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Behaviors and Attitudes


NHTSA studies behaviors and attitudes in highway safety, focusing on drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and motorcyclists. We identify and measure behaviors involved in crashes or associated with injuries, and develop and refine countermeasures to deter unsafe behaviors and promote safe alternatives.

Our recently published reports and research notes are listed chronologically below. To the right are additional resources including Traffic Techs.

169 Results

Practices for Sharing Drug Recognition Expert Resources

This report presents the findings of research to understand how State and local law enforcement agencies have successfully shared resources for drug recognition experts (DREs). Sharing DRE resources refers to making DREs from one agency or jurisdiction available to other nearby agencies or jurisdictions to respond to DRE callout requests. The researchers conducted a literature review and interviewed DRE coordinators from five State and three law enforcement agencies to learn more about their DRE callout programs. The report summarizes key aspects of successfully sharing DRE resources and includes examples demonstrating how agencies share DREs and respond to callouts. Agencies and jurisdictions of all sizes and geographic localities can use this report to enhance existing DRE callout programs or implement new programs that involve sharing DREs across multiple organizations.

Developing a Webtool for Fatigue in Emergency Medical Services Scheduling

On behalf of NHTSA, the National Association of State EMS Officials had the Institutes for Behavior Resources develop a publicly and freely available website tool based on a biomathematical model of fatigue that applies to typical shift configurations/lengths among EMS personnel. The purpose of this webtool is to help agencies create and evaluate work schedules that minimize fatigue.

The Emergency Medical Services Sleep Health Study

While fatigue and poor sleep quality affect more than than half of emergency medical services (EMS) clinicians, there is no known standard for educating and training. For this report the research team created the Fatigue Education Program for Emergency Medical Services, 10 brief education modules based on recommendations from the American College of Occupational Environmental Medicine. The primary aim of this study was to determine if providing education and training to EMS personnel on the importance of sleep health and dangers of fatigue improves indicators of sleep quality and fatigue. The researchers used a pragmatic, cluster-randomized, wait-list control, 6-month study design. The primary outcome was the Pittsburgh sleep quality index -measured sleep quality at 3- and 6-month follow-ups. Intention-to-treat analyses revealed no differences between the intervention and comparison groups in mean sleep quality scores at 3- and 6-month follow-ups. Per protocol analyses showed that the greater the number of modules viewed, compared to no viewings, the greater the improvement in sleep quality and greater the reduction in fatigue. The largest improvement in sleep quality was observed among EMS clinicians who viewed eight to 10 education modules. Given these findings, the Fatigue Education Program for Emergency Medical Services may be a useful resource for EMS administrators who aim to fulfill the 2018 evidence-based guideline recommendation of educating and training EMS workers on sleep and fatigue

Alcohol and Drug Prevalence Among Seriously and Fatally Injured Road Users

Interest in how drugs other than alcohol affect roadway safety has increased. Studies conducted by NHTSA and others gave insights, but a knowledge gap exists on drug prevalence among drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists seriously or fatally injured in crashes. This study sought to fill this gap by examining drug prevalence among a large sample (N = 7,279) of seriously injured roadway users at seven trauma centers and fatally injured crash victims at four medical examiners. Overall, 55.8% of the injured or killed tested positive for one or more drugs including alcohol, and, overall, 19.9% tested positive for two or more categories of drugs. The results are a first look at drug prevalence among a large sample of seriously or fatally injured roadway users. 

The Research on Older Adults' Mobility: 2022 Meeting Summary Report

This report briefly describes a “virtual” meeting spotlighting research on older adult mobility, sharing news of completed research, progress of ongoing studies, and highlighting priorities for future work. Some 50 participants included physicians and other medical professionals, occupational therapists and certified driver rehabilitation specialists, State DMV officials, mobility service providers, public health practitioners, automated vehicle and Advanced Driver Assistance System experts, and other academic and private sector research professionals. ROAM 2022 included a general session and six breakout sessions on the role of the occupational therapist in older driver safety, safety implications of limited-term license renewal policies, advanced vehicle technologies, perceptions of older road users on automated shuttles and shared automated vehicles, and transportation options for rural and small communities.

Evaluation of Rear-Seat Belt Laws

Recent upgrades to rear-seat belt laws in two States were documented, based on information gathered from legislative websites, news articles, and other internet sources as well as interviews with key observers. Successful strategies and challenges were identified. An additional goal of this study was to evaluate the effect of adult rear-seat belt laws on rear-seat belt use using an observational survey.

Pedestrian/Bicyclist Safety in Numbers Program Evaluation

Safety in Numbers -- SIN -- is the idea that increased walking and biking are associated with safer road environments for pedestrians and bicyclists. Specifically, as the number of people who walk and bike increase, pedestrian and bicyclist crashes will increase at a lower rate. As more agencies are focusing on ways to reduce crashes, including efforts such as the Road to Zero or Vision Zero, measures that might increase pedestrian and bicycle crashes are a concern. SIN would help to provide the understanding of potential outcomes associated with increases the number of people walking and bicycling. A literature review conducted as part of this project provides a detailed history of the SIN concept, including when the term was first coined and challenges to and refinement of the concept. This is a companion report to Report No. DOT HS 813 279 published in June 2022.

Reducing Distracted Driving Among Adults: Child-to-Adult Interventions

Distracted driving is a problem for drivers and their passengers. Several programs exist to reduce the distracted driving habits of people who are already drivers. However, there are few programs that teach children before they become drivers, especially in the elementary school, how to intervene with a driver (usually a parent) who is distracted and none that have been evaluated. Only one program was identified that developed both a lesson to teach elementary school children how to intervene with a distracted drivers and an evaluation of the lesson. The COVID-19 pandemic made it necessary to pivot from the classroom to online and to broaden the program to include high school as well as elementary school students. Among high school students, the program produced a statistically significant increases in students’ knowledge of distracted driving and what they need to say to their drivers to refrain from driving distracted, statistically significant increases in the frequency of intervening with parents and passengers (but not friends), and a reported decrease in distracted driving of their parents and friends.

Estimated Contribution of Peak-Hours Non-Commercial Vehicle Traffic to Fatality Rates, Research Note, Traffic Safety Facts

This Traffic Safety Facts Research Note explores the relationship between the decline in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased fatality rate observed for 2020. It hypothesizes that the fatality rate relative to previous years is due in part to a decrease in peak-hours (i.e. 6–9 a.m., 3–6 p.m.) non-commercial vehicle traffic – that is, a decrease in commuting. To draw comparisons with 2020 the author use the most recent National Household Travel Survey, Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and FHWA VMT data to estimate separate peak and non-peak, non-commercial vehicle fatality rates for 2017. The estimated peak-hours non-commercial vehicle fatality rate for 2017 was .5 per 100m VMT, while the non-peak hours non-commercial fatality rate was 1.27 per 100m VMT. Excluding peak-hours non-commercial vehicle traffic, 2017 had an overall fatality rate of 1.48 per 100m VMT. The fatality rate for 2020 was 1.34 per 100m VMT. The author therefore conclude that decreased peak-hours non-commercial vehicle traffic associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, stay-at-home orders, and increases in remote working contributed to 2020’s increased fatality rate relative to previous years.

Understanding and Using New Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities

Research has explored the benefits of innovative pedestrian and bicycle facilities, but it is unclear how pedestrians and bicyclists learn to properly use them. This report provides information on new pedestrian and bicycle treatments and (1) the behavior and knowledge of pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers traversing through, on, and around the new facilities, and (2) law enforcement activity around the facilities. A systematic literature review as well as a review of current practices in outreach was conducted.