By 1966, motor vehicle traffic crashes nationally claimed nearly 51,000 lives a year, or 26 deaths for every 100,000 Americans. Recognizing the need to reduce the carnage on the nation’s roads, Congress passed the National Highway Safety Act, which provides for federal traffic safety funds to states.
In 1967, the California Traffic Safety Program (TSP) was enacted by the Legislature to provide authority for the State to implement the requirements of the national legislation. Subsequently, the Governor delegated authority to administer the TSP to the Secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing (BT&H) Agency. In turn, the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) was created in the BT&H Agency to administer the TSP under the direction of the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative.
Since that time, the work and influence of OTS has grown and spread. In the early days, funding, expertise, and results were scarce. Over the years, OTS staff became skilled professionals, programs expanded, and local authorities embraced the traffic safety message. Interest grew, priorities areas were established, and traffic deaths and injuries began to fall.
Each year a Highway Safety Plan (HSP) is developed to reflect current needs as well as detailing the planned use of federal funds. The HSP identifies problems, specific performance measures, proposed solutions, time frames and fiscal information on continuing and planned new grants which are designed to mitigate traffic safety problems. OTS’ role in this cycle has proven invaluable as it provides a vital link among Federal, State and local functions.
OTS became the national leader in innovative programs to save lives on its roadways. It has established results driven best-practices and encouraged new strategies. While the state’s population continues to grow, traffic deaths and injuries are falling.