The Governors Highway Safety Assn. (GHSA) honored its 2011 national highway safety award winners during the GHSA Annual Meeting in Cincinnati.

GHSA represents the state and territorial highway safety offices across the country that implement programs to address behavioral highway safety issues.

GHSA’s most prestigious award, the James J. Howard Highway Safety Trailblazer Award, was presented posthumously to Dr. Herb Simpson, former president and CEO of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, for his groundbreaking research which was instrumental in identifying hardcore drunk drivers as a significant contributor to highway fatalities. Simpson helped pioneer the concept of graduated driver licensing (GDL), among many other highway safety contributions.

GHSA bestowed the Kathryn J.R. Swanson Public Service Award to retired National Highway Traffic Safety Administration associate administrator Marlene Klein Markison for her commitment to advancing effective highway safety programs across the country.

“Markison’s knowledge of the intricacies and elements of the many state grant programs was unmatched. She fostered an enduring partnership with GHSA that improved the management and efficiencies in state highway safety offices nationwide,” according to GHSA.

GHSA also presented five Peter K. O’Rourke Special Achievement Awards for outstanding achievements in highway safety during the prior calendar year. The 2011 winners are:

AARP Driver Safety Program — a program that provides all drivers, especially those 50 years of age and older, with instruction to help improve their driving skills. In addition to making the roads safer in local communities, the program also helps prolong the independence of older drivers. In 2010, under new leadership and with an enhanced commitment from AARP, the program reached 464,307 participants in 27,141 classroom courses taught by more than 7,000 volunteers in all 50 states D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. An additional 61,840 participants took an online version of the course.

Traffic Safety Coalition — a diverse group of safety advocates brought together to demonstrate that traffic safety cameras are effective at deterring dangerous and illegal driving behavior. In 2010, despite their success in reducing injuries and fatalities, traffic cameras in Illinois were in danger of being deemed illegal by the state legislature. The Traffic Safety Coalition successfully reframed the debate to focus on the red-light running fatalities and speed-related fatalities on U.S. roadways every year, stressing how cameras help police enforce traffic safety laws and deter drivers from breaking the law. The bill to ban traffic safety cameras did not pass, and the Traffic Safety Coalition preserved Illinois communities’ ability to utilize safety cameras as critical tools to minimize injuries and fatalities in the state.

Missouri Traffic and Highway Safety Division — spearheaded a statewide safety coalition that helped the state realize its fifth consecutive year of decreases in traffic fatalities and disabling injuries in 2010. The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, is an association of safety advocates, law enforcement, engineers, EMS officials, educators, and community partners that worked to set goals and strategies to reduce fatalities and injuries. Under the Missouri Traffic and Highway Safety Division's leadership, the coalition successfully combined engineering, enforcement and education help the state achieve traffic fatality levels not seen since 1950.

• The No Refusal Program — a program that uses police, prosecutors, judges, and medical professionals to obtain mandatory blood samples from suspected impaired drivers who refuse breath tests. The program was launched by Montgomery County, Texas prosecutor Warren Diepraam. In his jurisdiction, No Refusal helped reduce DWI fatality charges by 70% and DWI cases by 30%. The test refusal rate fell to 25% from the state average of 45%. In 2010, as a NHTSA prosecutor fellow, Diepraam helped bring No Refusal into other states and trained thousands of prosecutors, judges, and police on appropriate procedures.

Teens in the Driver Seat — a Texas-based peer-to-peer safety program for young drivers that makes teens directly responsible for both the development and delivery of traffic safety messages to their peers. TDS has had a strong positive impact in Texas, and its influence is beginning to be felt in other states, according to GHSA. Since the program's inception in 2002, Texas has seen a 40% decrease in the frequency of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes. Despite budget cutbacks, TDS grew by 20% last year, adding more than 100 schools to its active roster and expanded to Connecticut, Georgia and North Carolina. TDS also refreshed its website (www.t-driver.com), and expanded both its social media presence and its annual contest awarding prizes for the best teen-developed posters, video messages, and overall school program.

More details about the highway safety winners are online at www.ghsa.org/html/meetings/awards/11index.html.