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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 18, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, I today I am introducing legislation that aims to reduce traffic-related pedestrian fatalities in Native American communities while also improving public health and quality of life.

First, let's be clear. Everyone in this country deserves reliable options to travel safely from one place to another. Everyone deserves roads that connect us to each other and expand our horizons. But the sad truth is that not everyone in this country has safe, reliable roads that foster connections and expand horizons. That is especially true in Native American communities.

The adverse statistics surrounding the safety and health of Indigenous peoples are staggering. Vehicle-related unintentional injury is the No. 1 cause of death among American Indians and Alaska Natives aged 1 through 44. It is also the third overall cause of death for all American Indians and Alaska Natives, of any age or gender.

While unsafe roadways put lives at risk, inadequate or unreliable transportation options create obstacles for everyday life, making it more difficult to simply access healthy groceries, schools, quality health care, emergency services and economic opportunities. Immobility for individuals within Indian Country reinforces barriers to education, quality healthcare, and economic opportunity.

Meanwhile, Native American communities face disproportionately higher prevalence of diabetes and other heart disease. In fact, American Indian and Alaska Natives are more than twice more likely than non- Hispanic White Americans to die from diabetes. Cardiovascular disease is the primary cause of mortalities for Native Americans under the age of 65. While exercise can help to lower the risks associated with chronic heart disease, throughout Indian Country, there are few safe options for walking, running and bicycling.

The sad truth is that decades of Federal underinvestment in transportation infrastructure has contributed to disproportionately higher rates of road traffic fatalities and poor public health outcomes in Indian Country. Unsafe, unreliable and inadequate transportation infrastructure is exacerbating a public safety crisis, worsening public health, and degrading quality of life.

Investments in infrastructure that improve safety and expand opportunity for nonmotorized forms of transportation--such as sidewalks, bicycle infrastructure, and pedestrian and bicycle signals-- can help to prevent more road traffic fatalities and also combat the prevalence of chronic health disparities that exist throughout Native American communities. To that end, the Promoting Access to Tribal Health, Wellbeing and Youth Safety Act would create a new grant program at the U.S. Department of Transportation to dedicate new resources for pedestrian-related infrastructure and improve pedestrian infrastructure throughout Indian Country. The legislation will also authorize $25 million annually for these critical projects.

By improving pedestrian infrastructure across Tribal communities, we can save lives while improving health outcomes and quality of life in Tribal communities.

I would like to thank my colleagues, Senator Feinstein, Senator Tester, Senator Heinrich, and Senator Warren, for joining me to introduce this legislation. As we celebrate National Native American Heritage Month, I look forward to working with my colleagues on this issue. Together we can improve the safety and health of Indigenous peoples across the Nation. ______


S. 4915. A bill to establish the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative within the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and for other purposes; to the Committee on the Judiciary.