A Primer on NHTSA’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Dollars

When we talk about federal transportation dollars in this space, we most often focus on the Transportation Alternatives Program, since it has a strong focus on funding Safe Routes to School programs and bicycling and walking infrastructure.

However, there are other federal funding streams that can help address safety issues. Two of those are the 402 and 405 grants administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA has just issued its new rules for how these programs work, incorporating changes from the FAST Act, so we thought it would be a good time to review these programs.

woman on bike

Section 402 money is called the State and Community Highway Safety Grant Program. These dollars are available to every state to improve a range of safety issues, including bicycle and pedestrian safety. The amount of funding states get ranges from $2 million in smaller states to $25 million in large states. 

Section 405 funds are called the National Priority Safety Programs – these are areas in which Congress has set aside money for states with safety issues that need special attention, such as impaired driving or motorcycle safety.  The FAST Act added bicycle and pedestrian safety as one of those priorities, so now there is approximately $14 million available to split up among states where more than 15 percent of traffic fatalities are bicyclists and pedestrians. (You can do the calculations yourself using the FARS data for 2013; the states currently meeting that criteria to be eligible for funding are: AK, AZ, CA, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IL, LA, MA, MD, MI, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OR, PA, PR, RI, TX, UT, WA *Note: The list of states has been updated since publishing. NHTSA is using 2013 data to determine which states are eligible, not the 2014 data we had used in our initial calculation. Italicized states are eligible this year but were not in our initial list, and states with a strikethrough will likely be eligible next year, but are not eligible this year). These funds must be used to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety through training law enforcement officials on relevant laws, enforcement mobilization to enforce relevant laws, and public education or awareness campaigns to educate people about relevant traffic laws.

There are some key differences to the 402 and 405 funds from the TAP grants:

  • These funds are used by your State Highway Safety Office – which is often a different office or agency than the one that administers TAP. 
  • They can only fund non-infrastructure approaches, such as public education campaigns or enforcement efforts.
  • State Highway Safety Offices (SHSO) apply by July 1 of each year for their share of the 402 and 405 money.
  • Each state’s SHSO develops a Highway Safety Plan every year to guide how they will use their 402 and 405 money to improve the state’s safety issues. (The plans for all states are posted here: http://www.nhtsa.gov/links/statedocs/pages/SafetyPlans.htm).
  • While Highway Safety Plans have had performance measures included for several years, SHSOs must also now consider how their efforts will help their state meet its overall new safety performance goals (which includes a measure to reduce bicycle and pedestrian fatalities).

This is a good time to review your state’s most recent Highway Safety Plan to see how it addresses bicycle and pedestrian safety, and follow up with your state’s SHSO to learn about opportunities for public input into the 2017 Highway Safety Plan. These funds are yet another tool to help create a safer environment throughout your state for bicyclists and pedestrians, as long as advocates engage with the process!