FY 1997, was devoted to financing state programs authorized under Section 402 of the Highway Safety Act. The largest single program is the "Section 402 State and Community Formula Grants," which support performance-based highway safety programs planned and managed by states in order to reduce highway crashes, deaths, and injuries. Formula grants for state programs under Section 402 are similar to block grants in that they are awarded on the basis of a state's population and public road mileage in relation to national figures. In FY 1997, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) merged its Section 402 highway-related safety grant program with NHTSA's Section 402 traffic safety grant program and the resulting State and Community Formula Grants Program is now administered by NHTSA. From 1992 to 1998, a total of $887 million was allocated to the states.

NHTSA also funds incentive grants to states, including Alcohol Incentive Grants, which enable states to reduce safety problems related to driving while impaired by alcohol.2 In comparison to formula grants, states are eligible for alcohol grants only if they have met specific criteria, such as administrative driver license actions, graduated licensing systems, and sanctions for repeat offenders. These funds are used to encourage states to enact strong, effective anti-drunk driving legislation; improve enforcement of drunk driving laws; and promote the development and implementation of innovative programs to combat impaired driving. In 1997, 38 states received a total of $25.5 million for this program.


NHTSA conducts a research program on vehicle and traffic safety. Its traffic safety research—funded at approximately $6 million annually—focuses on behavioral research and emphasizes alcohol and drugs, occupant protection, and driver fatigue and inattention. Vehicle safety research, the larger of the two research programs—funded at about $30 million annually—stresses crashworthiness (biomechanics, air-bag and occupant safety); crash avoidance (directional control, braking, rollover stability, and intelligent transportation systems); high fuel efficiency vehicles; and crash testing in an in-house facility.

NHTSA supports its research largely through contracts, although some research is performed internally (TRB, 1990). Contracts are awarded competitively after publication of a request for proposals (RFP) and a structured internal review process according to published criteria (unless contracts are sole source). Contract recipients are typically either private firms or universities. NHTSA does not sponsor investigator-initiated research through an extramural grant program, with the exception of one program on intelligent transportation systems. NHTSA also does not sponsor a formal research training program.


In FY 1998, alcohol grants were consolidated under the Section 402 program.

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