Highway Safety Grant Program Achieves Limited Success

CED-81-16: Published: Oct 15, 1980. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 1980.

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In 13 years, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has spent nearly $1.3 billion in Federal grant funds to help carry out State highway safety programs designed to reduce traffic accidents, deaths, injuries, and property damage.

GAO found that the Highway Safety Grant Program has addressed a multitude of safety activities that may not have been the most effective, because of the changing, and sometimes conflicting, directions from legislation, DOT, and the States. This situation is further complicated because few highway safety projects have yet been shown to have a positive or lasting effect on accident reductions. Conversely, many measures that are believed to contribute significantly to highway safety have not been implemented, or have been implemented incompletely, inefficiently, or only temporarily by the States.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Should Congress decide to retain the safety grant program in a more efficient manner, it could be funded directly through the State highway safety agencies. Establishing a directly funded grant program would eliminate many of the burdensome administrative requirements that are now part of the safety program. At the same time, however, Federal oversight of the spending of funds would be weakened. Detailed NHTSA and FHWA assistance would not be needed, but general program criteria to guide the spending of funds could be provided in the legislation.

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress could decide to discontinue the safety grant program. Since 1975-76, when the lowest fatality and fatality rate reductions were achieved, annual losses have climbed despite a dramatic increase in Federal funding. In the last two years, fatalities have exceeded the level reached before the safety grant program began. Under this alternative, Congress would need to amend the Highway Safety Act of 1966 to eliminate the safety grant program funded under section 402.

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Should Congress decide to retain the Safety grant program under DOT's administration, the program's effectiveness could be improved by strengthening DOT's leadership role and administrative authority. This alternative, however, would limit State safety agencies' ability to spend Federal funds for practically any safety-related projected.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should develop a plan that outlines what safety evaluations will be performed to determine the effectiveness of funded activities and establish a method for coordinating those evaluations among State safety agencies to avoid duplicating efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should establish criteria that describe how much problem identification and data analysis the States need to address their safety problems and to evaluate results.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should work with State safety agencies to ensure that the criteria are followed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should establish a method for disseminating successful as well as unsuccessful project evaluation results among all State safety agencies and require that these results be considered before funding future safety projects.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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