NHTSA Offers Grants to States With Distracted Driving Laws

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) just announced that it will be offering grants to those states that have put distracted driving laws into place. Distracted driving has been an issue of harsh contention in recent years with related accidents and deaths on the rise.

The NHTSA’s grant program, said CCJ Digital, provides about $17.5 million to those states with laws banning distracted driving in fiscal year 2013, including anti-texting statutes. According to NHTSA estimates, at least 3,092 people were killed—a massive 416,000 others were injured—in distracted driving accidents in 2010, alone. These crashes included activities such as texting or other cell phone use.

“Distracted driving is a persistent and growing epidemic on America’s roads, but there has also been incredible momentum in the states in recent years to pass laws that tackle the problem head on,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This new grant program will provide states that have distracted driving laws with important resources to help save lives and prevent injuries,” Secretary Hood added.

As we recently wrote, a transportation law signed by President Obama contained $46 million in incentive grants for states, over the next two years, to create or reinforce distracted driving programs. There is also $27 million for states to improve graduated driver licensing programs that include, for example, banning younger drivers from using cell phones or other communication devices, except in emergency situations.

This new program was authorized by Congress under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21. States must have in place either a comprehensive, primary law against distracted driving or a primary law prohibiting texting while driving, to quality, said CCJ Digital. This will now enable law enforcement personnel to stop violators for distracted driving alone. Those states which implement secondary laws—laws requiring law enforcement to observe a primary offense before enforcing the distraction law—are not eligible for the grant.

Under MAP-21, Congress also authorized another $5 million for NHTSA to develop paid advertising to support state law enforcement against distracted driving, said CCJ Digital

“Whether the issue is distracted driving, drunk driving, seatbelt use or another safety concern, we count on our law enforcement partners in the states to help reduce the tragic toll of traffic deaths and injuries on our roadways,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “These funds will allow us to build on the success we’ve seen in past campaigns that combined tough laws, strong enforcement and ongoing public awareness efforts,” Strickland added.

As we’ve written, recent studies found that safe texting when driving is not possible. Also, a 2011, national, anonymous survey, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), revealed that 58 percent of the high school senior students and 43 percent of the high school juniors surveyed admitted to having texted or emailed on their devices while driving—in just the prior month, said the Associated Press (AP). Some prior studies suggest that teen texting when driving was common, but did not reveal that the practice was as high as it is, said the AP.

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