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Safety advocacy groups call on Congress to fully fund highway safety grants

Highway safety groups want Congress to fund grant program for rest of year

The Trucker News Services

3/5/2013

WASHINGTON Six major highway safety organizations have called on Congress to fully fund the Priority Highway Safety Grant Program, known as Section 405, when Congress considers funding for the remainder of FY 2013.

Section 405 provides performance-based incentive funding for states to address key areas of highway safety that include impaired driving, distracted driving, occupant protection, motorcycle safety, traffic records and improving graduated driver licensing laws. The Section 405 program, authorized under the recently enacted surface transportation legislation known as MAP-21, did not increase federal spending for highway safety. It merely took existing budget authority under other incentive grant programs and re-packaged it into a single consolidated grant program.

Last year Congress passed a six-month Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the federal government funded through March 27. Unfortunately, this legislation failed to include a funding change, known as an anomaly, for the Section 405 program. If Congress fails to provide funding for this program in the next Continuing Resolution, it would constitute a 53% reduction in funding to states to improve the safety of drivers and other road users. Highway safety funding would be at levels not seen since the 1980s.

"Some states were able to rearrange their current highway safety funds in order to continue programs for the first six months of this fiscal year," said GHSA Chairman Kendell Poole. "Unfortunately, if the Congress doesn't fix what is essentially a technicality, state highway safety funds will be severely impacted and motor vehicle-related deaths and injuries can be expected to increase."

It is more critical now than ever to fully fund highway safety programs. Recent estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggest that in 2012, there will be the first national increase in traffic deaths since 2005, a seven percent upsurge from 2011.

"This program is critical to improve highway safety," said MADD National President Jan Withers. "Section 405 provides vital funding to states to help fight drunk driving which still accounts for a third of all highway deaths."

Other groups signing the letter include AAA, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Safe Kids Worldwide, and the National Safety Council.

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, enhance program management and promote best practices. 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.

Founded by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is the nation's largest nonprofit working to protect families from drunk driving and underage drinking. MADD also supports drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge, serving one person every eight minutes through local MADD victim advocates and at 1-877-MADD-HELP. Learn more at www.madd.org.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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