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Directions in Highway Safety, Fall 2008 Cover Page Download Newsletter pdf
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Fall 2008 | Vol. 11 | No. 3

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Annual Meeting Held in Scottsdale; Provides Preview to Reauthorization

Nearly 400 state, national and private sector highway safety representatives attended GHSA's recent Annual Meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona. The theme of the Annual Meeting was "Turning Research into Action." A variety of researchers, state and federal officials, and other stakeholders discussed the latest research findings and the implications for highway safety policies and programs during diverse sessions throughout the conference.

NHTSA Deputy Administrator Jim Ports served as keynote speaker for the opening general session.He outlined recent NHTSA successes and detailed highway safety challenges. Victor Mendez and Jack Lane welcomed attendees to Arizona and discussed local initiatives as well as current challenges such as unhelmeted motorcyclists. Mendez is the director of the Arizona Department of Transportation and Lane is chief of the state's Highway Patrol Division which is housed in the Department of Public Safety.

Tuesday's general session provided a detailed look at the latest highway safety research and its impact on safety programs. Adrian Lund, President of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, discussed a variety of studies, including a new look at teen driving (see page 9). Susan Ferguson, a consultant managing a multi-year research program (funded by NHTSA and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety) for the development of advanced alcohol detection technology reviewed this landmark initiative. Robyn Robertson, President and CEO of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, also discussed the use of technology to eliminate impaired driving.

Jim Ports NHTSA Deputy Administrator Jim Ports was the keynote speaker at the 2008 GHSA Annual Meeting.

GHSA invited partner organizations to present their highway safety reauthorization positions during the Annual Meeting. Executive Director Barbara Harsha moderated the session, and speakers represented the Government Accountability Office (GAO), American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

There were several overarching themes among all the presentations, including performance accountability, flexibility, goal setting, the need for adequate resources, and the potential impact of new technologies.

Sara Vermillion, Assistant Director of Physical Infrastructure Issues at GAO, explained that GAO's reauthorization recommendations were informed by a recent evaluation of state highway safety programs and NHTSA oversight. Vermillion shared GAO's recommendation that Congress establish the federal role for highway safety by identifying national safety priorities and setting goals.

Other GAO suggestions included: mechanisms for performance accountability, linking performance with grant awards; tools to reduce administrative and management challenges; consolidated applications; simplified application procedures and deadlines; and increased flexibility to use grants for a broader range of activities. Vermillion noted that all these changes would require improved state data. She also suggested NHTSA may need to adjust its oversight approach.

AASHTO Director of Engineering and Technical Services Tony Kane illustrated the varied structures of state DOTs, listed the association's major safety issues, and reviewed its key national goals: reducing fatalities by half in the next two decades, and creating strong performance measures and management. He noted that these goals assume an approximate doubling of federal transportation investment by 2015.

Specific AASHTO reauthorization recommendations for Congress were: a national highway safety agenda in the statute itself, the creation of a joint AASHTO/GHSA highway safety center of excellence, and a White House/Congressional safety summit to establish national safety goals. AASHTO also is calling for increased funding, streamlined funding processes and increased flexibility.

Neil Schuster, President and Chief Executive Officer of AAMVA, discussed the reauthorization priorities of the nation's state motor vehicle administrations. He said AAMVA would like to expand the Commercial Drivers License Information System (CDLIS) to include all drivers, which would prevent anyone with a bad driving record from moving to a new state and starting fresh with a new clean record.

AAMVA would also like to see improved reporting of convictions to the National Driver Register and also between jurisdictions, increased involvement of MVAs in the creation of state highway safety plans, and a new national working group to explore solutions to the problem of drivers with suspended and revoked licenses. Schuster also called for emphasis on older and novice drivers, including funding for senior driver programs and uniform guidelines for GDL programs.

MADD President Laura Dean-Mooney said MADD hopes reauthorization will help set the stage for the elimination of drunk driving. MADD supports increased funding for highway safety programs to ensure adequate resources for program development and delivery. It proposes a new incentive grant program for states that pass laws requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers with a .08 or above BAC. MADD also supports transfer provisions, or "soft sanctions," for states that do not penalize all high BAC (.15 or above) offenders at an elevated level.

All organizations presenting on the panel agreed that highway safety advocates will need to fight for increased funding to provide the resources needed to continue to improve traffic safety and save more lives.

You can access the Annual Meeting photos, presentations and other materials on the GHSA website.