“Coming together is an accomplishment, staying together is progress, working together is a success.” (Henry Ford)
A Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) is a statewide-coordinated safety plan that provides a comprehensive framework for reducing highway fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads. An SHSP is developed in a cooperative process with State, Federal, local, Tribal, and other public- and private-sector safety stakeholders. It is a data-driven, multiyear comprehensive plan that establishes statewide goals, objectives, and key emphasis areas and integrates the 4 Es of highway safety—engineering, education, enforcement, and emergency medical services (EMS).
The SHSP allows highway safety programs and partners in a State to work together in an effort to align goals, leverage resources, and collectively address the State’s safety challenges. States must develop the SHSP in consultation with stake-holders identified in legislation, such as representatives of major modes of transportation; Federal, State, local, and Tribal safety stakeholders; State and local traffic enforcement officials; etc. A State also may wish to consult with additional stakeholders depending on their transportation safety needs. There are other agencies and organizations that are interested in traffic safety, and could be valuable contributors to an SHSP effort, such as Departments of Health and Education, major employers, colleges and universities, etc. When identifying SHSP partners—think broadly.
The Role of Safety Stakeholders
Emphasis areas in the SHSP represent the most critical safety concerns within a State and are matched with strategies and action steps for eliminating roadway fatalities and serious injuries. This is an excellent starting point to focus leadership support. For instance, if work zone safety is an emphasis area, then a leader could champion a Work Zone Safety Week every year to bring awareness to the issue. Being visible, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic about safety issues identified in the SHSP generates and sustains continued motivation among all safety partners.
Get Your Partners Involved
Transportation safety is a diverse and complex field. States are implementing and updating SHSPs in collaboration with their safety stakeholders to ensure “emphasis areas” or safety priorities focus on areas with the greatest potential to reduce fatalities and serious injuries. Generally, the 4 Es of safety define the broad stakeholder partners who care about safety and are responsible for making the roads safe for all users. Their role is to provide the 4 E perspective to the SHSP process. Stakeholders from the 4 Es are typically from the following:
- Engineering: highway design, traffic, maintenance, operations, and planning professionals;
- Enforcement: State and local law enforcement agencies;
- Education: prevention specialists, communication professionals, educators, and citizen advocacy groups; and
- Emergency response: first responders, paramedics, fire, and rescue.
Benefits of Collaboration
There are a number of benefits for establishing a broad-based SHSP coalition, including the following:
- Shared responsibility—The SHSP is designed to be the State’s “umbrella” safety plan. While the State’s Department of Transportation (DOT) has the primary responsibility to develop the SHSP, it is not intended to be just a DOT plan. Success is possible because stakeholders from the different disciplines combine their skills and work together toward a common mission. Teamwork means one organization does not carry all of the financial or technical burdens alone. It fosters camaraderie and trust, so individuals know where to turn with questions, problems, shared strategies, and new ideas.
- Leverage resources—Involvement in the SHSP brings the potential to leverage resources such as implementing low-cost safety improvements combined with high-visibility enforcement, which may improve safety more than either strategy alone. The possibilities for sharing resources through SHSP collaborations are endless. Collaboration brings about combinations of countermeasures that more effectively improve safety than any single countermeasure approach.
- Multidisciplinary approach—Each of the 4 Es brings a unique perspective to the SHSP. Engineers approach a safety problem from the roadway and vehicle perspectives, law enforcement focuses on road user behavior, education concentrates on prevention, and emergency response personnel handle post collision care. Each approach is required for the SHSP to succeed in its effort to move disciplines from their individual areas of expertise into a coordinated, comprehensive approach to safety.
A Passion for Saving Lives
Who are the most likely candidates for involvement in the SHSP? The most obvious choices are those who work in traffic safety such as a traffic safety engineer or law enforcement officer. The best SHSP stakeholders also are:
- Passionate about saving lives and preventing injuries (i.e., a safety champion);
- Supportive of the mission, goals, and objectives of the SHSP; and
- Looking for an opportunity to share expertise and leverage resources.
If you know someone who is interested in getting involved, recommend they do the following:
- Review a copy of the State’s most recent SHSP to identify opportunities for participation. Perhaps they can serve as a member of an SHSP Committee or an emphasis area team or distribute information to their members and other stakeholders.
Once stakeholders are involved, be sure to develop roles and responsibilities for individuals who participate as members of an Executive Committee, Steering Committee, and Emphasis Area Team. Identify the time commitment and how often these groups meet. Provide suggestions for other types of involvement such as attending a safety summit, and other SHSP related meetings and events.
Remind all stakeholders to be safety ambassadors and role models; meaning they should drive the speed limit, pay attention, drive sober, always buckle up and make sure family, friends, and colleagues do the same.
SHSP programs are making a difference. Urge people to become part of this exciting and worthwhile effort. For more information, contact the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which is located in every State plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
You also can visit the SHSP Community of Practice for SHSP information and resources.