oversight

Highway Safety: Better Guidance Could Improve Oversight of State Highway Safety Programs

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-04-21.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

             United States General Accounting Office

GAO          Report to Congressional Requester




April 2003
             HIGHWAY SAFETY

             Better Guidance
             Could Improve
             Oversight of State
             Highway Safety
             Programs




GAO-03-474
                                               April 2003


                                               HIGHWAY SAFETY

                                               Better Guidance Could Improve Oversight
Highlights of GAO-03-474, a report to
Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee
                                               of State Highway Safety Programs
on Competition, Foreign Commerce, and
Infrastructure, Committee on Commerce,
Science, and Transportation, U.S. Senate




In 1998, the Transportation Equity             While the annual number of traffic fatalities has declined since the 1970s, it
Act for the 21st Century funded a              has stayed fairly level since 1995, at about 41,900 per year. Fatality rates per
series of highway safety programs.             miles traveled have also continued to decline, but the bulk of this decline
These safety programs,                         occurred between 1982 and 1992. In addition, the number of alcohol-related
administered by the National
                                               fatalities declined from about 26,000 in 1982 to about 17,400 in 2001.
Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA), increased              However, alcohol-related fatalities rose in 2000 and 2001.
funding to the states to improve
highway safety through activities              About $2 billion has been provided over the last 5 years for highway safety
                                                                                                         st
designed to encourage, among                   programs under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21 Century. About
other things, the use of seat belts            $729 million went to the core highway safety program, Section 402, to carry
and child passenger seats and to               out traffic safety programs designed to influence drivers’ behavior in such
prevent drinking and driving. The              areas as seat belt use, alcohol-impaired driving, and speeding. About $936
states implement these activities              million went to seven incentive programs designed to encourage state efforts
through a “performance-based”                  to improve seat-belt use, reduce drunk driving, and improve highway safety
approach under which they                      data. About $361 million was transferred from highway construction to
establish highway safety goals and
                                               highway safety programs under provisions that penalized states that had not
initiate projects to help reach those
goals. NHTSA reviews the goals                 passed repeat offender or open container laws to reduce drunk driving. Of
and provides oversight to the state            the incentive and transfer funds, most were used for behavioral programs,
highway safety programs. GAO                   but about $395 million was used for highway construction programs.
was asked to provide trend data on
highway safety, determine how                  Under the performance-based approach, NHTSA provides advice, training
much highway safety funding was                and technical assistance to the states, which are responsible for setting and
provided and how the states used               achieving highway safety goals. NHTSA also provides oversight through
the funds, and review NHTSA’s                  management reviews and improvement plans intended to help ensure that
oversight of highway safety                    the states are operating within guidelines and achieving the desired results.
programs.                                      However NHTSA’s regional offices have made inconsistent use of
                                               management reviews and limited and inconsistent use of improvement plans
                                               because NHTSA’s guidance to the regional offices does not specify when to
GAO recommends that NHTSA                      use them. As a result, NHTSA’s efforts to work with the states may not be
provide more specific written                  fully realized.
guidance to its regional offices on
when it is appropriate to use                  Highway Safety Funding to States, Fiscal Years 1998 through 2002
management reviews and
improvement plans to assist states
with their highway safety
programs.




www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-474.

To view the full report, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Peter Guerrero
(202) 512-2834.
Contents


Letter                                                                                    1
               Results in Brief                                                           2
               Background                                                                 4
               Trends in Highway Safety                                                   8
               States Used Increased Safety Funding to Support Behavioral and
                 Construction Programs                                                  13
               NHTSA Makes Inconsistent and Limited Use of Oversight Tools              20
               Conclusions                                                              24
               Recommendations for Executive Action                                     25
               Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                       25

Appendix I     Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                        27



Appendix II    Federal Funding for State Behavioral Safety Programs 29


Appendix III   The Transfer Provisions Encourage Changes in State
               Laws                                                                      31



Tables
               Table 1: Highway Safety Incentive Grant Programs                           6
               Table 2: State Use of Highway Safety Incentive Funds, Fiscal Years
                        1998 through 2002                                               17
               Table 3: Changes in State Compliance with Federal Open Container
                        and Repeat Offender Requirements                                31
               Table 4: States’ Compliance with Alcohol Transfer Laws as of
                        October 1, 2002                                                 32


Figures
               Figure 1: Rate of Traffic Fatalities, 1975 through 2001                    3
               Figure 2: State and Community Grants Program Funding, Fiscal
                        Years 1967 through 2002                                          5
               Figure 3: Number of Traffic Fatalities, 1975 through 2001                 9
               Figure 4: Rate of Traffic Fatalities, 1975 through 2001                  10
               Figure 5: Number of Traffic Crashes, 1988 through 2001                   11



               Page i                             GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
Figure 6: Number of Alcohol-Related Fatalities, 1982 through 2001                         12
Figure 7: Rate of Alcohol-Related Fatalities, 1982 through 2001                           13
Figure 8: NHTSA Highway Safety Funding to States, Fiscal Years
         1998 through 2002                                                                14
Figure 9: Uses of State and Community Grants Funds, Fiscal Years
         1998 through 2002                                                                16
Figure 10: State Allocations of Transfer Funds, Fiscal Years 2001
         and 2002                                                                         18




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Page ii                                     GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   April 21, 2003

                                   The Honorable Byron L. Dorgan
                                   Ranking Minority Member,
                                   Subcommittee on Competition,
                                    Foreign Commerce, and Infrastructure
                                   Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
                                   United States Senate

                                   Dear Senator Dorgan:

                                   Over the last 25 years, more than 1.2 million people have died as a result of
                                   traffic crashes in the United States. Since 1982, about 40 percent of traffic
                                   deaths were from alcohol-related crashes. In addition, traffic crashes are
                                   the leading cause of death for people aged 4 through 33. In 2000 alone, the
                                   economic cost of fatalities and injuries from crashes totaled almost $231
                                   billion, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

                                   To improve safety on the nation’s highways, the Transportation Equity Act
                                   for the 21st Century (P.L. 105-178, 1998) authorized a number of highway
                                   safety programs. Specifically, the act reauthorized the core federally
                                   funded highway safety program, Section 402 State and Community Grant
                                   Program. This program, authorized in 1966, uses a formula based on
                                   population and road mileage to make grants available for each state to
                                   carry out traffic safety programs designed to influence drivers’ behavior,
                                   commonly called behavioral safety programs. In addition, the act
                                   authorized seven other grant programs that provide incentive funding to
                                   encourage safety through the use of seat belts and child passenger seats
                                   and through efforts to prevent drinking and driving. Finally, a 1998
                                   amendment to the act established two new penalty requirements to reduce
                                   the number of alcohol-related fatalities associated with repeat drunk-
                                   driving offenders and open alcoholic beverage containers in motor
                                   vehicles. Beginning in 2000, states that failed to adopt these requirements
                                   were penalized by having a portion of their federal highway construction
                                   funds transferred to highway safety programs. The National Highway
                                   Traffic Safety Administration oversees the states’ highway safety
                                   programs; and, in 1998, it adopted a performance-based approach to
                                   oversight, under which the states set their own highway safety goals and
                                   targets and the agency’s 10 regional offices provide assistance to and
                                   oversight of the states to help them reach those goals.




                                   Page 1                               GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
                   You asked us to (1) provide information on trends in highway safety and
                   how alcohol contributes to these statistics, (2) provide information on
                   how much funding the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century
                   made available to the states for highway safety programs and how states
                   have used these funds, and (3) review the National Highway Traffic Safety
                   Administration’s oversight of the states’ highway safety programs.

                   To analyze highway fatality statistics, we used data from 1975 through
                   2001, the most recent year for which data are available from the agency’s
                   Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the national database on fatal traffic
                   accidents. In addition, for information on crashes and alcohol-related
                   fatalities, we used data that started to be collected in 1988 and 1982,
                   respectively. To provide information on available funding and its uses, we
                   obtained and analyzed data from the agency and visited six states that
                   accounted for a large amount (about 40 percent) of the funds transferred
                   under the penalty provisions (California, Georgia, Missouri, New York,
                   Ohio and Texas). We also used these states and visited the agency’s six
                   regional offices that are responsible for them, to review the agency’s
                   oversight of states’ programs. We also interviewed representatives of the
                   Governors Highway Safety Association and other highway safety
                   organizations to obtain their perspective on safety issues and program
                   oversight. Appendix I provides additional details on our scope and
                   methodology.


                   The number of traffic fatalities has declined since the 1970s. Specifically,
Results in Brief   traffic fatalities dropped from a high of about 51,100 in 1979 to a low of
                   about 39,300 in 1992. Since 1995, fatalities have been fairly constant with a
                   slight increase, averaging about 41,900 per year. The slowing in the decline
                   in fatalities-–as measured by the number of fatalities per 100 million
                   vehicle miles traveled—is shown in figure 1. Similarly, the number of
                   alcohol-related fatalities declined from about 26,200 in 1982, when the
                   National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began tracking them, to
                   about 17,400 in 2001. However, since 1992, declines in the number of
                   alcohol-related fatalities have slowed, and these fatalities have also
                   increased in 2000 and 2001.




                   Page 2                               GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
Figure 1: Rate of Traffic Fatalities, 1975 through 2001




About $2.0 billion has been provided to the states under the
Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, as amended, for (1) the
core Section 402 State and Community Safety Grants program, (2) seven
incentive programs, and (3) two penalty transfer programs for fiscal years
1998 through 2002. About $729 million of these funds supported the
Section 402 program and were used for behavioral highway safety
programs that addressed problems such as seat-belt use, alcohol-impaired
driving, and speeding. The seven incentive programs accounted for about
$936 million. Five of these incentive programs required all of their funds to
be used for behavioral highway safety programs, and two of the incentive
programs allowed their funds to be used for either highway safety
programs or highway construction projects. Finally, in fiscal years 2001
and 2002, about $361 million was transferred to safety programs from the
states’ Federal-Aid Highway construction account in 34 states that did not
meet federal requirements related to open container and repeat offender
laws. The states that were subject to the transfer penalties could use these
funds for either alcohol-related programs or for highway safety
construction—specifically, for projects to eliminate roadway hazards.
These states chose to allocate about 69 percent of the transfer funds to
highway safety construction.

Under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s performance-
based oversight approach, each state sets its own safety performance
goals and develops an annual safety plan that describes projects designed
to achieve the goals. The agency’s 10 regional offices review the annual
plans and provide technical assistance, advice, and comments. The



Page 3                                    GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
                      regional offices can also conduct management reviews of state highway
                      safety programs. Management reviews generally involve sending a team to
                      a state to review its performance, examine its projects, and determine that
                      it is using funds in accordance with requirements. While the management
                      reviews often identify problems with states’ highway safety programs that
                      need correction, we found that the regional offices were inconsistent in
                      conducting these reviews. This variation in the use of management
                      reviews occurs because the agency’s guidance is not specific on when the
                      reviews should be conducted. As a result, some regional offices conduct
                      reviews every other year, while others conduct them only when requested
                      by a state. In addition, when a state fails to make progress toward its
                      highway safety performance goals, the agency requires the development
                      and implementation of an improvement plan that identifies programs and
                      activities the state and regional offices will undertake to address program
                      weaknesses. We found that the regional offices have made limited and
                      inconsistent use of improvement plans. For example, some states did not
                      have improvement plans, even though their alcohol-related fatality rates
                      have increased or their seat-belt use rates have declined. The National
                      Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not established clear criteria
                      for using improvement plans.

                      We are recommending that the National Highway Traffic Safety
                      Administration provide more specific written guidance to the regional
                      offices on when it is appropriate to use management reviews and
                      improvement plans to assist states in their safety programs. In
                      commenting on a draft of this report, the National Highway Traffic Safety
                      Administration agreed with our recommendation and stated that it had
                      begun the process to develop this guidance.


                      The behavioral safety programs authorized by the Transportation Equity
Background            Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) attempt to improve highway safety by
                      reducing the frequency and seriousness of crashes and by mitigating the
                      consequences of crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety
                      Administration (NHTSA), within the Department of Transportation,
                      provides oversight of state highway safety programs.


Core Safety Program   The Section 402 State and Community Grants program is the core safety
                      grants program that was authorized in 1966. It is highly flexible, allowing
                      the states to use funds for a wide variety of highway safety projects,
                      including projects to reduce alcohol-impaired driving, increase seat-belt
                      use, develop regional traffic safety initiatives, improve traffic records and


                      Page 4                                GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
                           safety data, and improve pedestrian safety, among other projects. As
                           shown in figure 2, the funding for this program reached a high of over $450
                           million in 1978, in 2002 dollars. Since 1991, program funding has remained
                           relatively stable at about $150 million a year, in 2002 dollars.

                           Figure 2: State and Community Grants Program Funding, Fiscal Years 1967 through
                           2002




Incentive Grant Programs   Besides reauthorizing the Section 402 program, TEA-21 authorized seven
                           new incentive grant programs that provide funds to encourage states to
                           increase seat-belt use, reduce alcohol-impaired driving, and improve
                           highway safety data. States must meet certain requirements to qualify for
                           these incentive grants and generally must apply for them. Table 1 provides
                           information on the seven safety incentive grant programs.




                           Page 5                                GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
Table 1: Highway Safety Incentive Grant Programs

 Incentive
 category          Title of incentive                Description of incentive
 Seat Belt/        Section 157 Safety Incentive      Creates incentive grants to states to improve seat-belt use rates. A state may use
 Occupant          Grants for the Use of Seat        these funds for any highway safety or construction program. The act authorized
 Protection        Belts                             $500 million over 5 years.
 Incentives        Section 157 Safety Innovative     Provides that unallocated Section 157 incentive funds be allocated to states to
                   Grants for Increasing Seat-       carry out innovative projects to improve seat-belt use.
                   Belt Use Rates
                   Section 405 Occupant              Creates an incentive grant program to increase seat belt and child safety-seat use.
                   Protection Incentive Grant        A state may use these funds only to implement occupant protection programs. The
                                                     act authorized $68 million over 5 years.
                   Section 2003(b) Child             Creates a program designed to prevent deaths and injuries to children, educate
                   Passenger Protection              the public on child restraints, and train safety personnel on child restraint use. The
                   Education Grants                  act authorized $15 million over 2 years for Section 2003(b). However, the
                                                     Congress appropriated funds to support the program for 2 additional years.
 Alcohol           Section 163 Safety Incentives     Provides grants to states that have enacted and are enforcing laws stating that a
 Incentives        to Prevent the Operation of       person with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher while operating
                   Motor Vehicles by Intoxicated     a motor vehicle has committed a per se driving-while-intoxicated (DWI) offense. A
                   Persons                           state may use these funds for any highway safety or construction program. The act
                                                     provides $500 million over 6 years for the program.
                   Section 410 Alcohol Impaired      Revised an existing incentive program and provides grants to states that adopt or
                   Driving Countermeasures           demonstrate specified programs, or to states that meet performance criteria
                                                     showing reductions in fatalities involving impaired drivers. The act provides $219.5
                                                     million over 6 years, which are to be used for impaired driving programs.
 Data Incentives   Section 411 State Highway         Provides incentive grants to states to improve the timeliness, accuracy,
                   Safety Data Improvements          completeness, uniformity and accessibility of highway safety data. The act
                                                     provides $32 million over 4 years.
Source: GAO.



Penalty Transfer Programs                   To encourage states to enact stronger safety laws, TEA-21, as amended
                                            through the TEA-21 Restoration Act, established penalties for states that
                                            fail to enact laws implementing two new requirements set forth in the act.
                                            Under Section 154, a state must have a law prohibiting the possession of
                                            any open alcoholic beverage container, or consumption of any alcoholic
                                            beverage, in the passenger compartment of any motor vehicle on a public
                                            highway or right of way. Under Section 164, a state must have a repeat
                                            intoxicated driver law that provides for, among other things, a 1-year
                                            license suspension for the second offense; the impoundment,
                                            immobilization, or installation of an ignition interlock on all the offender’s
                                            vehicles; an assessment of the individual’s degree of alcohol abuse and
                                            appropriate treatment; and specified minimum jail or community service
                                            sentences. States that do not meet either the open container or the repeat
                                            offender requirement will have a percentage of funds transferred from
                                            their Federal-Aid Highway program to their Section 402 State and
                                            Community Grants program. States may use the transferred funds for
                                            alcohol-related behavioral programs, such as information programs



                                            Page 6                                         GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
                             designed to reduce drunk driving, or they may allocate funds back to the
                             Federal-Aid Highway program where they are to be used for highway
                             construction projects that address safety concerns, which could include
                             almost any kind of unsafe road or bridge condition. Every year NHTSA’s
                             Chief Counsel assesses the states to determine which states are in
                             compliance with the open container and repeat offender requirements.


NHTSA’s Oversight of State   NHTSA oversees the state highway safety programs through its 10 regional
Highway Safety Programs      offices, which administer the grants to the states. The regions’ emphasis is
                             on providing the states with technical assistance. NHTSA regions also
                             provide training programs for state safety officials and work with the
                             states to encourage them to participate in programs that have been shown
                             to be successful, such as “Click-It-or-Ticket” seat-belt use programs and
                             increased enforcement. According to NHTSA officials, this has resulted in
                             improvement in the area of seat-belt use. However, the regions do not
                             require the states to adopt particular programs.1

                             In 1998, NHTSA adopted a “performance-based” approach to its oversight
                             of highway safety programs. Under this approach, a state develops an
                             annual performance plan that establishes traffic safety goals and
                             performance measures. In addition, the performance plan must describe
                             the process the state used to identify problems, establish goals, and select
                             projects. Based on the performance plan, the state prepares an annual
                             highway safety plan, which identifies projects to be funded that address
                             the state’s goals. In addition, at the end of the year, the state is required to
                             prepare an annual report that describes (1) the state’s progress in meeting
                             its highway safety goals, using the measures identified in its performance
                             plan and (2) the contribution of funded projects to meeting the state’s
                             highway safety goals. Under the performance-based approach, NHTSA
                             does not approve the state’s highway safety plan or projects. Instead, it
                             focuses on whether the state is achieving the goals it set for itself in its
                             plans. However, if the state is not making progress toward meeting its
                             goals, NHTSA regulations state that the NHTSA region and the state
                             should develop an improvement plan to address the shortcomings.




                             1
                              Click-It-or-Ticket is a highway safety program that uses increased enforcement along with
                             a media campaign to encourage seat-belt use.




                             Page 7                                      GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
Other Highway Safety   In addition to NHTSA, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA),
Construction Funding   another Department of Transportation agency, funds and oversees
                       projects designed to improve safety. For example, FHWA’s Hazard
                       Elimination program provides funds for construction-related safety
                       improvements on any public road, public surface transportation facility, or
                       publicly owned bicycle or pedestrian pathway or trail, including such
                       items as traffic signals, sight distance improvements, pavement and
                       shoulder widening, and guardrail and barrier improvements. States that
                       are subject to the penalty transfer requirements may choose to use some
                       or all of those funds for safety construction projects under the Hazard
                       Elimination program.


                       The number of traffic fatalities has declined since the 1970s. Specifically,
Trends in Highway      annual traffic fatalities have gone from a high of 51,093 in 1979 to a low of
Safety                 39,250 in 1992.2 Since 1995, the number of annual fatalities has increased,
                       averaging about 41,900. (See fig. 3.)3




                       2
                        Traffic Safety Facts 2001, NHTSA. December 2002. These are the most recent available
                       data.
                       3
                        In commenting on a draft of this report, NHTSA officials noted that between 1997 and 2001
                       motorcycle fatalities increased by 1,065, which contributed to the overall increase in
                       highway fatalities.




                       Page 8                                     GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
Figure 3: Number of Traffic Fatalities, 1975 through 2001




From 1975 through 2001, traffic fatality rates—fatalities per 100 million
miles traveled—dropped by more than half; but since 1992, the rate of
decline has slowed.4 In 1979, the nationwide fatality rate peaked at 3.3
deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT). By 1992, the fatality
rate had declined to 1.8 deaths per 100 million VMT. Subsequently, fatality
rates continued to decline, but at a slower pace, reaching 1.5 deaths per
100 million VMT in 2001. (See fig. 4.)




4
 Fatality rates, which are generally reported as the number of deaths per 100 million VMT,
provide a consistent measure of highway fatalities and are appropriate for making year-to-
year comparisons. The primary source of uncertainty in estimating fatality rates is the
number of vehicle miles traveled. These data are subject to sampling errors whose
magnitude depends on how well 4,000 continuous traffic-counting locations represent
nationwide traffic rates. The data are also subject to estimating differences between the
states, though FHWA works to minimize such differences.




Page 9                                      GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
Figure 4: Rate of Traffic Fatalities, 1975 through 2001




From 1988, when NHTSA began collecting these data, through 2001, trends
in the number of highway crashes generally parallel trends in the number
of highway fatalities—declining until 1992, then rising somewhat.
Throughout this period, according to NHTSA’s data, the annual number of
crashes has ranged from about 6.0 million to 6.9 million. About 6.3 million
crashes occurred in 2001. (See fig. 5.) The severity of crashes has
remained consistent: about two-thirds involve property damage only and
one-third involve injuries. Only a small fraction of crashes—0.6 percent—
are fatal. According to analysts, highway crashes are typically the result of
a complex combination of factors, including human behavior, the roadway
environment, and the vehicle. Of these, human behavior, including
speeding, violating laws, alcohol or drug impairment, inattention, and
decision errors, most often contribute to highway crashes.5




5
 We discuss factors contributing to highway crashes in more detail in another report, see
U.S. General Accounting Office, Highway Safety: Research Continues on a Variety of
Factors That Contribute to Motor Vehicle Crashes, (GAO-03-436, Mar. 31, 2003).




Page 10                                     GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
Figure 5: Number of Traffic Crashes, 1988 through 2001




Alcohol-related crashes account for a large portion of traffic fatalities.6
Between 1982, when NHTSA began tracking alcohol-related fatalities, and
2001, over 400,000 people died in alcohol-related crashes. In 1982, NHTSA
reported 26,173 alcohol-related deaths, representing 59.6 percent of all
traffic fatalities. Alcohol-related fatalities declined to 39.7 percent of all
traffic fatalities in 1999, but rose to 17,448—41.4 percent of fatalities—by
2001. (See fig. 6.) Blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of 0.08 or greater
were reported for 85.6 percent of the 17,448 alcohol-related fatalities in
2001.




6
Alcohol-related fatalities represent crash victims killed with BAC at any level above 0.01.
At this concentration, a person’s blood contains 1 one-hundredth of 1 percent alcohol.




Page 11                                      GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
Figure 6: Number of Alcohol-Related Fatalities, 1982 through 2001




As figure 7 shows, alcohol-related fatality rates declined steadily (except
in 1986) from 1982 through 1997. However, there has been almost no
further decline in rates since 1997, when the rate was 0.65 fatalities per 100
million VMT. In 2001, the rate was 0.63 fatalities per 100 million VMT.




Page 12                                 GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
                        Figure 7: Rate of Alcohol-Related Fatalities, 1982 through 2001




                        In commenting on a draft of this report, NHTSA noted that the easiest
                        changes in driver behavior have been made. The challenge now is to reach
                        those whose behavior is the most difficult to change. For example, seat-
                        belt use in the United States has reached 75 percent—an all-time high. All
                        50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have child passenger
                        safety laws, and 49 states have adult safety belt laws in effect. NHTSA
                        estimates that approximately 8.5 percent of nonsafety belt users convert to
                        being regular belt users each year. Continuing to convert this percentage
                        each year becomes increasingly difficult because as the conversion occurs,
                        the hard-core nonusers become a higher proportion of the remaining
                        nonusers. Likewise, NHTSA noted that the problem with drunk driving is
                        increasingly one that involves persons with severe alcohol abuse
                        problems.


                        About $2.0 billion has been provided to the states for highway safety
States Used Increased   programs under TEA-21 for the core Section 402 State and Community
Safety Funding to       Safety Grants program, seven incentive programs, and two penalty
                        transfer programs from fiscal year 1998 through fiscal year 2002. The
Support Behavioral      Section 402 State and Community Grants program received about $729
and Construction        million, the seven incentive programs received about $936 million, and the
                        penalty transfer programs received $361 million. States could use funds
Programs                from two of the incentive programs for highway construction and funds
                        from the two penalty transfers for the Federal-Aid Highway Hazard



                        Page 13                                  GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
                             Elimination program. As a result, states allocated about $147 million of the
                             incentive funds to construction and $248 million of the transfer funds to
                             Hazard Elimination. Figure 8 shows the funding associated with TEA-21
                             highway safety programs and the split between behavioral programs and
                             highway construction.

                             Figure 8: NHTSA Highway Safety Funding to States, Fiscal Years 1998 through 2002




                             While overall highway safety funding has grown, the actual increases by
                             state vary widely. For example, the highway safety funding for Kansas,
                             which was not subject to any penalty transfers, grew by 1.7 percent and
                             stayed at about $5.2 million annually from 1998 through 2001, while the
                             highway safety funding for Montana, which was subject to both transfer
                             penalties, grew by over 480 percent from $0.9 million to $5.4 million, over
                             this period. (See app. II for a breakdown of total federal funding to states
                             for NHTSA highway safety programs.)


Funding for Section 402      Funding for the core Section 402 State and Community Grants program
Program Remained Level       has been fairly level, in constant dollars, since 1991. These funds could be
and Was Used to Support      used for a variety of programs in a number of major Section 402 program
                             categories, as follows:
Many Behavioral Activities



                             Page 14                                GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
•   Police Traffic Services – Grants support police agency enforcement
    projects, education, and training. Uses include projects to educate the
    public and enforce laws about driving while impaired, speeding, and seat-
    belt use.

•   Impaired Driving – Grants support programs to reduce alcohol--or other
    drug-impaired driving. Uses include enforcement, public education, drug
    recognition training, and training for prosecutors and judges. Prevention
    training may also target youth, educators, alcoholic beverage servers, and
    liquor sales clerks.

•   Seat Belts – Grants support increased use of seat belts and child safety
    seats. Funds can be used for such purposes as enforcement of seat-belt
    laws, public education on the importance and use of safety restraints, and
    proper installation of child safety seats.

•   Community Safety Programs – Grants support safety or injury control
    programs. Programs include regional traffic safety programs and safe
    community programs that take an organized approach to addressing
    community injury problems.

•   Planning and Administration – States may use up to 10 percent of their
    Section 402 funds for salaries, travel, equipment, and other expenses
    necessary to carry out state highway safety office functions.

•   Traffic Records – Grants support state or local safety records, including
    data on crashes, drivers, vehicles, roadways, citations, convictions, and
    emergency medical services. Data systems support problem identification,
    analysis, and countermeasure evaluation.

•   Other – Grants can support many other highway safety topics, including
    roadway safety, pedestrian safety, emergency medical services, speed
    control, driver education, motorcycle safety, school bus safety, and paid
    advertising to support Section 402 programs.

    Four major program categories account for most of the states’ use of the
    $729 million in Section 402 State and Community Grants funds provided
    between 1998 and 2002: police traffic services, impaired driving, seat belts,
    and community safety programs. Combined, these four categories account
    for about 72 percent of the grant funds. Figure 9 shows how the states
    used their Section 402 State and Community Grants funds during the 5-
    year period covered by TEA-21.




    Page 15                              GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
                            Figure 9: Uses of State and Community Grants Funds, Fiscal Years 1998 through
                            2002




                            Note: “Other” includes roadway safety, pedestrian safety, emergency medical services, speed control,
                            driver education, paid advertising, and motorcycle safety.




States Had Flexibility in   The seven incentive programs under TEA-21 also provide funds to
Using Incentive Grant       encourage greater seat-belt use, implement programs or requirements to
Program Funds               reduce drunk driving, and improve state highway safety data. The funding
                            available for these programs grew from $83.5 million in 1998 to $257.2
                            million in 2002. While most of these funds were used for funding additional
                            behavioral safety programs, the act provided that two programs, the 0.08
                            percent BAC Incentive (Section 163) and the Seat Belt Use Incentive
                            (Section 157) could be used for any highway purpose—highway
                            construction, construction that remedied safety concerns, or behavioral
                            safety programs. Table 2 provides information on total funding for
                            incentive programs and the split between behavioral program use and
                            construction.




                            Page 16                                         GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
                          Table 2: State Use of Highway Safety Incentive Funds, Fiscal Years 1998 through
                          2002

                              (Dollars in millions)
                                                                          Behavioral
                                                                            program         Construction          Total
                              Incentive                                      funding     program funding       funding
                              Alcohol
                               Section 163 - .08 BAC                           $226.0               $117.3      $343.2
                               Section 410 - Impaired Driving                  $166.3                           $166.3
                              Occupant Protection
                               Section 157 - Seat Belt Use                     $179.9                $ 29.8     $209.7
                               Section 157 Innovative - Seat Belt Use          $112.0                           $112.0
                               Section 2003(b) – Child Occupant
                              Protection                                        $ 22.4                           $ 22.4
                               Section 405 – Occupant Protection                $ 45.6                           $ 45.6
                              Data Improvement                                  $ 36.3                           $ 36.3
                              Total                                            $788.6               $147.0      $935.6
                          Source: GAO analysis of NHTSA data.

                          Note: Figures may not add due to rounding.




Penalty Transfers         The states that did not meet either the open container or the repeat
Increased Funding for     offender requirements had a percentage of funds (now 3 percent for each
Behavioral Programs and   requirement not satisfied) transferred from their Federal-Aid Highway
                          construction program to their Section 402 State and Community Grants
Safety Construction       program.7 During fiscal years 2001 and 2002, the first 2 years that funds
Projects                  have been transferred, 34 states were subject to one or both of the penalty
                          provisions, and about $361 million was transferred from these states’
                          Federal-Aid Highway Program funding. Appendix III shows how state
                          compliance has changed over time.

                          While states may choose to keep transferred funds in the NHTSA Section
                          402 State and Community Grants program where they are to be used to
                          support alcohol-related programs, they also may choose to allocate
                          transferred funds to highway construction projects under the FHWA
                          Hazard Elimination Program. As shown in figure 10, the states varied
                          greatly in their decisions on how to use these funds, from allocating 100


                          7
                           For the first 2 years, the transfer penalty was 1.5 percent of the funds apportioned to the
                          state’s National Highway System, Surface Transportation Program, and Interstate
                          Maintenance funding, for each transfer penalty. This amount rose to 3 percent for each
                          transfer penalty in October 2002.




                          Page 17                                       GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
                                         percent of the funds to construction projects to allocating 100 percent of
                                         the funds to behavioral projects. Overall, the states allocated about 69
                                         percent to highway safety construction projects under the FHWA Hazard
                                         Elimination program, and 31 percent went to highway safety behavioral
                                         programs. Twenty-eight of the 34 states with transferred funds allocated a
                                         majority to construction activities under the Hazard Elimination program.

Figure 10: State Allocations of Transfer Funds, Fiscal Years 2001 and 2002




                                         The six states we visited—California, Georgia, Missouri, New York, Ohio
                                         and Texas—used the transfer funds in a variety of ways.

                                     •   California, which did not meet all the federal requirements for repeat
                                         offenders, had $39.5 million transferred in fiscal years 2001 and 2002. In
                                         fiscal year 2001, all of the transfer funds, $19.4 million, went to the
                                         highway construction Hazard Elimination program, where they were used
                                         for a project involving the construction of a truck lane on Interstate 15 in
                                         San Bernardino County. California officials said that there had been a
                                         large backlog of hazard elimination projects that could readily use the
                                         funds. In fiscal year 2002, a majority of the funds, $14.3 million out of $20.1
                                         million, were used for behavioral safety programs under the Section 402
                                         State and Community Grants program. These programs funded such
                                         activities as a regional task force to crack down on drunk driving in Los
                                         Angeles County, training for prosecutors, the use of county probation


                                         Page 18                               GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
    officers to enforce court orders affecting repeat drunk driving offenders,
    and the creation of a special speeding and drunk driving unit in the
    Stockton Police Department. The $5.8 million transferred in 2002 to the
    highway construction Hazard Elimination program was used for a median
    barrier project along Interstate 5 in San Joaquin County and a barrier
    guardrail project along route 160 in Sacramento County.

•   Georgia was subject to both transfers for fiscal year 2001, amounting to
    $16.6 million. It allocated about $9 million of the transfer funds to the
    highway construction Hazard Elimination program, primarily to improve
    the state’s highway safety data collection system, which had experienced
    severe problems. According to Georgia officials, the rollout of a new
    highway safety data collection system had failed, and the state was not
    able to collect crash data for a time. The transfer funds enabled the state
    to correct this problem. Additional Hazard Elimination projects included
    red light running technology, guardrail delineators, and deer accident
    prevention measures. All the remaining $8 million went to behavioral
    programs, primarily to law enforcement organizations for drunk driving
    prevention programs. Georgia subsequently passed new laws that met the
    federal requirements for open containers and repeat offenders and was
    not subject to either penalty in fiscal year 2002.

•   Missouri was subject to both transfers in fiscal year 2001 and allocated the
    entire $10.4 million to Section 402 alcohol-related behavioral programs.
    The state used these funds to, for example, purchase specialized blood-
    alcohol testing vans and improve the collection of highway safety data. In
    fiscal year 2002, Missouri was subject to only the open container transfer
    and allocated almost all its $5.3 million transfer to the highway
    construction Hazard Elimination program for such activities as traffic
    signals, grading, and paving to improve intersections.

•   New York was subject to the repeat offender penalty transfers for fiscal
    years 2001 and 2002 and transferred a total of about $15.9 million. New
    York, which is able to supplement federal highway safety funds with state
    funds derived from driving-while-intoxicated (DWI) fines, decided to put
    all the transfer funds into the Hazard Elimination program. New York
    safety officials said that given the state’s high level of support for highway
    safety behavioral activities, there was no great need to allocate these funds
    to alcohol-related behavioral programs. Initially, the state was going to use
    the transfer funds for several Hazard Elimination projects, but when these
    projects were delayed, state officials decided to allocate all of the transfer
    funds to safety aspects of a single bridge project.




    Page 19                              GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
                         •   Ohio was subject to the repeat offender transfer in both fiscal years 2001
                             and 2002. Of a total of $15.6 million transferred, the state allocated $14.8
                             million to the highway construction Hazard Elimination program for seven
                             projects. The remaining $800,000 was used for alcohol-related behavioral
                             programs, such as education programs for high school students, drunk
                             driving task forces, and training for alcohol servers and sales clerks.

                         •   Texas had both open container and repeat offender transfers in fiscal year
                             2001, totaling $37 million. Of this amount, $33.6 million was allocated to
                             the highway construction Hazard Elimination program and about $3.4
                             million went to alcohol-related behavioral programs. According to Texas
                             highway safety officials, the state legislature was interested in maximizing
                             funding for highway construction, so the state allocated the funds to
                             Hazard Elimination. Also, because the transfer funds were taken from
                             construction categories, the state officials said it was appropriate for the
                             majority of the funds to be used for safety construction improvements.
                             Texas set up a special $10 million Interstate median barrier program and a
                             $15 million road shoulder rumble strip program with the transfer funds,
                             along with increasing the state’s regular Hazard Elimination program
                             funding, allowing additional safety improvement projects to be
                             constructed. Texas subsequently adopted open container and repeat
                             offender laws and was not subject to any transfers in fiscal year 2002.


                             Under its performance-based approach to overseeing state highway safety
NHTSA Makes                  programs, NHTSA has focused on providing advice, training, and technical
Inconsistent and             assistance to the states, which are responsible for setting and achieving
                             their highway safety goals. In addition, NHTSA has three oversight tools to
Limited Use of               help it ensure that states’ programs are operating within guidelines and are
Oversight Tools              achieving desired results—management reviews, improvement plans, and
                             high-risk designations. However, NHTSA has made inconsistent use of the
                             management reviews and limited use of the improvement plans because
                             guidance provided to the regions is not specific on when to use them.
                             While two U.S. territories are under a high-risk designation, NHTSA and
                             regional office officials did not identify any states that were candidates for
                             high-risk status.


NHTSA Regional Offices       NHTSA regions can conduct management reviews to help improve and
Have Made Inconsistent       enhance the financial and operational management of the state programs.
Use of Management            In conducting these reviews, a team of NHTSA regional staff visit the state
                             and examine such items as its organization and staffing, program
Reviews                      management, financial management, and selected programs like impaired



                             Page 20                               GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
    driving, occupant protection, public information and education, and
    outreach. The resulting report will comment on state activities and may
    make recommendations for improvement.

    NHTSA has no written guidance on when to perform management reviews.
    We found that the management reviews were not being conducted
    consistently. For example, in the six NHTSA regions we visited, we found
    goals of conducting management reviews every 2 years, on no set
    schedule, and only when requested by a state.

    While NHTSA does not require management reviews, the officials that
    regularly conduct such reviews told us they do them because they find
    them beneficial in surfacing problems. For example, management reviews
    completed in 2001 and 2002 identified weaknesses in states’ processes,
    systems, and practices that, if not addressed, could lead to inefficient or
    unauthorized uses of federal funds. These weaknesses included

•   states’ inadequate monitoring of subgrantees,
•   a lack of coordination in state alcohol program planning,
•   the inability of a state to identify how its matching funds requirement was
    being met,
•   the lack of a state computerized system to track grant expenditures or
    equipment purchased with federal funds,
•   costs incurred after a grant was over,
•   improper cash advances by the state to subgrantees, and
•   large unexpended balances of program funds.

    Some regional officials also saw management reviews as a vehicle to help
    keep them involved in the states’ programs and as a means of helping
    NHTSA build productive partnerships with the states. They noted that
    state highway safety personnel change over time and new staff may not be
    familiar with federal requirements. Regional officials said that some states
    have requested the reviews to assist them in their programs. For example,
    the new state highway safety program directors in California and Missouri
    requested the reviews to help identify problems they needed to address.
    Officials from the region that conducted the reviews only when requested
    by a state told us that they did not regularly do the reviews because they
    thought such efforts could hurt their relations with the states.




    Page 21                              GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
NHTSA Regional Offices   According to Section 402 program regulations, if a NHTSA regional office
Have Made Limited and    finds that a state is not making progress toward its highway safety goals,
Inconsistent Use of      NHTSA and the state are to develop an improvement plan to address the
                         shortcomings. NHTSA officials emphasized that improvement plans are
Improvement Plans        not intended as punitive actions; rather, they are collaborative efforts
                         between NHTSA and a state to develop an effective state safety program.
                         The regulations call for the plan to detail strategies, program activities,
                         and funding targets to meet the defined goals. For example, NHTSA,
                         working with one state, developed an improvement plan that identified
                         specific actions that NHTSA and the state would accomplish to improve
                         alcohol-related highway safety. The plan included such actions as
                         implementing a judicial education program, requiring all police officers
                         working on impaired driving enforcement to be adequately trained in field
                         sobriety testing, and developing a statewide DWI violation tracking
                         system.

                         NHTSA regional offices have made limited use of improvement plans to
                         help address the states’ highway safety performance. Since the
                         performance-based approach began in 1998, NHTSA and the states have
                         developed 7 improvement plans in 3 of the 10 NHTSA regions. Of these
                         plans, four focus on alcohol-related issues, two involve seat-belt usage,
                         and one addresses overall program management.8

                         NHTSA regional offices have also made inconsistent use of improvement
                         plans. We found that the highway safety performance of a number of
                         states that were not operating under improvement plans was worse than
                         the performance of other states that were operating under such plans. For
                         example, we compared the performance of the three states that had
                         developed improvement plans for alcohol-related problems with the
                         performance of other states. Using 1997, the year before the performance-
                         based approach was uniformly implemented, as a baseline year, we found
                         that for 14 states, the rate of alcohol-related fatalities increased from 1997
                         through 2001, and that for 7 of these states, the state alcohol-related
                         fatality rate also exceeded the national rate in 2001. One of these seven
                         states was on an improvement plan. Furthermore, for one state that was
                         not on an improvement plan, the alcohol-related fatality rate for 2001 was




                         8
                          The seven improvement plans include one that NHTSA developed with the Department of
                         the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs for a tribe, rather than a state. The Bureau of Indian
                         Affairs receives Section 402 funds.




                         Page 22                                       GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
                          about double the national average and grew by over 40 percent from 1997
                          through 2001.

                          Similarly, the performance of a number of states that were not operating
                          under improvement plans to increase seat-belt usage was worse than the
                          performance of the two states that were operating under such plans. We
                          found that the rate of seat-belt usage varied widely by state, from a low of
                          about 52 percent to a high of over 91 percent in 2001. In addition, the rate
                          of change from 1997 through 2001 ranged from 6 percent less use to 27
                          percent more use. We found that the seat-belt usage rates for the two
                          states that were on improvement plans were about 55 percent and 68
                          percent in 2001; however, the seat-belt usage rates for 16 other states were
                          worse than the rate for 1 of these states.

                          The limited and inconsistent use of improvement plans is due to a lack of
                          specificity in criteria for requiring such plans. NHTSA’s guidance says
                          simply that these plans should be developed when a state is not making
                          progress toward its highway safety goals. Without a consistent means of
                          measuring progress, NHTSA and state officials lack common expectations
                          about how to define progress, how long states should have to demonstrate
                          progress, and how the goals should be set and measured. NHTSA officials
                          said that while all regions were not using improvement plans, they were
                          reviewing the states’ performance and making recommendations for state
                          action.

                          NHTSA officials told us that while some regional offices may not be doing
                          improvement plans, they periodically assess state performance and make
                          recommendations for state action. In addition, they pointed out that some
                          regions believe that it would not be productive to put a state on an
                          improvement plan if it has been implementing programs NHTSA has
                          recommended it adopt.


NHTSA Has Designated      If NHTSA finds a state not in compliance with federal law, it can designate
Two U.S. Territories as   the state’s program as high-risk—a more stringent and rarely used NHTSA
High Risk                 oversight tool. NHTSA may place a program in high-risk status if it
                          determines that the state has a history of unsatisfactory performance, is
                          not financially stable, lacks a management system that meets standards,
                          has not conformed to the conditions of previous grants, or is otherwise not
                          responsible. Once placed in high-risk status, a state may be subject to a
                          number of special restrictions—withholding the authority to proceed with
                          projects; additional financial reporting, monitoring, or prior approvals of
                          spending; or special management or technical assistance. Currently,


                          Page 23                              GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
              NHTSA has not designated any states as high risk; however, two U.S.
              territories that receive Section 402 funds are operating under high-risk
              status. None of the officials with whom we spoke from the six regional
              offices we visited or from NHTSA headquarters identified concerns about
              state programs that would warrant a high-risk designation.


              Under NHTSA’s performance-based approach to overseeing highway
Conclusions   safety programs, the states and the federal government are to work
              together to make the nation’s highways safer. The agency’s management
              reviews and improvement plans create opportunities for NHTSA to help
              the states improve and enhance the financial and operational management
              of their highway safety programs and make progress toward their highway
              safety goals. Because the agency has not provided specific guidance on
              when these oversight tools should be used, they are not being used
              consistently. As a result, NHTSA’s oversight of highway safety programs is
              less effective than it could be, both in ensuring the efficient and proper use
              of federal funds and in helping the states achieve their highway safety
              goals.

              The NHTSA regions that conduct management reviews regularly have
              found them beneficial, both for identifying weaknesses in states’
              processes, systems, and practices and for keeping the regions involved in
              productive relationships with the states. Consequently, the regions that do
              conduct the reviews have been able to work with the states to correct
              vulnerabilities that, if uncorrected, could lead to inefficient or improper
              uses of federal safety program funds. These regions’ ongoing involvement
              with the states also creates opportunities for sharing and encouraging the
              implementation of best practices, which may then lead to more effective
              safety programs and projects.

              Although NHTSA’s guidance for developing improvement plans indicates
              that the plans should be used when the states are making little or no
              progress toward their performance goals, the guidance does not establish
              a consistent means of measuring progress. As a result, some states do not
              have improvement plans, even though their alcohol-related fatality rates
              have increased or their seat-belt usage rates have declined. Without
              improvement plans, NHTSA‘s efforts to work with the states may not be
              fully realized. Moreover, without a consistent means of measuring
              progress, neither NHTSA nor the states have common expectations about
              when improvement plans should be used to help states meet their highway
              safety goals.



              Page 24                               GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
                      To help ensure more consistent use of management reviews and
Recommendations for   improvement plans, we recommend that the Secretary of Transportation
Executive Action      direct the Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
                      to provide more specific guidance to the regional offices on when it is
                      appropriate to use management reviews and improvement plans to assist
                      states with their safety programs. The guidance for using improvement
                      plans should include a consistent means of measuring progress toward
                      meeting established highway safety goals.

                      We provided copies of a draft of this report to the Department of
Agency Comments       Transportation for its review and comment. We met with Department
and Our Evaluation    officials, specifically, the Acting Senior Associate Administrator for Traffic
                      Injury Control and Chief of Injury Control Operations and Resources,
                      Program Support Division—to discuss their comments. The officials
                      agreed with our recommendations and stated that they have begun taking
                      action to develop criteria and guidance to field offices on the use of
                      management reviews and improvement plans. In addition, they
                      emphasized that over a longer historical perspective, traffic safety has
                      greatly improved and the recent increase in alcohol-related fatalities is
                      slight. The officials also noted that with regard to alcohol-related fatalities,
                      the problem of the “social drinker” has been reduced; and now they face
                      the difficult problem of driving by persons with more severe alcohol
                      abuse. Further, they suggested that some discussion of recent increases in
                      seat-belt usage should be included in the report, along with the efforts the
                      department has made in promoting successful programs. Finally, the
                      officials noted that in moving to a performance-based approach to
                      oversight, they were acting in response to congressional concerns and in
                      the spirit of the Government Performance and Results Act.

                      In response to the Department of Transportation comments, we have
                      added information noting the challenges the department faces in achieving
                      further improvements in highway safety. In addition, we have added
                      information to the report on seat-belt use and its support of the “Click-It-
                      or-Ticket” program. We also incorporated technical changes to the report
                      suggested by the department, as appropriate.


                      As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents
                      earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days after the
                      date of this letter. At that time, we will send copies of this report to
                      Secretary of Transportation and the Administrator of NHTSA. We will also
                      make copies available to others upon request. In addition, copies of this
                      report will be available on our Web site at http//www.gao.gov.


                      Page 25                                GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
If you have questions about the report, please contact me at (202) 512-
2834. Key contributors to this report were Richard Calhoon, Robert
Ciszewski, Bess Eisenstadt, Dedrick Roberts, and Glen Trochelman.

Sincerely yours,




Peter Guerrero
Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues




Page 26                              GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
              Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
              Methodology



Methodology

              The Subcommittee on Competition, Foreign Commerce, and
              Infrastructure, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and
              Transportation, asked us to (1) provide information on trends in highway
              safety and how alcohol contributes to these statistics, (2) provide
              information on how much funding the Transportation Equity Act for the
              21st Century (TEA-21) made available to the states for highway safety
              programs and how states have used these funds, and (3) review the
              National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) oversight of
              the states’ highway safety programs.

              To provide information on trends in highway safety and alcohol’s
              contribution to these statistics, we reviewed NHTSA highway safety
              reports and analyzed NHTSA crash data. We included analyses of data on
              overall trends of fatalities and crashes, alcohol-related fatalities and
              crashes, and seat-belt use, which are usual measures in determining
              highway safety.

              To provide information on how much funding TEA-21 made available to
              the states for highway safety programs and how states have used these
              funds, we obtained data from NHTSA and state sources. NHTSA provided
              data on funding for (1) the Section 402 State and Community Grants
              program since its inception in 1967; (2) the seven incentive grant programs
              authorized under TEA-21 to supplement the Section 402 program by
              promoting vehicle occupant protection, discouraging impaired driving, and
              improving state safety data; and (3) the amounts transferred to highway
              safety programs in fiscal years 2001 and 2002 by the 34 states whose laws
              did not comply during those years with the act’s open container and repeat
              offender requirements. To obtain information on how the states used their
              Section 402 and alcohol transfer funds, we obtained NHTSA data
              summarizing how states spent their grant funds. For specific information
              on how states spent their transfer funds, we obtained data from six states
              that we visited: California, Georgia, Missouri, New York, Ohio, and Texas.
              We selected these states to provide geographic coverage of six NHTSA
              regions and maximize the amount of transfer funds involved. The six
              states chosen were among the eight states that had the highest amount of
              alcohol transfers for fiscal years 2001 and 2002 and in total accounted for
              about 40 percent of all transfer funds from the 34 states involved. In each
              selected state, we obtained data on alcohol transfer spending from the
              state offices responsible for allocating these funds—the traffic safety
              office for transfer funds that were allocated to alcohol programs and the
              highway safety office for funds that were programmed for hazard
              elimination projects.



              Page 27                              GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




To review NHTSA’s oversight of the states’ highway safety programs, we
interviewed NHTSA officials in the Office of Injury Control Operations and
Resources and six NHTSA regional offices responsible for the states
discussed above. We also discussed program oversight with state officials
in our six sample states, and we reviewed state planning documents,
improvement plans, and other state program documents from the six
selected NHTSA regions. Furthermore, we interviewed officials of private
organizations interested in highway traffic safety and NHTSA’s oversight
of state highway traffic safety programs, including the Governor’s Highway
Safety Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Safety
Council, AAA (formerly the American Automobile Association), the AAA
Foundation for Traffic Safety, and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic
Safety.

We performed our review from July 2002 through March 2003 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.




Page 28                              GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
               Appendix II: Federal Funding for State
Appendix II: Federal Funding for State
               Behavioral Safety Programs



Behavioral Safety Programs


               Dollars in millions
               State                             1998      1999       2000        2001       2002
               Alabama                            $4.5      $4.5       $6.0        $5.8       $7.2
               Alaska                             $0.9      $0.9       $1.5        $3.3       $2.2
               Arizona                            $2.5      $3.6       $3.4        $6.6       $6.8
               Arkansas                           $2.1      $1.9       $2.8        $3.7       $5.6
               California                        $33.5     $52.3      $50.2       $50.6      $73.0
               Colorado                           $2.7      $3.1       $4.7        $3.8       $4.1
               Connecticut                        $1.9      $1.8       $4.0        $8.6       $9.4
               Delaware                           $0.7      $1.1       $1.3        $1.6       $2.5
               District of Columbia               $0.9      $1.9       $2.1        $1.7       $2.2
               Florida                           $14.4     $15.3      $17.7       $17.0      $20.2
               Georgia                            $4.8      $6.4       $9.5       $19.2       $9.7
               Hawaii                             $1.7      $2.3       $2.7        $2.6       $2.7
               Idaho                              $1.9      $2.1       $2.1        $2.5       $2.2
               Illinois                          $11.2     $11.0      $13.6       $16.7      $15.9
               Indiana                            $4.1      $4.4       $7.0        $7.0       $9.8
               Iowa                               $2.7      $3.5       $3.9        $4.6       $7.4
               Kansas                             $5.1      $4.6       $5.4        $5.2       $5.2
               Kentucky                           $2.7      $2.4       $3.2        $5.9       $5.5
               Louisiana                          $2.3      $3.2       $4.4        $5.8       $4.5
               Maine                              $1.5      $1.8       $1.9        $2.0       $1.5
               Maryland                           $3.1      $3.8       $6.3        $9.7       $8.6
               Massachusetts                      $2.8      $3.1       $3.7       $10.9       $6.0
               Michigan                           $6.4      $6.9       $8.9        $9.7      $11.2
               Minnesota                          $4.0      $4.2       $4.8       $11.0       $9.4
               Mississippi                        $2.1      $2.1       $3.8        $4.2       $4.1
               Missouri                           $4.1      $4.5       $4.9       $15.5       $7.0
               Montana                            $0.9      $1.2       $1.4        $5.4       $5.4
               Nebraska                           $1.9      $2.1       $2.7        $3.7       $4.0
               Nevada                             $1.2      $1.5       $2.3        $2.0       $2.5
               New Hampshire                      $1.0      $1.0       $2.1        $1.8       $2.3
               New Jersey                         $4.3      $4.4       $6.3        $5.3       $9.5
               New Mexico                         $2.8      $3.7       $4.3        $6.2       $5.7
               New York                           $8.4     $14.4      $17.0       $17.1      $14.8
               North Carolina                     $8.4     $10.7      $12.7       $11.8      $11.6
               North Dakota                       $1.3      $1.2       $2.0        $2.4       $2.0
               Ohio                               $5.4      $8.8       $8.0        $9.9       $9.9
               Oklahoma                           $2.3      $4.0       $2.8        $3.4       $4.5
               Oregon                             $3.9      $5.7       $6.4        $5.3       $6.5
               Pennsylvania                       $7.8      $8.0      $10.0       $11.7      $10.2



               Page 29                                   GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
Appendix II: Federal Funding for State
Behavioral Safety Programs




 Dollars in millions
 State                                 1998         1999          2000            2001          2002
 Puerto Rico                            $1.6         $2.0          $2.6            $4.2          $6.0
 Rhode Island                           $0.7         $0.9          $1.4            $2.1          $1.8
 South Carolina                         $2.0         $2.7          $4.1            $5.3          $3.5
 South Dakota                           $1.0         $1.5          $1.0            $1.0          $1.4
 Tennessee                              $3.4         $3.6          $4.8          $10.4         $10.1
 Texas                                 $11.9        $22.1         $18.8          $20.8         $16.6
 Utah                                   $2.0         $2.4          $3.0            $2.9          $3.6
 Vermont                                $1.7         $1.9          $2.6            $3.0          $2.7
 Virginia                               $4.0         $5.8          $9.3            $8.7        $13.3
 Washington                             $3.7         $7.3          $6.7            $7.8          $7.0
 West Virginia                          $1.0         $1.3          $1.8            $2.0          $2.3
 Wisconsin                              $4.1         $3.9          $5.6            $8.8          $5.3
 Wyoming                                $0.7         $0.7          $0.7            $1.6          $0.9
 State total                          $212.1       $275.3        $320.3         $399.6        $407.3
 Bureau of Indian Affairs               $1.1         $1.1          $1.1            $1.2          $1.3
 American Samoa                         $0.4         $0.4          $0.6            $0.7          $0.6
 Guam                                   $0.4         $0.4          $0.6            $0.4          $0.6
 Northern Marianas                      $0.4         $0.4          $0.6            $0.7          $0.7
 Virgin Islands                         $0.4         $0.4          $0.4            $0.6          $0.7
 Total                                $214.6       $278.0        $323.6         $403.0        $411.2
Source: GAO analysis of NHTSA data.

Notes: State totals include funds for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Figures may not add
because of rounding.




Page 30                                          GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
               Appendix III: The Transfer Provisions
Appendix III: The Transfer Provisions
               Encourage Changes in State Laws



Encourage Changes in State Laws

               Since Congress enacted the penalty transfer provisions, the general trend
               in the states has been to enact legislation to bring state laws in
               conformance with the federal requirements. Some, but not all, states have
               changed their highway safety laws to conform to the federal provisions. In
               1998, prior to the passage of TEA-21, 14 states had conforming open
               container laws, 5 states had conforming repeat offender laws, and 3 states
               had both laws. (See table 3.) By the time of the first transfer penalty
               assessments in 2000, 31 states had conforming open container laws, 24 had
               conforming repeat offender laws, and 19 states had both laws. Currently,
               25 states are in conformance with both laws.

               Table 3: Changes in State Compliance with Federal Open Container and Repeat
               Offender Requirements

                                                               October 2000 October 2001 October 2002
                                                                       (First    (Second        (Third
                                                  1998 (TEA-21     transfers    transfers    transfers
                                                       passed)      applied)     applied)     applied)
                States complying with
                open container
                requirement (Sec. 154)                        14              31                 35               37
                States complying with
                repeat offender
                requirement (Sec. 164)                         5              24                 28               33
                States complying with
                both requirements                             3               19                 23               25
               Source: GAO analysis of FHWA and NHTSA data.

               Note: Table includes compliance status of all states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.


               In the six states we visited, officials with whom we spoke differed in their
               assessment of the effectiveness of the transfer provisions. Some said that
               the provisions helped change state laws, while others thought that the
               transfers had little effect on their legislature. For example, Georgia safety
               officials said that the federal transfer provisions were crucial in the state
               debate over enactment of both open container and repeat offender laws.
               Likewise Texas safety officials told us they believed the transfer
               provisions were important in getting the state to enact both laws. Both
               Georgia and Texas were subject to both transfer penalties in 2001 but no
               transfers in 2002, as a result of legislative changes. However, New York
               safety officials told us that the transfer amounts were insufficient to
               generate interest in the state legislature and had no real effect on state
               policy. Instead, the transfer provisions had simply become a bureaucratic
               exercise for state administrators. Table 4 shows a state-by-state
               breakdown of transfer funds.



               Page 31                                             GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
Appendix III: The Transfer Provisions
Encourage Changes in State Laws




Table 4: States’ Compliance with Alcohol Transfer Laws as of October 1, 2002

Dollars in thousands
                                                                              Amount
                                                       Repeat          transferred for
                              Open container          offender      fiscal years 2001
                                                                                     a
                               (Section 154)        (Section 164)           and 2002
State                       Yes       No           Yes     No
Alabama                     3                      3
Alaska                                3                    3                   $9,096
Arizona                     3                      3
Arkansas                              3            3                           $6,266
California                  3                              3                  $39,489
Colorado                                3          3                           $6,600
Connecticut                             3                 3                    $9,608
Delaware                                3          3                           $4,352
District of Columbia        3                      3
Florida                     3                      3
Georgia                     3                      3                          $16,563
Hawaii                      3                      3
Idaho                       3                      3
Illinois                    3                      3                           $7,338
Indiana                                 3          3                          $11,979
Iowa                        3                      3                           $3,027
Kansas                      3                      3                           $2,907
Kentucky                    3                      3
Louisiana                               3                 3                   $13,477
Maine                       3                      3
Maryland                    3                      3                          $13,685
Massachusetts               3                             3                   $10,299
Michigan                    3                      3
Minnesota                   3                             3                    $7,885
Mississippi                             3          3                           $6,093
Missouri                                3          3                          $15,703
Montana                                 3                 3                    $9,932
Nebraska                    3                      3
Nevada                      3                      3
New Hampshire               3                      3
New Jersey                  3                      3
New Mexico                  3                             3                    $7,846
New York                    3                             3                   $15,846




Page 32                                     GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
Appendix III: The Transfer Provisions
Encourage Changes in State Laws




    Dollars in thousands
                                                                                             Amount
                                                                Repeat                transferred for
                                        Open container         offender            fiscal years 2001
                                                                                                    a
                                         (Section 154)       (Section 164)                 and 2002
    State                             Yes       No          Yes     No
    North Carolina                    3                     3
    North Dakota                      3                               3                          $3,700
    Ohio                              3                               3                        $15,617
    Oklahoma                          3                     3
    Oregon                            3                               3                          $5,784
    Pennsylvania                      3                     3
    Puerto Rico                                3                      3                          $4,503
    Rhode Island                      3                               3                          $2,222
    South Carolina                    3                               3                          $8,050
    South Dakota                      3                               3                          $3,696
    Tennessee                                  3            3                                  $20,275
    Texas                             3                     3                                  $37,030
    Utah                              3                     3
    Vermont                           3                               3                          $4,237
    Virginia                                   3            3                                  $18,227
    Washington                        3                     3
    West Virginia                              3                      3                         $6,779
    Wisconsin                         3                     3                                   $4,887
    Wyoming                                    3                      3                         $8,110
    Total                             37       15           33        19                      $361,106
Source: GAO presentation of NHTSA data.



Note: For each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, we present the total amount
transferred for fiscal years 2001 and 2002, the first 2 years the alcohol transfer provisions were in
effect.
a
 Some states that were in compliance with both laws as of October 1, 2002, have transfer amounts
because they were not in compliance with at least one of the laws before that date.


NHTSA and some state officials cited rules limiting the advocacy actions
of state officials as a barrier to getting more such laws passed. In the
Fiscal Year 2000 Department of Transportation Appropriations Act,
Congress expanded certain existing anti-lobbying restrictions covering the
department and NHTSA to include state officials. The act generally
prohibits the use of federal Department of Transportation funds to
advocate or oppose state legislation and from “grass roots lobbying”
campaigns that encourage third parties to advocate or oppose introduced



Page 33                                             GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
           Appendix III: The Transfer Provisions
           Encourage Changes in State Laws




           congressional or state legislation.1 As a result, some state highway safety
           officials that receive federal highway safety funds believe they are barred
           from lobbying their state legislatures to enact better highway safety laws.
           Some state officials told us that this means they cannot contact state
           legislative staff or members to discuss the advantages of taking actions to
           improve highway safety in the state. For example, they said they are
           prohibited from taking the initiative to discuss the merits of primary seat-
           belt laws that have been shown to save lives or to encourage the passage
           of the open container, repeat offender, or the 0.08 BAC laws the Congress
           supports, unless they are specifically asked to do so. The Governor’s
           Highway Safety Association believes that the current restrictions are an
           obstacle preventing states’ safety officials from lobbying on behalf of
           enacting state legislation that meets the federal open container and repeat
           offender requirements. However, safety officials from the states we visited
           differed in their assessment of the anti-lobbying provisions. Officials in
           California and Georgia considered the provisions a serious impediment
           that limited their ability to influence safety legislation. However, officials
           from New York, Ohio, Texas, and Missouri did not consider the anti-
           lobbying provisions to be a major impediment in their states.




           1
            The act does not prevent state officials from communicating with Congress or state
           legislatures if they are requested to do so.




(545018)
           Page 34                                     GAO-03-474 Highway Safety Program Funding
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