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Serving Rural America

Promoting and Improving Safety

The importance of transportation safety in rural areas: Promoting and improving safety is our highest priority. We will continue to have a strong focus on highway safety, in particular, because about 94 percent of all transportation-related fatalities and injuries involve highway motor vehicle crashes. Rural America, in particular, has a significant highway safety problem. Close to 80 percent of the Nation's roadway miles are in rural areas; over 58 percent of the total fatalities occur in rural areas and the fatality rate for rural areas (per 100 million vehicles miles of travel) is more than twice that of urban areas. Crashes in rural areas are more likely to result in fatalities due to a combination of factors including extreme terrain, faster speeds, more alcohol involvement, and the longer time intervals from the advent of a crash to medical treatment due to delays in locating crash victims and the distance to medical treatment centers. The U.S. Department of Transportation's highway safety goals are: 1) a 50 percent reduction in truck crash-related fatalities by 2010, and 2) a 20 percent reduction in crash-related fatalities and serious injuries by 2008.

image of 2 children sitting in carseats in the backseat of a car

Among the priority safety areas for the Department of Transportation are reducing single-vehicle run-off-road fatal crashes - two-thirds of which occur in rural areas. Many of these fatal crashes take place on two-lane rural roads and involve vehicles striking fixed objects, or going down an embankment or into a ditch. Speeding is another factor in many run-off-the road rural crashes.

Additionally, priority programs to increase seat belt use and reduce alcohol-impaired driving nationwide will have a major influence on reducing highway fatalities and injuries in rural areas. For example, the Initiative to Increase Seat Belt Use nationwide has set a goal of 90 percent by the year 2005. A national usage rate of 90 percent, among front seat occupants of all passenger vehicles, would result in the prevention of an estimated additional 5,500 deaths and 130,000 serious injuries annually.

The Department also will focus on safety of bicycling and walking because these are prevalent methods of transportation in some rural areas. They constitute a safety problem - 35 percent of the bicyclists' fatalities were in rural areas and although fewer pedestrians are injured in rural areas than in urban areas, they are more likely to result in fatalities largely because of the time it takes to get to a hospital.

Continued reductions in the aviation accident rate, during a period of rapid growth in air travel, remain a primary task of the Department. Efforts to reduce highway-railway grade crossing crashes also are continuing.

Safe Communities

Safe Communities Program

The U.S. Department of Transportation has made a clear commitment to the philosophy that communities are in the best position to affect transportation-related safety problems. The Safe Communities program approach represents a new way for communities to establish and manage safety programs. Four characteristics define the Safe Communities approach: data analysis and linkage (where possible), citizen input and involvement in setting priorities, integrated and comprehensive injury control system and expanded partnerships. Since its inception in 1996 to the present, 1,080 Safe Communities have been established. Virtually every state in the union is participating in the program.

image of young boy in carseat in back seat of car

Safe Communities Team Building Workshop

The three and one-half day Safe Communities Practitioners Workshop was developed to give community teams the tools and skills they needed to make their community a safer place to drive, work, play and live. The Safe Communities Workshop promotes the development of coalitions of individuals from various fields who want to prevent injuries, save lives, and reduce trauma care costs where they live and work. This workshop is designed to give participants a better understanding of the Safe Communities concept, a basis for forming new partnerships, a sense of community ownership, an opportunity for "team building" and improved communication, and a plan of action for implementing change.

The Safe Communities Service Center

Visit the Service Center Web at: http://www.nhtsa.gov/Driving+Safety/Community+Traffic+Safety

The U.S. Department of Transportation Service Center was opened in August 1997 and has responded to tens of thousands of requests for information, special assistance and materials related to Safe Communities. The quarterly Building Safe Communities Newsletter and the Center's Web site keep transportation safety and injury control advocates across the country updated on all the latest developments needed to build Safe Communities.

There are now more than 50 Safe Communities with their own Webpages. Click on the Service Center Partnership Emporium to link to these sites and see what other coalitions are doing to promote injury prevention - plus explore local, national and USDOT news. The Town Square Directory lists the Safe Communities sites nationwide.

Additional information on Safe Communities and the Safe Communities Team Building Workshop
(E-mail: Safe.Communities@nhtsa.dot.gov)
(Phone: (817) 978-3653)

Surface Transportation Safety Grant Programs

Our highway safety programs focus on three key areas: driver behavior, road design, and vehicle standards. There are no safety programs devoted specifically to rural areas; instead, all the Department's safety grant programs are available for safety problems nationwide. The following is a discussion of the major surface transportation safety grant programs.

State and Community Highway Safety Grants

(Web site: http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/whatsup/tea21/index.html)

Purpose: The purpose is to support a broad range of state highway safety programs designed to reduce traffic crashes, fatalities, and injuries.

Eligible Projects: Eligible projects include behavioral and highway safety projects to reduce deaths and injuries caused by exceeding posted speed limits; encourage proper use of occupant protection devises; reduce alcohol and drug-impaired driving; reduce crashes between motorcycles and other vehicles; reduce school bus crashes; improve police traffic services; improve emergency medical services and trauma care systems; increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety; improve traffic record systems; and improve roadway safety. Grant allocations are determined on the basis of a statutory formula; at least 40 percent must be used to address local traffic safety problems. Beginning in FY 1998, the apportionment to the Bureau of Indian Affairs increased from one-half of one percent to no less than three-quarters of one percent. The Federal share is 80 percent. To be eligible, a state must submit a Performance Plan establishing goals and performance measures to improve highway safety, and a Highway Safety Plan describing activities to achieve those goals.

Contacts: State Governors' Highway Safety Representatives.

Funding: Funding is $932.5 million for FYs 1998 - 2003. This program merges The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act's separate Federal Highway Administration 402 and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 402 authorizations into one authorization for roadway and behavioral safety projects.

Intoxicated Driver Prevention Program

(Web site: http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/whatsup/tea21/index.html)

Purpose: The purpose of this incentive program is to prevent operation of motor vehicles by those who are intoxicated by rewarding states that enact and enforce a law providing that any person with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or greater, while operating a motor vehicle in the state, shall be deemed to have committed a per se offense of driving while intoxicated.

Eligible Projects: Eligible projects include any project eligible for assistance under Title 23. The Federal share is 100 percent.

Contacts: State Governors' Highway Safety Representatives.

Funding: A total of $500 million for incentive grants is available for FYs 1998 - 2003. Grants are based on the amount a state receives under the Section 402 Highway Safety Program.

Alcohol-impaired Driving Countermeasures Incentive Grants

(Web site: http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/whatsup/tea21/index.html)

Purpose: The purpose is to encourage states to adopt and implement programs to reduce traffic safety problems resulting from individuals driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Eligible Projects: Eligible projects are those that implement and enforce impaired driving countermeasure programs. The Federal share is up to 75 percent in the first and second years in which a state receives a grant, 50 percent in the third and fourth years, and 25 percent in the fifth and sixth years. Applicants are those states that adopt and implement specific laws and programs to reduce impaired driving as specified by law or meet specific performance standards.

Contacts: State Governors' Highway Safety Representatives.

Funding: Funding is $219.5 million for FYs 1998 - 2003.

Safety Incentive Grants for Use of Seat Belts

(Web site: http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/whatsup/tea21/index.html)

Purpose: The purpose is to reduce motor vehicle deaths and injuries and their related medical costs through incentives to states to increase seat belt use.

Eligible Projects: Section 157 Incentive Grants are awarded to states based on their seat belt use rates. Grant funds may be used for any project eligible for assistance under Title 23. The Federal share is determined by the requirements of the program for which the funds are used. Section 157 Innovative Grants are awarded to state highway safety offices based on competitive proposals for programs that appear likely to boost statewide seat belt use rates.

Contacts: State Governors' Highway Safety Representatives.

Funding: Funding of $500 million is authorized for FYs 1999 - 2003 and is available for use by states that meet certain rates of seat belt use.

image of a person and child both wearing helmets riding bicycles in a park-like setting

Occupant Protection Incentive Grants

(Web site: http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/whatsup/tea21/index.html)

Purpose: The purpose is to encourage states to adopt and implement effective programs to reduce highway deaths and injuries resulting from individuals riding unrestrained or improperly restrained in motor vehicles.

Eligible Projects: Eligible projects are those that implement and enforce occupant protection programs. The Federal share is up to 75 percent in the first and second years in which a state receives a grant, 50 percent in the third and fourth years and 25 percent in the fifth and sixth years.

Contacts: State Governors' Highway Safety Representatives.

Funding: Funding of $68 million is authorized for FYs 1999 - 2003 for states that adopt and implement specific occupant protection laws and programs as specified by law.

Child Passenger Protection Education Grants

(Web site: http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/whatsup/tea21/index.html)

Purpose: The purpose is to prevent deaths and injuries to children, educate the public concerning the proper installation of child restraints, and train child passenger safety personnel concerning child restraint use.

Eligible Projects: Under Section 2003(b) eligible projects include those designed to implement a new child passenger protection program.

Contacts: State Governor's Highway Safety Representatives.

Funding: Funding of $7.5 million for each of fiscal years 2000 and 2001.

State Highway Safety Data Improvement Incentive Grants

(Web site: http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/whatsup/tea21/index.html)

Purpose: The purpose is to improve state highway safety data that is needed to identify safety priorities and evaluate the effectiveness of improvements, to link state data systems, and to improve compatibility of data systems.

Eligible Projects: Eligible projects include those that implement data improvement programs. The Federal share is up to 75 percent in the first and second years in which a state receives a grant, 50 percent in the third and fourth years and 25 percent in the fifth and sixth years. States must meet specified criteria.

Contacts: State Governors' Highway Safety Representatives.

Funding: Funding is $32 million for FYs 1999 - 2002.

Highway Infrastructure Safety

(Web site: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/tea21/factsheets/isfty.htm)

Purpose: The purpose is to fund activities for safety improvement projects to correct hazardous locations and to eliminate hazards at rail-highway grade crossings.

`Eligible Projects: Program elements include the following:

The Surface Transportation Program Set Aside:
It includes the Hazard Elimination Program that provides funds to resolve safety problems at hazardous locations and sections, and for road-way elements that may constitute a danger to motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists, and the Railway/Highways Crossing Program, which is designed to fund safety improvements to reduce the number of fatalities, injuries, and crashes at public grade crossings. Under TEA-21, project eligibility was broadened to include off-roadway and bicycle safety improvements and the Hazard Elimination Program was opened to Interstates, any public transportation facility, and any public bicycle or pedestrian pathway or trail.

Operation Lifesaver:
Operation Lifesaver is a public information and education program designed to eliminate collisions, deaths and injuries at public and private grade crossings and on railroad rights-of-way.

Seat Belt Innovative Demonstration Program Grants for Local Communities:
NHTSA was directed by Congress to allocate $1,000,000 to implement innovative demonstration programs through the award of grants of up to $50,000 to municipal, county, and other local governmental entities to promote seat belt usage. The basis for earmarking this money was to increase seat belt use rates by directing more resources to developing programs that reach high risk groups. These high risk groups include youth (ages 15-24), males, pickup truck drivers, rural populations, minorities, as well as drivers with a poor driving record, drivers who speed or drink and drivers taking short trips.

Twenty local community grants with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 people were awarded seat belt innovative demonstration program grants to conduct to traffic enforcement programs similar to a successful program in Elmira, New York. As a component of communities' proposals, the municipal, county, or local entity applying for funds had to obtain additional support and resources from private sector and other state or local safety funding sources. Since nearly all states are currently conducting high visibility seat belt enforcement programs, this strategy supplements existing efforts by targeting resources to key communities within a state.

image of a truck in the distance crossing a freeway overpass

Railway-Highway Crossing Hazard Elimination in High-Speed Rail Corridors:
This is a grade crossing safety program for certain elements of specified high-speed rail corridors. Funds will be spent on improvements in five existing corridors and six new corridors (three specified in TEA-21 and three to be selected by the Secretary in accordance with criteria).

Funding: Funding for the STP Safety Set Aside is a 10 percent set aside for safety from the Surface Transportation Program which totals approximately $3.7 billion for FYs 1998 - 2003. Funding for Operation Lifesaver is $500,000 per year from the STP set aside. Funding for the Railway-Highway Crossing Hazard Elimination in Highway-Speed Rail Corridors is $5.25 million per year from the STP set aside and an additional $15 million per year is authorized to be appropriated from General Funds.

Contacts: State Transportation Agencies.

Intelligent Transportation Systems

(Web site: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/tea21/factsheets/its.htm)

Purpose: The purpose of the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) is to encourage the application of advanced sensor, computer, electronics, and communications technologies and management strategies in an integrated manner to increase the safety and efficiency of the surface transportation system. The ITS Integration Program funds grants to states and local jurisdictions for the deployment of integrated ITS.

Eligible Activities: A broad range of ITS activities may be funded through the regular surface transportation programs. The focus of ITS for rural areas is primarily on reducing the number of single vehicle crashes on rural roads, improved emergency response to crashes, traveler information for tourists and other rural travelers, and improved access to transit services for rural residents. Activities in the rural ITS program include a significant research program, a series of field operational tests, various outreach activities, and a deployment incentive grant program.

Contacts: State Transportation Agencies.

Funding: Funding for ITS research and development is $603 million for FYs 1998 - 2003 and for ITS deployment incentives, the total is $679 million. In addition to funds authorized specifically for ITS, both NHS and STP funds may be used for infrastructure-based ITS capital improvements and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement funds may be used to improve traffic flow that contributes to air quality improvements. Transit funds may also be used for ITS.

Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP)

(Web site: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov)

Purpose: To improve motor carrier safety through grants to State Transportation and Enforcement Agencies.

Eligible Projects: Eligible projects include strategic safety investments, roadside inspection, traffic enforcement, commercial drivers licensing, and motor carrier records systems and investigation programs, with an emphasis on program flexibility and innovative approaches to tailor solutions to particular motor carrier safety problems.

Contacts: State Transportation and Enforcement Agencies.

Funding: Funding is $744 million for FYs 1998 - 2003.

image of a tractor trailer on highway

Pipelines

One-call Notification

(Web site: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/tea21/factsheets/onecall.htm)

Purpose: The purpose is to reduce unintentional damage to underground facilities, along with the attendant risks to the public and to the environment, during excavation. It encourages states to establish or improve one-call notification systems. Such notification systems receive notification from excavators of their intent to excavate in a certain area and notify underground facility operators so that they may mark their lines to prevent damage.

Eligible Projects: Eligible projects include establishment or improvement of one-call notification systems. Eligibility depends upon appropriate participation by all underground facility operators and excavators, and flexible and effective enforcement under state law.

Contacts: State Transportation Agencies.

Funding: Authorizations are provided, subject to appropriation, for grants totaling $1 million in FY 2000 and $5 million in FY 2001.

Boating

Recreational Boating Safety

(Web site: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/tea21/factsheets/rbs.htm)

Purpose: The purpose is to assist the states and U.S. Territories with programs to protect recreational boaters.

Eligible Projects: Eligible projects include facilities, equipment, and supplies for boating safety education and law enforcement, training personnel in skills related to boating safety and enforcement, providing public boating safety education, acquiring, constructing or repairing public access sites used primarily by recreational boaters, conducting boating safety inspections, establishing and maintaining emergency or search and rescue facilities, and establishing and maintaining waterway markers. There are a number of state eligibility requirements, such as the requirement to have a vessel numbering system.

Contacts: State Transportation Agencies.

Funding: The Recreational Boating Safety program is an appropriated budget authority program subject to annual appropriations.

image of lobster boats in a bay

Updated: 04/02/2014
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