In this week’s Driving News Roundup:
–Don’t Link taxes with Infrastructure Warning—
–Dallas signs new 7-yr RLC contract—
–MN bill curbs traffic fine debts—
–KS strikes down driveway taxes—
–CA approves $52 million road bill–
NMA Driving News Story of the Week
A federal judge refused to dismiss claims that Philadelphia owes 20 percent of its budget to an unconstitutional civil-forfeiture program. Originally filed in 2014, the class action led by Christos Sourovelis contends that the city offers no due process before it auctions off jewelry, firearms or other private property that it has purportedly traced to criminal activity. Calling Philadelphia’s program “unprecedented in scale,” the class says local prosecutors made more than $5 million in forfeiture revenue a year by seizing at least $90 million worth of property from 1987 to 2012. The most commonly seized item, according to the complaint, is cash, usually just a few hundred bucks.
NMA Driving News Editorial of the Week
Americans’ love affair with their cars and the open road is not a new story. But in a nation built around an interstate highway system once touted as among the best in the world, neither is the problem of crumbling infrastructure.
National News Watch
Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist and other prominent conservatives are urging President Trump and congressional Republicans to keep infrastructure spending out of a tax-reform bill. Trump has floated linking the two issues together in a bid to win bipartisan support for a $1 trillion package that would revitalize the nation’s roads, bridges and airports.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday that the federal gas tax should be raised by up to 10 cents per gallon during a discussion of the $1 trillion infrastructure plan being touted by President Donald Trump. The mayor was speaking at a Wall Street Journal-sponsored breakfast in Washington when an audience questioner proposed a 5-cent gasoline tax hike.
For most new-car buyers, haggling is a necessary evil. Now, car companies themselves are learning just how unpleasant haggling can be, as they try to find common ground with the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board on the subject of auto emissions.
In at least 20 state capitols across the country this year, the wireless industry is pushing legislation to streamline local permitting for the next generation of cellular technology.
Automatic Traffic Enforcement Watch
Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) may be the most common mass surveillance technology in use by local law enforcement around the country—but they’re not always used in the same way.
The southbound lane of Kenilworth Avenue in D.C. serves mostly as a busy feeder onto Interstate 295 or Benning Road NE. But it also serves to boost the District’s bottom line — the speeding camera positioned at its 600 block generated more than $20 million in fines in fiscal 2016. That one camera, only in place for half of that fiscal year, accounts for more than 10 percent of the roughly $190 million in speeding and red light camera fines issued in 2016.
Hollywood Police say automated license plate readers are helping to cut down on car burglaries by 80 percent.
A bill that would bring red light cameras to Hawaii continues to make its way through the legislature. The bill would give the green light for red light cameras to be installed at intersections around the state. This most recent effort by the state legislature to introduce red light cameras onto the streets of Hawaii has been met with mixed support.
The Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office will be installing 44 license plate cameras on major roadways throughout the parish with the intent to target uninsured motorists.
New Miami, Ohio will do anything to keep from paying back the $3 million in speed camera tickets illegally issued by Optotraffic, the town’s vendor. Butler County Judge Michael A. Oster Jr will speak to the parties in the case next Wednesday after having put a temporary halt to enforcement of his February judgment (view ruling).
In spite of a bill in Austin that could put an end to them, the city of Dallas is going forward with its red light camera program.
Driver’s License Watch
A minor traffic fine in California can escalate quickly to hundreds of dollars. For low-income drivers, that can mean license suspensions and even jail time for failing to pay or driving without a valid license, a practice the U.S. Department of Justice has warned states against. The California Legislature enacted a temporary amnesty program in October 2015, to help low-income drivers reduce their fines and get their licenses reinstated. During the first 15 months that the program was in place, it helped at least 205,000 Californians resolve their delinquent accounts. About 192,000 people had their licenses reinstated during that time. That program expired this week.
Thousands of Minnesota residents are caught in a bind every year, losing their driver’s license because they can’t afford to pay their traffic tickets. “They fall into a debt trap,” said Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River. Minnesota Public Radio reports that now Zerwas and a bipartisan group of other state lawmakers want to help Minnesota residents struggling with unpaid tickets get a provisional license so they can drive to work.
Oklahoma is one of only eight states where a license plate stays with the vehicle, rather than the original owner, when it’s sold. That, according to Oklahoma Used Motor Vehicle and Parts Commissioner Terry Shreve, is costing the state somewhere between $18 million and $30 million dollars a year – 36% of which would be helping to fund education. The issue is that someone can buy a vehicle from an individual when the existing tag is unexpired, and easily drive that vehicle for months without registering it.
Last year, the Inlander wrote about former Spokane County Prosecutor Jim Sweetser’s multiyear quest to stop this practice. Sweetser has gone to the Washington State Patrol, the Washington State Bar, and the Washington State Attorney General’s office, all without success. So now, Sweetser is going the legal-action route: This week, he’s filing a class-action lawsuit against the chief of the Washington State Patrol. It argues that the WSP is breaking federal law when it sells your accident information to people who plan to use it for marketing to clients.
Driving in America
Police officers use radar guns to detect the speed of drivers. These tools come in handy because they make it easier for officers to pull over people who are speeding. The radar guns clock the driver’s speed. However, that is not the only thing that these radar guns can detect. Many people believe that police officers are only using these guns to track speed, but an officer can also use the gun to see whether a person is texting and driving.
Text messaging while driving is banned in 39 states, novice drivers are banned from cellphone use in 32 states, and ten states and the District of Columbia ban all drivers from using hand-held cellphones. Interestingly, then-governor Rick Perry vetoed a statewide ban on cellphone use while driving passed by Texas’s GOP-controlled legislature in 2011. Perry called the prohibition “government micromanagement” and advocated driver education instead.
Dressed in blue to signify unity in opposition to the toll road, several members of the public implored City Council on Tuesday night to continue its efforts in blocking the Transportation Corridor Agencies’ (TCA) latest toll road proposals through San Clemente.
The state may soon have stricter texting and driving laws. A bill affecting drivers is now in Governor Branstad’s hands. It passed both the House and the Senate and just needs his signature. This week, the House overwhelmingly approved this bill, voting 90 to 6 in support of it. The bill would allow police officers to pull someone over and give them a 30 dollar ticket for texting while driving.
Despite what Mission, Kansas calls it, the transportation user fee is a prohibited tax. Driveway taxes are no longer legal in Kansas following Friday’s state Supreme Court ruling. The “transportation user fee” has become popular revenue-raising tool for municipal politician’s nationwide, boosting property tax bills for all homes and businesses with driveway access to city streets.
A Republican state lawmaker in Louisiana has authored a bill that calls for lowering the speed limit for trucks and buses driving on interstate highways throughout the state. Representative Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, writes in House Bill 465 that the law would apply to private and public vehicles, including school buses.
The newly formed political group A Better Road Forward (ABRF) announced the filing of a ballot initiative for 2018 to ban any future tolls on existing roads in Missouri…
A bill pending before state lawmakers would make it mandatory for the parents of prospective teen drivers to attend driver’s education classes, as is …
A bill introduced for the 85th Texas Legislative Session could require public high schools and driver’s education courses to include instruction on how to interact with law enforcement.
The Washington House passed a new distracted driving law Wednesday and it needs one more vote in the Senate before it goes to the governor. Current Washington law bans texting behind the wheel. But it allows drivers to hold their phone in one hand and drive with the other, as long as the phone isn’t held up to the ear. The new law would be much stricter: no handling of a phone behind the wheel. Not even while stopped at a traffic light. A quick touch to activate or deactivate a function would be OK and emergency calls would also be allowed.
In a 5-0 decision, the Utah Supreme Court upheld a state law that prohibits the electric automaker Tesla Motors from selling cars through a subsidiary to Utah consumers. The ruling is a setback for the California company that had created a subsidiary called Tesla UT, opened a store in Salt Lake City and sought licenses to sell its stylistic vehicles here. But it is a victory for Utah new-car sellers who battled to uphold a state law that prohibits auto manufacturers from owning dealerships.
California drivers will pay more to drive in the state under a bill the Legislature passed Thursday to raise $52 billion from new taxes and fees to repair roads and bridges. That bill, SB1, will be sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has said he will sign it.
Connecticut legislators are praising a decision by the state Department of Transportation to drop plans to participate in a multi-state study of a possible mileage tax. Both Democratic and Republican legislative leaders said Tuesday that such a tax would place a financial burden on commuters. A mileage tax is essentially a user fee that’s based on how much someone drives.
The Florida Turnpike records more than 2 million transactions every day, and most drivers pay the tolls when they travel. But News 6 found more than $60 million went uncollected last year, mostly from drivers not paying tolls.
Lawmakers contemplating the final package of a 20-year roads plan heard from a number of presenters Monday that they prefer the House version of the proposal. The overall funding level was higher in the House version, and the split for local units of government was higher, as well. Lawmakers are looking for an average of between $1 billion and $1.2 billion in new gas taxes and vehicle fees annually over the next 20 years. The bill is in a conference committee where both sides are trying to find a compromise.
The Oklahoma Transportation Commission has approved the route for a toll road to complete the Gilcrease Expressway. Last month, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority adopted a resolution to further work on the project, which has been on the books for decades. The estimated cost of completing the final leg of the project is $290 million.
Toll roads, after several years of reversals in the Texas Legislature, could be making something of a comeback. A House committee on Wednesday spent a couple of hours hearing from supporters and opponents of legislation that would authorize toll agencies to make up to 18 long-term toll road leases with private companies for Texas highway projects, including on Interstate 35 in Central Texas. However, officials emphasized that some of those deals could stop short of that sort of private toll road model, and that many of the 18 might never need the special designation sought in the bill.
State and local governments cannot use an interstate compact to delegate authority to impose tolls and taxes on motorists. That is the central claim of an ongoing federal lawsuit against the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which took control of the Dulles Toll Road in 2008 and diverted motorist money, projected to total $2.8 billion, for the construction of a Metrorail line to Dulles International Airport, 25 miles outside the nation’s capital.
Car of the Future Watch
The states of Georgia, Illinois, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Maryland have all discussed bills the restrict automated vehicle testing to motor vehicle manufacturers, which puts technology companies like Uber and Waymo at a disadvantage. The state lawmakers introduced the bills to ensure the safety of self-driving cars. The laws would also require companies to have liability insurance, provide advanced notice of autonomous vehicle testing, and adhere to the laws that oversee motor vehicle operation and traffic, and collect and report safety data…
As vehicles become increasingly high-tech and connected, should cybersecurity standards be set by the same federal agencies that regulate safety? While recently reintroduced legislation would put that responsibility on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Trade Commission, one expert on the topic would like to see a different approach.
Using cameras with facial recognition software and other biometric indicators, automakers are looking to personalize the driving experience with cars that stare back at you, quietly adjusting seats and driving modes. They may even anticipate your wants and desires by playing your favorite music based on your mood. And it’s not only about convenience, but also about the possibility of improving safety and security.
California is joining a growing list of states that will charge extra fees to drivers of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in order to generate revenue that would’ve otherwise come from gasoline taxes. The Golden State, which easily has the country’s largest contingent of plug-in vehicle owners, will charge a one-time registration fee of $100 for plug-in vehicles starting in the 2020 model year. The fees are part of a bill approved last week that is slated to generate more than $52 billion over 10 years, and will chip away at a backlog of repairs estimated to cost about $130
Vision Zero Watch
Garcetti issued an executive directive in 2015, bringing Vision Zero to Los Angeles with a stated goal of bringing zero traffic deaths to the city by 2025. The funds for Vision Zero will come from Measure M, a half-cent sales tax voters passed last November to raise $120 billion over 40 years for public transit.
The NMA Driving News Roundup is a regular feature on the NMA Blog, where we highlight some of the most interesting driving news stories of the week. If you have a story for Driving News, send the url via email to email@example.com. Every other Sunday, catch the Car of the Future Roundup blog post.