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In 1998, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21St Century funded a series of highway safety programs. These safety programs, administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), increased funding to the states to improve highway safety through activities designed to encourage, among other things, the use of seat belts and child passenger seats and to prevent drinking and driving. The states implement these activities through a "performance-based" approach under which they establish highway safety goals and initiate projects to help reach those goals. NHTSA reviews the goals and provides oversight to the state highway safety programs. GAO was asked to provide trend data on highway safety, determine how much highway safety funding was provided and how the states used the funds, and review NHTSA's oversight of highway safety programs.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Transportation 1. To help ensure more consistent use of management reviews and improvement plans, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to provide more specific guidance to the regional offices on when it is appropriate to use management reviews and improvement plans to assist states with their safety programs. The guidance for using improvement plans should include a consistent means of measuring progress toward meeting established highway safety goals.
Closed - Implemented
In response to GAO's recommendation, NHTSA developed new policies for its regional offices on when it is appropriate to use management reviews and improvement plans to assist highway safety programs. The new procedures direct NHTSA to conduct management reviews in each state at least every 3 years. In addition, they direct NHTSA to work collaboratively with states in developing performance enhancement plans (formerly know as improvement plans) when a state fails to meet performance goals, shows substandard performance, or fails to show improvement toward a priority safety goal over a three-year period.

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