending. This means that Federal funds cannot
be used for grassroots lobbying of Federal, State or local legislators
at any time. Federal law also prohibits the use of Federal grant funds
to influence the award of a subsequent Federal grant, contract or other
agreement. In other words, a grantee can’t use his/her grant to
obtain another Federal grant.
Additional lobbying restrictions prohibit the use of Federal grant funds
to engage in direct lobbying of Congress or State legislatures targeted
at specific, pending legislative bills. As a result, once a bill is introduced,
grantees can no longer ask their legislators to take positions on specific
However, an organization or agency may address broad social or economic
issues such as highway safety without urging action on specific legislation.
- Educate decision-makers in general terms about a particular highway
safety problem and what can be done to solve the problem
- Brief decision-makers
on what activities have been undertaken to address the problem in the
- Organize a coalition of like-minded organizations and individuals
as long as that coalition does not take a position on a pending bill
or endorse a specific legislative agenda
- Draft a letter to a newspaper
or a decision-maker as long as the letter doesn’t reference specific
legislation or encourage members of the public to contact their Federal,
State or local legislators.
- Provide technical information (data and
research) to decision-makers
- Respond to inquiries from Congress or
- Present testimony requested by a Congressional
committee or State legislature.
If your organization or agency plans to undertake educational activities for
decision-makers, be sure and coordinate with the SHSO. You’ll want to ensure
that your activities and those planned by the SHSO complement each other.
Provided it does not engage in grassroots lobbying, an organization
or agency also can get its message out through the media to:
- Raise awareness
about an issue
- Identify shortcomings in current legislation
- Suggest options for strengthening
- Create public pressure to adopt new legislation
or change current legislation.
CONDUCT PUBLIC INFORMATION AND EDUCATION PROGRAMS
Public information and education (PI&E) campaigns are also an important
component of a State or community program, so potential partner organizations
should consider undertaking such efforts. These campaigns can serve a
variety of purposes:
- Help raise awareness about a safety issue
- Influence behavior so that
the public (or a specifically targeted group) changes behavior
a highway safety issue to the attention of decision-makers
the public about a new law or regulation that has recently been enacted
or significant changes that have occurred in an existing law.
On its own, a PI&E program that only raises awareness of an issue
has been shown to have little long-term effect on behavior. However,
a PI&E campaign that is part of a comprehensive safety program can
be effective. A PI&E program that informs the public of a new law
or changes in an existing law has also been shown to be effective. A
PI&E program will be approved only if it is compatible with the State’s
Among the most effective PI&E programs are those that bring visibility
to a law enforcement effort. In May 2004, 49 States participated in a
high visibility enforcement mobilization to encourage drivers and passengers
to use safety belts. The effort involved waves of enforcement, with publicity
both before and after each enforcement wave. Thirty-nine States used
the “Click It or Ticket” slogan, which conveyed the message
that those not using safety belts would be ticketed. This is a good example
of how to coordinate highway safety messages with an overriding law enforcement
PI&E programs that use social marketing techniques have also been
found to be more effective than those that simply raise awareness. Social
marketing is the use of marketing theories and techniques to influence
behavior for a social end. The goal of social marketing is to change
behavior in a way that will benefit society. Highly visible social marketing
campaigns generally use a variety of communications tools such as media
and public relations, issue advocacy, and advertising.
Potential partners that wish to do PI&E programs should develop a
media plan that complements and supports the State safety goals and State
media plan. To help formulate a plan, potential partners should address
the following questions:
- What is the specific problem that you are trying
- How are different groups affected by the problem and what
do they know about it?
- What are the key characteristics of the group(s)
you need to reach?
- How can you best reach the targeted group?
- What message can most effectively
influence the behavior of the targeted groups?
- In what forms should
the message be delivered?
- What will it cost to market the message
to the targeted audience?
- How will you know if your message has been
received and accepted?
guidance on media rela-tions can be found in NHTSA’s
Community How To Guide on Underage Drinking Prevention, which can be
downloaded at www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
Another key component of every highway safety program is enforcement
of traffic safety laws. Unless a highway safety law is adequately enforced,
it will have little effect because many drivers and other road users
don’t believe they will be apprehended if they violate the law.
Visible enforcement deters potential offenders from breaking the law
and it ensures that the law functions in a manner intended by its authors.
There are many types of law enforcement activities that can be undertaken
by State highway patrols, sheriffs’ departments or offices, liquor
control enforcement agencies, local law enforcement agencies, or college
or university enforcement offices:
- Sobriety checkpoints — concentrated
enforcement efforts designed to stop impaired drivers
- Safety belt checkpoints — specifically
set up to enforce a State's safety belt law
- Saturation patrols — roving
patrols that enforce impaired driving laws
- Compliance checks — enforcement
efforts to detect illegal sales of alcohol to minors by retailers
- “Cops in Shops” — programs
that detect illegal purchase of alcohol by minors in retail establishments
- Speed or aggressive
driving programs — either stationary or
roving patrols that seek to apprehend drivers that exceed the posted
speed limit or exhibit aggressive driving behavior.
Other safety efforts
that involve law enforcement include:
- Roll-call videos for law enforcement
officers that present safety programs or relay safety messages
conferences on safety issues such as child passenger safety or impaired
- False identification programs using technology to detect fake
or improper identification for underage drinkers
- Teen courts in which
students, under the supervision of the schools and the courts, act
as prosecutors, defense attorneys and jurors in cases in which their
peers have been charged with alcohol-related offenses
- Juvenile holdover
programs in which teens detained by law enforcement are held temporarily
until an adult assumes responsibility or the teen can be moved to
a juvenile facility
- Child passenger safety fitting stations.
Smaller law enforcement agencies that do not have the resources to undertake
special traffic enforcement can team up with other agencies for a multi-jurisdictional
effort. Small jurisdictions can also incorporate traffic safety enforcement
into their regular enforcement activities that are conducted every day.
SHSOs may fund equipment purchases for law enforcement, such as laptop
computers, breathalyzers, radar, video cameras, etc. However, the equipment
purchases must be part of a project that addresses a specific highway
safety problem, the project has to relate to the State’s goals
and priorities, and there must be a plan for how the equipment will be
used. The grantee also has to maintain an inventory of the equipment
for several years depending on State rules.
Even if the organization is not law enforcement related, it can support
police traffic safety through such activities as:
- Writing letters to the
editor, op-ed pieces, or news releases in support of specific enforcement
activities (“endorsement for enforcement”)
in press conferences for law enforcement events
- Participating in newspaper
editorial board meetings focused on enforcement activities
a supportive city council resolution
- Conducting interviews or helping
publicize law enforcement efforts through their newsletters or at
CONDUCT PROSECUTORIAL PROGRAMS
Strong laws and highly visible enforcement are effective deterrents to
unsafe driving behavior. It’s also critical that laws be properly
adjudicated so that the deterrent effect is not diminished. As the level
of law enforcement increases around the country, and as more focus shifts
to hard-to-reach populations, it will become increasingly important for
an SHSO to have partnerships with key members of the criminal justice
system — prosecutors and judges.
In most jurisdictions, the chief law enforcement officer is the District
Attorney, serving as the gatekeeper and key decision-maker in the criminal
justice system. Research shows that through plea negotiation, prosecutors
make the decisions in 75 percent to 90 percent of all cases, and they
present evidence and make recommendations to the court in the remaining
The District Attorney sets the policy for the cases that are to be tried.
This policy determines the type and quality of cases accepted from law
enforcement officers. After an officer forwards an investigation to the
District Attorney’s office, prosecutors assigned to the case review
the evidence and determine what charge(s) to file. In instances where
charges are filed directly by law enforcement, prosecutors may subsequently
amend the charges, if necessary, to what the prosecutors believes the
evidence will show in court.
To create a cohesive enforcement and prosecution approach, programs are
available allowing prosecutors and officers to be trained together. An
example of such training is the Protecting Lives,
Saving Futures course
taught at a number of venues around the country.1 Other training courses
on impaired driving are available for prosecutors from basic entry-level
to special classes in prosecuting vehicular homicides. Training for prosecutors
is something that some States fund as part of their HSP, so prosecutors
should consider coordinating with the SHSO to support training that fits
the State’s needs and plans.
CONDUCT JUDICIAL PROGRAMS
As an independent branch of government, the judiciary is in a unique
position to ensure that traffic safety laws equally are applied. The
majority of cases heard before the judiciary concern traffic safety;
as such, the judiciary must remain impartial and rule on the matters
that are placed before them.
Judicial training is important to maintaining an effective judiciary.
Programs provide an overview of legal or evidentiary issues related to
plea taking, search and seizure, and arrests and confessions are already
available to the judiciary. In addition, these courses also provide information
on the role of the traffic court judge in the community, ethical judicial
outreach and bridge building, and new approaches to sentencing traffic
Judicial outreach programs, such as the Courage
to Live program developed
by the National Judicial College to reach underage youth, can also make
an impact by offering judges or prosecutors an opportunity to participate
in awareness and prevention efforts. Agencies that represent a segment
of the judicial community should make themselves aware of the educational,
training, or outreach programs that are already available and collaborate
with the SHSO to support training that is consistent with the State’s
needs, plans, and resources.
If a highway safety project is proposed and funded, it can be delivered
in various ways. The most common activities involve those conducted at
the community level, in the workplace, and through schools.
Community highway safety programs are comprehensive in nature and focus
on a number of highway safety problems. They may be part of a broader
community-related injury prevention effort called Safe Communities that
addresses a variety of unintentional injuries. More typically, a community
program focuses solely on motor vehicle-related injuries, addressing
a variety of local highway safety problems.
There is usually a community coordinator or project director who is responsible
for running the community program. The coordinator is supported by a
community coalition with members from relevant sectors of the community:
- Law enforcement
- Health care
- Criminal justice.
The coalition may be divided into committees to handle child passenger
safety, underage drinking, bicycle and pedestrian safety, and other issues
of importance to the community. The coalition may meet periodically to
review problems, plan programs, and evaluate results. The community coordinator
may implement programs with the help of members of the coalition.
The benefit of a comprehensive community highway safety program is that
it provides the infrastructure for addressing highway safety problems
at the community level. Currently, every SHSO supports community coalitions
and many fund activities through those coalitions. Additional information
about Safe Communities may be found on the Safe Communities section of
NHTSA’s web site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov. Information about comprehensive
community underage drinking prevention programs may be found at www.stopIMPAIREDdriving.org.
NHTSA’s Community How To Guide on Underage
which can be downloaded from the NHTSA web site, contains information
that would be helpful for any community traffic safety program.
Another way to deliver highway safety programs is through employers.
Many crashes occur while commuting to and from work, or while on work-related
travel, and involve not just employees but their families as well. Employers
want to reduce costs (insurance costs, time off, etc.) and increase the
productivity of their employees. One way to do that is by reducing motor
vehicle-related injuries and property damage that an employee or family
member may face as a result of a motor vehicle crash. Fewer crashes mean
more time spent on the job, a key benefit for the employer. Employers
are a good delivery mechanism for highway safety programs because they
have a controlled audience for their programs. The Network of Employers
for Traffic Safety (NETS) (www.netsnational.org) is an excellent resource
for employer-based programs.
Schools are a great place to instill safety concepts in children at an
early age. They are the single most important way to reach children and
provide many opportunities for prevention programming. The idea is this:
if children are trained and acquire good safety habits at an early age,
they will retain those habits for the rest of their lives. Materials
and activities can be developed for the children themselves as well as
for their parents. Some potential school-based activities include:
of a safety curriculum
- School safety campaigns and pledge cards
- Safety assemblies
- School safety policies
- After-school safety activities
- Youth safety clubs
- Youth leadership training.
School-based programs work especially well
for underage drinking prevention, child passenger safety, bicycle
and pedestrian safety, and teen driving. There are many resources for
school-based programs, including but not limited to, NHTSA, MADD (www.madd.org),
Students Against Destructive Decisions (www.saddonline.com),
the National Safe Kids Campaign (www.safekids.org),
and the National Organizations for Youth Safety (www.noys.org).
1This training program places prosecutors and law enforcement officers
from the same locality together to allow for an interaction between the
two disciplines. This helps them understand the issues that they each
experience in addressing impaired driving cases, to build better cases.
|Case Study # 4
The South Carolina Office of Highway
Safety funded a project from Fiscal Years 1997-2000 with the
Babcock Center, a private not-for-profit agency providing services
to people with mental retardation, autism, and head and spinal
cord injuries. The agency’s main focused is to help people with disabilities
become more productive and independent, while attempting to
prevent or reduce the occurrence of these disabilities where
possible. As a result, Babcock Center staff created Buckle
Down and Buckle Up to target the age group most at risk for
head and spinal cord injuries resulting from motor vehicle
use — drivers under the age of 21. The Buckle Down and
Buckle Up program targeted 35 high schools in eleven South
Carolina counties, through the implementation of an educational
and motivational program encouraging the use of safety belts
and the avoidance of intoxicating substances while operating
motor vehicles. A variety of activities were undertaken including
a ribbon tree with a ribbon for each fatality, signage, a pledge
program, and school presentations.
The Babcock Center had a lot
of experience with injury prevention programs and was a good
candidate for a Federal grant. The work of the Center helped
the SHSO in its effort to prevent traffic safety-related injuries.
The Center, for its part, has benefited by receiving Federal
funds and the assistance of the SHSO.