Improving the Effectiveness of the Federal Surface Transportation Safety Grant Programs
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
Transcript of Hearing
Summary of Subject Matter
Subcommittee on Highways and Transit
Hearing on Improving the Effectiveness of the Surface Transportation Safety Grant Programs
January 28, 2014
(Remarks as Prepared)
Today’s hearing will focus on how Congress can improve the effectiveness of the surface transportation safety grant programs. The current federal surface transportation authorization, MAP-21, expires on September 30 of this year. As Congress begins work on drafting the successor to MAP-21, we must understand what the most effective and innovative safety projects and activities are in order to improve the safety of the travelling public.
In 2012, 33,561 fatalities occurred on our Nation’s highways, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Highway fatalities in 2012 remain at historic lows and matched levels not seen since 1950. While these safety trends are encouraging, much more can be done to further reduce highway fatalities and crashes.
The federal surface transportation safety grant programs provide states with resources to target their specific safety issues. Each state faces unique safety challenges that demand a data-driven, performance-based safety approach. It’s important to give states the flexibility they need to address their unique highway safety challenges.
But at the same time, states must be held accountable for how they are spending their limited federal resources. That is why MAP-21 requires states to include safety performance targets in their annual highway safety plans.
One of the largest federal safety programs is the Highway Safety Improvement Program, which apportions over $2 billion among the states to address highway safety infrastructure challenges. Each state is required to have a strategic highway safety plan that identifies safety problems through data analysis and determine the appropriate safety countermeasures.
Examples of how this funding can be used include improving a dangerous section of highway by installing guardrails and rumble-strips or improving highway design to make an intersection safer for motorists and pedestrians.
States also receive federal-aid funding to address driver behavior issues through the State and Community Highway Safety Grants, otherwise known as Section 402 grants. Each state is required to have an annual highway safety plan that identifies its unique driver behavioral issues and determine the appropriate safety countermeasures. Examples of how this funding can be used include drunk-driving and seat-belt enforcement or community outreach and education activities.
Commercial motor vehicle enforcement is another important federal safety priority. States receive funding from the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program, which provides resources for states to enforce federal commercial motor vehicle regulations. Funding is targeted on investments that promote safe commercial vehicle transportation of property, passengers, and hazardous materials. Through motor carrier and driver data systems, states are able to target the most unsafe carriers and drivers for enforcement. States must set program goals and meet performance benchmarks in order to be eligible for program funding.
Technology is one area that can help states improve the effectiveness of their federal surface transportation safety grants. States can further adopt and deploy innovative technologies that reduce highway fatalities and crashes and help enforcement officials target the most unsafe drivers. As vehicles become more autonomous and connected, intelligent transportation infrastructure systems will give states more ways to create a safer traveling experience for Americans. Such systems could warn drivers of dangerous road conditions ahead or assist the driver in making safer driving decisions.
I trust that today’s hearing will provide our Subcommittee Members with insight into the federal surface transportation safety grant programs and how we can better leverage our limited federal resources to reduce fatalities and injuries on our Nation’s roads.
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