Washington (Houston), we have a problem.
It was a sunny afternoon in July 2014. I had just been invited to join Senator Klobuchar at a media event. What an honor! At the event, she was to announce details of a bill she was going to introduce in the US Senate with Senator John Hoeven, her Republican colleague from North Dakota.
OK, so why was I excited about this bill, you may ask?
Here is the take. Senator Klobuchar noted that states, including Minnesota and North Dakota were unable to qualify for much needed federal dollars allocated for distracted driving and teen safety in past years. In fact two years ago only Connecticut received funding and majority of the funds were left unused.
The disappointed senator wanted to know why? She dug-in and found out that the criteria was so stringent that states could get the money only after implementing a set of specified initiatives. And, there was an irony that there was no way for the states like Minnesota to qualify for partial funding even after satisfying part of the criteria.
Senator Klobuchar resolved to do something about it. The very first thing she did was to sent out an alert to her senate colleagues which stated:
“Washington (Houston), we have a problem.”
(Sorry Tom Hanks, for stealing your lines and, Senator for the gross misquote.)
So, at the July 2014 media event Senator Klobuchar announced that she was going to introduce an amendment to allow funding on a more reasonable graduated qualification scale. It would enable states to receive funding and get recognized for instituting safe driving laws and educational programs over a five-year period. It was challenging but feasible goal to achieve.
After close to two years of negotiations, Senator Klobuchar succeeded in getting the following provisions associated with driver safety in the long-term transportation bill signed by President Obama on December 3.
- Distracted Driving: The program is intended to award funding to states that are taking steps to curb distracted driving, The provision makes modifications to the grant requirements that are preventing many states from qualifying and would help ensure that more states are able to access critical funding for enforcement and public education to help keep our roadways safe.
- Teen Driver Safety: The provision promotes teen driver safety by making necessary changes to help more states qualify for federal Graduated Driver Licensing incentive grants. Currently, no states qualify for these grants. The Graduated Driver License programs have proven effective at reducing the crash risk of new drivers by introducing teens to the driving experience gradually, phasing in full driving privileges over time in lower risk settings, and learning to eliminate distractions that cause crashes.
Keep it up senator!! We are blessed to have you fight for us.
You may get details by visiting Senator Klobuchar’s web site: http://www.klobuchar.senate.gov/