Highway Safety Commission reviews strategies
The Idaho Highway Safety Commission met in Boise May 12 to review strategies for the coming fiscal year that are designed to reduce traffic deaths and serious injuries. The meeting followed the annual Highway Safety Summit that brought together approximately 185 people from throughout the state to discuss safety issues.
Established by state law, the traffic safety commission provides direction and guidance to ITD’s Office of Highway Operations and Safety (OHOS), which administers federal grants and develops and administers programs to promote safe travel on Idaho’s roads.
The comprehensive safety plan seeks to reduce deaths from traffic crashes to 168 by year 2012, a goal established by the Governor’s Highway Safety Summit in 2005. Unofficially, there were 252 crash-related deaths in 2007, said Highway Safety Manager Mary Hunter.
Traffic safety commission members meet at least twice annually – in October to review strategies to help OHOS address highway safety problems. The OHOS office accepts and evaluates grant applications from organizations throughout Idaho in January and February and then incorporates the projects into the annual Strategic Highway Safety Plan which is then reviewed and approved during the May meeting.
That plan becomes part of ITD’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan that is submitted to the transportation board in August and to the regional office of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for federal funds.
ITD allocated approximately $1.8 million in grant funds for fiscal year 2009, Hunter said.
Only two states receive fewer funds than Idaho for administering highway traffic safety programs – Maine and New Hampshire. Idaho is disqualified from federal funding in several categories because of relatively lax highway safety laws, Hunter explains. Failure to wear a seat belt remains a secondary offense, which means police officers cannot stop drivers solely for not wearing a seat belt. Violations carry only a $10 fine.
Idaho focuses on three major approaches to improve highway safety, Hunter said: seat belt use, impaired driving and aggressive driving.
In addition to the review of the FY09 highway safety plan, agenda items for the daylong commission meeting included:
Hunter also reviewed several national highway safety issues, including a rating of states’ laws by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the use of seat belts on school buses.