With the renewal of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) slated for next year, the National Association of Governors' Highway Safety Representatives (NAGHSR) is gearing up to sharpen the safety focus of that legislation.
Tricia Roberts, director of the Delaware office of highway safety, spoke on behalf of NAGHSR before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week to lay out what the states see as safety priorities for TEA-21 reauthorization.
Roberts said states want more stable and reliable sources of funding in order to address the behavioral aspects of highway safety. States also want to maintain the right to determine how federal funds are spent within their states without federal approval of every aspect of state plans and programs, a flexibility states have had since 1994.
Roberts added that states need fewer federal programs to administer. TEA-21 authorized eight grant programs and two penalty programs, all of which have to be administered by the state highway safety offices. There are different deadlines for every program, almost a deadline a month. The proliferation of federal grant programs has resulted in fragmentation and duplication of efforts, she said.
In addition, Roberts said states want more resources to address safety problems, with NAGHSR recommending that the single federal behavioral safety grant be funded at $420 million – the estimated amount of funding for all the behavioral grant programs in fiscal year 2003. Also, a new data incentive grant program is needed and NAGHSR recommends that $50 million a year over six years be authorized for hardware and software improvements, training, and implementation of new technology.
Finally, the states believe much more research on driver and road user behavior in know as relatively little is known about the effectiveness of many safety laws and most highway safety programs, said Roberts. NAGHSR is recommending a federal research effort to study the issue at a cost of $20 million to $25 million a year.