oversight

Truck Safety: Share the Road Safely Program Needs Better Evaluation of Its Initiatives

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-05-30.

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

             United States General Accounting Office

GAO          Report to Congressional Committees




May 2003
             TRUCK SAFETY

             Share the Road Safely
             Program Needs Better
             Evaluation of Its
             Initiatives




GAO-03-680
                                               May 2003


                                               TRUCK SAFETY

                                               Share the Road Safely Program Needs
Highlights of GAO-03-680, a report to          Better Evaluation of Its Initiatives
Congressional Committees




From 1992 through 2001, more than              The Share the Road Safely program’s goal is designed to educate the
50,000 people were killed in                   motoring public on how to share the road safely with commercial motor
crashes involving large commercial             vehicles. To accomplish this goal, the program has undertaken a number
trucks. Although more than 6,800
of these fatalities were truck
                                               of public education and information dissemination initiatives including a
occupants, approximately 40,000                series of new initiatives beginning in 2000. Some initiatives, such as
were passengers in other vehicles              incorporating the program’s messages into state driver education
and more than 4,000 were                       manuals or developing share the road messages specifically targeted to
nonmotorists. The Department of                certain types of drivers, pedestrians or motorcyclists, are clearly linked
Transportation’s Federal Motor                 to the program’s goal. However, for a few other initiatives, such as
Carrier Safety Administration                  directing program messages to elementary schoolchildren, the linkage is
(FMCSA) conducts a number of
                                               less clear. Research currently under way in the Department of
truck safety programs, including
the Share the Road Safely program,             Transportation may enable the program to link its initiatives to the most
whose goal is to educate the public            significant causes of truck/car crashes. Many highway safety experts agree
about driving safely around large              that public education efforts to increase safe driving around large trucks
trucks. GAO examined (1) whether               are more likely to produce substantial changes in drivers’ behaviors if
the program’s initiatives are linked           they are combined with other safety initiatives, such as local law
to this goal and (2) how FMCSA                 enforcement programs. Share the Road Safely has recently begun to
evaluates its Share the Road Safely            pilot test such a program.
program.
                                               FMCSA evaluations of the Share the Road Safely program have provided
                                               some information about the program but have not convincingly
                                               demonstrated accomplishment of the program’s intended outcomes:
GAO recommends that the                        changes in drivers’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. FMCSA has the
Department of Transportation
                                               opportunity to adopt a new evaluation strategy for its recent initiatives,
(DOT) ensure that the Share the
Road Safely program initiatives are            for example, by using evaluation practices adopted by other federally
directly linked to the program’s               sponsored information dissemination programs to improve its evaluation
goal and establish a systematic                of the program.
process for evaluating the
effectiveness of the program. DOT              Collision Involving Passenger Vehicles and Large Commercial Trucks
generally agreed with our
recommendations.




www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-680.

To view the full report, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Kate Siggerud
(202)512-2834 or siggerudk@gao.gov.
Contents


Letter                                                                                                1
           Results in Brief                                                                           3
           Background                                                                                 4
           Many Share the Road Safely Program Initiatives Are Linked to the
             Program’s Goal but a Few Lack Clear Linkage                                             10
           Evaluations by FMCSA Provided Little Information on the
             Effectiveness of the Share the Road Program                                             13
           Conclusion                                                                                18
           Recommendations for Executive Action                                                      18
           Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                                        19


Figures
           Figure 1: Number of Vehicle Occupants Killed in Large Truck
                    Crashes by Vehicle Type (1992 - 2001)                                             5
           Figure 2: No-Zones, or Blind Spots, around a Large Commercial
                    Truck                                                                             7
           Figure 3: Share the Road Safely Program Funding (Fiscal Year 1992
                    – 2003)                                                                           9




           Abbreviations

           DOT               Department of Transportation
           FMCSA             Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
           FHWA              Federal Highway Administration
           NHTSA             National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
                                                                 st
           TEA-21            Transportation Equity Act for the 21 Century




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           Page i                                                         GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   May 30, 2003

                                   The Honorable Ernest Istook, Jr.
                                   Chairman
                                   The Honorable John W. Olver
                                   Ranking Minority Member
                                   Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury,
                                    and Independent Agencies
                                   Committee on Appropriations
                                   House of Representatives

                                   The Honorable Richard Shelby
                                   Chairman
                                   The Honorable Patty Murray
                                   Ranking Minority Member
                                   Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury,
                                    and General Government
                                   Committee on Appropriations
                                   United States Senate

                                   In 2001, there were 42,116 people killed on our nation’s roads, and
                                   3,033,000 people were injured. About 12 percent (5,082) of the fatalities
                                   and 4 percent (131,000) of the injuries occurred in collisions involving
                                   large commercial trucks.1 The majority of these crashes were collisions
                                   between passenger vehicles2 and large commercial trucks; and, in such
                                   crashes, the occupants of passenger vehicles are more than 15 times more
                                   likely to be killed than truck occupants. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety
                                   Administration (FMCSA) recently set a goal to cut the fatality rate in large
                                   truck-related crashes by more than 40 percent, from its 1996 level by 2008.
                                   FMCSA’s Share the Road Safely program is designed to assist this effort by
                                   educating the motoring public on how to share the road safely with




                                   1
                                    A large commercial truck is defined as a truck with gross weight rating greater than 10,001
                                   pounds.
                                   2
                                    For the purpose of this report, we are using the term passenger vehicle(s) to include cars,
                                   pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, vans, and motorcycles. Passenger vehicles have a
                                   gross weight rating less than 10,001 pounds.



                                   Page 1                                                            GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
commercial motor vehicles.3 The program, established in 1994, initially
attempted to publicize the dangers of driving unsafely around large trucks
to the general public. In 2000, the program refocused its efforts toward all
highways users with more specific messages for targeted audiences
including car and truck drivers, senior drivers, and new or problem
drivers.4

The House report accompanying the Department of Transportation and
Related Agencies Appropriations bill for 2003 directed us to evaluate the
effectiveness of the Share the Road Safely program and submit the study
to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations.5 We examined (1)
whether the program’s initiatives are linked to its goal to educate the
public about driving safely in and around large commercial trucks and (2)
how FMCSA evaluates the program’s effectiveness.

To determine whether the program’s initiatives are linked to its goal, we
obtained information from FMCSA officials, including representatives
from Safety Action Programs, the office responsible for Share the Road
Safely, and other relevant FMCSA offices. We interviewed officials from
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well as
various external stakeholders and highway safety researchers. We
reviewed program documents, including budget allocations from 1992
through 2003, for the Share the Road Safely program and other FMCSA
safety programs. To determine how FMCSA evaluates its Share the Road
Safely program, we reviewed evaluations performed by FMCSA as well as
publications from NHTSA and GAO that describe evaluation criteria
appropriate for use in evaluating public information dissemination
programs such as the Share the Road Safely program. We conducted our
review from January 2003 through May 2003 in accordance with generally
accepted government audit standards.




3
 “Commercial motor vehicles” includes buses as well as trucks, but nearly all the program’s
initiatives have addressed driving behavior around trucks. In this report, we use the term
“truck” unless buses are explicitly included in a specific program initiative.
4
 Before 2000, the program was called “Share the Road.” Since 2000, FMCSA has used the
term “Share the Road Safely” in part to indicate this shift in strategy. In this report, we
generally use the term “Share the Road Safely,” except where it is necessary to distinguish
the pre-2000 program from its successor program.
5
H.R. Rep. No. 107-722, at 104 (2002).




Page 2                                                           GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
                       Several of the Share the Road Safely program’s initiatives, such as
Results in Brief       incorporating Share the Road Safely messages into state driver education
                       manuals and directing its messages to specific audiences, like pedestrians
                       or motorcyclists, appear to be directly linked to the program’s goal, as
                       established in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of
                       1991, of educating the motoring public on how to share the road safely
                       with commercial motor vehicles. However, the linkage between the
                       program goal and a few other program initiatives, such as providing the
                       Share the Road Safely message to schoolchildren, is not as clear and
                       direct. Research currently under way in the Department of Transportation
                       (DOT) may enable FMCSA to direct program initiatives to ensure its
                       initiatives are linked to the most significant causes of truck/car crashes,
                       such as speeding or unsafe lane changes. Many highway safety officials
                       and researchers agree that public education efforts alone are unlikely to
                       produce substantial changes in drivers’ behaviors unless they are coupled
                       with other safety initiatives, such as local enforcement programs to
                       increase compliance with traffic laws. According to a FMCSA official,
                       although the agency has not combined education and enforcement efforts
                       in the past, it recently began a pilot of such a combined effort. For
                       example, in keeping with this new approach, FMCSA has recently targeted
                       six high-crash highway corridors to pilot an initiative that will combine
                       local outreach through radio, television, and outdoor advertising, safety
                       partnerships with local authorities and brochures with targeted police
                       activity to deter unsafe driving in and around large trucks.

                       FMCSA has not evaluated the effectiveness of initiatives implemented
                       since 2000, and its evaluations of earlier program initiatives provide only
                       limited information. FMCSA has issued three reports about the program’s
                       earlier initiatives that attempted to measure changes in the general
                       public’s knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors about driving around large
                       commercial trucks. These evaluations provide some information on the
                       program’s activities and on how familiar drivers were with some concepts
                       and behaviors promoted by the program, such as avoiding driving in large
                       trucks’ “blind spots.” However, these evaluations could not determine the
                       program’s effectiveness for the following reasons:

                   •   The evaluations relied heavily on self-reports of attitude and behavior
                       change that are subject to biased responses.

                   •   Because FMCSA did not have a baseline of driver knowledge and behavior
                       before program initiatives were implemented, it could not determine the
                       extent to which intended changes in behavior occurred.




                       Page 3                                                GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
             •   FMCSA could not determine whether any changes in driving behavior or
                 the frequency of car/truck crashes were attributable to program initiatives
                 or to other influences.

                 FMCSA believes that funding pilot program initiatives that are directed at
                 specific target audiences (for example, senior citizens) in smaller
                 geographic areas will enable FMCSA to more accurately measure the
                 initiative’s effects on drivers’ knowledge, attitude, and behaviors and
                 determine whether the program has contributed to reducing the number of
                 car/truck crashes. Other federally sponsored information dissemination
                 programs similar to the Share the Road Safely program, including some
                 sponsored by other parts of DOT, have used various strategies to improve
                 their evaluations—such as measuring targeted knowledge, attitude, and
                 behavior changes before and after program exposure to assess change.
                 FMCSA could use these or similar strategies to enhance future evaluations
                 of Share the Road Safely.

                 We are recommending that the Secretary of Transportation direct FMCSA
                 to improve its strategic approach to the Share the Road Safely program by
                 linking its activities more directly to its goals and establishing a systematic
                 process for evaluating the effectiveness of the program. DOT officials
                 commented on a draft of this report and generally agreed with our
                 recommendations.


                 Although fatalities resulting from crashes involving large commercial
Background       trucks have decreased in recent years (see fig. 1), this improvement may
                 be difficult to sustain as more people and goods are moved throughout the
                 nation. From 1992 through 2001, there were 50,3756 people killed in large
                 truck crashes. Of this total, 6,811 were large truck occupants while 39,5167
                 were people in other types of vehicles, and 4,0488 were nonmotorists.
                 Figure 1 shows the number of passenger vehicle and large truck occupants




                 6
                  This figure includes passengers in cars, light trucks, large commercial trucks, and on
                 motorcycles, and nonmotorists but excludes bus passengers and those fatalities classified
                 by FMCSA as “other/unknown.”
                 7
                  This figure includes passengers in cars and light trucks, and on motorcycles but excludes
                 bus passengers and those fatalities classified by FMCSA as “other/unknown.”
                 8
                  This figure includes pedestrians and pedalcyclists but excludes those fatalities classified
                 by FMCSA as “other/unknown.”




                 Page 4                                                            GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
killed in passenger vehicle and large truck collisions from 1992 through
2001.

Figure 1: Number of Vehicle Occupants Killed in Large Truck Crashes by Vehicle
Type (1992 - 2001)




Concerned with the number of crashes between passenger vehicles and
large commercial trucks, Congress recognized the need to educate the
general motoring public about certain characteristics of large commercial
trucks and their operation. With the enactment of the Intermodal Surface
Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, Congress directed the Secretary of
Transportation to educate the motoring public about how to share the




Page 5                                                   GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
road safely with large commercial trucks and authorized at least $350,000
for fiscal years 1992 through 1997 for this purpose.9

Through public outreach and education, in the early 1990s, Federal
Highway Administration (FHWA) began exploring ways to decrease the
number of passenger vehicle and large commercial truck crashes and
ultimately reduce injuries and fatalities. FHWA sponsored focus group
studies conducted with passenger vehicle drivers, the highway safety
community, and trucking industry officials to determine the concerns of
the public about large commercial truck safety. Passenger vehicle drivers
who participated in these group discussions mentioned the size and
weight of heavy trucks, truck drivers’ aggressiveness, effects of truck-
driver fatigue, and traffic congestion as some safety concerns. Passenger
vehicle drivers also reported feeling outmatched by the size and weight of
large commercial trucks and said that truck drivers drive too fast, too far,
and too many hours without proper rest to be safe. They cited the mixing
of large commercial trucks and other vehicles in congested traffic
conditions and inclement weather as major concerns. FHWA’s analysis of
the focus group studies indicated that the number of crashes involving
passenger vehicles and large commercial trucks might be reduced if
motorists understood the special characteristics of large commercial
trucks, such as longer braking distances and larger blind spots.

In 1992, in response to Congress’ concerns and in support of FHWA’s goal
of reducing highway fatalities, FHWA began to develop a national public
service highway safety program called “Share the Road” to educate
passenger vehicle drivers on how to share the road safely with large
commercial trucks. The Share the Road program was the first public
information dissemination program intended to alert passenger vehicle
drivers about blind spots or “no-zones” around a large commercial truck in
which the truck driver’s visibility is limited.

The first phase of the program was popularly known as the “No-Zone
Campaign.” This campaign was designed to increase passenger vehicle
drivers’ awareness of commercial drivers’ visibility limitations in an effort
to influence the passenger vehicle drivers’ behavior and thus decrease the
number of crashes involving passenger vehicles and large commercial


9
 In 1998, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) included the same
requirement to educate the motoring public on how to share the road safely with
commercial motor vehicles, but TEA-21 authorized at least $500,000 to be appropriated
from the Highway Trust Fund for fiscal years 1998 through 2003.




Page 6                                                          GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
trucks and, ultimately, reduce fatalities, injuries, and property damage.
Figure 2 shows no-zones, or blind spots, around a large commercial truck.

Figure 2: No-Zones, or Blind Spots, around a Large Commercial Truck




On January 1, 2000, FMCSA was established within DOT pursuant to the
Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, and its mission was to
reduce the number and severity of large-truck involved crashes. FMCSA
became responsible for developing and implementing initiatives for the
Share the Road program as well as other commercial vehicle safety
programs. FMCSA changed the focus of the Share the Road program from
a public outreach initiative emphasizing the No-Zone Campaign to a
discrete program within its Safety Actions Program Division and renamed
it “Share the Road Safely.” The Share the Road Safely program is intended
to target all highway users10 to increase their awareness about the inherent
danger of driving in and around large commercial trucks and modify driver
behaviors. FMCSA officials believe that through education and outreach to
specific target audiences, highway users will be persuaded to change their
behavior with the eventual result being a reduction in commercial motor
vehicle crashes. Consequently, the program has begun educational
initiatives directed at such discrete audiences as senior drivers, new or
problem drivers, commercial motor vehicle drivers, school trip planners,
and drivers in specific geographic areas.

The Share the Road Safely program is a small part of a group of truck
safety programs administered by FMCSA to reduce large commercial
truck-related injuries and fatalities. In 2003, FMCSA set an overall goal of
reducing the rate of large commercial truck-related fatalities from the 1996
rate of 2.8 fatalities per 100 million truck miles traveled to 1.65 fatalities



10
 Include pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers of commercial vehicles, cars, motorcyclists,
and recreational vehicles.




Page 7                                                           GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
per 100 million truck miles traveled by 2008.11 FMCSA programs are
intended to contribute to this goal by addressing safety in motor carrier
operations through identifying and enforcing safety regulations that target
high-risk carriers and large commercial truck drivers, improving safety
information systems and commercial motor vehicle technologies,
strengthening commercial motor vehicle equipment and operating
standards, and increasing safety awareness. According to agency officials,
FMCSA coordinates its programs with other federal, state, and local
enforcement agencies, the motor carrier industry, highway safety
advocacy groups, and others.

The fiscal year 2003 funding for the Share the Road Safely program
represents less than 1 percent of FMCSA’s total budget. From fiscal year
1992 through 2003, about $6.8 million, or an average of $569,000 per year,
was spent on the program.12 Figure 3 illustrates the funding for the Share
the Road Safely program since its inception in fiscal year 1992.




11
 In 1999, DOT had set a goal of reducing large commercial truck-related fatalities by 50
percent, from 5,380 to 2,690, by the year 2010. According to FMCSA officials, the agency
revised its goal to better align it with the DOT Highway Safety performance goal and FHWA
and NHTSA measures.
12
 From fiscal year 1992 through fiscal year 1999, the program’s initiatives were funded
primarily in the form of grants through the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program.
However, since fiscal year 2000 the program’s budget has come primarily as a $500,000
annual “pass through” funding from NHTSA; other funding—about $125,000 annually—
comes through funding from the Research and Technology Office.




Page 8                                                         GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
Figure 3: Share the Road Safely Program Funding (Fiscal Year 1992 – 2003)




Note: TEA-21 directed the Secretary of Transportation to obligate $500,000 for each of fiscal years
1998 through 2003 for the Share the Road program. However, the program did not receive these
funds in fiscal year 1998 because the funding had already been committed by the time the act was
passed in June 1998.


According to FMCSA officials, the agency partners with public and private
organizations nationwide to promote the Share the Road Safely program’s
mission, pool safety ideas and resources, and minimize the duplication of
efforts. For example, FMCSA works with a coalition that includes such
members as the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators,13
AAA,14 and the American Trucking Associations,15 and state and local
agencies. The coalition provides FMCSA with feedback on and assistance
with the program’s goal. In addition to these efforts, most Share the Road
resources are used to hire contractors to develop and implement the



13
  The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators is a tax-exempt, nonprofit
organization that works to develop model programs in motor vehicle administration, police
traffic services, and highway safety.
14
 AAA, formerly known as the American Automobile Association, is a not-for-profit, tax-
paying federation of 77 motor clubs serving 46 million members in the United States and
Canada.
15
  American Trucking Associations, Inc., is the national trade association of the trucking
industry.




Page 9                                                                  GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
                            products and services (for example, maintaining a Web site and
                            developing educational materials) for the Share the Road Safely program.
                            The contracts for these products and services have ranged from $25,000 to
                            $300,000 since 2000 and are generally awarded for 1 year periods, but they
                            can be modified and extended with approval from FMCSA. Since fiscal
                            year 2000, FMCSA has awarded 13 contracts for various products and
                            services for the Share the Road Safely program.16


                            Although a clear rationale exists for several Share the Road Safely
Many Share the Road         initiatives, a few initiatives are not clearly linked to the program’s safety
Safely Program              goal. The program has begun to target specific driving behaviors more
                            likely to have a direct safety impact. Finally, public educational
Initiatives Are Linked      approaches are generally considered more effective when combined with
to the Program’s Goal       other safety efforts, such as enhanced enforcement of traffic laws, and
                            FMCSA is beginning to combine these initiatives in the Share the Road
but a Few Lack Clear        Safely program.
Linkage
A Few Program Initiatives   Several of the initiatives in the Share the Road Safely program are
Are Not Clearly Linked to   generally linked to the program’s goal, as established in the Intermodal
the Program’s Goal          Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, to educate the public about
                            sharing the road safely with large commercial vehicles. Examples of clear
                            links to the program goal includes (1) targeting Share the Road Safely
                            messages at specific groups, such as new or problem drivers, pedestrians,
                            or motorcyclists; (2) using radio and print public service announcements
                            as well as interactive CD-ROMs; (3) developing and maintaining a Share
                            the Road Safely Web site that provides downloadable information suitable
                            for specific audiences; and (4) introducing more information about sharing
                            the road with large commercial trucks into state driver education manuals
                            and driver training curricula.

                            Yet not all the program’s initiatives are directly linked to its goal. For
                            example, in recent years the program has awarded contracts for such
                            initiatives as educating school trip planners on using safe bus companies
                            for students’ field trips and providing the Share the Road Safely message
                            to schoolchildren. According to FMCSA officials, these initiatives
                            accounted for about $255,000 for fiscal years 2001 through 2002, or



                            16
                              FMCSA officials told us that they did not have contract information for fiscal years 1992
                            through 1999.




                            Page 10                                                           GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
                            approximately 20 percent of the program’s budget for that period.
                            According to an FMCSA official, one of the Share the Road Safely
                            initiatives—Moving Kids Safely—educates school trip planners about how
                            to select safe bus companies to transport students on field trips. According
                            to this official, the initiative stresses the importance of choosing a charter
                            transportation company that has a satisfactory safety record in order to
                            reduce the risk of crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving schoolchildren.
                            FMCSA officials pointed out that this can change the way bus companies
                            are hired for school trips and contribute to the goal of reducing school bus
                            crashes. However, it is not clear how the initiative contributes to the
                            program’s goal of educating the public about sharing the road with
                            commercial motor vehicles.

                            Similarly, according to program officials, FMCSA joined the ongoing
                            “Trucker Buddy” initiative, a national program sponsored by the trucking
                            industry. The initiative’s purpose was to test the effectiveness of targeting
                            students at various stages of the public education system to determine
                            how much the children had learned about the safety issues concerning
                            large commercial trucks, to improve their knowledge of the truck driving
                            profession, and to assess whether this information was communicated to
                            their parents. The initiative included such activities as truckers visiting
                            elementary school classrooms and students establishing pen-pal
                            relationships with truckers. While these activities may prove to have some
                            long-term effect on the children’s behavior when they become drivers, or
                            may have affected their parents’ driving behaviors, the connection
                            between the initiative and the goal of educating the motoring public is
                            indirect. According to FMCSA officials, FMCSA’s participation in this joint
                            initiative ended in March 2003.


Program Currently Targets   Research conducted in the late 1990s enabled FMCSA to broaden the
More Specific Driver        Share the Road program beyond the No-Zone Campaign to include other
Behaviors than in Earlier   initiatives related to sharing the road with large commercial vehicles. The
                            driving behaviors targeted by the pre-2000 Share the Road program were
Phase                       not sufficiently specific to allow drivers to take effective actions to reduce
                            crashes. Because police reports cited the behavior of passenger vehicle
                            drivers in crashes more frequently than the behavior of large commercial
                            truck drivers, Share the Road initially emphasized its “no-zone” theme and
                            focused its efforts on passenger vehicle drivers. However, subsequent
                            research sponsored by FHWA concluded that, at most, only 35 percent of
                            fatal passenger vehicle and large commercial truck collisions are
                            attributable to passenger vehicles traveling in the no-zone. According to
                            FMCSA officials, since 2000 the Share the Road Safely program has


                            Page 11                                                GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
                         recognized the need to shift its focus from a “no-zone” approach to one
                         that better addresses the causes of passenger vehicle and large
                         commercial truck collisions in order to develop stronger links between
                         Share the Road Safely program goal and its initiatives. A 1999 FHWA
                         report concluded that “more comprehensive data on the causes of
                         passenger vehicle and large commercial truck crashes of all severities
                         would enhance FHWA’s ability to develop effective countermeasures and
                         prevent future crashes.” Since then, FMCSA and NHTSA’s National Center
                         for Statistics and Analysis have begun a Large Truck Crash Causation
                         Study to determine the causes and associated factors contributing to
                         serious large commercial truck crashes so that agencies within DOT and
                         others can implement effective countermeasures to reduce the occurrence
                         and severity of such crashes. This is the first national study of its kind and
                         is designed to code all factors that might be crash related for later analysis.
                         FMCSA expects to release the study’s database to the public early in 2005.


Successful Initiatives   Highway safety researchers and safety advocates we interviewed agreed
Combine Educational      that attempts to modify the behavior of drivers are more effective when
Outreach with Local      educational approaches are combined with enforcement efforts. This
                         conclusion is supported by the evaluation of past educational efforts to
Enforcement Efforts      change driver behavior, in particular efforts to reduce drunk driving or
                         increase safety belt usage.17 For this reason, according to a NHTSA official,
                         NHTSA public information campaigns are frequently combined with well-
                         publicized local police activities to enforce compliance with traffic
                         ordinances prohibiting behaviors such as driving while impaired or driving
                         without a safety belt.

                         FMCSA recently began an initiative that would link educational outreach
                         with enforcement. It plans to pilot test the effectiveness of combining
                         Share the Road Safely messages with local outreach and enforcement



                         17
                           U.S. General Accounting Office, Motor Vehicle Safety: Comprehensive State Programs
                         Offer Best Opportunity for Increasing Use of Safety Belts, GAO/RCED-96-24 (Washington,
                         D.C.: Jan 3, 1996); U.S. General Accounting Office, Highway Safety: Effectiveness of State
                         .08 Blood Alcohol Laws, GAO/RCED-99-179 (Washington, D.C.: June 23, 1999). See also
                         “Education Alone Won’t Make Drivers Safer,” Status Report: Insurance Institute for
                         Highway Safety 36:5 (May 19, 2001); Adrian K. Lund and Allan F. Williams, “A Review of
                         the Literature Evaluating the Defensive Driving Course,” Accident Analysis and
                         Prevention 17:6 (1985); Carolyn B. Liban et al., “The Canadian Drinking-Driving
                         Countermeasure Experience,” Accident Analysis and Prevention 19:3 (1987); James B.
                         Jacobs, Drunk Driving, An American Dilemma (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
                         1989).




                         Page 12                                                         GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
                        initiatives. The pilot test will include outreach material, such as outdoor
                        advertising and brochures, to educate and increase the awareness of
                        passenger vehicle drivers on roads that have a disproportionately high
                        number of large commercial truck crashes. The primary emphasis will be
                        on the inability of large trucks to stop as quickly as cars and the hazard
                        created when cars cut in front of trucks on the highway. The pilot will also
                        emphasize to large commercial truck drivers the need for greater patience
                        and defensive driving in these high crash corridors. In June 2003, FMCSA
                        plans to pilot test these Share the Road Safely messages in conjunction
                        with enhanced state-level enforcement of traffic violations, such as
                        aggressive driving and tailgating in six corridors throughout the country
                        that have a high volume of large commercial truck crashes. According to a
                        FMCSA official, as part of this initiative, FMCSA will measure the relative
                        safety improvements in these high-volume, truck crash corridors in order
                        to identify effective safety strategies that could lead to the development of
                        community-based programs to reduce the number of crashes between
                        large commercial trucks and passenger vehicles.


                        A program’s effectiveness can be determined by assessing how far a
Evaluations by          program has progressed toward achieving its intended outcomes. FMCSA
FMCSA Provided          has attempted to measure the effectiveness of some of the program’s
                        initiatives, but these evaluations provide only limited information on the
Little Information on   program’s success in changing driver behavior. FMCSA has not attempted
the Effectiveness of    to evaluate the Share the Road Safely program since 2000; however, it has
                        taken steps that may help it improve its evaluations of the program’s
the Share the Road      effectiveness in the future. In addition, practices used by other entities
Program                 both within and outside DOT to evaluate information dissemination
                        programs illustrate strategies that FMCSA could use to improve its
                        evaluations.




                        Page 13                                               GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
Program Evaluation Uses     A program evaluation is a systematic process that uses objective measures
Objective Measures to       to analyze how well a program is achieving its goals. In a recent report,18
Examine the Effectiveness   we noted that articulating the logic—or strategy—of an information
                            dissemination program like Share the Road Safely could help the agency
of a Program’s              identify expected short-term, intermediate, or long-term outcomes and
Contributions to Short-     how to measure them. A clearly stated program strategy that articulates
Term, Intermediate, or      how a program’s initiatives are expected to achieve its desired goals
Long-Term Outcomes          enables the program’s managers to measure activities (for example, the
                            number of TV advertisements broadcast or workshops held); outputs (for
                            example, the portion of the target audience exposed to TV advertisements
                            or participating in workshops); and outcomes—the changes effected in the
                            target audience by the program. Many programs routinely track their
                            activities and outputs; however, an outcome program evaluation19 assesses
                            actual changes in the audience’s knowledge, attitude, and behavior that
                            lead to an improvement in the conditions the program was designed to
                            improve. Such an evaluation measures the extent to which a program has
                            achieved its intended short-term, intermediate, and long-term outcomes.

                            For an information dissemination program, short-term outcomes would
                            typically include gains in the audience’s knowledge and changes in its
                            attitude about the issue addressed by the program. For Share the Road
                            Safely, short-term outcomes would include positive changes in motorists’
                            or pedestrians’ beliefs and positive reactions to the program’s safety
                            messages. Intermediate outcomes would include positive changes in the
                            audience’s behavior, such as not cutting in front of large trucks or
                            tailgating. Long-term outcomes represent the ultimate objective of the
                            program. For the Share the Road Safely program, a long-term outcome
                            would be contributing to a reduction in the number of fatal collisions
                            involving large commercial trucks and other vehicles or pedestrians.
                            Changes in this outcome, while easy to measure, can be difficult to ascribe
                            to the program because alternative explanations, such as improvements in
                            the design of trucks and other vehicles, safety improvements in roadway
                            design, or safety initiatives of other FMCSA safety programs can also be
                            credited with contributing toward any progress.




                            18
                             U.S. General Accounting Office, Program Evaluation: Strategies for Assessing How
                            Information Dissemination Contributes to Agency Goals, GAO-02-923 (Washington, D.C.:
                            September 2002).
                            19
                             U.S. General Accounting Office, Performance Measurement and Evaluation: Definitions
                            and Relationships, GAO/GGD-98-26 (Washington, D.C.: April 1998).




                            Page 14                                                    GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
                               We recently reviewed a number of federally sponsored information
                               dissemination programs, including efforts to enhance compliance with
                               environmental regulations and reduce youth drug use.20 We identified
                               several strategies that were used to improve the evaluations of such
                               programs. They included such practices as

                           •   developing common measures for national evaluations,

                           •   comparing before-and-after reports to assess change,

                           •   using statistical methods to limit external influences, and

                           •   adjusting the wording of survey questions to reduce potential bias.

                               The programs we reviewed were substantially more costly efforts than the
                               initiatives conducted for Share the Road Safely program and consequently
                               their evaluations were correspondingly more extensive. However, the
                               strategies these programs developed to improve their evaluations can be
                               scaled appropriately to smaller initiatives like those in the Share the Road
                               Safely program.


Evaluations of the Share       FMCSA has issued three reports21 about the Share the Road program’s
the Road Program Did Not       progress and initiatives. In 1997 and 1999, FMCSA reported on the
Fully Measure the              program’s progress toward achieving its goal and concluded that the
                               program was effective in communicating the dangers inherent in large
Program’s Outcomes             commercial truck interaction with passenger vehicles and on providing
                               useful information on safe driving behaviors for the target audience.
                               FMCSA also reported that since 1994, the program has made significant
                               accomplishments in implementing its planned activities. For example,
                               Share the Road messages were seen and heard throughout the country on
                               billboards, radio, and television and in schools and driver education
                               classes.




                               20
                                GAO-02-923.
                               21
                                No-Zone Campaign Goals and Activities Summary Report (March 1997), Share the
                               Road Campaign Research Study Final Report (June 1999), U.S. Department of
                               Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Office of Motor Carrier and Highway
                               Safety; and No-Zone Campaign Assessment (October 2000) U.S. Department of
                               Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.




                               Page 15                                                       GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
In 2000, FMCSA issued a report that addressed changes in drivers’
knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors while driving in the vicinity of large
trucks as a result of its Share the Road initiatives to that point. The agency
surveyed 1,100 licensed drivers and found that 58 percent of the
respondents had seen or heard the phrase “Share the Road”; and 59
percent said they changed their behavior when they learned about some of
the special characteristics of large trucks, such as longer braking distances
and larger blind spots. However, FMCSA could not directly link these
behavior changes to the Share the Road program. Only 13 percent of
respondents had seen or heard the phrase “No-Zone”—the major focus of
the program’s initiatives at that time.

Although these studies shed some light on the extent of the Share the
Road program’s outputs, they did not fully measure the program’s
outcomes. The studies provide some information on the initiatives the
program has sponsored and on drivers’ familiarity with some concepts and
behaviors promoted by the program. They shed little light on the short-
term, intermediate, and long-term outcomes for three reasons. First,
FMCSA’s evaluations relied heavily on self-reports of the target audience’s
attitude and behavior change that were highly subject to positively biased
responses; that is, respondents are likely to provide socially desirable
responses.22 For example, when a positive-sounding program such as
“Share the Road” is mentioned, respondents are likely to report being
familiar with and heeding its message.23 Second, because no baseline of
driver knowledge and behavior prior to the program had been established,
FMCSA could not determine the extent to which any changes in these
intended short-term outcomes actually occurred.24 Third, if changes did
occur, FMCSA had no way of knowing whether these changes were the
result of program activities or other influences.25



22
 GAO-02-923.
23
  The fact that 58 percent of respondents reported being familiar with “Share the Road,” but
only 13 percent were familiar with “No-Zone”—the program’s primary initiative—suggests
the likely influence of a positive bias.
24
 The Trucker Buddy program is a small exception. As part of the program, elementary
schoolchildren were tested on their knowledge of trucks before and after instruction on the
subject. They demonstrated a 21 percent improvement.
25
  Other similar programs, such as those sponsored by trucking organizations, automobile
associations, and insurance companies, strive for goals similar to those in FMCSA’s Share
the Road Safely program. These organizations and associations have programs that
specifically address the needs of passenger and commercial vehicle drivers.




Page 16                                                          GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
Other Methods for          There are other methods that can be used to assess the effectiveness of
Evaluating Information     information dissemination programs such as Share the Road Safely. For
Dissemination Programs     example, the Office of National Drug Control Policy used a media
                           campaign to counteract images that were perceived as glamorizing or
Exist                      condoning drug use. Under the direction of the National Institute on Drug
                           Abuse, a contractor conducted a national evaluation of the campaign. The
                           evaluation surveyed households in the targeted markets to assess
                           advertisement awareness, knowledge, attitudes, and behavior, including
                           drug use, in a representative sample of youths and their parents or other
                           caretakers. The evaluation could not compare its sample with a control
                           group that had not been exposed to the media campaign because the
                           campaign ran nationally. Therefore, the evaluation used a “dose-response”
                           design to measure the degree of respondents’ exposure to the campaign
                           and assess whether adoption of the desired attitudes and behaviors was
                           positively correlated with their exposure.

                           The experiences of other administrations within DOT, such as NHTSA,
                           could also help FMCSA in its evaluations of the Share the Road Safely
                           program. FMCSA officials acknowledged that NHTSA possesses expertise
                           in developing and evaluating information dissemination programs aimed at
                           improving drivers’ safety consciousness and driving behaviors. For
                           example, in May 2001, NHTSA conducted a regional “Click It or Ticket”
                           campaign in several southeastern states to increase safety belt use through
                           media outreach combined with intense state-level enforcement of safety
                           belt use laws. Evaluation of the campaign found an increase in safety belt
                           use that was correlated with the amount of advertisements publicizing the
                           campaign and consequent public awareness of the heightened
                           enforcement activities.


FMCSA Expects to           FMCSA officials told us that they have performed no evaluation of the
Perform More Meaningful    Share the Road Safely program since 2000. However, they also told us that
Evaluations of the Share   they recognize the need for improved evaluation of the program’s
                           outcomes and that this was one factor considered in the refocus of the
the Road Safely Program    program beginning in 2000. Prior evaluations had attempted to measure
in the Future              the national penetration of the Share the Road program message,
                           particularly its no-zone message. Because their post-2000 strategy has
                           emphasized specific target groups or geographic areas, officials expect
                           that they will be better able to measure the effectiveness of focused pilot
                           tests and determine the relative effectiveness of different initiatives before
                           expanding them or offering them as models for state or local emulation.
                           FMCSA officials pointed to the combined education/enforcement initiative
                           planned for six corridors with high numbers of truck crashes as a recent


                           Page 17                                                GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
                      example of this more targeted approach that they expect will allow them
                      to make more meaningful evaluations of changes in driver behavior and,
                      ultimately, in car/truck crash frequency. However, because none of the
                      pilot initiatives undertaken during the post-2000 Share the Road Safely
                      program has been completed, FMCSA has no outcome measures to assess
                      the effectiveness of the program.


                      The Share the Road Safely program currently consists of a number of
Conclusion            relatively new pilot initiatives in various stages of implementation. These
                      initiatives are designed to contribute to FMCSA’s goal of reducing the
                      fatality rate associated with large commercial vehicles; however, we found
                      that in some cases their link to the program’s goal of educating the public
                      about driving safely around large commercial vehicles was tenuous. Given
                      that findings from DOT’s research—which may help identify specific
                      behaviors contributing to car/truck crashes—will soon be available and
                      that FMCSA’s pilot initiatives are still not fully implemented, FMCSA has
                      an opportunity to ensure that the initiatives are organized into a program
                      strategy that explicitly links them to the program’s overall goal.

                      In addition, FMCSA has not evaluated the effectiveness of Share the Road
                      Safely since 2000. We recognize that the program’s relatively small budget
                      demands that its evaluation activities be scaled appropriately to the size of
                      its initiatives. Yet it is important that FMCSA incorporate the best
                      evaluation practices that are available from federal and other sources to
                      the extent practicable to ensure that the agency does not expend its
                      limited resources on initiatives of uncertain or unknown effectiveness.
                      The program’s shift to more limited pilot initiatives offers the opportunity
                      for appropriately scaled evaluations. More rigorous evaluations than those
                      conducted in the past could be used to enhance FMCSA’s ability to direct
                      its resources to more cost-effective initiatives that are clearly linked to the
                      program’s goal.


                      To ensure that FMCSA’s Share the Road Safely program initiatives
Recommendations for   contribute to the agency’s goal to reduce the number of collisions between
Executive Action      large commercial trucks and other highway users, we recommend that the
                      Secretary of Transportation direct the FMCSA administrator to

                  •   develop an explicit program strategy that clearly and directly links
                      FMCSA’s Share the Road Safely program initiatives to its goal and uses the
                      results of the Large Truck Crash Causation Study as they become
                      available, as well as other relevant highway safety data, in order to identify


                      Page 18                                                 GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
                         specific behaviors that contribute to passenger vehicle and large
                         commercial truck crashes, thus more effectively targeting the limited
                         resources of the Share the Road Safely program; and

                     •   establish a systematic strategy for evaluating the Share the Road Safely
                         program’s initiatives that makes greater use where practical of DOT’s
                         experience in designing and evaluating information dissemination
                         programs to enhance highway safety.


                         DOT officials reviewed a draft of this report and generally agreed with our
Agency Comments          recommendations. They also made some technical comments that we have
and Our Evaluation       incorporated into this report as appropriate.

                         We are sending copies of this report to congressional committees and
                         subcommittees with responsibilities for transportation and the Secretary
                         of Transportation. We will make copies available to others upon request.
                         In addition, the report will be available at no charge on the GAO Web site
                         at http://www.gao.gov.

                         If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please contact
                         either Robert White at whitere@gao.gov or me at siggerudk@gao.gov.
                         Alternatively, we may be reached at (202) 512-2834. Key contributors to
                         this report were Sally Gilley, Brandon Haller, Octavia Parks, Jason
                         Schwartz, and Susan Michal-Smith.




                         Katherine Siggerud
                         Acting Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues




(542018)
                         Page 19                                               GAO-03-680 Truck Safety
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