Feds Giving States $260M for Highway Safety

By: - December 17, 2021 12:00 am

The Nevada Highway Patrol works at the scene of a fatal crash last year near Searchlight, Nev. The federal government is boosting funding for states to improve their highway safety programs. L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal via The Associated Press

The federal government has announced that it is giving nearly $260 million in grants to states to beef up their highway safety.

The funding, which will be distributed to highway safety offices in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, comes from the recently enacted bipartisan infrastructure law, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The agency said the money will support a broad range of traffic safety priorities.

“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,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a news release.

The agency will allot $133 million to support data-driven traffic safety programs in the states, including high-visibility enforcement campaigns and education programs about state laws dealing with seat belt use and risky driving. It also will help support child safety seat programs, including inspection stations where people can confirm that the seats have been properly installed in their vehicles.

Another million will go to programs that include traffic safety information systems to help states build databases related to crashes, distracted driving prevention and pedestrian and bicyclist safety programs.

Each state will target its specific challenges, according to Steven Cliff, the federal agency’s deputy administrator.

“Traffic safety may be a national problem, but the solutions are regional and local,” he said in a news release.

Even though daily vehicle traffic dropped during much of the COVID-19 pandemic, speeding and reckless driving shot up.

The federal agency estimates that 20,160 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the first half of 2021. That represents an 18% increase compared with the same period in 2020.

And in the past decade, bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities have been rising. Experts blame aggressive drivers, more speeding and an increase in distracted driving, largely caused by cell phone use. About eight people in the United States are killed every day in crashes that involve a distracted driver, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many highway safety advocates have been pushing hard for more money to fund projects aimed at reducing crashes and fatalities, especially for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The federal funding is part of the more than $13 billion allocated for roadway safety programs in the infrastructure law.

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Jenni Bergal

Jenni Bergal covers transportation, infrastructure and cybersecurity for Stateline. She has been a reporter at Kaiser and the Center for Public Integrity.