Highway safety funds should be spent where they will have the highest payoff in terms of saving lives and reducing serious injuries. Flexibility in the use of HSIP funds is an important tool in the delivery of an overall safety strategy.
The HSIP, codified by SAFETEA-LU as section 148 of Title 23 U.S.C., apportions funds to states under section 104(b)(5) for a range of eligible safety activities focused primarily on infrastructure-related safety improvements. Section 148(e) addresses the opportunity to use these financial resources where they can make the greatest impact, as identified in a state’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP). This provision allows a state department of transportation (DOT) to use up to 10 percent annually of its HSIP funds for other types of safety projects under Title 23, as long as the state meets certain conditions.
To be eligible to use the 10 percent flexibility provision in a fiscal year a state must have an approved SHSP, certify it has met its railway-highway grade crossing and infrastructure safety needs, and submit a written request to the state Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Division Office.
FHWA has provided extensive guidance on the implementation of the flexibility provision, including details on the process to follow, implementation and project eligibility, financing, reporting, and subsequent fiscal year approvals. This information can be found at: http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/hsip/gen_info/.
A decision on whether to flex funds is something the state must decide based on its needs and circumstances. As with all HSIP projects, a guiding principle should be the potential to improve safety. Through collaboration with safety partners, the SHSP process identifies statewide emphasis areas with the greatest potential for reducing fatalities and serious injuries. Linking HSIP projects, including flex funded activities, with the SHSP ensures the HSIP addresses priorities identified through the broader statewide strategic approach.
States have used HSIP flex funds to support a range of enforcement and education strategies identified in the SHSP. Examples include overtime safety enforcement, ignition interlock programs, work zone safety messages, safe ride home programs to prevent impaired driving, and outreach programs on the use of car seats. Participation in the SHSP has also led states to multidisciplinary approaches to leverage resources, such as combining speed enforcement programs and infrastructure improvements for reducing roadway departure crashes.
The following cases demonstrate noteworthy practices several states are using to apply the HSIP flexible funding provision:
- The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) flexed HSIP funds to pay for targeted enforcement efforts on the state highway system. ALDOT identified areas where fatal and serious injury crashes were occurring in a process aligned with the Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP). Agency staff identified major factors such as speeding and roadway departures, and provided crash maps to the state patrol. Flex funds were used to pay for overtime enforcement, with close coordination between the State Patrol and the DOT. (read more)
- The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) flexed HSIP funds for a statewide radio public service announcement (PSA) campaign on safe winter driving to reduce the number of winter weather-related crashes. The Ice and Snow, Take It Slow campaign focuses in part on speed reduction linking it to the speeding element identified in the State’s SHSP emphasis area on driver behavior and awareness. The program, based on an existing Clear Roads campaign, leveraged a partnership with the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. (read more)
- The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) used flex funding to expand and strengthen several behavioral safety programs linked to the SHSP critical emphasis areas. Activities included expanding existing seat belt and impaired driving campaigns, developing a comprehensive Latino highway safety awareness and education program, rolling out a statewide teen program on safe driving, developing educational tip cards on topics related to the SHSP emphasis areas, and conducting a program for safe rides home on New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day. (read more)
- The Utah DOT (UDOT) used HSIP flex funds to support education and outreach programs linked to Utah’s Comprehensive Safety Plan (the State’s strategic highway safety plan). Programs are managed by several partner agencies and include developing a teen memoriam yearbook, expanding the Safe Kids Campaign to increase the use of car seats and booster seats, and supporting a Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor position. (read more)
To access these full case studies, click on the individual links above or visit the FHWA Office of Safety on-line at: www.fhwa.dot.gov/safety/legislative-safety-programs/hsip