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Safety a ‘Winner’ in New Highway Reauthorization
On July 6, President Obama signed a new surface transportation bill in a ceremony at the White House attended by transportation leaders, including GHSA’s Executive Director. The new law, known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) reforms transportation programs and authorizes funding for two fiscal years, FY 2013 and 2014.
The new law provides a slight funding increase for behavioral highway safety programs administered by GHSA members and combines current grant programs into two programs: the Section 402 State and Community Highway Safety grant program and the Section 405 National Priority Safety Program. The 402 program is authorized at $235 million in both FY 2013 and 2014. The 405 program is authorized at $265 million in FY 2013 and $272 million in FY 2014.
The new Section 405 program is divided into six incentive tiers covering: occupant protection, traffic records, impaired driving, motorcycle safety, distracted driving and Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws. States have to satisfy specific eligibility requirements in each tier before they can receive funding in that tier. High performing seat belt and impaired driving states are given more flexibility to use their incentive funding.
MAP-21 places increased emphasis on performance throughout the bill, including behavioral highway safety. States are required to report on performance using the performance measures that GHSA and NHTSA developed in 2008. NHTSA will have discretion to alter those measures in the second year of the Act.
States are also required to direct their federal behavioral highway safety resources toward evidence-based programs and in areas where data-driven problem identification indicates that there is an issue in the state. Resources such as Countermeasures that Work, which was jointly developed by GHSA and NHTSA and which NHTSA updates annually, will be particularly useful to states because they can help states identify proven or potentially impactful countermeasures.
States will be required to submit a single application for the federal behavioral funding instead of the multiple applications that they do now. However, the application deadline is moved forward by two months to July 1. This means that states should begin making changes to their planning schedules now so that they can be in compliance with the July 1 deadline next year.
Reaction to the new law from safety organizations was largely positive. GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha said that “Congress listened to the states, consolidated programs and reduced the administrative burdens on state highway safety offices. Congress also focused the incentive program on the six issues that are priorities for states.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) also praised the bill, particularly the new ignition interlock program and the authorization for Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, or DADSS. This effort is the result of a public/ private partnership between the auto industry and the federal government, with the goal of creating a passive in-vehicle detection system that can stop a drunk driver from operating a vehicle. “This is truly a historic time in the fight against drunk driving,” said MADD National President Jan Withers. She continued, “Thanks to Congress we have the tools needed to end drunk driving.”