Research Confirms Roadway Safety Benefits of Traffic Enforcement

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News Releases

June 8, 2022

CONTACT: Adam Snider (GHSA), 202-580-7930, 202-365-8971 (after hours)

Equitable enforcement is proven to spur positive behavior change, making U.S. roads safer

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new research study released yesterday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirms that high visibility enforcement (HVE) of traffic safety laws has a positive and measurable impact on roadway safety by reducing dangerous driving behaviors that put road users at risk.

The synthesis of existing research examined data across 80 studies on the relationship between HVE efforts and safety outcomes, with a focus on the dangerous driving behaviors that are some of the greatest behavioral contributors to crash fatalities: not buckling up; speeding; and drunk, distracted and aggressive driving. The results indicate that initiatives involving equitable enforcement and public outreach can reduce these risky behaviors, which makes roads safer for everyone using them.

Specifically, the data showed that seat belt use rates increase an average of 3.5 percentage points when an HVE campaign is utilized. One additional checkpoint per 100,000 people per week increased the belt use rate by 0.76 percentage points, according to the analysis. Even relatively small increases in the belt use rate can translate to hundreds of lives saved. The federal “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement program has proven incredibly successful, with U.S. belt use rates rising from only 58% in 1994 to more than 90% in 2020. But alarmingly, after years of steady progress, that rate fell slightly in 2020 during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic when many police departments reduced traffic enforcement.

“This study reinforces the need for equitable traffic enforcement focused on the most dangerous driving behaviors,” said Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “Over the past two years, traffic enforcement has declined in many parts of the country while traffic deaths surged.”

The study also found that enforcement is effective at reducing other dangerous behaviors that are leading contributors to roadway fatalities. HVE campaigns focused on distracted driving, alcohol-impaired driving and speeding led to a reduction in hand-held phone use, lower rates of drunk driving crashes and citations, and decreased speeds in work zones, respectively. Each of those behaviors are incredibly dangerous and put everyone on the road at risk.

“Enforcement alone will not solve the traffic safety crisis,” said Adkins. “We cannot simply enforce, build, design or educate our way out of this problem. The Safe System necessitates a comprehensive approach for achieving our collective goal of zero traffic deaths, including equitable enforcement that focuses on risky driver choices that endanger all road users.”

The full research study is available here. The study was conducted by the National Cooperative Research and Evaluation Program (NCREP), a federal research program managed by NHTSA and GHSA with the objective of helping State Highway Safety Offices enhance their programs. The program was renamed the Behavioral Traffic Safety Cooperative Research Project (BTSCRP) in Federal Fiscal Year 2018, although the goal remains the same. More information about NCREP and BTSCRP is available on the GHSA website.

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About GHSA

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Visit for more information or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.