Feds Offer $5B for Better Road Safety Ideas as Death Rate Rises

The money comes ahead of an expected report showing road deaths are again on the rise.

byAaron ColeMay 17, 2022 1:58 PM
An officer walks past a car involved in a fatal crash
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky. File
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United States Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Monday the federal government would offer up to $5 billion in the coming years to local governments to promote safer roads amid soaring fatalities on roadways in 2021. The money, part of an infrastructure package signed into law last year, comes ahead of an expected report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing a steep increase in fatal crashes, including pedestrians.

In February, the NHTSA outlined an early estimate of roadway fatalities from Jan. 1, 2021, to Sept. 31, 2021, and projected a 12 percent increase year-over-year from the same period in 2020. Transportation safety officials estimated 31,720 people were killed in the first nine months of 2021, the most for the first three quarters of any year since 2006. The increase in fatal crashes largely mirrors the same increase in miles traveled over the same timeframe; vehicle miles traveled in the first three quarters of 2021 increased by nearly 12 percent over 2020.

Nonetheless, federal officials said the rise in fatalities prompted the response and money needed to improve infrastructure to drive down roadway deaths. Public transportation upgrades, dedicated bike lanes, and bigger sidewalks are potential ideas for the money. Additionally, transportation officials have pointed to rumble strips, turn lanes, vehicle-to-infrastructure technology, and speed safety cameras as additional measures the federal money could fund.

The latter could be controversial for many drivers. Although red-light enforcement cameras remain controversial for their cost and efficacy, speed cameras on highways have shown more promise at preventing crashes with serious injuries or fatalities, according to the Centers for Disease Control. (Drivers still don't like them.)

“I’m convinced that we can use this moment, this urgent and troubling moment, as a pivot point,” Buttigieg said, according to ABC News. “We are out to fund whatever is going to go most directly toward reducing crashes and saving lives so we can change the trajectory of road safety in this decade.”

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