NHTSA has developed an outstanding program of assisting state and local governments to combat motor vehicle injuries. NHTSA's grant programs authorized under Section 402 of the Highway Safety Act have been instrumental in the development of a national infrastructure. NHTSA studies have found some state programs to be not only highly effective but also cost-effective in terms of lives saved relative to costs incurred (NHTSA, 1991, 1995). In addition to its grant programs, NHTSA plays a leadership role through the conduct of national evaluations that guide states and communities in moving interventions into practice. For example, its research has examined the impact of state laws relating to blood alcohol levels, seat belt use, and motorcycle helmets. Research results, in turn, are widely distributed to states. They have been pivotal in the passage of state laws to curtail drunk driving and promote helmet usage, among other areas.
NHTSA also is to be applauded for recruiting new types of stakeholders who are concerned about injury prevention at the local level. NHTSA wisely recognized that the traditional stakeholders (e.g., health care professionals, emergency medical technicians, safety advocates) must be expanded to include law enforcement, business, local government, and schools. NHTSA has fostered the development of the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety, a public and private partnership that encourages employers to integrate traffic into their safety management systems. With coordinators in approximately 30 states, the network's major activities include training in traffic safety management practices and an emphasis on safety awareness programs such as BeltAmerica 2000, the employer component of Buckle Up America! and National Drive Safely@Work Week. At the community level, NHTSA has forged the Safe Communities program designed to integrate injury control at the community level (NHTSA, 1997). Guided by the philosophy that communities are in the best position to design innovative solutions to all of their injury problems, NHTSA launched Safe Communities in 1995 with assistance from federal, state, and local partners. NHTSA provides leadership, resources (through Section 402 grants), and technical assistance. To qualify as a Safe Community, a community must meet four criteria: (1) it uses injury data analysis and linkage to define its injury problem; (2) it expands partnerships, especially with health care providers and businesses; (3) it involves citizens and seeks their input in program design and implementation; and (4) it creates an integrated and comprehensive injury control system.
In order to fulfill its regulatory role, NHTSA has a strong applied research portfolio that is conducted through contract and internal research. Contract research is most appropriate when the purpose is not to answer fundamental questions but to identify and evaluate different methods of achieving agreed-upon