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Only 7 States Qualified for Federal Funds to Prevent Distracted Driving

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Distracted driver

The driver in this photo writes:
“I am SO busted! I was trying to figure out how to get to somewhere with my gps on my phone. I definitely won’t do THAT anymore!”

Only seven states and Guam qualified for federal grants to help prevent distracted driving, and Adam Snider reports for Politico’s Morning Transportation (MT) that it will only get harder for states to qualify for such grants next year. Thirty-eight states had applied for these first-time 405(e) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) grants, Larry Copeland writes for USA TODAY.

As GHSA shows on a chart, the NHTSA awarded a total of $5.6 million to Arkansas ($755,644), Georgia ($1,630,134), Maine ($459,082), Minnesota ($1,224,866), North Dakota ($459,082), Rhode Island ($459,082), West Virginia ($459,082), and Guam ($153,027).

Snider writes:

Jonathan Adkins of the Governors Highway Safety Association told MT that the current round was supposed to be the ‘easy’ one to qualify for and that the group expects ‘far fewer’ to qualify for the FY 2014 round due to stricter rules. ‘Our expectation for FY 2013 was that if a state had a primary texting law, they would qualify. That obviously didn’t happen,’ Adkins said.

The federal law disqualified states for a variety of reasons, Copeland writes, including that:

  • The texting laws in some states ban texting only on cellphones and not on other devices capable of texting;
  • Some state laws don’t ban texting while a driver is stopped, like at a red light, whereas Congress’s definition of driving in this bill includes when a vehicle is temporarily not in motion;
  • The definition of “texting” in some states applies to “Short Message Service” (SMS) texting, but not to such things as surfing the Web while behind the wheel.

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association writes the following about the Section 405(e): Distracted Driving grant program:

8.5% of Section 405 funds are earmarked for distracted driving incentive grants. States must enact and enforce a prohibition on texting as well as a ban of the use of all electronic devices for all drivers aged 18 and younger, plus additional requirements. In the first fiscal year, 25% of this tier is available to states that have a primary texting ban for all drivers that was enacted prior to July 6, 2012. Eligible states can use 50% of the funds for Section 402 purposes and 50% for distracted driving purposes. $5 million of these funds are earmarked for a national media campaign on distracted driving.

This blog contacted NHTSA to ask if Colorado was one of the states that applied yet did not receive a grant, but a spokeswoman there (Kathryn Henry) could not answer the question. She referred us to the Colorado Department of Transportation, but their person who would know the answer [Emily Wilfong] was not in today.


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