California’s Barbara Rooney Elected Chair of GHSA

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News Releases

September 27, 2022

Contact: Adam Snider, 202-580-7930; 202-365-8971 (after hours)

Safe System approach, combating speeding and other risky driving behaviors, advancing equity among top priorities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Barbara Rooney, Governor’s Representative (GR) and Director of the California Office of Traffic Safety (CA OTS), was elected to serve as Chair of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) Executive Board at the organization’s 2022 Annual Meeting last week in Louisville, Ky. Rooney will serve a one-year term for GHSA, the national nonprofit association of the state and territorial highway safety offices (SHSOs) that address behavioral traffic safety issues.

In this role, Rooney will lead GHSA’s efforts to work toward zero deaths on America’s roadways through proven and effective countermeasures that address unsafe driving – speeding, not buckling up, and impaired and distracted driving. She becomes Chair after more than two years of surging traffic fatalities resulting from an uptick in dangerous driving behaviors that coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are at a critical juncture in traffic safety,” Rooney said. “Urgent action and a new way of thinking are needed to buck the trend in roadway deaths that continue to rise. Working with new and diverse partners, we can tackle the many safety challenges we face and improve our traffic safety programs to keep all road users safe.”

According to Rooney, GHSA and the highway safety community will continue to embrace the Safe System approach as the guiding framework to address roadway safety, which emphasizes safer street designs, safer vehicles and safer people as required interventions to reduce deaths and serious injuries. Behavioral safety programs, particularly speeding and its impact on people biking or walking, are vital to providing a multi-layered safety net, along with safe vehicles and roads, Rooney said.

Another key priority for GHSA members is addressing impaired driving, which is a factor in nearly one-third of all traffic deaths. The intersection of emerging technologies like alcohol detection systems with enforcement and public awareness has the potential to save thousands of lives every year.

“More preventative measures combined with law enforcement detecting and removing impaired drivers from the road will have a monumental impact on reducing crashes,” Rooney said. “Education and enforcement programs remain critical interventions for saving lives.”
Under Rooney’s leadership, GHSA will continue efforts to advance equity in traffic safety by identifying actions SHSOs can take to reverse inequitable policies and practices that have burdened communities of color and historically underserved neighborhoods. 

“Equity and roadway safety go hand in hand,” Rooney said. “Efforts to make our roads safer will also advance equity, which remains a fundamental principle in traffic safety.”

Rooney was elected GHSA Vice Chair in 2020 and 2021 and became Chair in 2022 following a vacancy. She previously served as Chair of the association’s Federal Relations Committee and Workforce Development Committee. Rooney was appointed to lead CA OTS by California Governor Gavin Newsom in August 2019, where she manages approximately $100 million in federal traffic safety grant funds that are disseminated across the state.

Also elected to serve a one-year term on the GHSA Executive Committee are:

•    Vice Chair Lauren Stewart, Director of the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety
•    Treasurer Michael Hanson, GR and Director of the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety 
•    Secretary Amy Davey, Director of the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety

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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 find us on Facebook and Twitter.