Overall, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) spends about $20 million per year on roadway safety, one-half of which is funded via a state funding mechanism and one-half via the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). The State receives about $4 million per year in Federal highway safety grant funding (i.e., Sections 402, 405, 408, 410, etc.). According to crash data, the majority of fatal and serious injury crashes in Utah are behavior related. However, the state funding mechanism is limited to infrastructure investments. Given the level of behavior related crashes, UDOT decided to take full advantage of the HSIP flexibility provision to fund noninfrastructure safety programs. “There is a lot of talk about an integrated approach to safety – the 4Es (enforcement, education, engineering, and emergency response). We are utilizing the flex funds to address the other Es beyond engineering,” said Utah Director of Traffic and Safety Robert Hull.
UDOT has flexed approximately 10 percent of its HSIP funds each year for an annual investment of approximately $900,000 in safety funds for noninfrastructure programs between FY 2006 and FY 2009. This has enabled UDOT to support its overall safety program – Zero Fatalities – and reinforce partnerships with new and existing safety partners through support of their programs. Partners include the Department of Public Safety (DPS); Highway Safety Office (HSO); Utah Department of Health (DOH) Violence and Injury Prevention Program; Utah Safety Council (USC); and Utah Attorney General’s Office. Programs were identified by the partner agencies and then reviewed by UDOT as potential HSIP flex projects, considering their link to the Utah’s Comprehensive Safety Plan (the State’s strategic highway safety plan).
UDOT used flex funds for informational safety and public outreach materials as well as to support the implementation of a multidisciplinary safety summit. One of the projects identified by DPS and DOH was a teen memoriam yearbook, which includes stories from families about teens that have died in crashes. Funding from UDOT pays for the creative development and production while the DOH and DPS work with the families to develop the stories. The book has been used in teen driver education classes for the past two years.
Additional education and outreach programs supported by flex funds include the Operation Lifesaver program to reduce pedestrian crashes at rail crossings and support for USC’s Alive@25 program that promotes safe driving among youth. The 14 Safe Kids chapters across the State receive funding to buy car and booster seats that are given away during Safe Kids Week.
UDOT also contributes flex funds to support a Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor position. This attorney, who is housed in the Attorney General’s office, works with county and city prosecuting attorneys to help them handle impaired driving-related court cases. The resource prosecutor provides quarterly reports of their activities to ensure objectives of the program are met.
“Applying for flex funds is not difficult given that all the data needed is assembled in other annual reports, including those on the HSIP program, railroad program, Safe Routes to School, and the 5% Report,” said Hull.
- Strengthened relationships in the safety community through funding partner programs.
- Enabled improved creativity in addressing safety issues.
- Demonstrated greater levels of success through collaboration.
Since 2000 Utah has experienced a reduction in fatal crashes of 34 percent. In 2009, fatalities were the lowest in 34 years. Overall, flex funding has been used to strengthen the Zero Fatalities Program, the overarching safety effort in Utah. Since Zero Fatalities was initiated in 2005, all of the safety campaigns in the State have been branded with the logo. The last market survey in 2009 showed that Utah residents had a 75 percent awareness rate of the Zero Fatalities campaign and the related safety programs. In addition, the flex funded Traffic Safety Prosecutor has helped cities and counties without experience in impaired driving-related court cases reduce the number of dismissals or reduced charges.
Director, Traffic and Safety Division