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Federal programs aimed at improving safety along the country’s highways will receive a boost in funding, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently indicated.
The agency announced that nearly $260 million will be provided for highway safety grants nationwide. The funding, approved in the recently enacted $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, targets state-level transportation agencies, as well as agencies in Washington, D.C., U.S. territories, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The funds back a variety of traffic safety programs.
“Traffic crashes take the lives of too many Americans, but these tragedies are not inevitable, and we will not accept them as part of everyday life,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Dec. 16. “Bolstered by additional funding from President [Joe] Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law, these grants will save lives by improving safety on America’s roadways.” In particular, the bill includes language to increase funding by about 30% for myriad life-saving programs.
“The variety of funds available allows each state to target its specific challenges,” added NHTSA Deputy Administrator Steven Cliff, nominated by Biden to lead the agency. “Traffic safety may be a national problem, but the solutions are regional and local.”
Appearing before a U.S. Senate committee in December for his nomination hearing, Cliff elaborated on the infrastructure law’s potential impact on highway safety. He told senators, “This historic legislation increases NHTSA’s budget by 50% — the largest investment in motor vehicle and highway safety since NHTSA was established more than 50 years ago.”
Cliff continued, “This funding will improve our understanding of where and how crashes happen by improving data quality.”
Of the funding, $133.3 million aims to back highway safety via data-driven state-level traffic programs. Per background from USDOT, such programs are associated with initiatives for high-visibility enforcement campaigns, enforcement and education of seat belt laws, and the harms of risky driving.
Additionally, the funding is meant to improve traffic records and enhance inspection stations for caregivers to confirm proper installation of child safety seats.
Host Mike Freeze talks to the 2021 Transport Topics Trucking's Frontline Heroes, Gene Woolsey and Cully Frisard. Hear a snippet above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.
In October, NHTSA indicated that an estimated 20,160 people died in motor vehicle crashes on U.S. roadways during the first half of 2021. That was up 18.4% over 2020 and the largest number of projected fatalities during that period since 2006, according to early estimates the agency released. For the first six months of 2020, 17,020 fatalities were projected.
The recent report did not break down the number of truck-involved crashes included in the overall statistics.
“This is a crisis. More than 20,000 people died on U.S. roads in the first six months of 2021, leaving countless loved ones behind,” Buttigieg said Oct. 28 in a statement accompanying the announcement. “We cannot and should not accept these fatalities as simply a part of everyday life in America.”
“The report is sobering,” Cliff said during the report’s unveiling. “It’s also a reminder of what hundreds of millions of people can do every day, right now, to combat this: slow down, wear seat belts, drive sober and avoid distractions behind the wheel.”
Biden enacted the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Nov. 15. Proponents of the $1 trillion infrastructure law point to its potential transportation safety benefits.
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