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Representatives of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s regional offices stressed the importance of collaborating with traditional and non-traditional partners.

NHTSA’s regional work was the subject of a virtual panel discussion “Where the Rubber Meets the Road: NHTSA’s Regional Operations and Program Delivery” it hosted Sept. 17. The panel was part of a series of events about road safety NHTSA convened throughout the week to mark its 50th anniversary.

Its 10 regional offices help states use data to identify particular highway safety problems, evaluate programs and provide training to state program managers.

Susan DeCourcy, regional administrator for NHTSA, indicated the agency relies on partnerships with organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, child passenger safety technicians and hospital staffers when conducting safety campaigns. She hails from Region 7, which represents five Midwestern states and includes the Kansas City metropolitan area.

DeCourcy highlighted one effort where Region 7 representatives and law enforcement officials held campaigns to reduce drug-impaired driving on April 20 in 2018 and 2019 (the 2020 version was abbreviated due to coronavirus-related concerns).

“[The] greatest accomplishment is regional partnership,” DeCourcy said. “Our unity has really made it more effective.”

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Additionally, DeCourcy noted that safety initiatives have been adapted throughout the years, ranging from campaigns to increase seatbelt use to events raising awareness about the danger of letting kids ride in the front seat of vehicles.

DeCourcy said in addition to partnership, data plays an important role in operations. For example, she said data can help law enforcement officers strategize what sort of enforcement is necessary in certain areas.

“Not only have the regional offices experienced a transformation over time, so has the development, collection and use of data,” DeCourcy said.

NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens said data and research will drive the agency’s actions related to new technologies, especially as they become increasingly prevalent in vehicles.

He said technology will continue to play an important role in the development of vehicles.

“It’s no secret that we’re in the midst of a revolution of automotive technology,” Owens said. “Some of these developments may make our cars cleaner than ever, and others may make them safer than before.”

Owens

Owens

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said automated vehicle technology can improve safety and offer mobility options for people who face transportation challenges, such as the elderly and the disabled.

“Today, we are so fortunate because new driver assistance technologies are making exciting contributions to improving vehicle safety,” Chao said during a video recording presented Sept. 17.

One partnership cited by Brian Huynh, regional program manager, was a collaboration with the Girl Scouts to promote pedestrian safety in Hawaii. Participating Girl Scouts developed and delivered presentations on pedestrian safety, earning recognition with a patch specifically designed for the program.

Huynh represents Region 9, which includes Arizona, California, Hawaii, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and Guam. Like a multifunctional tool, Huynh said regional program managers serve a variety of purposes, working alongside court officers, prosecutors and government officials.

“We work on programs, priorities and partnerships, and we take to heart that collaboration gets the work done,” Huynh said. “We work with other people. We take on the role of Swiss Army diplomat.”

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