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A SUMMARY - Improving Safety

Driver and Vehicle Safety Programs

A total of $2.7 billion is authorized for non-construction highway safety programs excluding motor carrier safety. The major programs are discussed below. A full listing of authorized programs can be found in the authorization table on pages 44-49.

Alcohol Programs

Incentives to prevent operation of motor vehicles by intoxicated persons. The Act provides $500 million for incentive grants for FYs 1998-2003 to States that have enacted and are enforcing 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. Grants are based on the amount a State receives under the Section 402 Highway Safety program and may be used for any project eligible for assistance under Title 23 U.S.C.

Alcohol-impaired driving countermeasures. The Act revises the existing Section 410 alcohol-impaired driving countermeasures incentive grant program to deter drunk driving. Under this $219.5 million, 6-year program, the Secretary of Transportation will make basic grants to States that adopt and demonstrate specific programs, such as prompt suspension of the driver’s license of an alcohol-impaired driver or graduated licensing systems for new drivers (Basic Grant A); or meet performance criteria showing reductions in fatalities involving impaired drivers (Basic Grant B). States receiving basic grants may be considered for up to six types of supplemental grants. States are eligible to receive grants for each of 6 fiscal years.

Open containers and repeat offenders. The Act provides penalties for States that fail to enact laws prohibiting open alcoholic beverage containers in the passenger area of a motor vehicle and establishing minimum penalties for repeat drunk-driving offenders. Failure to enact each of the required laws will result in the transfer of a portion of the State’s Federal highway construction funds (National Highway System, STP, and Interstate Maintenance) to its highway safety program. The penalty is the transfer of 1.5 percent of the States’s funding for those programs for FYs 2001 and 2002, and 3 percent for each year thereafter. The funds transferred to the safety program may be used for alcohol-impaired driving countermeasures, or may be directed to State and local agencies for enforcement of related laws. The funds can also be used for the Hazard Elimination program. Projects funded with the transferred funds do not require State matching funds.

Seat Belt and Occupant Protection Programs

Seat belt incentive grants. The Act authorizes $500 million over FYs 1999-2003 for a new program of incentive grants to encourage States to increase seat belt use rates. The amount of funds States receive will be based on calculations by the Secretary of the annual savings to the Federal Government in medical costs, which result from the State’s improvement of its seat belt use rate. A State may use these awards for any project eligible for assistance under Title 23 U.S.C.

Occupant protection incentive grants. The Act authorizes $83 million over FYs 1999-2003 for a new, two-part Section 405 occupant protection incentive grant program to target specific laws and programs that will help States increase seat belt and child safety seat use. Under part one of this program, the Secretary will make grants to States that adopt or demonstrate specific programs, such as primary safety belt use laws and special traffic enforcement programs. States are eligible for each of 5 fiscal years under part one. Under part two of the program, the Secretary may make grants to States that carry out specific child passenger protection and education activities. States are eligible for each of 2 fiscal years under part two.

State and Community Grants

The Act authorizes a consolidated behavioral and roadway State and community highway safety formula grant program under Title 23 U.S.C. Section 402, increasing the apportionment to Indians from 1/2 of 1 percent to 3/4 of 1 percent of the total Section 402 apportionment. Funding of $932.5 million is provided over 6 years. At least 40 percent of these funds are to be used by States and communities to address local traffic safety problems. The Act also revises the periodic Section 402 rulemaking process, from one requiring States to direct resources to fixed areas identified by the rulemaking, to one directing that the States consider such highly effective programs when developing their State highway safety program plans.

State Highway Safety Data Improvement Incentive Grants

The Act provides $32 million for the period FYs 1999-2002 for a new State highway safety data improvement incentive grant program to encourage States to take effective actions to improve the timeliness, accuracy, completeness, uniformity, and accessibility of their highway safety data. States are eligible for grants each fiscal year. Under this program the Secretary will make three types of grants:

(1) First-year grants for States that either (a) have initiated specific programs such as a data coordinating committee and development of a multi-year data plan, or, (b) have provided certification that they have already established specific programs such as a data coordinating committee and developed a multi-year plan.

(2) Succeeding-year grants for States that, among other requirements, submit or update a multi-year data plan that meets the requirements for a first-year grant.

(3) $25,000 grants for 1 year to States that do not meet the criteria for first-year grants.

Highway Safety Research and Development

The Act continues the Section 403 Highway Safety Research and Development Program and specifies several new categories of research under Section 403, including training in work zone safety management; measures that may deter drugged driving; and programs to train law enforcement officers on motor vehicle pursuits.

Out of the funds provided for Section 403, the Act specifies allocations for the following:

(1) Measures to deter drugged driving.

(2) Vehicle pursuit training for police.

(3) Public education on sharing the road safely with commercial motor vehicles.

(4) Safety studies on blowout resistant tires and school bus occupant safety.

National Driver Register

The National Driver Register (NDR) is reauthorized with several changes to its provisions. The Act eliminates a deficiency in the NDR statute by extending participation to Federal departments or agencies, like the State Department, that both issue motor vehicle operator’s licenses and transmit reports on individuals to the NDR. The Act also reduces a burden on the States and strengthens the NDR’s efficiency by allowing Federal agencies authorized to receive NDR information to make their requests to and receive information directly from the NDR, instead of through a State. The Secretary is authorized to enter into an agreement with an organization that represents the interests of the States to manage the NDR’s computer timeshare and user assistance functions.

The Act directs the Secretary to:

(1) Evaluate the implementation of the NDR and the commercial driver’s license information system to identify ways to improve the exchange of information about unsafe drivers and drivers with multiple licenses.

(2) Assess electronic technologies that may improve the exchange of driving records.

Automobile Safety and Information

The Act reauthorizes the motor vehicle safety provisions of Chapter 301 of Title 49 U.S.C., and the information, standards, and requirements provisions of Chapters 32 (General), 323 (Consumer Information), 325 (Bumper Standards), 327 (Odometers), 329 (Automobile Fuel Economy), and 331 (Theft Prevention) of Title 49 U.S.C.

The Act adopts a number of motor vehicle safety and information provisions, including:

Railway-Highway Crossings- Behavioral

The annual funding for Operation Lifesaver—a program that works to eliminate railway-highway crossing and railroad trespasser accidents, fatalities, and injuries—is increased from $300,000 to $500,000 per year.


Infrastructure Safety

Reflecting the importance of safety throughout all surface transportation programs, TEA-21 designates “the safety and security of the transportation system for motorized and non-motorized users” as one of the seven newly established areas to be considered in the overall planning process, both at the metropolitan and statewide level.

TEA-21 continues the requirement that 10 percent of each State’s STP apportionment be set aside for safety construction activities. This will total approximately $3 billion over 6 years. Project eligibility is broadened to include off-roadway and bicycle safety improvements. The Railway-Highway Crossing program remains essentially unchanged from ISTEA except language is added that a State must consider bicycle safety in carrying out projects. In contrast, the Hazard Elimination program is opened to Interstates (previously excluded), any public transportation facility, and any public bicycle or pedestrian pathway or trail. Traffic calming projects are specifically mentioned. States must now include danger to bicyclists in surveys of hazardous locations.

The Act continues a program initiated in ISTEA for eliminating hazards of railway-highway crossings in certain designated high speed rail corridors. The program is funded by a setaside from STP funds of $5.25 million per year in contract authority from the HTF and an additional $15 million per year authorized to be appropriated from the General Fund beginning in FY 1999. The funds will be expended on improvements in five existing corridors and six new corridors (three specified in the Act and three to be selected by the Secretary in accordance with specific criteria). A portion of the funds will also be set aside for improvements in an extension of the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor to Minneapolis-St. Paul.


Motor Carrier Safety

Under the provisions of TEA-21, the National Motor Carrier Safety Program (NMCSP) is restructured to promote performance-based activities, provide flexibility for State grantees by allowing them to invest in areas providing the greatest potential for crash reduction based on their own circumstances, strengthen Federal and State enforcement tools, and provide innovative approaches to improving motor carrier compliance. The Act also enhances the information systems that support all national motor carrier safety activities and provide the analytical foundation for future safety improvements.

Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP)

MCSAP provides funds for State enforcement of commercial motor vehicle safety and hazardous materials regulations. Uniform roadside driver and vehicle safety inspections, traffic enforcement, compliance reviews, and other complementary activities are eligible. Under the Act, States must adopt and implement a performance-based program by the year 2000. Setasides of up to 5 percent for national safety priorities and up to 5 percent for border safety enforcement are established. The Act authorizes a total of $579 million over the 6 years.

Information Systems

The Act includes a total of $65 million for motor carrier information systems and analysis. Funds may be used for improvements to information systems containing carrier, vehicle, and driver safety records and development of new data bases; analysis of motor carrier information and program effectiveness; implementation of Performance and Registration Information System Management (PRISM); and improvements to commercial driver programs. Funds can be used for grants, cooperative agreements, or contracts.

Strengthening Safety Enforcement and New Approaches to Compliance

The Act augments the basic motor carrier grant program by expanding the toolbox of enforcement techniques, closing loopholes that permit unsafe practices, and allowing development of innovative approaches to regulations.

Specifically, the Act:

(1) Imposes mandatory shutdown on all unfit carriers, strengthening the authority of the Secretary to order unsafe motor carriers to cease operations.

(2) Requires the Secretary to develop an implementation plan to identify the procedures that would be followed (if Congress subsequently provided authority) to enforce safety regulations when violated by shippers and others.

(3) Removes barriers to effective application of penalties and establishes a $10,000 maximum penalty for all non-recordkeeping violations of the safety regulations.

(4) Amends the definition of commercial motor vehicle to reflect the actual gross vehicle weight rather than just the gross vehicle weight rating.

(5) Revises the authority of the Secretary to issue waivers and exemptions from safety regulations and Commercial Drivers’ License requirements and establishes procedures for exemption pilot programs. Safety prerequisites for exemptions and pilot programs are established.


Recreational Boating Safety

The Recreational Boating Safety Program is funded from recreational boat gasoline and special fuel taxes deposited in the Boat Safety Account of the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund. TEA-21 establishes new elements in the program for the improvement of boating infrastructure for transient nontrailerable recreational vessels and for outreach and communication. It also directs a portion of the Coast Guard’s administrative funds to allow more vigorous enforcement of existing provisions designed to prevent boating defects.


One-call Notification

This new program seeks to reduce unintentional damage to underground facilities, along with the attendant risks to the public and the environment, during excavation. It encourages States to establish or improve existing one-call notification systems. Such 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. The Act establishes a 2-year program under which States may apply for grants upon a showing that the State’s one-call notification system meets minimum standards. The grants are for the enhancement of the one-call system; and authorizations are provided, subject to appropriation, for grants in FYs 2000 and 2001.

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