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A stronger, safer transportation future for Indian Country

A stronger, safer transportation future for Indian Country

At DOT, we’re committed to ensuring that everyone who needs a ride to earn a paycheck, attend school, see the doctor, or buy groceries has that opportunity – whether they live in an urban center, a rural community, or on tribal land.

That’s why I was pleased to speak to the National Tribal Transportation Conference in Prior Lake, Minnesota, about the Obama Administration’s strong commitment to improving tribal transportation resources and safety.

Photo of NHTSA Administrator Strickland at Tribal Transportation event

Transportation is the backbone of the economy, driving growth, creating jobs, and providing more livable communities. So we are committed to investing in transportation infrastructure and safety across the U.S. and in all tribal communities. 

But these investments deliver so much more than asphalt roads and steel rails. They connect people to ladders of opportunity.

And that kind of connectedness is what we seek for tribal lands and rural communities. Smart transportation investments, targeted where they are needed most, help communities thrive.

Photo of Sitka Tribe transit vehicles

Over the last four years, we’ve worked hard to support better, safer roads and bridges on tribal lands:

  • Through the Recovery Act, we provided $310 million for more than 500 projects. 
  • Through the Federal Highway Administration, we’ve provided nearly $1.5 billion to tribes for roads and bridges. 
  • Last December, the FTA provided $15.5 million for 72 tribes to maintain or expand transit options while improving safety. 
  • And across the five rounds of the TIGER grant program, tribal projects have received almost $80 million in funding.

In addition to partnering with tribal communities to deliver transportation improvements that create jobs and foster opportunity, we’re also committed to improving safety.

Today, seat belt use nationwide is 86 percent. Yet among Native Americans, that number drops to 68.5 percent.

In 2011, 55 percent of passengers killed in a car crash were unrestrained. But among Native Americans, a full two-thirds of those killed were unrestrained at the time of the crash.

Safety enforcement in rural America and tribal lands will always present challenges different from those we find in more densely populated communities.  But by working together to influence behavior, we can still make a real difference and save lives.

At NHTSA, we’re working with other federal partners to offer more coordinated programs and resources to support tribal traffic safety and injury prevention efforts. 

And we’re working together to extend law enforcement’s presence in rural communities so they can more effectively keep intoxicated drivers off the road.

DOT’s commitment to improving economic opportunity and safety for native communities across the country is as strong as ever, and we look forward to helping tribes pave a pathway to safer, more prosperous futures for their communities.

David Strickland is Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Photo of Lummi pedestrian bridge

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