Truck Safety:

Share the Road Safely Program Needs Better Evaluation of Its Initiatives

GAO-03-680: Published: May 30, 2003. Publicly Released: May 30, 2003.

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From 1992 through 2001, more than 50,000 people were killed in crashes involving large commercial trucks. Although more than 6,800 of these fatalities were truck occupants, approximately 40,000 were passengers in other vehicles and more than 4,000 were nonmotorists. The Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) conducts a number of truck safety programs, including the Share the Road Safely program, whose goal is to educate the public about driving safely around large trucks. GAO examined (1) whether the program's initiatives are linked to this goal and (2) how FMCSA evaluates its Share the Road Safely program. GAO recommends that the Department of Transportation (DOT) ensure that the Share the Road Safely program initiatives are directly linked to the program's goal and establish a systematic

The Share the Road Safely program's goal is designed to educate the motoring public on how to share the road safely with commercial motor vehicles. To accomplish this goal, the program has undertaken a number of public education and information dissemination initiatives including a series of new initiatives beginning in 2000. Some initiatives, such as incorporating the program's messages into state driver education manuals or developing share the road messages specifically targeted to certain types of drivers, pedestrians or motorcyclists, are clearly linked to the program's goal. However, for a few other initiatives, such as directing program messages to elementary schoolchildren, the linkage is less clear. Research currently under way in the Department of Transportation may enable the program to link its initiatives to the most significant causes of truck/car crashes. Many highway safety experts agree that public education efforts to increase safe driving around large trucks are more likely to produce substantial changes in drivers' behaviors if they are combined with other safety initiatives, such as local law enforcement programs. Share the Road Safely has recently begun to pilot test such a program. FMCSA evaluations of the Share the Road Safely program have provided some information about the program but have not convincingly demonstrated accomplishment of the program's intended outcomes: changes in drivers' knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. FMCSA has the opportunity to adopt a new evaluation strategy for its recent initiatives, for example, by using evaluation practices adopted by other federally sponsored information dissemination programs to improve its evaluation of the program.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2003, GAO recommended that FMCSA develop a program strategy that clearly links Share the Road Safely's initiatives to its goals, and uses the results of the Large Truck Causation Study and other highway safety data in order to identify and target behaviors that contribute to truck-car accidents. Congress transferred chief responsibility for STRS to NHTSA in 2004 and 2005, with FMCSA retaining a supporting role. In August 2004, in response to GAO recommendations, NHTSA, in consultation with FMCSA, developed a program plan for a pilot STRS program in Washington State. This pilot included activities to increase the public's awareness of truck safety and to improve their driving behavior. Moreover, plans clearly and logically showed how changes in these two areas would contribute to the program's goal of reducing collisions. Additionally, the pilot used Washington crash data and surveys of public opinion in order to identify causes of truck-car collisions in that state and to focus the pilot's activities accordingly.

    Recommendation: To ensure that FMCSA's Share the Road Safely program initiatives contribute to the agency's goal to reduce the number of collisions between large commercial trucks and other highway users, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FMCSA administrator to develop an explicit program strategy that clearly and directly links FMCSA's Share the Road Safely program initiatives to its goal and uses the results of the Large Truck Crash Causation Study as they become available, as well as other relevant highway safety data, in order to identify specific behaviors that contribute to passenger vehicle and large commercial truck crashes, thus more effectively targeting the limited resources of the Share the Road Safely program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2003, GAO recommended that FMCSA establish a strategy for evaluating the Share the Road Safely program's initiatives that make use of DOT's expertise in evaluating information dissemination programs. Congress transferred chief responsibility for STRS to NHTSA in 2004 and 2005, with FMCSA retaining a supporting role. In August 2004, in response to GAO recommendations, NHTSA, in consultation with FMCSA, developed a program plan for a pilot STRS program in Washington State. NHTSA, Washington State, and FMCSA designed an evaluation that measured the effects of the pilot in several ways. It used surveys of the public in its targeted areas to measure how successful it was in disseminating its intended message, and it used analysis of videos shot on highways to determine whether driver behavior changed. Additionally, it used two sets of treatment and comparison groups in order to ensure that results observed were due to the activities of the pilot and not because of any external factors.

    Recommendation: To ensure that FMCSA's Share the Road Safely program initiatives contribute to the agency's goal to reduce the number of collisions between large commercial trucks and other highway users, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FMCSA administrator to establish a systematic strategy for evaluating the Share the Road Safely program's initiatives that makes greater use where practical of DOT's experience in designing and evaluating information dissemination programs to enhance highway safety.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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