On Nov. 5, the U.S. Congress passed the Biden administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), ushering in a host of new roadway safety provisions and what experts believe will be a new chapter in reducing and ultimately eliminating traffic fatalities, which have been on the rise in recent years.
The bipartisan infrastructure initiative will not only provide a massive infusion of funding into highway safety, but also make improvements to federal programs to streamline the implementation of life-saving efforts in the states.
Essentially, the bill gives states access to substantially more federal grant funds to stop dangerous driving and improve safety infrastructure. Congress has eased requirements to allow more states to qualify for federal safety grants and authorized the use of federal funds for a wider array of safety initiatives. The act also cuts federal red tape that continues to hinder safety programs.
The U.S. Department of Transportation will soon begin implementing the safety provisions in the Act, including initiating new rulemakings on federal grant programs, requiring passive alcohol detection technology, and the implementation of the Safe System approach in roadway design.
Additional safety measures spelled out in the Act include prioritizing safe mobility for all roadway users such as pedestrians and cyclists; supporting automated enforcement in roadway work zones; improving crash data collection overall, including support for near real-time crash reporting and incorporating the National EMS Information System more fully into crash reporting; and, adding policy-substance impaired driving and the presences of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to crash reporting documentation, to name just a few.
The legislation also aims to establish minimum performance standards for life-saving ADAS technology, update the New Car Assessment Program to include more safety features, and study rural roads and strategies to boost safety for all users.
Safety advocates praised the new act. The Governor’s Highway Safety Administration thanked the Biden administration, members of Congress and congressional staff “for their commitment to reversing traffic crash trends.” The National Safety Council (NSC) said it is “thrilled” with the passing of the bill, which it views as “a much-needed step forward in improving safety for all roadway users in the United States.”
An estimated 42,000 people lost their lives in roadway fatalities in 2020, and another 21,000 in the first six months of 2021, according to NSC data.