FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 16, 2008
Contact: Jonathan Adkins
GHSA Chairman Lays Out Highway Safety Priorities Before Congress
Calls for Making Highway Safety a National Priority
WASHINGTON, D.C.—GHSA Chairman Chris Murphy testified today before the House Transportation Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. Murphy shared GHSA’s recommended changes to the federal behavioral highway safety programs to be considered in the upcoming highway reauthorization.
During the hearing, Improving Highway Safety: Assessing the Effectiveness of the NHTSA's Highway Traffic Safety Programs, Chairman Murphy shared the dais with: Katherine Siggerud, Managing Director, Physical Infrastructure, GAO; Jim Ports, Deputy Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Chairman Murphy advocated streamlining highway safety program administration, making refinements in the current incentive programs and authorizing a new speed management incentive program. Murphy also encouraged Congress to maintain strong federal leadership in the issue of highway safety.
Specific recommendations include the following:
- A comprehensive, national strategic highway safety plan involving all levels of the government and the private sector. Federal highway safety programs have been developed in a piecemeal fashion, without an overall plan. GHSA echoes the recent recommendations of the National Surface Transportation and Revenue Policy Study Commission in proposing a national highway safety strategic plan and national highway safety goals.
- The goal of zero fatalities. The loss of one life is one too many. Over time, and with education, enforcement, safety infrastructure improvements, vehicle improvements, and technological advances, such an ambitious goal can be achieved.
- A single grant application and a uniform application deadline. Currently, there are different application forms and application deadlines for each incentive program, and the funding is allocated at different times. Such a fragmented approach makes it difficult for states to plan their annual programs effectively.
- Greater flexibility among programs. States should be allowed to move a portion of incentive grant funding from one category to another based upon their demonstrated needs, in parity with the flexibility already granted to the core federal highway construction programs.
- Increased funding of $100 million a year for the Section 408 data improvements program. GAO, the U.S. DOT Inspector General and the National Surface Transportation and Revenue Policy Study Commission have all recommended federal behavioral highway safety programs become more performance-based. If Congress concurs, it must provide the resources to states to collect the data necessary to track performance.
- A new speed management incentive grant. Speeding is a factor in an estimated one-third of all crashes, and costs society an estimated $40 billion annually. Reducing speed not only saves lives, but it also saves energy. A new speed management program should provide incentives for states that undertake speed enforcement, conduct speed management workshops, implement automated speed enforcement programs, or conduct public information campaigns about speeding.
- A drunk driving program based on known effective countermeasures. Some criteria for the Section 410 drunk driving incentive grant program have been ineffective or proven too difficult to implement, and many states may soon fall out of compliance. GHSA suggests the program be refocused on known effective countermeasures such as high visibility enforcement, DUI courts and judicial education.
- A single occupant protection program. GHSA recommends the only modestly successful Section 406 primary seat belt incentive grant program be combined with the existing occupant protection and child passenger protection programs to form a single program. Funds should be allocated based on a number of criteria such as seat belt use rates, fatality rates of unbelted drivers, and primary seat belt and booster seat law enactment.
- Maintaining the National Minimum Drinking Age (NMDA). While GHSA does not generally support new sanctions, it vigorously opposes any effort to overturn this existing sanction, which stipulates that any state not enforcing the minimum drinking age of 21 be subjected to a ten percent decrease in its annual federal highway apportionment. Protecting the health of young people should be of paramount importance. According to NHTSA, nearly 25,000 teen traffic deaths have been prevented since the enactment of the NMDA.
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GHSA’s complete testimony is available online at www.ghsa.org [127 KB, 8 pgs.].
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)® is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy and enhance program management. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit www.ghsa.org.