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News State / Region Local law enforcement receive funding through Governor's Highway Safety Program

As part of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program grant, Macon County Sheriff’s Office was able to create a traffic safety position. The grant covers the position’s salary, as well as all equipment including a new patrol car.Both the Franklin Police Department and the Macon County Sheriff's Department have received funding from the North Carolina Governor's Highway Safety Program for the 2013 year. The Governor's Highway Safety Program is dedicated to promoting highway safety awareness with the intent of reducing the number of traffic crashes and fatalities in the state of North Carolina through the planning and execution of safety programs. Each year, the program prepares a Highway Safety Plan as a guide for the state's federally funded safety activities.

Last week, county commissioners approved a local matching grant in the amount of $19,328 based on a 70/30 split to allow the sheriff's office $45,099 in federal dollars for a Governor's Highway Safety grant renewal.

The county's grant is to be used for a Traffic Safety Project Contract in the amount of $64,427 to fund the Traffic Safety Officer position currently held by Deputy Jonathan Phillips.

The grant is a four-year project to fund the position. The first year of the federal grant covered 85 percent or $103,033 for the position, with a 15 percent or $18,182 local match. Next year, the grant will be split equally between local and federal dollars with the year after that the responsibility falling solely on the county.

Through Macon County's relationship with the Governor's Highway Safety Program and the Traffic Safety Project, the sheriff's office has not only been able to create a new position with a paid salary, the grant also covered the cost of equipment such as a new patrol vehicle and other expenses to secure the position.

"We have a responsibility to utilize all resources available to us to protect the citizens of Macon County," said Sheriff Robbie Holland. "The Governor's Highway Safety Program allows us to earn points through their safety programs that we can cash in for dollars. Those dollars are taxpayer dollars that we are able to bring back to Macon County. If we didn't apply for those funds, our taxpayer dollars would be given to other agencies in the state."

The Franklin Police Department made a request to the board of aldermen last Monday to apply for a grant from the Governor’s Highway Safety Grant Program. This will be the first time that the FPD has applied for a grant from the program. Captain Steve Apel approached the board to explain the need for the grant request.

“The traffic safety equipment is what we are trying to get the grant for,” said Apel. “Part of it would go to a generator to run the big spot lights used at traffic check points. There would also be approved cones and a sign package. Basically warning signs of the checkpoint ahead, prepare to stop. It makes our officers safer on the road and it helps us get those individuals who are drinking and driving or other things off of the road.”

According to Town Manager Warren Cabe, it is a 100 percent funded grant, but the town has to pay for it up front and then it will be reimbursed. The grant request will be for a sum of $14,200. The department has submitted a letter of intent and was required to get approval from the town board which it did by unanimous approval at the meeting.

Governor's Highway Safety Program

Following the passage of the Highway Safety Act of 1966 by Congress, the North Carolina General Assembly introduced legislation in 1967 to empower the governor to contract with the United States Department of Transportation to secure funding that would be delegated through the Governor's Highway Safety Program.

The Highway Safety Act of 1966 provided that each state is required to have a highway safety program approved by the United States Secretary of Transportation designed to reduce traffic crashes, and the resulting deaths, injuries and property damage. The new legislation designated that at least 40 percent of the federal funds apportioned to the state must be expended to benefit local highway safety activities and that the Governor shall be responsible for the administration of the program through the state agency.

North Carolina has 105,317 miles of roadway which includes 1,140 miles of interstate highways and 69,450 miles of rural roads.

According to former Governor Beverly Perdue's fiscal year 2013 Governor's Highway Safety Program Highway Safety Plan, in addition to reductions in overall fatalities, many other traffic safety indicators have seen substantial improvements since 2011 including:

  • Seven percent decrease in unrestrained passenger vehicle occupant fatalities from 412 to 382.
  • Thirteen percent decrease of speed-related fatalities from 383 to 355.
  • Fifteen percent decrease in the number of drivers age 20 or younger involved in fatal crashes from 193 to 165.

Citing the importance of continuing the program, the report showed that not all areas improved as the number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities increased in 2011, even though the overall trend from the past several years previously showed a gradual decline in these fatalities.

The Governor's Highway Safety Program implements programs throughout the year for local agencies to partake in to be eligible for funding through the program. State programs such as the “Booze it & Lose It” campaign, “No Need to Speed,” and “Click it or Ticket,” are a few of the programs developed by the Governor's Highway Safety Program.

This year, North Carolina celebrates the 20th anniversary of “Click It or Ticket,” the nation’s first seat belt safety campaign. That celebration continues with the release of the state’s 2013 seat belt survey numbers. The Governor’s Highway Safety Program shows 88.6 percent of North Carolinians are buckling up – a 1.1 percent increase from the 2012 survey.

“This is a strong step forward for highway safety in our state,” said Don Nail, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program.

“It’s a testament that high visibility enforcement combined with our ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign work, and we’re saving lives as a result.”

A successful public awareness campaign ran in conjunction with “Click It or Ticket” enforcement. The Governor’s Highway Safety Program produced and aired a new public service announcement, “The Sound of Safety,” on television and radio stations statewide. It was also viewed 2,100 times on YouTube and downloaded by 24 cable access stations.

Social media was another vital component in reaching the target demographic of 18-34 year olds. The Governor’s Highway Safety Program asked citizens to snap a picture of themselves buckled up while parked – called a “#SafetySelfie” – and share it on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Gov. Pat McCrory, NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata and media personalities comprise some of the 60 participants who shared their “#Safety- Selfie.” In all, the interactive effort reached 1.8 million people on social media.

Stepped-up enforcement, education and the public awareness campaign together made a positive impact on seat belt usage, especially in Columbus County. It saw the biggest improvement – jumping to 90.7 percent this year from 77.9 percent in 2012.

Caldwell and Catawba counties had the highest seat belt usage at 93.8 percent. Mecklenburg County had a seat belt usage rate of 93.4 percent, with Wake County at 88.3 percent. Robeson County had the lowest seat belt usage rate at 82.2 percent.

Female drivers buckled up more often at a rate of 92.4 percent while 87.9 percent of men clicked their seat belts. The youngest drivers on North Carolina highways, ages 16-24, buckled up the least at 85.5 percent.

The annual seat belt survey was conducted throughout the month of June at 120 sites in 15 counties across the state. Trained spotters observed driver and front seat passengers of stopped or nearly stopped vehicles. Observation data was collected during rush hours (weekdays between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. or 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.), nonrush hours (weekdays between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.) and on weekends (Saturday or Sunday between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.). The Research Triangle Institute certified the survey results last week.

The Research Triangle Institute selects counties that offer a representative sample of North Carolina, based on a variety of criteria including county size and fatality rate.

Through participation in programs like “Click It or Ticket,” local agencies like Franklin Police Department and Macon County Sheriff's Office, are able to apply for grants for specific projects and department improvements that coincide with the Governor's Highway Safety Plan.


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