The push to make American roads safer has received its fair share of help from the federal government, thanks to a robust program of highway safety grants that allow state governments to bolster distracted-driving-prevention programs, install ignition interlocks on the vehicles of first-time drunk drivers and build a more comprehensive graduated licensing system for new drivers.

Oh, wait. That didn't happen? Only five states were eligible for grant money? What's going on here?

With the best intentions in mind, federal safety regulators and safety advocacy groups have gone so bananas in writing the requirements that states must fulfill to access millions in federal funding, in three different highway safety grants, that the overwhelming majority of states have simply passed on the money altogether.

"Incentives should encourage states to reach for the next level in improving their highway safety laws, not be so unreasonable that qualification is impossible," Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, told USA Today. "As written now, the incentives have had little to no impact at improving highway safety."

The grants were hampered by stringent requirements and a short, two-year time frame, which the GHSA blames on their failure.

Of the three programs, the ignition interlock grant, which is backed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was the most "successful," with four states qualifying for funds. Other states, where ignition interlocks are required on the vehicles of second- and third-time drunk drivers, were excluded.

The distracted driving grant, meanwhile, saw one state take home $2.3 million in funds. Connecticut was able to institute a program that satisfied the requirements, delivering an increasing scale of fines for distracted driving while also including distracted driving sections of the state's licensing exams.

Not a single state, meanwhile, qualified for the graduated licensing program grant. That $13.6 million prize required that states, among other things, not issue a full, unrestricted license until a driver is 18 years of age.

While it's hard to argue with the fact that the measures dictated by the grants wouldn't improve overall road safety, as Adkins told USA Today, the grants "were a good idea that went wrong. They are so complicated and convoluted that in most cases it is extremely difficult to understand what a state needs to do to qualify."


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  • 31 Comments
      Michaele
      • 4 Months Ago
      Some of you trying to turn this into Republican vs Democrat and politics need to get a life. This is a government bureaucracy issue. These highway grant rules were bipartisan legislation. The mess is not political, it's governmental. Eat your politics. They have zero calories so it will help you loss weight.
        lasertekk
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Michaele
        I concur with a post below about the bureaucracy being a direct result of the special interests involved (I believe MADD was quoted as one of the guilty parties). Special interests guide (and own) government.
      Kuro Houou
      • 4 Months Ago
      The problem is these laws are trying to get 50 different states to do one thing, its nearly impossible. They all have their own ideas like they are little countries. Imagine trying to get every country in the EU to agree on something.. it would be just as hard probably.
        Andrew
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Kuro Houou
        Actually, the problem here is that the Federal government should not be taxing people just to dangle the money in front of the states requiring them to jump through hoops to get the tax money back. The feds should cut all taxes that are generating these funds and the states should be taxing their citizens to fix their own roads.
          Daniel D
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Andrew
          Because a national transport plan isn't important anymore?
        Pj Taintz
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Kuro Houou
        which is exactly how it should be
        Rick C.
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Kuro Houou
        Difficult yes, but not impossible.
      Neez
      • 4 Months Ago
      Stuck between a rock and a hard place. What good are monies set aside to make the roads safer, when no one can use them???
        WindsWilling
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Neez
        This was clearly done in such a way so the feds were able to say "hey, we were putting out money, not all the states wanted it".
      jesscott
      • 4 Months Ago
      No, the problem here is governmental retardation. There is money available for safety programs.......why do states have to do anything more than a 1 or 2 page application form? Answer: because there are literally hundreds of thousands of do nothing government workers all trying to justify their miserable existence on the backs of the taxpayers. This is just more proof that the government has all the money it needs to run things but can't do anything in a simple efficient manner. Less centralized federal government is the only answer
        Rick C.
        • 4 Months Ago
        @jesscott
        No, the problem here is all the special interests (like MAD, read the story for once) that weaseled their way into a position of power.
        Sanchez
        • 4 Months Ago
        @jesscott
        I wonder if they snuck a 55 MPH speed limit into the requirements again...
      Sanchez
      • 4 Months Ago
      Just another fail. Get the federal government out of this and keep the money with the taxpayers.
      Winnie Jenkems
      • 4 Months Ago
      These programs themselves are stupid. MADD is just another special interest group, and ignition interlocks for first time offenders is costly and draconian. The licensing age is 16, not 18. And can someone please explain to me why Connecticut needs $2.3 million to raise their fines and rewrite a section of the driver's exam?
      jebibudala
      • 4 Months Ago
      The truth is that the Federal government would rather re-allocate these funds to social programs.
      Cool Disco Dan
      • 4 Months Ago
      States should just stop sending money to DC and keep it in state then spend it where needed instead of begging like a beaten dog for table scraps.
      T. C.
      • 4 Months Ago
      The problem is, because Republikan governors like Chris Christie and Scott Walker, along with Republikan legislatures, cannot be trusted not to steal the money for their own partisan purposes, the qualification requirements must be made very stringent.
        jesscott
        • 4 Months Ago
        @T. C.
        what?
          T. C.
          • 4 Months Ago
          @jesscott
          @jesscott Chris Christie used outdated, inaccurate data to justify killing a new rail tunnel between NJ and NY (btw, he knew the numbers were bad, but they served his purpose). He then misdirected the federal money from that mass-transit project into the state fund for highway repair, just to preserve his "conservative" bona fides for not raising the gas tax, thus preserving his presidential hopes (fwiw, NJ has one of the lowest gas tax rates in the country).
        Michaele
        • 4 Months Ago
        @T. C.
        Keep your personal politics where they belong - out of here. The problem is people who think like you do and think they are so witty and insightful. You support political solutions to real world problems and that's a guaranteed recipe for disaster. And the "k" in Republicans? Give me a break. You are just a different flavor of the same politics you seem to rip into.
        mitytitywhitey
        • 4 Months Ago
        @T. C.
        John McCain was calling for an end to pork and a reduction in spending, which was completely ignored when the Dems had all 3 branches. REPUBLICANS are repeatedly more likely to vote for a BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT, and for voting down pay raises for congresspeople. You don't seem to know what the parties are doing in Congress, but you've been brainwashed to come up with fake excuses to hate Republicans.
          Michaele
          • 4 Months Ago
          @mitytitywhitey
          That's pretty funny considering the expansion of spending under Republican leadership of the House. Your mighty whiteys are a bit too tight dude. You have no idea what the truth is in Washington. You are exactly what both parties depend on - someone who latches on to buzzwords, falls for marketing campaigns and allows their emotions to rule common sense. Your boys have repeatedly give away the farm. You just prefer government welfare that goes to the 1% and corporations. You actually buy into that BS that Republicans are about helping people and the middle class. Both parties give the taxpayer's money away. You just prefer the way Republicans waste it as compared to how the Democrats do it.
          summazooma
          • 4 Months Ago
          @mitytitywhitey
          Ha--- that's a good one... I missed SNL last night; is this from last night's show? McCain and "special interest" should be listed as synonyms. He had more miles on Keating (from Lincoln Savings)'s personal plane that he qualified as a Platinum flyer... and, btw, "Joe the Plumber" is Keating's nephew... McCain calls an end to pork... that's rich.
          Darren McLellan
          • 4 Months Ago
          @mitytitywhitey
          The BBA is a joke and a cover for congresscritters to not do their job. It is not needed.
        Sanchez
        • 4 Months Ago
        @T. C.
        If you're indicating that Republicans (you misspelled it) and Democrats are really different in terms of spending and centralization of power, I can only assume you are employing sarcasm. Well done, then.
      delsolo1
      • 4 Months Ago
      I put my trust in the federal government rather than the state.
      axton72op8
      • 4 Months Ago
      so the money is there, states just can't figure out how to qualify for it?
      P.F. Bruns
      • 4 Months Ago
      It seems like a smart state governor who wanted to look good to his or her constituents would 1) lobby to get the standards for these programs simplified; and 2) hire people specifically qualified to cut red tape (widthwise, not lengthwise). This would not only bring taxpayer dollars back to their state, but create jobs. And good roads are a benefit to all. Anyone who buys anything relies on road shipping at some point. Same with rail.
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