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FHWA Home / Safety / SHSP / Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) Quick Reference Guide


SHSP Requirements

The law requiring State SHSPs describes the various elements that must be considered. Following is a breakdown of the requirements of the SHSP. These are fully described in the SHSP Guidance.

A Consultative Approach

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which is the Federal agency charged to overseeing the SHSP process, recommends key stakeholders be consulted early in the process, their input considered prior to any final decisions on the plan, and that they be routinely informed on the progress of the SHSP. States agree that improved coordination among diverse safety stakeholders is one of the greatest benefits of the SHSP.

SHSP Tip—Stakeholders

If there is no existing list of stakeholders for your SHSP, start with the DOT State Safety Engineer’s Office and the State Highway Safety Office. They will have contacts for your stakeholders list.

A list of the required multidisciplinary stakeholders includes:

  • Governor’s Highway Safety Representative;
  • Regional transportation planning organization and metropolitan planning organizations;
  • Representatives of major modes of transportation;
  • State and local law enforcement;
  • Persons responsible for administering Railway Highway Crossings Program;
  • Operation Lifesaver;
  • Representatives conducting motor carrier safety program;
  • Motor Vehicle Administration representatives;
  • Local and Tribal involvement; and
  • Other major State and local stakeholders.

Coordination with Other Transportation Plans

The SHSP provides strategic direction for State plans, such as the HSIP, the HSP, and the CVSP. It also provides direction for local and Tribal safety plans. This means, for instance, that State, local and Tribal entities should coordinate their safety planning efforts with the SHSP and incorporate the goals, emphasis areas, and strategies of the SHSP into their plans, as appropriate.

The law also requires other agencies to coordinate their State safety plans with the SHSP. Specifically, the State must coordinate its HSP, data collection, and information systems with the SHSP. The lead State commercial motor vehicle safety agency also must coordinate the plan, data collection, and information systems with the State highway safety improvement program. Plans such as the Long-Range Statewide Transportation Plan and Metropolitan Transportation Plan also should be developed in coordination with the SHSP. Where relevant, this coordination should include, at a minimum, high-level goals, objectives, and strategies that are consistent with those in the SHSP.

In turn, the SHSP must consider the results of other State, regional, or local transportation and highway safety planning processes and Tribal planning processes and outcomes. These processes can inform the SHSP, particularly in terms of the roadway safety issues faced in local, regional, and Tribal areas.

In summary, the SHSP and the relevant transportation plans within a State should be developed in a cooperative process and have consistent safety goals and objectives that support a performance-based highway safety program.

Noteworthy Practice—Other Safety Factors

Several Maryland SHSP emphasis area teams identified road safety audits as a way to improve safety, which prevented duplication and linked the SHSP with the State’s RSA program.

Data-Driven Problem Identification

SHSPs must analyze and make effective use of State, regional, local, or Tribal safety data. States should use the best available safety data to identify critical highway safety problems and safety improvement opportunities on all public roads, including non-State-owned public roads and roads on Tribal land.

Consideration of Additional Safety Factors

States also must consider additional safety factors when establishing their emphasis areas and strategies, such as the findings of Road Safety Audits (RSA), locations of fatalities and serious injuries, etc.

“One of the best things about getting involved with the SHSP is how much I have learned about other disciplines. When you work in one agency, it is not always possible to learn about what others in safety are doing. The multidisciplinary approach has given me insight into what law enforcement does and the many activities and programs on the behavioral side of safety. The SHSP broadens everyone’s knowledge and understanding of the safety issue which leads to better decision-making overall.”

Gretchen Chavez, California Department of Transportation

A Performance-Based Approach

SHSPs have been at the forefront of a performance-based approach since they were first required in 2005. SHSPs continue to support this approach by adopting performance-based goals, which are now required to be consistent with the safety performance measures established by FHWA in accordance with 23 U.S.C. 150 (these measures include five-year rolling averages for: number and rate of fatalities per million VMT; number and rate of serious injuries per million VMT; and number of nonmotorized fatalities and serious injuries) and are be coordinated with other State highway safety plans. SHSPs also should include multiyear objectives, which encourage monitoring of the status and progress of SHSP implementation efforts.

As part of the performance-based program, States also are required to set annual targets for safety performance measures to carry out the HSIP. The SHSP goals are not the same as the HSIP targets. However, the SHSP process provides an opportunity to establish longer-term goals and objectives, to which the annual targets can align. This provides consistency and direction across all safety plans and programs.

“I was involved in my State’s SHSP update process from the very beginning. This helped me to become familiar with their process and provide feedback along the way. It also helped me to use the SHSP process approval checklist to determine whether my State’s SHSP process was consistent with HSIP legislation and regulations. Our State’s SHSP Program Manager also referenced the checklist and found it very helpful during the SHSP’s development. By the time the SHSP update was drafted we were both confident the SHSP had wide spread and multidisciplinary support and the process met all of the applicable requirements.”

Lance Johnson, Safety Engineer, Idaho FHWA Division

Use of Effective Strategies and Countermeasures

The SHSP describes a program of strategies to reduce or eliminate safety hazards, and high priority should be given to those strategies that can significantly reduce roadway fatalities and serious injuries in the SHSP emphasis areas.

Multidisciplinary—Addresses the 4 Es

The SHSP must address a variety of factors, including the highway safety elements of engineering, education, enforcement, and emergency services (the 4 Es). This can apply to both infrastructure and noninfrastructure emphasis areas.

Special Requirements

Legislation requires States to address two special rules in their SHSP updates. SHSP updates must now:

SHSP Tip—Update Process

Depending on the complexity of the task, it can take between six months to a year to complete an SHSP update.

SHSP Update

States must update their SHSPs on a regular basis and no later than five years from the date of the previous approved version. As part of the SHSP update process, States must establish an update and evaluation cycle (or schedule).

SHSP Evaluation

At a minimum, States must evaluate their SHSPs as part of the States’ regularly recurring SHSP update process. Regular evaluation, based on current safety data, confirms the validity of the emphasis areas and strategies. During SHSP development, States should pay particular attention to what will be measured (i.e., performance measures) and how progress will be determined. States should have in place mechanisms for regularly tracking SHSP implementation and monitoring progress.

Noteworthy Practice—Tracking Tools

States are using a variety of methods to track progress on implementing the strategies and actions in the SHSP. Idaho has developed a tracking tool that includes a summary sheet on the objectives, strategies and actions.

Approval of SHSP Update

The FHWA Division Offices must approve the process States use to update their SHSP. They do not approve specific content. States must submit to their State FHWA Division Administrator its updated SHSP, along with a detailed description of the process it used to update the plan. This information should be included as a section or chapter in the SHSP. In reviewing a State’s SHSP update process, FHWA Division Offices use an SHSP Process Approval Checklist, which also can be found in the list of links below.

Resources and Links for SHSP Program Requirements

SHSP provisions.


HSIP and Safety Performance Measures ruling.

FHWA SHSP Process Approval Checklist.

“One of the most effective tools to help us improve our SHSP process was a peer exchange. It was a one-on-one exchange where I could ask questions of my peers in real time and get answers. Another idea would be to invite another State that has gone through the process to be a job coach or mentor. Once you have built that relationship, it is rewarding and gives you the knowledge you need.”

Michael Schwendau, Kentucky Office of Highway Safety

Following is a list of useful resources that provide additional information on SHSPs:

  • Champion’s Guide to Saving Lives (Second Edition)—This document reviews the basic principles and important considerations concerning the development, implementation, and evaluation of a Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP). It is intended as a resource for States to consult during examination of their SHSP process, as well during SHSP updates.
  • Trainings—The FHWA Office of Safety’s Roadway Safety Professional Capacity Building Web page includes courses, seminars, and workshops offered by the FHWA Resource Center and the National Highway Institute (NHI). There are two NHI courses targeted at the SHSP—SHSP Development and SHSP implementation.
  • Noteworthy Practices—The FHWA Office of Safety has a Web page devoted to noteworthy practices, including those that affect SHSPs. Just visit the site, type in strategic highway safety plans in the search box and information on a variety of noteworthy practices is available.
  • HSIP/SHSP Peer Exchanges and Reports—The Office of Safety conducts peer exchanges around the country as a way to help States talk with other States facing similar issues. These peer exchanges often result in an event report that details the safety challenges encountered by many of their fellow agencies.
  • Federal contacts—The three main Federal agencies who are involved in the SHSP have a Division or Regional office that is available to offer assistance. Following are the links to the FHWA Division Offices which are located in every State, the 10 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Regional Offices, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Division Offices, which also are located in every State:
  • State contacts—For list of all State departments of transportation, visit the FHWA. For a list of the State highway safety offices, visit the Governors Highway Association.

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Page last modified on August 28, 2020
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