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Highway Safety Programs; Determination of Effectiveness

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Highway Administration

Highway Safety Programs; Determination of Effectiveness

Rodney E. Slater/Ricardo Martinez
Federal Register
December 13, 1994

[Federal Register: December 13, 1994]


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Federal Highway Administration

23 CFR Part 1205

[NHTSA Docket No. 93-20; Notice 2]
RIN 2127-AE89

Highway Safety Programs; Determination of Effectiveness

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and 
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Department of Transportation 

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: Section 2002(a) of the Intermodal Surface Transportation 
Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) required that the Secretary of 
Transportation either designate six key areas as priority highway 
safety programs or submit a report to Congress describing the reasons 
for not establishing these programs as priorities. Four of the six 
program areas had already been designated as priority programs by the 
Secretary. This final rule adds Speed Control, but not School Bus 
Safety, to the list of priority programs.

EFFECTIVE DATE: The amendments made by this final rule are effective 
January 12, 1995.

of Regional Operations, NRO-01, National Highway Traffic Safety 
Administration, 400 7th Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590, telephone: 
(202) 366-2121; or Ms. Heidi L. Coleman, Office of Chief Counsel, 
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, telephone: (202) 366-
1834. In FHWA: Ms. Julie Cirillo, HHS-10, Federal Highway 
Administration, telephone: (202) 366-2170.



    The State and Community Highway Safety Grant Program (section 402 
program) was established under the Highway Safety Act of 1966, 23 
U.S.C. 402. The Act required the establishment of Uniform Standards for 
State Highway Safety Programs to assist the States and local 
communities in organizing their highway safety programs. Eighteen such 
standards were established and have been administered at the Federal 
level by FHWA and NHTSA. NHTSA is responsible for developing and 
implementing highway safety programs relating to the vehicle and 
driver; FHWA has similar responsibilities in program areas involving 
the roadway. The FHWA is also responsible for implementing programs 
relating to commercial motor vehicle safety. These programs include 
measures related to speed control.
    Until 1976, the 402 program was principally directed towards 
achieving State and local compliance with the 18 Highway Safety Program 
Standards, which were considered mandatory requirements with financial 
sanctions for non-compliance. Under the Highway Safety Act of 1976, 
Congress provided for a more flexible implementation of the program so 
the Secretary would not have to require State compliance with every 
uniform standard or with each element of every uniform standard. As a 
result, the standards became more like guidelines for use by the 
States, and management of the program shifted from enforcing standards 
to one of problem identification and countermeasure development and 
evaluation, using the standards as a framework for the State programs.
    In 1981, Congress passed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 
1981, Pub. L. 97-35, revising the section 402 program. The Act directed 
the agencies to conduct rulemaking to determine those State and local 
highway safety programs most effective in reducing accidents, injuries, 
and fatalities.
    On April 1, 1982, NHTSA and FHWA issued a joint final rule (47 FR 
15116) identifying six National Priority program areas which the 
agencies then considered to be the most effective highway safety 
programs. The six program areas included one FHWA program area, Safety 
Construction and Operational Improvements, and the following NHTSA 
Program Areas: Occupant Protection, Alcohol Countermeasures, Police 
Traffic Services, Emergency Medical Services, and Traffic Records.
    The April 1982 final rule provided that these National Priority 
program areas would be eligible for Federal funding using an expedited 
procedure under the 402 program. 23 CFR 1205.4. It also established a 
mechanism by which other, nonpriority programs identified by a State 
may be eligible for Federal funding. 23 CFR 1205.5(a) and (b).

Periodic Review and Determination of Priority Programs

    On April 2, 1987, the enactment of the Surface Transportation and 
Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987 (Public Law 100-17) revised 
23 U.S.C. 402. The changes provided for a periodic review of the 
effectiveness of the various programs eligible for funding under 
section 402 in reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities. The periodic 
review procedure was enacted to ensure the continued relevance of the 
section 402 program to changing circumstances and traffic safety needs 
and to ensure that Federal funds continue to be used for the most 
effective programs.
    The legislation also provided that the standards promulgated under 
section 402 and codified in 23 CFR Part 1204 be changed to guidelines. 
The purpose of this amendment was to conform the language of section 
402 and Part 1204 to the current implementation of the programs.
    Pursuant to these amendments, NHTSA and FHWA conducted a rulemaking 
action to review those programs most effective in reducing crashes, 
injuries and fatalities. In a final rule issued on April 6, 1988 (53 FR 
1255), the agencies determined that the National Priority program areas 
should continue to include the one FHWA program area, Roadway Safety 
(formerly, Safety Construction and Operational Improvements), and the 
five NHTSA program areas that had been identified in 1982. In addition, 
the agencies determined that a sixth NHTSA area, Motorcycle Safety, 
should be added.
    On May 3, 1991, NHTSA and FHWA published a joint NPRM (56 FR 20387) 
proposing to add Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety as one of the National 
Priority program areas. The public comments supported that proposal and 
the area of Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety was added to the list of 
National Priority program areas eligible for the expedited funding 
process on October 4, 1991 (56 FR 50250).
    As a result of these rulemaking actions, the National Priority 
program areas included the following:

1. Alcohol and Other Drug Countermeasures
2. Police Traffic Services
3. Occupant Protection
4. Traffic Records
5. Emergency Medical Services
6. Motorcycle Safety
7. Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety
8. Roadway Safety

ISTEA Requirements

    On December 18, 1991, the Intermodal Surface Transportation 
Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) was signed into law. Section 2002(a) of 
ISTEA required that the Secretary of Transportation either designate 
six key areas as priority highway safety programs or submit a report to 
Congress describing the reasons for not establishing these programs as 
priorities. The six program areas listed in ISTEA included programs:

    (1) To reduce injuries and deaths resulting from motor vehicles 
being driven in excess of posted speed limits (Speed Control), (2) 
to encourage the proper use of occupant protection devices 
(including the use of safety belts and child restraint systems) by 
occupants of motor vehicles and to increase public awareness of the 
benefit of motor vehicles equipped with air bags (Use of Occupant 
Protection Devices), (3) to reduce deaths and injuries resulting 
from persons driving motor vehicles while impaired by alcohol or a 
controlled substance (Driving While Impaired), (4) to reduce deaths 
and injuries resulting from accidents involving motor vehicles and 
motorcycles (Motorcycle Safety), (5) to reduce injuries and deaths 
resulting from accidents involving school buses (School Bus Safety) 
and (6) to improve law enforcement services in motor vehicle 
accident prevention, traffic supervision, and post-accident 
procedures (Police Traffic Services).

    The Secretary had already designated four of these six program 
areas as priority programs, but not Speed Control or School Bus Safety.
    Accordingly, on January 14, 1994, NHTSA and FHWA published a notice 
of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register requesting 
comments from the public on whether to expand the list of National 
Priority program areas.
    The agencies explained that they apply three criteria to determine 
whether a program area should be identified as a National Priority 
program under 23 CFR Part 1205:
     Whether the problem is of national concern (including the 
relative magnitude of the problem);
     Whether effective countermeasures have been developed in 
this area which address this concern; and
     Whether State programs in the area appear to be among the 
most effective in reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities as 
compared to other traffic safety program areas.
    The NPRM proposed to expand the list of National Priority program 
areas to include Speed Control, and requested comments on the agencies' 
preliminary determination that School Bus Safety should not be added as 
a National Priority program area at this time.

Comments Received

    The agencies received 34 comments to the docket in response to the 
NPRM, including comments from 22 State agencies (with responsibility 
for transportation/highway safety, law enforcement and education); a 
local PTA Council; a county health department; a private bus operator; 
and nine national organizations. The national organizations represent 
highway safety interests (National Association of Governors' Highway 
Safety Representatives, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Center for Auto Safety); 
law enforcement organizations (International Association of Chiefs of 
Police and National Sheriffs' Association); and pupil transportation 
interests (National Association for Pupil Transportation, National 
Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services and 
National School Transportation Association).
    Based on our review of the comments received and other available 
information, NHTSA and FHWA have decided to adopt the proposal 
published in the NPRM. For the reasons set forth below, the agencies 
have decided to add Speed Control to the list of National Priority 
program areas, and not to add School Bus Safety to the list at this 

Speed Control

Is Speeding a Problem of National Concern?

    NHTSA and FHWA tentatively concluded in the NPRM that speeding is a 
problem of national concern, based on a number of considerations.
    The agencies explained in the NPRM that speeding is defined as not 
only exceeding the posted speed limit, but also driving too fast for 
conditions. While the agencies recognized that reliable data on travel 
speeds are relatively limited and often difficult to compare, NHTSA and 
FHWA tentatively concluded in the NPRM, based on the most reliable data 
available, that the travel speeds of motorists have increased in recent 
    The NPRM explained that NHTSA studies suggest that most drivers 
recognize that speeding is a violation of the law, but few regard the 
violation as a serious offense. This led the agency to conclude that 
the public does not view speeding per se as an immediate safety risk.
    However, as NHTSA and FHWA pointed out in the NPRM, speeding is one 
of the most prevalent reported factors associated with crashes, and 
studies identify correlations between speeding and other factors often 
associated with crashes, including alcohol involvement, young drivers, 
male drivers, motorcyclists and nighttime driving.
    The agencies reported in the NPRM that speeding is cited as a 
contributing factor in approximately 11 percent of all police-reported 
crashes and in approximately 34 percent of all fatal crashes (NHTSA, 
Fatal Accident Reporting System, 1991). The agencies estimated that in 
1991, 13,909 fatalities and 77,000 moderate to critical injuries 
occurred in speed-related crashes, resulting in an economic cost for 
all speed-related crashes (including all injury levels) of over $19 
    As explained in the NPRM, excessive speed contributes to motor 
vehicle crashes in a number of ways. Drivers have less time to react 
when travelling at higher speeds since speed increases the distance a 
vehicle travels during the time it takes for a driver to react to a 
perceived danger; speed increases the total stopping distance necessary 
to halt a vehicle; and speed reduces a driver's ability to steer safely 
around curves on highways or objects in the roadway.
    Speed variance, the difference in speed among vehicles in the 
traffic stream, also contributes to motor vehicle crashes. As speed 
variance increases, vehicles come close to each other more frequently, 
which leads to more frequent lane changes and passing maneuvers as the 
faster drivers seek to avoid slower-moving vehicles. Research studies 
have shown that motor vehicle crashes are more likely where speed 
variance is greater, and data have shown that a speed variance of 20 
mph from the average speed can result in a crash risk 11 times greater 
than those travelling at the average speed.
    Finally, increased speeds result in reduced margins for error and 
increased severity for those vehicles involved in crashes. As the speed 
of a car increases from 20 mph to 80 mph, a factor of four, the energy 
of the impact delivered in a collision with a fixed object goes up by a 
factor of sixteen, increasing dramatically the chance of death or 
serious injury.
    Citing a recent FHWA study entitled Assessment of Current Speed 
Zoning Criteria, the NPRM indicated that: (1) On average, seven out of 
ten motorists exceeded posted limits; (2) average speeds ran 
approximately two to six mph above posted limits; and (3) prevailing 
85th percentile speeds ran approximately eight to twelve mph above 
posted limits.
    One commenter, the West Virginia Division of Highways, questioned 
the agencies' tentative conclusion that speeding is a problem of 
national concern. The State asserted that the agencies' comparison 
between the 85th percentile speed and the speed limit indicates a 
problem with speed zones (which, according to West Virginia, are set 
through public pressure rather than by engineering principles), not 
with speeding. West Virginia further suggested that, as drivers have 
gained additional experience driving faster than 55 (following the 
speed limit's being raised to 65 on certain rural Interstates), ``it is 
to be anticipated that speeds would gradually increase.''
    The agencies accept West Virginia's explanation that, as drivers 
gain additional experience driving faster, their speeds tend to 
increase. We disagree, however, that this supports a conclusion that 
the difference between the 85th percentile speed and the speed limit 
indicates a problem with speed zones, not with speeding. In fact, if 
West Virginia's explanation is correct, the agencies believe that, if 
speed limits were increased to match the 85th percentile, speeds are 
likely to gradually increase even further, as drivers adjust to the 
higher speed limits.
    All other comments received in response to the NPRM supported the 
agencies' conclusion that speeding is a problem of national concern. 
New Mexico, for example, reported that it continues to suffer among the 
highest rates of motor vehicle deaths in the nation, and some 25% of 
their crash fatalities involve excessive speed. Michigan reported that 
in 1991 excessive speed accounted for 43% of the total crashes, 44% of 
fatal crashes, 52% of injury crashes and 41% of property damage crashes 
in that State.
    Alaska commented that traveling at unsafe speeds is the leading 
cause of the State's motor vehicle crashes and is a contributing factor 
in 27% of its fatal crashes. North Carolina stated that in 1992 speed 
was noted as a contributing factor in 32% of all crashes and 39.8% of 
fatal crashes.
    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) provided data 
supporting the agencies' conclusion that travel speeds are increasing. 
In addition, IIHS stated that fatalities have increased along with 
travel speeds. According to IIHS:

    In the 40 States that increased their speed limits to 65 mph on 
rural interstates during 1987 and 1988, deaths on these roads were 
17 percent higher in 1992, compared with the average number of 
deaths on the same roads during 1982-86. In contrast, deaths on 
rural interstates where the 55 mph limit was retained were 28 
percent lower in 1992 compared with 1982-86. In the 40 States that 
raised their rural interstate speed limit, the urban interstate 
limit speed remained unchanged and on those highways, deaths in 1992 
were 8 percent lower than in 1982-86 (IIHS, 1993b).

    The agencies continue to conclude that speeding is a problem of 
national concern.

Have Effective Speed Control Countermeasures Been Developed?

    The agencies identified, in the NPRM, a number of speed control 
countermeasures that they consider to be effective. They indicated that 
NHTSA has identified and evaluated, and is currently demonstrating in 
the law enforcement community a number of new law enforcement 
technologies to further advance speed control efforts, including radar, 
VASCAR, laser speed measuring devices, aerial speed measurement, photo 
radar and electronic signing.
    The NPRM stated that NHTSA studies show that one of the best 
methods for obtaining compliance with speed limits is to combine an 
aggressive enforcement campaign with a vigorous public information and 
education effort. It also cited other effective countermeasures, such 
as saturation patrols and multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional 
enforcement efforts.
    In the areas of highway design and traffic control, the agencies 
explained that freeway design, culminating in the Interstate System, 
has eliminated at-grade intersections and provided for free flow 
traffic, which has resulted in a significant reduction in speed 
variance and the promotion of uniform operating speed.
    Other effective countermeasures were also mentioned. For example, 
the NPRM indicated that variable message speed signs have been 
developed to control speed for varying conditions and that real time 
regulatory variable speed limits are now being tested in the State of 
Washington. The NPRM indicated that these efforts can be further 
enhanced through the development of comprehensive speed control 
    The commenters cited many of the same countermeasures and 
technologies in their responses to the NPRM, and indicated they 
considered them to be effective. IIHS, for example, indicated it 
believes VASCAR and laser technologies can be effective at increasing 
the proportion of speeders cited for violations since they are not 
detectable by radar detectors. IIHS recommended also the use of radar 
detector detectors (RDDs) as an effective countermeasure for 
identifying individuals who are likely to be ``professional speeders.''
    No commenters suggested that no effective speed control 
countermeasures have been developed, and the agencies continue to 
conclude that effective countermeasures have been developed.

Do State Speed Control Programs Appear To Be Among the Most Effective 
in Reducing Crashes, Injuries, and Fatalities?

    NHTSA and FHWA stated in the NPRM that state programs that have 
been conducted to date demonstrate that speed control countermeasures 
are extremely effective in reducing deaths and injuries, and cited a 
number of examples. (For details, interested persons should read the 
    The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) interpreted this 
statement to mean that the agencies were placing more importance on 
State, rather than local, programs. NHTSA and FHWA did not intend to 
give this impression. In fact, the agencies recognize that many 
countermeasures in the Speed Control area can be carried out most 
effectively at the local level. The agencies' reference to ``State 
programs'' was intended to cover programs conducted at either the State 
or local level within a State. California OTS went on to indicate that 
many countermeasures have been employed successfully throughout the 
State to address the speeding problem.
    The Department of California Highway Patrol (CHP) stated that 
effective countermeasures exist only for localized speed control. CHP 
claimed that the success of these programs is almost always localized 
and/or temporary. The agencies agree that localized enforcement efforts 
alone generally result in only localized, short-term impacts. However, 
it has long been established that enforcement efforts, when combined 
with a vigorous public information and education campaign, have much 
more long-lasting effects. (See, ``Evaluation of the New York State 
Police 55 MPH Speed Enforcement Project,'' August 1969, by the 
Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research.)
    Commenters, such as IIHS and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, 
supported this view. Advocates further commented, ``A national effort 
[which provides a greater level of public information and awareness 
regarding the safety dangers associated with speeding] will establish 
the safety context for state and local speed control efforts under the 
402 Program and provide those efforts with added credibility.''
    West Virginia questioned the validity of the examples cited in the 
NPRM. The State argued that ``the reductions in speed [experienced in 
South Carolina and St. Louis] were minuscule'' and ``the sample [used 
in California] was very small.'' West Virginia continued, ``the Notice 
states a belief that the programs were effective but it gives no 
measures of statistical significance or indications of necessary 
seasonal adjustments or other information to back up this conclusion.''
    The agencies disagree with West Virginia's comments. The success of 
the South Carolina study, for example, was not measured by reductions 
in speed, but rather using other factors. As stated in the NPRM, there 
were 12,472 fewer crashes (a 10% decrease), 2,331 fewer injuries (a 7% 
decrease) and 106 fewer fatalities in 1991 in South Carolina as 
compared to 1989 (an 11% decrease). The vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 
South Carolina increased from 32,780 million to 34,456 million (a 5% 
increase) during this period of time. The agencies believe the State's 
rural initiative contributed to these reductions and that these 
reductions are significant.
    The agencies agree that the reduction in average speed (from 62 mph 
to 61 mph) experienced in the first year of the St. Louis enforcement 
operation (Operation Gateway) was not a significant reduction. However, 
the NPRM stated that the St. Louis program was continuing and was 
expected to result in further speed decreases, and further results have 
in fact been achieved. The Missouri Division of Highway Safety did not 
report the reduction in average speed as part of the second phase of 
Operation Gateway. The State did report, however, that, prior to the 
kickoff of the operation, the average speed of vehicles stopped for 
speeding on I-270 was 78.3 mph, and the average speed of vehicles 
stopped during the Operation Gateway kickoff was 74.3 mph. This 
represents a 5% reduction in speed. The agencies believe this reduction 
is significant.
    With regard to the California study, the sample used may have 
appeared small, as compared with the general motor vehicle population, 
but the study's focus was on commercial motor vehicles, and the study 
used as its sample a census of all crashes where the commercial motor 
vehicle was at fault. As the agencies explained in the NPRM, speed 
control efforts targeted commercial motor vehicles, and the data 
revealed that the number of crashes where commercial motor vehicles 
were at fault decreased by 3.5% (from 810 in 1986 to 782 in 1987). The 
number of crashes caused by commercial motor vehicles which resulted in 
injuries also declined, by 11.2% (from 259 in 1986 to 230 in 1987).
    Seasonal adjustments were not made for the studies referenced in 
the NPRM because they were not considered to be necessary. Seasonal 
adjustments are not considered to be necessary, for example, for 
studies in which data is to be collected during a brief period of time 
involving no seasonal changes or for studies in which data is to be 
collected during comparable time periods. Data was collected for the 
South Carolina study during the same four months in 1990 and 1991. Data 
was collected for the St. Louis effort during a brief period of time 
before and during the kickoff of Operation Gateway, so seasonal changes 
were not a factor in that study.
    Most of the commenters agreed with the conclusion in the NPRM that 
Speed Control Programs appear to be among the most effective in 
reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities, and they provided examples 
demonstrating the effectiveness of speed control countermeasures.
    IIHS indicated that, in South Carolina, police issued 41 tickets 
per 1,000 vehicles using lasers, as compared with 33 per 1,000 using 
conventional radar.
    New York State reported that it experienced the lowest fatality 
rate on record in 1992 (1.65 deaths per hundred million vehicle miles 
traveled), ``due in large part to the Division's strict [comprehensive 
speed] enforcement program.'' According to New York, the fatality rate 
of 1.65 was 29 percent lower than 2.33 in 1987 (when the State started 
its program) and equates to 520 fewer lives lost on the highways of 
that State. The program included a saturation strategy that not only 
led to the apprehension of specific motorists, but also established a 
visible presence and generated publicity which raised the perception of 
risk among all motorists within the State.
    Based on available information and the comments received in 
response to the NPRM, the agencies continue to conclude that Speed 
Control Programs are among the most effective in reducing crashes, 
injuries, and fatalities.

Other Comments Received About Speed Control

    The State of Illinois agreed that Speed Control should be 
designated a priority program, but commented that there should be no 
earmarking of funds for Speed Control (or any other program) and 
monetary sanctions should not be imposed on States for failing to meet 
compliance levels. Congress enacted the National Maximum Speed Limit 
law, which established monetary sanctions for noncompliance and has, 
from time to time, imposed earmarking or set-aside requirements in 
appropriations legislation. NHTSA and FHWA are bound to implement these 
congressional requirements. However, the designation of Speed Control 
as a priority program under section 402 in this final rule will not 
create any additional earmarking requirements or monetary sanctions.
    Most comments strongly supported the designation of Speed Control 
as a National Priority program area, particularly at this time. New 
Mexico, for example, expressed its view that:

    Speed control is ready to mature as a significant injury 
prevention tool, following the cycle of public attitude change, 
institutional preparation, and coordinated operational programming 
that has worked well in * * * other areas. * * * [S]tate programs in 
the coming * * * years for speed control could be among the most 
productive injury control measures available to the safety world.

    Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety stated:

    Speeding and excessive highway speeds have reached epidemic 
proportions and must be treated as a national public health problem. 
* * * It is incumbent on the agencies to develop a high profile 
national program against speeding that provides a greater level of 
public information and awareness regarding the safety dangers 
associated with speeding.

    NAGHSR concurred with the designation of Speed Control as a 
National Priority, but expressed concern about the ``proliferation of 
402 priorities'' and the ``possible overlap and duplication'' between 
the Speed Control and Police Traffic Services (PTS) programs. NAGHSR 
suggested that the agencies consider instead combining these two 
programs in a way that emphasizes the importance of speed compliance 
    Three other commenters also recommended that Speed Control be 
included under PTS, but for different reasons. California OTS expressed 
concern that a separate Speed Control program area could ``result in 
the redirection of efforts into `speed only' projects and dilute the 
accomplishments made in highlighting speed as a major problem in all 
traffic safety ventures.'' CHP stated that Speed Control already 
receives considerable attention, and argued that including Speed 
Control under PTS would allow individual States to better balance their 
overall approach to traffic safety. West Virginia expressed its opinion 
that ``public acceptance is likely to be higher if the Speed Control 
function is part of a well-reasoned and balanced enforcement program 
rather than as a stand-alone effort which can be interpreted as a 
revenue enhancement measure.''
    The agencies agree with the commenters that Speed Control programs 
should continue to be included as part of broader traffic safety 
programs. However, the designation of Speed Control as a priority 
program does not require that States establish ``stand-alone'' efforts. 
States have the ability and, in fact, are encouraged by the agencies to 
continue to include Speed Control messages in their other traffic 
safety programs. It is the agencies' hope that the program's 
designation as a National Priority program area will result in the 
inclusion of Speed Control messages in more traffic safety programs 
than before.
    NHTSA and FHWA have considered the comments cited above, and 
decided not to include Speed Control as part of PTS. The agencies 
recognize that there will be some overlap between the areas of Speed 
Control and PTS, since law enforcement activity is an important 
component in any Speed Control program. (There is a similar level of 
overlap between the areas of PTS and other priority programs, such as 
Alcohol Countermeasures and Occupant Protection, to the extent that 
police agencies enforce laws designed to address these issues.)
    However, the agencies believe it is important to list the Speed 
Control program (as well as Alcohol Countermeasures and Occupant 
Protection) separately, to reflect non-law enforcement activities that 
are equally important components of these programs. In the area of 
Speed Control, these components include, for example, the development 
and enactment of speed-related laws, the use of new technologies, 
public information and education activities, and the reexamination of 
speed zoning criteria to ensure that posted speed limits are 
appropriate for conditions.

Speed Control Determination

    The agencies conclude that speeding does represent a significant 
traffic safety problem throughout the country, and that numerous 
countermeasures have been developed that have proven to be most 
effective in addressing this problem. Accordingly, NHTSA and FHWA have 
decided to designate Speed Control as a separate National Priority 
program area. Speed Control will be administered jointly by both 

School Bus Safety

Is School Bus Safety a Problem of National Concern?

    NHTSA and FHWA explained in the NPRM that the safety of children in 
school buses has been a primary concern of parents and school systems 
ever since buses began to be used to transport children and that this 
concern has helped develop school buses into the safest form of 
transportation in the country. The NPRM reported that, according to the 
National Safety Council's ``Accident Facts'' (1991), during the 1989-90 
school year, an estimated 380,000 buses were used to transport 22 
million pupils approximately 3.8 billion miles (21 million miles per 
school day) and that occupant fatality rates per hundred million 
passenger miles in 1989 were 1.12 for passenger cars and 0.04 for 
school buses.
    The agencies recognized in the NPRM that school bus crashes, as 
compared with automobile crashes, have a much different effect on the 
population as a whole. When a child is fatally injured in a school bus 
crash, there is a greater sense of loss and a greater sense of tragedy. 
For this reason, school bus fatalities and crashes often receive a high 
degree of public attention and draw an immediate and passionate 
response from the community.
    However, the number of fatalities in school bus crashes is small, 
particularly when considering exposure and when compared to the number 
of fatalities related to other priority programs. In 1991, passenger 
cars were involved in 86.4 percent of all traffic crashes and 67.9 
percent of all fatal crashes; whereas school buses were involved in 
only 0.4 percent of all traffic crashes and in 0.3 percent of all fatal 
crashes. These data demonstrate that the safety problem related to 
school buses is not great when compared to that of other types of 
    Based on these findings, NHTSA and FHWA tentatively concluded in 
the NPRM that School Bus Safety is not a problem that merits 
designation as a National Priority program area.
    Two commenters argued that any number of school bus fatalities 
above zero is too high a fatality rate and, therefore, justifies 
designating School Bus Safety as a Priority program. According to the 
California Department of Education, ``school bus safety must be a 
priority issue for both the State and Federal Government for as long as 
our accident statistics show one `1' pupil passenger or one `1' pupil 
pedestrian fatality. Zero `0', tolerance of pupil passenger and 
pedestrian fatalities must be our goal.'' Similarly, the Center for 
Auto Safety argued that ``the only way DOT could reject school bus 
safety as a Priority Program would be to find that such a designation 
would not reduce injuries and deaths in school buses at all.''
    The agencies disagree, and while other commenters sought to have 
the agencies designate School Bus Safety as a priority program area, 
they did not suggest that School Bus Safety represents a significant 
national problem. In fact, the Superintendent of Public Instruction for 
Washington State said, ``We cannot disagree with [the statistics] you 
have published [and w]e can not provide any additional statistics that 
disagree with what you have already stated regarding Pupil 
Transportation as the safest means of travel in the highway safety 
    Most commenters fully agreed with the agencies' conclusion that 
School Bus Safety does not represent a serious problem when compared to 
safety in other types of vehicles. The Oregon Department of 
Transportation, for example, stated ``Oregon has had one serious school 
bus accident in the last seventeen years. And, even though safety of 
our children is a major concern, I do not believe school busses should 
be a NHTSA priority. * * * School busses are probably the safest place 
for students to be. We do not need to concentrate extraordinary effort 
on school bus safety.'' The North Carolina Department of Transportation 
commented, ``In North Carolina, as in the rest of the nation, school 
buses remain the safest mode of transportation. * * * While the safety 
of our children is still paramount, it will be extremely difficult for 
any further school bus safety initiatives to be cost effective.''
    New Mexico provided data which supported the agencies' conclusion. 
The State's comments indicated, ``95 percent of school children in 
serious crashes during school hours were in conventional passenger 
vehicles--passenger cars, pickups, and vans.'' Only one percent of New 
Mexico's school children in serious crashes during school hours were in 
buses. The remaining 4 percent were pedestrians, on motorcycles, on 
pedalcycles, and others, at one percent each. New Mexico's comments 
continued, ``It is fair to say that non-use of safety belts in private 
vehicles is the largest part of New Mexico's schoolchild safety 
problem. * * * Indeed, the only deaths involving school buses in the 
past decade have occurred outside the bus, or while entering or 
    Based on the comments received and the information available to the 
agencies, NHTSA and FHWA continue to find that School Bus Safety does 
not represent a serious problem that warrants its designation as a 
National Priority program area.

Have Effective School Bus Safety Measures Been Developed?

    NHTSA and FHWA explained in the NPRM that, although statistics 
demonstrate that school buses already provide a remarkably safe form of 
transportation, steps have been taken to further improve School Bus 
Safety. These steps included providing set-aside funds in 1990 and 1991 
to assist States in implementing ``effective'' and ``most effective'' 
school bus safety measures and publishing a number of rulemaking 
actions, such as a final rule requiring new school buses to be equipped 
with a stop signal arm, a final rule revising the minimum requirements 
for school bus emergency exits and improving access to school bus 
emergency doors and a final rule requiring that school buses enable 
drivers to see either directly or through mirrors certain specified 
areas in front of and along both sides of the vehicle. For a full 
discussion of these and other actions, interested individuals are 
encouraged to read the NPRM (59 FR 2341-42).
    NHTSA has taken a number of additional steps that were not listed 
in the NPRM to improve School Bus Safety. For example, to improve the 
lateral stability and control of medium and heavy vehicles (including 
school buses) during braking, NHTSA issued an NPRM proposing to require 
that these vehicles be equipped with an antilock brake system (58 F.R. 
50738). NHTSA also published a School Bus Safety Report and an annual 
publication entitled ``Traffic Safety Facts 1993--School Buses.''
    In addition, the National Safety Council (NSC) has agreed to 
undertake a comprehensive marketing campaign on a school bus/pedestrian 
safety educational program, developed recently by NHTSA for children in 
grades K-6. This program is currently being modified into a product 
that will be more marketable. NSC anticipates reaching over seven 
million people in its initial marketing effort.
    NHTSA has also taken steps to improve communications with the Pupil 
Transportation community. The Department issued a press release 
concerning school bus safety in August 1994, just prior to the 
beginning of the new school year and, on August 18, 1994, NHTSA 
conducted a National Meeting on Transporting Pre-Kindergarten Children 
on School Buses. The meeting brought together, for the first time, 
school bus manufacturers, child safety seat manufacturers, pupil 
transportation officials, child safety seat trainers, injury control 
professionals and Federal officials to discuss this emerging 
transportation issue.
    NHTSA and FHWA will continue to engage in appropriate activities 
that improve the safety of school buses.

Do State School Bus Safety Measures Appear To Be Among the Most 
Effective in Reducing Crashes, Injuries, and Fatalities?

    As stated previously, school buses already provide the safest form 
of transportation in our country. Since the number of fatalities that 
are school bus-related is already so small, it is difficult to quantify 
the benefits of the actions that have been taken. The agencies believe, 
however, that these actions (described above), are the ones most likely 
to reduce or eliminate fatal and serious injuries.

Other Comments Received About School Bus Safety

    Fourteen commenters supported the agencies' tentative conclusion 
not to designate School Bus Safety as a National Priority program area. 
These commenters included three national highway safety organizations, 
ten State highway safety/transportation agencies and one State highway 
patrol. Twelve commenters urged the agencies to reconsider their 
tentative conclusion. These commenters included one national highway 
safety organization, one national police organization, three national 
pupil transportation organizations, five State departments of 
education, one local PTA council and one private bus operator.
    Several commenters supported the designation of School Bus Safety 
as a National Priority program area based on specific safety concerns 
they face. Three commenters, for example, expressed concern over recent 
increases in the number of incidents involving misbehavior and violence 
on school buses, and one commenter expressed concern about crashes 
involving buses and heavy trucks. While these problems may be of 
concern in particular communities, the comments did not reveal and our 
data do not indicate that these are problems of great magnitude 
throughout the nation.
    The section 402 program provides States with a mechanism for 
funding programs that address State or local concerns, by providing 
justification that includes information on the identified problem and 
the activities or projects that are planned. Accordingly, these States 
and communities have the ability, if they so choose and can provide the 
justification, to develop programs to address the problems identified 
in their comments. Moreover, the existence of these local problems does 
not support a decision to designate School Bus Safety as a National 
Priority program area for the entire nation.
    A number of commenters supported the agencies' view. The 
Massachusetts Governor's Highway Safety Bureau, for example, stated, 
``School bus safety deserves a place within the 402 program, however 
each state should identify the need for funding, within the framework 
of the existing 402 guidelines.'' The Michigan Department of State 
Police commented, ``[school bus safety] is an important element of any 
state's highway safety program but should be based upon the identified 
need in a particular state.'' The Arizona Governor's Office of Highway 
Safety reported that it was able to support a school bus driver/
instructor training and certification program using section 402 dollars 
using the current funding procedures. Arizona commented, ``There was no 
program priority for school bus safety at that time, and we were still 
able to address the issue by utilizing the current U.S. Department of 
Transportation 402 program management procedures already in place.''
    The comments of the National Association of Governors' Highway 
Safety Representatives (NAGHSR) were most comprehensive, and 
represented the views expressed by many of the other commenters. NAGHSR 

    We * * * concur that school bus safety should not be designated 
a National Program Priority. NAGHSR is very supportive of the need 
for protecting the safety of school children. However, state crash 
statistics indicate that the problem is not of sufficient magnitude 
to warrant a priority designation. Furthermore, we are concerned 
that the designation of school bus safety will divert scarce 402 
resources away from critical highway safety areas such as impaired 
driving, occupant protection, and speed control. States currently 
have the flexibility to spend 402 funds on school bus safety if the 
needs exist and can be documented. This flexibility is sufficient to 
address whatever school bus safety needs may exist.

    Many commenters that urged the agencies to designate School Bus 
Safety as a National Priority program area did so not based on a 
perceived current safety problem or concern, but rather based on a need 
for continued funding to maintain their positive safety record. As 
explained previously, however, this is not a valid criterion for 
designating a program to be a National Priority area.
    The agencies are not attempting, as suggested by the National 
School Transportation Association, to ``[p]enaliz[e] the industry for 
doing a good job.'' In fact, we applaud the industry for its dedication 
and continued excellent record of service and safety. Rather, we are 
simply making our best efforts to ensure that scarce 402 resources are 
used where they can have the greatest positive effect.
    Most of the commenters agreed with this approach. The North 
Carolina Department of Transportation, for example, stated, ``By not 
including school bus safety as a priority program NHTSA and FHWA will 
allow limited resources to be utilized where they can be most 
effective.'' New Mexico commented that it supports the agencies' 
decision to ``leav[e] school bus safety in its current status as an 
important area of state efforts to protect children, but without 
elevating it to a higher status as a national priority program area.''
    The agencies understand the concern of many of the commenters who 
are fearful that funds currently available may be discontinued. The 
agencies do not intend for the decision not to include School Bus 
Safety as a National Priority program to create an implication that 
resources currently devoted to School Bus Safety should be reduced or 
    A number of commenters noted that many more school children die or 
are injured as pedestrians or bicyclists than as school bus occupants. 
The National School Transportation Association stated, ``Outside the 
bus, in the loading/unloading zone area, has been and is still the 
problem area.'' According to NHTSA's ``Traffic Safety Facts 1993--
School Buses,'' of the people who lost their lives in school bus-
related crashes from 1983 through 1993, 59 percent were occupants of 
other vehicles involved in the crash, 30 percent were non-occupants 
(pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.) and only 11 percent were occupants of 
school buses.
    Some of these commenters were hopeful that problems related to the 
loading and unloading of school children can be addressed through the 
Pedestrian Safety program area, which was designated a National 
Priority area in 1991. Within this context, some commenters requested 
additional emphasis and attention from the agencies with regard to 
pedestrian safety issues, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction 
in Washington State cautioned that ``the emphasis of [pedestrian safety 
programs] usually has little to do with school bus stops.''
    NHTSA has already taken steps to address this concern, which is 
shared by the agencies. In September 1992, NHTSA started a research and 
development effort relating to elementary school-age pedestrians who 
are school bus riders. Under this effort, which was completed in the 
spring of 1994, the agency reviewed existing training materials and 
national crash data relating to school bus pedestrian safety for 
elementary school-age children; developed a school bus/pedestrian 
safety educational program for children in grades K-6, which includes 
teacher's guides, a poster and a video for grades K-3, videos and 
brochures for parents and bus drivers, and promotional materials; 
selected a school district to assess the program's effectiveness in 
reducing crash-related behaviors; implemented and evaluated the program 
in that district and modified the program, as warranted. A report 
regarding this effort is expected to be published in the spring of 
    As stated earlier, the National Safety Council (NSC) has agreed to 
undertake a comprehensive marketing campaign on the school bus/
pedestrian safety educational program. This program is currently being 
modified into a product that will be more marketable. NSC anticipates 
reaching over seven million people in its initial marketing effort.
    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) objected to the agencies' decision 
by arguing that Congress ``mandated'' in ISTEA that School Bus Safety 
must be a priority program. CAS asserted that, since Congress was aware 
when it enacted ISTEA that there were lower fatality rates for school 
buses, ``The only way for DOT to overturn the Congressional mandate in 
ISTEA that school bus safety shall be a Priority Program is for DOT to 
find that a Priority Program cannot reduce deaths and injuries in 
school bus accidents.'' According to CAS, ``DOT cannot substitute its 
judgment for that of Congress which has determined that saving even a 
few lives from school bus accidents is as important a priority as 
saving thousands of lives lost due to excess speeds.''
    The agencies strongly disagree with CAS' comments. We have no 
reason to believe, and CAS cites no basis for its assertions, that 
Congress mandated that School Bus Safety must be designated a priority 
program if the program has the potential to save just a single life or 
that Congress believes that the thousands of lives lost due to excess 
speeds (many of whom are children) are somehow less important than the 
few children whose lives are lost in school buses.
    In fact, the legislative history shows quite the contrary. The 
House version of ISTEA identified eight required and seven optional 
highway safety programs. Speeding was identified in the House 
legislation as a required program; school bus safety was identified as 
an optional program. (The Senate version of ISTEA had no comparable 
provision.) The final ISTEA legislation, which was developed in 
conference, listed just six program areas and eliminated the separate 
categories. However, it specifically provided the agencies with the 
option of choosing not to designate one or more of these six programs 
as National Priorities by reporting to Congress the reasons for not 
establishing the programs as priority areas. (CAS acknowledged this 
option in its comments.) Moreover, there is no suggestion anywhere in 
the legislative history that School Bus Safety (or any of the highway 
safety programs, for that matter) should meet criteria other than those 
normally applied by the agencies when they determine what programs 
should be designated as National Priority areas.
    CAS also questioned the agencies' reliance on data from FARS, 
``Accident Facts'' and the National Safety Council. CAS argued that the 
agencies should not rely on these data because they under-report school 
crashes, deaths and injuries. Another commenter, Advocates for Highway 
and Auto Safety, also pointed out that school bus crashes, injuries and 
fatalities may be under-reported, and suggested that the agencies 
investigate this issue. This commenter, however, fully supported the 
agencies' preliminary conclusions.
    The agencies acknowledge that there may be some under-reporting of 
school bus crashes, deaths and injuries, and we are taking steps to 
improve these data. Currently, pursuant to section 2002(a) of ISTEA, 
the Department is in the process of developing minimum reporting 
criteria for States regarding deaths and injuries resulting from school 
bus crashes, as well as deaths and injuries involving other 
circumstances. While it may be possible to improve the data, it is 
clear from the data currently available (including those contained in 
comments received in response to the NPRM) that the numbers of school 
bus crashes, injuries and fatalities are extremely low.

School Bus Safety Determination

    The safety of children in school buses is an important concern, 
since any crash, particularly one resulting in fatalities or serious 
injury to children, is so tragic.
    However, the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities involving 
school buses is small, particularly when considering exposure and when 
compared to the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities related to 
other priority programs.
    The agencies believe significant attention has been devoted to 
School Bus Safety and steps have been taken to improve the already 
excellent safety record of this mode of transportation.
    Furthermore, the states already have the ability under the Section 
402 program to address school bus and other highway safety programs, 
and are proficient in allocating existing resources as they deem 
necessary to achieve maximum safety benefits. In addition, the States 
are able to address the majority of school bus-related fatalities, 
which occur while children are boarding or exiting, not riding the bus, 
under the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety program, which is a designated 
National Priority area.
    For these reasons, and based on a review of the comments and other 
information currently available, the agencies conclude that there is 
not sufficient justification for designating School Bus Safety as a 
National Priority program area.
    Therefore, the agencies have not included School Bus Safety as a 
National Priority program at this time. The agencies wish to stress 
that this decision should not be construed to imply that the current 
resources focused upon School Bus Safety should be reduced or 
redirected. NHTSA and FHWA believe that all existing efforts in this 
area should be continued to maintain the impressive safety record 
associated with school bus transportation.

Other Comments

    One commenter, a local health department in Reno, Nevada, urged the 
agencies to reinstate Emergency Medical Services (EMS) as a priority 
program under section 402. As mentioned earlier in this notice, EMS was 
designated as a priority program on April 1, 1982. It has not been 
removed from the list of priorities. In fact, every program that has 
been designated by the agencies as a priority program remains on the 
    As explained above, ISTEA required that the Secretary of 
Transportation either designate six program areas as priority highway 
safety programs or submit a report to Congress describing the reasons 
for not establishing these programs as priorities. Four of the programs 
that NHTSA and FHWA had previously designated as priority areas 
(Traffic Records, Emergency Medical Services, Pedestrian and Bicycle 
Safety and Roadway Safety) were not listed in ISTEA. ISTEA continued to 
provide the agencies with authority, however, to include additional 
programs or maintain existing programs on the list of priority areas. 
Accordingly, these four programs continue to be included on the list of 
National Priority program areas.
    The National Sheriffs' Association recommended that the following 
be considered priority programs: (1) Speed Control; (2) Occupant 
Protection/Child Safety Protection; (3) DWI/DUI Detection and 
Standardized Field Sobriety Programs for law enforcement officers/
deputies; (4) Conspicuity Markings at Railway/Railroad/Mass Transit 
Crossings and (5) Drug Evaluation, Classification, Drug Recognition 
Expert (DRE), and the Drug Recognition Technician (DRT) Programs for 
law enforcement officers/deputies.
    As explained above, this final rule designates Speed Control as a 
National Priority program area. Occupant Protection has been a National 
Priority area since 1982. It includes activities designed to protect 
occupants who are children. Alcohol and Other Drug Countermeasures has 
also been a National Priority since 1982. States and communities may 
conduct DWI/DUI Detection, Standardized Field Sobriety, Drug Evaluation 
and Classification (DEC), Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), and Drug 
Recognition Technician (DRT) Programs for law enforcement officers/
deputies under this program area. The agencies do not see a need to 
emphasize these programs as separate priorities. Finally, States and 
communities can conduct certain activities to improve the conspicuity 
of markings at railway, railroad and mass transit crossings under 
Roadway Safety, a FHWA National Priority program. In addition, there 
are other sources of Federal assistance available from FHWA to improve 
safety in this area. FHWA does not believe there is reason to designate 
these activities as a separate priority program.

Economic and Other Effects

    The agencies have considered the impacts associated with this 
action, and determined that it is not significant within the meaning of 
Executive Order 12866 and the DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures. 
The rulemaking does not affect the level of funding available in the 
highway safety program or otherwise have a significant economic impact. 
Accordingly, this rulemaking document was not reviewed under E.O. 

Small Entity Impact

    In compliance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act, the agencies 
have evaluated the effects of this action on small entities. Based on 
the evaluation, we certify that this rule will not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. States are 
the recipients of any funds awarded under the section 402 program. 
Accordingly, the preparation of a Regulatory Flexibility Analysis is 

Environmental Impacts

    The agencies have also analyzed this action for the purpose of the 
National Environmental Policy Act. The agencies have determined that 
this action will not have any effect on the human environment.

Federalism Assessment

    This action has been analyzed in accordance with the principles and 
criteria contained in Executive Order 12612 and it has been determined 
that it has no federalism implication that warrants the preparation of 
a federalism assessment.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    The requirement relating to this regulation, that each State must 
submit a highway safety plan to receive section 402 grant funds, is 
considered to be an information collection requirement, as that term is 
defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in 5 CFR part 
1320. Accordingly, these requirements have been submitted to and 
approved by OMB, pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 
Sec. 3501 et seq.). These requirements have been approved through 11/
30/95; OMB No. 2127-0501. This final rule establishes no new 
information collection requirement, as that term is defined by the OMB 
in 5 CFR part 1320.

List of Subjects in 23 CFR Part 1205

    Grant programs, Highway safety.

    In consideration of the foregoing, the agencies amend 23 CFR Part 
1205 as follows:


    1. The authority citation for Part 1205 continues to read as 

    Authority: 23 U.S.C. 402; delegations of authority at 49 CFR 
1.48 and 1.50.

    2. In Sec. 1205.3, paragraph (c) is revised to read as follows:

Sec. 1205.3  Identification of National Priority Program Areas.

* * * * *
    (c) Under statutory provisions jointly administered by NHTSA and 
FHWA, the following highway safety program areas, jointly administered 
by NHTSA and FHWA, have been identified as encompassing a major highway 
safety problem which is of national concern, and for which effective 
countermeasures have been identified. Programs developed in such areas 
are eligible for Federal funding, pursuant to guidelines issued by 
NHTSA and FHWA and the review procedures set forth in Sec. 1205.4:

(1) Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety
(2) Speed Control

    Issued on: December 7, 1994.
Rodney E. Slater,
Administrator, Federal Highway Administration.
Ricardo Martinez,
Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
[FR Doc. 94-30514 Filed 12-12-94; 8:45 am]

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