Skip to main content
Highway Safety Grants Program

Safety Program Assessment

Safety Program Assessment: Process Overview

NHTSA's Assessment Program provides support to State Highway Safety Offices, state Emergency Medical Services (EMS) offices, and other state agencies. A team of non-federal, subject matter experts conducts a comprehensive review of a highway safety program area using an organized, objective approach and well-defined procedures that:

  • Provide an overview of the program's current status;
  • Note the program’s strengths and weaknesses; and
  • Provide recommendations for improvement.

Although most assessments are based on the Uniform Guidelines for State Highway Safety Programs, the state may also request an assessment that addresses unique concerns and specialized expertise on the team. Not only does the assessment provide useful recommendations, the dialogue and report are also educational for the state and its highway safety customers. It is important the technical assessment process is open, collegial, and non-punitive.

How Do Program Assessments Benefit The State?

The program assessment will provide the following benefits:

  • Providing an opportunity for productive conversation between the host office and experienced subject matter experts;
  • Identifying strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement;
  • Assisting with long-range planning;
  • Assisting with resource allocation;
  • Generating support for program improvement; 
  • Serving as a benchmark against which to measure future improvements;
  • Offering best practice recommendations; and
  • Potentially fulfilling incentive grant criteria.

What Programs Are Eligible For Assessments?

Program assessments are offered for the following program areas.

  • Driver education
  • EMS
  • Impaired driving
  • Motorcycle safety
  • Occupant protection
  • Pedestrian and bicyclist safety
  • Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) and optional Drug Evaluation and Classification
  • State 9-1-1 programs
  • Traffic records

The program assessment standards are based on the Uniform Guidelines for State Highway Safety Programs, which are periodically updated.

Why Have A Program Assessment?

Program assessments examine the significant components of a state's highway safety program. Each state, in cooperation with its political subdivisions, should have a series of comprehensive traffic safety programs based on a combination of legislative authority, implementing regulations and/or policies, enforcement, public information, education, and engineering in order to achieve significant, lasting improvements in crash rates, and to reduce resulting deaths and injuries. An outside, independent review of program components provides insights and tools to refine and improve the programs that states implement to advance traffic safety.

How Is A Program Assessment Conducted?

NHTSA identifies and the state approves a team of non-federal subject matter experts across the program components. An administrative consultant who is familiar with the assessment process is also selected. NHTSA headquarters and Regional staff facilitate the assessment by ensuring proper planning and implementation.

The state has a role in the planning, choosing team members, and implementation of the assessment. The state provides material, sets up presentations, and schedules interviews of key state personnel and other stakeholders for the assessment team to gather necessary information. Other stakeholders represent public and private sector organizations or agencies at both the state and local levels. These stakeholders vary depending on the state’s unique characteristics, as well as the type of assessment being conducted.

All assessment team members participate in the stakeholder interviews for all program components, but the team member who is primarily responsible for the specific section will take the lead.

Following review of material and a comprehensive briefing, the assessment team convenes to analyze the information that has been presented, compares the state's program to established guidelines, reaches consensus on recommendations for program improvement, and generates a draft report to be presented to the state.

The assessment team bases its recommendations on what was presented during the assessment process and its knowledge and experience associated with improving the effectiveness of traffic safety programs. While each assessment team member has specific expertise and may be responsible for particular sections, the final report is a comprehensive assessment of the program that represents a consensus of all team members.

NHTSA staff do not participate in the assessment team deliberations; however, they may serve as a resource for technical and process issues.

Upon completion of the assessment, the team briefs the state on its major findings and recommendations. 

What's In The Final Report?

The final report includes the following.

  • Title page/cover sheet
  • Table of contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Summary of priority recommendations
  • Summary of the uniform guideline for that program area and findings on the current status of the state’s program 
  • Recommendations for each guideline sub-area
  • List of people interviewed
  • List of team members, including their credentials
  • Assessment agenda

When Is The Final Report Issued To The State?

NHTSA will provide the final report to the state within 30 days after the assessment. For some program areas, states are given a 30-day period to review the draft, with an additional 14 days for NHTSA to finalize the report and submit it to the state.  

The report is the assessment team's product; neither NHTSA nor the state approves or disapproves the report's recommendations. States may submit technical corrections to NHTSA, which will coordinate discussions and revisions, if appropriate, with assessment team members. Neither NHTSA nor the state make substantive modifications to the report. The assessment team members are responsible for the report, which NHTSA provides to the state in final form at the completion of the process.

NHTSA encourages the state to share the report with its traffic safety partners and to use the report's recommendations in its safety planning. Any request for the report is referred to and handled by the state. 

How Do I Host A Technical Assessment?

Contact your NHTSA Regional Office to discuss the possibility of hosting a program assessment.

States are required to plan for assessments necessary to meet grant requirements. All assessments must be requested by May 1 each year (at least 14 months before the associated grant application deadline). This approach allows sufficient time for NHTSA to work with the state on an appropriate schedule for the assessment, which in most cases will take place after October 1.

How do I become a Highway Safety Program Assessment Subject Matter Expert?

See this brochure for more information on becoming a Subject Matter Expert on a NHTSA Safety Program Assessment Team, including qualifications and requirements, and how to get in touch to ask questions or express interest.