UGA traffic safety team receives grant from Governor’s Office of Highway Safety

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January 4, 2016

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    Carol Cotton of UGA's College of Public Health is director of the Traffic Safety Research and Evaluation Group.

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Athens, Ga. - Researchers from the University of Georgia College of Public Health's Department of Health Promotion and Behavior received a grant from the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety to evaluate over 100 educational and law enforcement focused programs funded by the office.

For the 12th straight year, the Traffic Safety Research and Evaluation Group, led by principal investigator Carol Cotton, will systematically review and analyze grantee effectiveness and, ultimately, determine the overall effectiveness of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety in managing grant-funded projects. To date, the group has received $3.8 million in grant money from GOHS for this ongoing project.

The current grant runs through Sept. 30.

GOHS is charged with educating the public on traffic safety issues while assisting communities and safety advocates in implementing programs that reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities on Georgia roadways. Its programs include Operation Zero Tolerance, Click It or Ticket and 100 Days of Summer H.E.A.T.

"Georgia is a national leader in traffic safety as a result of its enhanced and effective education programs, strong enforcement strategies and continually upgraded highway engineering," Cotton said. The Traffic Safety Research and Evaluation Group "has contributed to this by providing rigorous and continuous evaluation of all funded programs as well as GOHS implementation strategies, so that new education programs are held to the high standards set by GOHS, and GOHS partners can be certain GOHS is focused on implementing best practices within the state."

Using funding from the GOHS, Cotton's evaluation group has conducted in-depth evaluations of all of the state's traffic safety grantees over the past decade. These analyses have empowered GOHS to identify the programs that are most effective and either continue or expand them, she explained.

One of these highly effective programs, identified early on by the Traffic Safety Research and Evaluation Group, is the GOHS's Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic—H.E.A.T.—program. Created to combat impaired and aggressive drivers, the H.E.A.T. program awards grants to law enforcement agencies that dedicate officers and equipment exclusively to state traffic safety concerns.

Cotton assisted the GOHS in designing a new grant proposal template for the program, which not only helped law enforcement agencies clearly define their program objectives, but streamlined the grant proposal process and reduced the administrative workload required of these agencies. Since then, the H.E.A.T. program has expanded to 16 police departments across the state, each of which continues to employ the objectives Cotton designed.

In addition to program evaluation, researchers in the Traffic Safety Research and Evaluation Group also respond to requests from GOHS to examine a variety of traffic safety issues, such as distracted pedestrians, school bus safety laws, bicycle crashes, injuries and fatalities and the implementation and enforcement of legislation restricting cellphone use while driving. Evaluation group members have presented the results of these projects to thousands of traffic safety professionals at state, national and international conferences focused on best practices and emerging trends.

UGA's Traffic Safety Research and Evaluation Group is also instrumental in providing GOHS grantees with vital technical support in data analysis, trend identification and grant proposal writing.

"Members of local bicycle coalitions and pedestrian-focused nonprofit organizations frequently reach out to the Traffic Safety Research and Evaluation Group for data and analysis of trends which they can use to present to neighborhood, city and county officials in order to demonstrate the need for traffic safety initiatives," Cotton said.

A number of small law enforcement agencies with limited resources also receive assistance from the Traffic Safety Research and Evaluation Group in writing grant proposals and identifying local traffic safety trends, she said.

"For more than a decade GOHS and TSREG have been partners in traffic safety," Cotton said. "During this time many lives have been saved, countless injuries have been prevented, and the quality of life for the motoring public has been improved. This is one of the most important professional partnerships I have ever maintained because it makes a difference every day."

For more information, visit https://www.publichealth.uga.edu/hpb/research/tsreg. For more information on GOHS and its highway safety programs, visit http://gahighwaysafety.org.

 

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