Campus News

Researchers to evaluate educational, law-enforcement-focused programs

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

Researchers from the College of Public Health’s health promotion and behavior department received a one-year, $308,800 grant from the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to evaluate the effectiveness of educational and law enforcement-focused programs.

For the 10th straight year, the Traffic Safety Research and Evaluation Group led by principal investigator Carol Cotton systematically will review and analyze grantee effectiveness and, ultimately, determine the overall effectiveness of GOHS in managing hundreds of grantees. To date, TSREG has received $3.2 million in grant money from GOHS for this ongoing project.

The GOHS grantees, including law enforcement organizations and those who coordinate highway safety educational programs, design programs to reduce morbidity and mortality on Georgia roadways. To make these programs more data-driven, TSREG reviews all grants by employing a comprehensive database to organize and evaluate critical data. The system created by the evaluation team includes qualitative and quantitative data that answers impact and process questions, requiring an analysis of field reports, expertise with statistics sources and on-site visits.

“As resources continue to tighten, it becomes more important to evaluate the impact of traffic safety programs across the state to ensure the most beneficial effect on the lives of all Georgians,” Cotton said. “The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has been at the forefront of program evaluation for many years and this project is integral to reducing deaths, injuries and crashes on Georgia’s highways.”

Cotton’s team also will evaluate implementation of the texting while driving law; provide technical assistance to GOHS grantees; evaluate surveys of Georgia drivers’ knowledge of and attitudes about GOHS initiatives; and evaluate the GOHS annual statewide seat belt survey.

GOHS is charged with educating the public on traffic safety issues and facilitating the implementation of programs that reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities on Georgia roadways. Projects include Operation Zero Tolerance, Click It or Ticket and 100 Days of Summer HEAT (Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic). Educational efforts include passenger safety, distracted driving, impaired driving, pedestrian and bicycle initiatives.

Cotton has extensive experience in implementing and conducting educational program evaluations. She is known throughout the state for her work in the area of administrative license suspensions, throughout the Southeast for her work as a data contractor with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, across the nation for her co-authorship of the “Safe Communities Data Toolkit” and worldwide for her work on the Rural Roads Initiative’s Regional Community Liaison Pilot Project.