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FHWA Highway Safety Programs


The Strategic Highway Safety Plan Champion’s Guidebook, Second Edition is intended to provide an overview of the fundamental elements of the SHSP process. It will serve as a resource for States that are updating their Strategic Highway Safety Plans (SHSP) or assessing their SHSP development process, as well as provide a reference for professionals new to safety and planning.

An SHSP is a data-driven, comprehensive, multidisciplinary plan integrating the "4 E’s" of safety – engineering, education, enforcement, and emergency medical services. It establishes statewide performance measures, goals, objectives, and emphasis areas and describes a program of strategies to reduce or eliminate safety hazards. It is developed by the State Department of Transportation (DOT) in consultation with Federal, State, local, and tribal safety stakeholders.


Diagram: Four overlapping circles with each circle representing one of the “4 E’s” of safety: engineering, enforcement, emergency medical services (EMS), and education.

Source: Cambridge Systematics, Inc.

History and Background

To prevent the devastating human and economic consequences of traffic crashes, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) published an SHSP (AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan) in 1997 that identified 22 emphasis areas where progress could be made on reducing transportation-related fatalities and serious injuries. States were encouraged to develop SHSPs by addressing the emphasis areas in the AASHTO plan. At that time, some States already had produced SHSPs, and others began to work on them after the AASHTO plan was published.

In 2005, Congress passed legislation (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA LU)) requiring States to develop SHSPs. By October 1, 2007, all States and the District of Columbia had complied with the requirement, and many have since updated the original SHSP at least once. All States are implementing SHSPs, and many are experiencing remarkable results in roadway safety.

Legislative and Regulatory Requirements

The SHSP is a requirement of the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21)). The goal of the HSIP is to achieve a significant reduction in traffic fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads. The SHSP supports that goal because it is intended to drive State HSIP investment decisions by ensuring projects correspond to the emphasis areas and strategies identified in the SHSP.

Other SHSP requirements (23 U.S.C. 148(a)(12)) include:

  • Based on crash and other safety data analyses to identify safety issues on all public roads;
  • Developed after consultation with a broad range of stakeholders;
  • Addresses the 4 E’s of safety through a multidisciplinary approach;
  • Describes a program of strategies to reduce or eliminate safety hazards;
  • Considers other State highway safety plans and processes.

Benefits of SHSPs

The primary goal of an SHSP is to reduce fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads. The collaborative process of developing and implementing an SHSP brings together, and draws on, the strengths and resources of all safety partners. An SHSP should help safety partners better leverage limited resources and work together to achieve common safety goals. The SHSP offers the following benefits:

  • Establishes common statewide goals and priorities;
  • Strengthens existing partnerships;
  • Builds new safety coalitions;
  • Promotes data, knowledge, and resource sharing;
  • Avoids redundant activities and leverages existing resources, such as funding, personnel, and leadership; and
  • Incorporates both behavioral and infrastructure strategies and countermeasures to more effectively reduce highway fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads.

SHSP Cycle

The SHSP process is continuous and cyclical. It begins with development and continues as States implement, evaluate, and update their plans on a regularly recurring basis. Regulation (23 CFR 924; MAP-21 requires the Regulation to be updated by 2013) establishes the requirements for the SHSP evaluation and update process. At any point in this cycle, it is helpful to revisit the fundamental elements of SHSP development.

The SHSP development process begins by "laying the groundwork" or having in place the fundamental elements needed to organize the effort and see it through to implementation and evaluation (a champion, leadership, organizational structure, safety partners, and collaboration and communication) (Chapter 1). The remaining elements of the SHSP development process include data collection and analysis (Chapter 2); performance management, establishing strategic goals, emphasis areas, objectives, strategies and countermeasures (Chapter 3); preparing the SHSP (Chapter 4); and consideration of next steps, including implementation and evaluation of the SHSP (Chapter 5). The chapters in this document provide an overall framework along with strategies States may use to support and enhance SHSP development efforts. A checklist is provided at the end of each chapter that recommends steps to improve a State's SHSP, both the plan itself and the processes by which a State manages their SHSP.