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Directions in Highway Safety, Summer 2008 Cover Page Download Newsletter pdf
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Summer 2008 | Vol. 10 | No. 4

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GAO Says Improved NHTSA Oversight Could Strengthen State Program Management

In 2003, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended that NHTSA improve the consistency of its management reviews of the State Highway Safety Offices, a key aspect of highway safety program oversight. To follow up, GAO recently performed an assessment of how states have used grant funding to address safety goals, NHTSA's progress in improving consistency in its management reviews, the usefulness of its management review recommendations, and approaches to further improve safety. The results were published in July in the report: NHTSA's Improved Oversight Could Identify Opportunities to Strengthen Management and Safety in Some States.

GAO found that, from FY 1999 through FY 2007, states directed about 54 percent of Section 402 formula grant funding toward programs that address the leading causes of traffic fatalities-alcoholimpaired driving and driving without a safety belt-both national safety goals. The remainder was targeted toward other programs addressing national goals or statespecific safety challenges.

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GAO also reported that NHTSA had improved the consistency of its management reviews and also implemented Congress' requirements that it conduct reviews on a 3-year schedule. Although GAO found some variation in how information was documented, it noted that in 2007, NHTSA took several steps to further improve the consistency of the information contained its management review reports.

To strengthen the management review process and strengthen state planning efforts, GAO recommended that NHTSA periodically analyze the common recommendations made to states, periodically assess the extent to which states implement NHTSA management review recommendations, identify options to strengthen state monitoring of subgrantees, examine the underlying causes of low state expenditure rates and identify potential solutions, and identify ways to target NHTSA technical assistance to states that need it the most.

GAO also commented on NHTSA's program reviews in states that are not making adequate progress in reducing alcoholimpaired driving and increasing safety belt use. Some states with low or average fatality rates but a high number of fatalities may not be eligible for a required review under NHTSA's current criteria. And while states with high numbers of fatalities may offer the opportunity to save the greatest number of lives, the only way they can be reviewed is if they request-and pay for-a NHTSA assessment.

For a copy of the report, go to