By Shelia Dunn, NMA Communications Director
I have been writing and curating this blog for the past two years and believe the content that we bring forth from our archives, guest posts, and new information is relevant to what is happening with motorists’ rights today.
Every now and then, I will be writing a different type of post on the Driving in America blog that is not exactly a roundup, but rather a way to bring trending stories that may not be as intense as automated ticket and surveillance stories (Find these Mondays on the weekly NMA Ticket Cam Alert USA Blog) and road diet stories (Find these Wednesdays on the new weekly Keep the US Moving Blog).
Let us know what you think by commenting below.
Trending Stories of Interest from the Past Several Weeks:
Y2K 20 years late: Parking Meters across New York City stopped accepting credit cards at the dawn of the New Year and decade. Apparently, they were not programmed to accept credit cards beyond 2019. On January 7th, the NY Post ran a story that said the city’s DOT workers had to go through all 14,000 meters one by one to fix the software glitch. And can you believe it, it’s already done! Wow! That was really fast! I suppose when money’s involved, things get done faster. Streets with pot holes—Forgetaboutit!
Last year, state lawmakers in both New Jersey and New York passed laws allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. The Trump administration was none too pleased with this turn of events. On New Year’s Eve, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf wrote a memo to his department asking for all divisions to study how these state laws (that do not require proof of living in the US legally) affect immigration enforcement efforts. Thirteen states now have laws on the books that allow undocumented immigrants to seek a driver’s license. Many local officials feel these laws make roads safer because drivers are required to take a driving test.
The New York Times published an in-depth report on in-car breathalyzers after drivers obtain a DUI arrest. Currently, Congress has bills pending that would make in-car breathalyzers mandatory on all new cars. In December, the NMA wrote a newsletter on the topic: The Slow March toward Forced Temperance. A Pennsylvania paper also recently did a piece (which went off the rails a bit) on readers sounding off on the topic of interlock devices in all new cars.
The idea of Road User Charges (RUC) (or Vehicle Miles Traveled Taxes) don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Oregon recently gave owners of fuel-efficient vehicles a choice—a higher registration fee or an RUC. Utah lawmakers say that they want to think beyond the gas tax and are launching a fee per miles driven for alternatively fueled cars. They also want to impose more tolls as well. RUCs are still at the experimental stages. How soon do you think, though, it will take states to push RUCs for all cars and trucks on the road (while perhaps even keeping the gas tax)? The NMA did a three-part newsletter series on RUCs in the summer 2019 that might be worth another look.
- Are We Slinking Ever Closer to a Universal Road User Charge? Part 1—the National Landscape
- Are We Slinking Ever Closer to a Universal Road User Charge? Part 2—Congress
- Are We Slinking Ever Closer to a Universal Road User Charge? Part 3—Regional and Local Efforts
Here are some additional newsletters on the RUC question that might also be of interest:
- Road User Fees May Be Necessary (But Reasonable is a Different Matter)
- The Road User Charge by Any Other Name
The NMA, along with OOIDA, filed a 2018 lawsuit in Pennsylvania due to excessive toll fees that might be unconstitutional. Required by laws passed in 2007 and 2013, the Turnpike Authority is required to pay PennDOT $450 million, about half the yearly revenue. PennDOT uses the cash to pay for mass transit projects primarily in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. After many twists and turns (not necessarily in favor of the motoring public), the case is now headed for the US Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the PA Turnpike Authority has once again raised the toll rates (an unwelcome yearly tradition), and now it will cost $65 to cross the entire state by car…truck tolls will cost more, of course.
The Right to Repair our own cars, trucks, and tractors is an ongoing battle. Massachusetts’ advocates of Right to Repair are up for the next challenge in this ongoing battle to repair vehicles they own. Automakers and other equipment makers say that due to the software, individuals should not be allowed to repair what they own. Instead, certified mechanics or repair specialists should—costing big bucks, of course. Midwestern farmers are taking a different track—they are buying 40-year old tractors so they can fix them without worrying about software copyright infringement and the expense of paying someone else to do the job.
Court Case of Interest
Best Editorial We’ve Read in a While about Infrastructure
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