Sneak Preview: GAO Encourages Motorcycle Safety Grant Flexibility

December 13, 2012 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

(The following was excerpted from an article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) To help states develop more ways to reduce motorcycle crashes and fatalities, the Government Accountability Office has asked Congress to allow states to use the motorcyclist safety grants for purposes other than motorcyclist training and raising driver awareness of motorcycles, the current priorities, to expanded priorities such as helmet safety, impaired driving and licensing, including a promising practice of graduated licensing for teens.

According to the Department of Transportation, of the estimated 5.4 million motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. in 2010, less than 1percent resulted in at least one fatality, while almost 5 percent of the 95,000 motorcycle crashes in 2010 resulted in at least one fatality. From 1991 to 2010, the number of fatalities resulting from passenger vehicle crashes decreased, while the number of motorcyclist fatalities increased by almost 60 percent.

In 2005, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) established a $25 million Motorcyclist Safety Grant program to encourage states to reduce the number of motorcycle crashes and the fatalities that result. To be eligible to receive the grant, a state had to implement a statewide training program for motorcycle riders and an awareness program for motorists. In July 2012, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) authorized continued funding for these grants at about half the SAFETEA-LU level through the end of fiscal year 2014.

Because Motorcyclist Safety Grants program funds may only be used for motorcyclist training and driver awareness, states may use other sources of funding, including funds from the State and Community Highway Safety Grant program, for motorcycle safety efforts. However, some state officials told GAO that they were reluctant to use State and Community Highway Safety Grant funds for that purpose because doing so would reduce the amount available for other safety priorities, such as teen driver safety, aggressive and distracted driving and safety belt enforcement.

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