Long-awaited infrastructure boosts throughout highways across the country are finally underway as federal programs working to bring about these safety improvements will, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, receive ample new funding.
For safety grants across American highways, NHTSA will offer $260 million as part of the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This funding comes as an effort to bring vast improvements through certain traffic and roadway safety initiatives, and will work to bring financial aid to various U.S. territories, state-level transportation agencies, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and to Washington, D.C. agencies, as well.
“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,” said Pete Buttigieg, Transportation Secretary, in a recent statement. “Bolstered by additional funding from President [Joe] Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law, these grants will save lives by improving safety on America’s roadways.”
The legislation also depicts the intention to raise overall funding by around 30% for a plethora of safety initiatives, infrastructure programs, and reconstruction efforts.
“The variety of funds available allows each state to target its specific challenges,” said Steven Cliff, Deputy Administrator for NHTSA. “Traffic safety may be a national problem, but the solutions are regional and local.”
$133.3 million of the total funding will be allocated strictly to data-driven traffic programs at the state level for highway safety; some of these programs, according to the United States Department of Transportation, involve programs centering around the enforcement of seat belt laws and safety law education, awareness boosting in regards to dangerous driving risks, and campaigns for high-visibility enforcement.
Funds will also be dedicated to improving parent and caregiver inspection stations to determine whether or not child safety seats have been properly and safely installed, as well as to boosting overall efficiency of traffic records themselves.
“This historic legislation increases NHTSA’s budget by 50%,” said Cliff in front of a U.S. Senate committee during his nomination hearing, noting that this budget makes it “the largest investment in motor vehicle and highway safety since NHTSA was established more than 50 years ago.” Cliff, who was nominated by President Biden to lead NHTSA, made a point to explain the new legislation’s likely positive effects on the overarching safety of American roadways.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was set forth by President Biden in mid-November of this year, with supporters of the new $1 trillion infrastructure legislation ensuring that the coming road improvements and overall safety benefits will far outweigh the costs.
“This funding will improve our understanding of where and how crashes happen by improving data quality,” NHTSA’s Cliff continued.
In the first half of this year, the number of deaths in roadway crashes rose by 18.4% as compared to the same period in 2020–the highest number of roadway deaths since 2006, according to an NHTSA report from October.
“This is a crisis,” said Buttigieg following the release of the report. “More than 20,000 people died on U.S. roads in the first six months of 2021, leaving countless loved ones behind. We cannot and should not accept these fatalities as simply a part of everyday life in America.”
Although NHTSA’s report did not specifically point to the number of deaths as a result of truck-related roadway crashes, the statistics are still staggering–around 20,160 died on U.S. roadways in the first six months of 2021, compared to 17,020 in the first half of 2020. For safety advocates, these numbers are a clear indication that many safety-focused changes, projects, and investments need to make their way throughout the country’s infrastructure as soon as possible.
“The report is sobering,” added Cliff in October. “It’s also a reminder of what hundreds of millions of people can do every day, right now, to combat this: slow down, wear seat belts, drive sober, and avoid distractions behind the wheel.”