Driving News Roundup: April 7, 2017

In this week’s Driving News Roundup: 

–DOJ Orders Review of Agreements with Police Depts.—

–Baltimore relaunches Speed Cams—

–Use of Driver’s License Info for tax returns troubling—

–Montana Passes ALPR reform–

NMA’s Driving News Story of the Week 

Minority Neighborhoods Pay Higher Car Insurance Premiums than White Areas with the Same Risk
Pro Publica’s analysis of premiums and payouts in California, Illinois, Texas and Missouri shows that some major insurers charge minority neighborhoods as much as 30 percent more than other areas with similar accident costs.

NMA’s Driving News Editorial of the Week

Massachusetts Editorial: Driven to anger over proposal for statewide tolls
Rep. Brian Murray (D-Milford) is filing legislation to enact electronic tolling on roads across the state: “The bill would seek to direct the Registry of Motor Vehicles to install electronic gantry tolling systems on roadways other than the Massachusetts Turnpike, such as Route 3, 93, 128 at such rates that the registry may determine.” If this bill is passed, the Registry would be empowered to toll us on every state road. With Charlie Baker as governor, you probably are not too worried about this legislation. However, what happens when a Democrat wins the Corner Office? At that point it would be akin to letting the fox into the henhouse. But hey, it’s for the roads.

National News

DOJ Orders Review Of Agreements That Target Unconstitutional Policing
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered the Justice Department to conduct a broad review of agreements that seek to overhaul troubled police departments. He’s says it isn’t the federal government’s job to manage state and local law enforcement agencies, which is a shift from the Obama administration.

This Could Happen to You: Revenue-Hungry Cities Mess With Traffic Lights to Write More Tickets and Make Driving More Dangerous
As privately operated red-light cameras proliferate across the country, cities and towns shortening yellow lights spike the number of tickets, and thereby increase revenue. The profits come at a social cost, as shorter yellow light times have been associated with an increase in car accidents. (National Motorists Association featured)

US Justice Department Report Questions Motive behind Auto Seizures (CAF)
Are police departments around the country using automobile seizure laws to pad local budgets? That was a question raised last week the US Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general’s review of operations under the federal asset forfeiture program, which has generated $28 billion over ten years.

Appeals Court: Warrant Needed to Search Car’s ‘Black Box’
In what is likely a first-of-its-kind case in Florida, a divided appeals court said authorities needed a warrant before they could download information recorded in a car’s “black box.” The ruling by a panel of the Fourth District Court of Appeal approved a defendant’s request to suppress evidence that police retrieved from such a device in 2013 in a DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide case in Palm Beach County. More broadly, the ruling reflects a type of question that courts face as more and more information is captured on electronic devices.

Trump would virtually eliminate budget for EPA vehicle testing
The Trump administration would virtually eliminate federal funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget for vehicle emissions and fuel economy testing but will seek to raise fees on industry to pay for some testing, a government document shows. The cuts would slash by more than half the staff of the EPA department that conducts vehicle, engine, and fuel testing to verify emissions standards are met and mileage stickers are accurate.

Automatic Traffic Enforcement

Palm Coast, FL poised to pull plug on red-light cameras
Palm Coast officials are set to deactivate the last of the city’s red-light cameras next week. City Council members on Tuesday discussed plans to cut short the city’s contract with American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona-based vendor that installed the traffic cameras in 2008 and has overseen the program since. That service agreement is set to expire Sept. 30, but the council is expected to vote to end the pact Tuesday, about six months early.

Merrionette Park, Illinois Residents Vote down Red-Light Camera, Gas Tax
Voters in Merrionette Park, Illinois on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected the idea of using red-light cameras. By a 69 percent margin, residents for a second time rejected the town board’s proposal to join suburban neighbors like Crestwood in the use of automated ticketing machines. Village leaders decided to put the question to residents at a board meeting last July.

New Orleans: New traffic cameras are coming, signs mark the spot
Drivers in New Orleans might have noticed new signs that let them know there’s a chance they’re being watched. The city recently began to install signs in all school zones and areas where the new mobile traffic cameras will likely be used to give drivers a heads-up about cameras possibly being used to track their speeds and snap of photo of them if they’re going too fast.

Baltimore Relaunches Speed Camera Program
Amid continued questions, Baltimore took its entire speed and red-light camera system offline in 2013. The system, once the largest in North America, …

Missouri House Passes Ban on Red-Light Cameras
The Missouri House has passed a bill to ban cities and counties from using red-light cameras. House members voted 125-30 Monday to send the bill to the Senate. The measure would prohibit the use of cameras to catch traffic violations such as speeding and running red lights. Supporters say it should be up to law enforcement to hand out tickets for running red lights and that some municipalities use cameras to generate revenue. But critics say it should be up to cities and counties to decide whether to implement the cameras.

Red-light cameras could be banned in Texas
A new bill could possibly ban red-light cameras statewide. Senate Bill 88 would ban red-light cameras in Texas. The State Senate just passed it, but the House and Governor Abbott still have to weigh-in.

Tacoma, Washington man gets red light ticket in Phoenix, Arizona city he says he’s never visited
A Tacoma man got a traffic ticket more than 1,000 miles away from his home, and he says he wasn’t the person behind the wheel. “It’s a bunch of junk,” said Rick Prichard, as he pointed a pile of documents on his dining room table.   The ticket includes a picture of the driver and a link to see video of what appears to be a grey pick-up truck going through a red light on January 24 in Phoenix.

Driver’s License Watch

Use of driver’s license numbers for tax returns raises security concerns
The IRS is now recommending that taxpayers use their driver’s license number to provide another layer of security when electronically filing a federal tax return. A few states, notably New York, Ohio, and Alabama, are requiring a driver’s license number, or an equivalent, for state returns. This sounds promising at first—another layer of verification to help prevent tax identity theft seems prudent. However, as with many other “good ideas,” the unintended consequences can cause problems.

California law granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants reduces hit-and-runs …
A California law that allows undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses reduced the number of hit-and-run accidents statewide by about 7 percent in its first year of implementation, according to a Stanford University study released Monday. The study is the first to explore the initial effects of Assembly Bill 60 since it took effect in January 2015. Hit-and-run accidents in California decreased by an estimated 4,000 in 2015 alone, saving drivers who were not at fault in crashes an estimated $3.5 million in out-of-pocket repair costs, according to the report.

Iowa DOT Is Warning of an Online Driver’s License Scam
The Iowa DOT is warning drivers seeking to renew their licenses of an online scam that involves luring residents to a website NOT run by the DOT.

Washington, Oregon closing in on Driver’s License Fixes to Meet Federal Deadline
After years of dragging their feet, Washington and Oregon lawmakers are finally acknowledging they have to accept stricter federal driver’s license …

Driving in America

Get over, Alabama: here’s why left lane driving is bad for traffic, safety, and your wallet
The left lane on the interstate is for passing; at least that is what it is meant to be used for. Alabama is one of 29 states with a law saying any car moving slower than the “normal speed of traffic” should move over to the right lane. This means even if you’re going the speed limit in the left lane, you should move over if there are others trying to go faster.

Arkansas State Highway Department Talks Speed Limit Increases after Bill Passes
Arkansas lawmakers passed a bill that could increase speed limits on interstates in Arkansas, but that change might not be coming as fast as you think. “Basically what the bill does is authorize the highway department to study raising the speed limit throughout the state,” Danny Straessle, spokesman for the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department said. “[That] doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.” When considering speed limit changes, the highway department has to consider much more than changing a sign.

Arizona Senate Passes Bill Taking on State, Federal Asset Forfeiture
The Arizona Senate has unanimously passed a bill reforming the state’s asset forfeiture laws. The bill also takes on federal forfeiture programs by banning prosecutors from circumventing state laws by passing cases off to the feds in most situations. The legislation would require prosecutors to establish a higher evidentiary standard for asset forfeiture. As it stands, the law only requires a preponderance of the evidence. HB2477 would raise that, requiring police and prosecutors to provide “clear and convincing evidence” the property was linked to a crime. While the proposed law would not require a criminal conviction before proceeding with asset forfeiture, it would take a step toward reforming Arizona’s forfeiture laws under that essential standard.

California’s Bay Area traffic called emergency in poll: ‘Never been this bad’
The Bay Area’s traffic woes are so severe that more than two-thirds of the region’s residents surveyed in a new poll are demanding a major investment to fix the mess — even if that means stomaching higher taxes.

Seat belt usage in Louisiana at record rate
The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission announced last week that the number of drivers and front-seat passengers using their seat belts is at an all-time high of 87.6 percent, which is nearly a 2 percentage point increase over 2016. The national percentage is 84.8 percent. The report, compiled by the Preusser Research Group, also found the usage rate is increasing for…

Michigan woman outraged over ticket for dirty license plate
A Michigan woman is angry after she was ticketed for a dirty license plate, claiming that the dusty rural roads she drives makes keeping a clean one nearly impossible.

Montana Passes Bill to Limit ALPR Use, Help Block National License Plate Tracking Program
On April 1st, the Montana House gave final approval a bill that would limit the use of Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) in the state. Passage into law would also place significant roadblocks in the way of a federal program using states to help track the location of millions of everyday people through pictures of their license plates. Rep. Daniel Zolnikov (R-Billings) sponsored House Bill 149 (HB149). The legislation prohibits the use of ALPRs except for specified purposes, and would also place limitations on the retention and sharing of data gathered by license plate readers.

Group proposes Missouri vote to ban toll roads
A nonprofit has proposed asking Missourians in 2018 whether to ban future tolling on existing state roads. A Better Road Forward, a nonprofit started in March by Warrenton Oil Co. head Wayne Baker, has filed three initiative petitions with the office of Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, the group said Wednesday in a news release. The wording of the proposed constitutional amendments vary, but the objective is the same.

Infrastructure Watch

‘You want to have a screwed up state?’ If not, then vote to raise taxes, CA Gov. Brown says
In the final days before a decisive vote in the Legislature on a sweeping $52-billion tax plan for transportation, the sales pitch from Gov. Jerry Brown often strayed from civic inspiration to political exasperation.

CO lawmakers at odds over sales tax–backed funding of toll lane construction
Colorado lawmakers gave the initial green light to a multibillion-dollar transportation bill that prevents sales-tax revenue from being used to fund toll lanes, according to the Denver Business Journal. The bill would put a 20-year, 0.62% sales-tax hike on the November ballot. If approved, it would generate $685 million, which would enable a $3.5 billion bond sale to pay for highway projects.

Stripped of language allowing permanent highway tolls, bill clears the Georgia Senate
The Senate Thursday approved a bill that will make it easier to create public-private partnerships for transportation construction projects – but would not allow the state to maintain tolls on Georgia highways indefinitely. As originally written, Senate Bill 183 would have allowed the State Road and Tollway Authority to collect tolls on certain highways indefinitely. However, a House of Representatives committee stripped that provision from the bill after a public outcry.

OOIDA: Indiana roads plan will ‘harm truckers’
Tolls, higher fuel taxes and more truck fees are one step closer to passage at the Indiana statehouse. The Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee voted 11-2 to advance a bill that is touted to help the state address the $1.2 billion annually needed for roads over the next 20 years. Local roads need about $775 million per year. The 102-page bill includes plans that the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says will harm trucking businesses based in Indiana. One component of the bill to raise about $670 million by the end of the second year would remove from statute a requirement for the General Assembly to approve the tolling of certain portions of interstates.

Minn. Governor signs $105 million federal funding bill for transportation projects
Minn. Gov. Mark Dayton has signed Chapter 14, HF 837 that authorizes $105 million from the FAST Act for transportation projects across the state, providing for at least 28 highway and bridge projects. Both the state House and Senate unanimously supported the bill.

Looking back at a century of change as Texas DOT turns 100
TxDOT is turning 100 Tuesday, the anniversary of the day Gov. James “Pa” Ferguson signed a bill creating what was then called the Texas Highway Department. What to make of this milestone? After all, the Texas Department of Transportation at 100.2 years old will not be materially different than it was at 99.9 years old.

Vision Zero Watch

Miami-Dade Might Adopt Swedish Traffic Plan to Reduce Pedestrian Deaths
Last year, 1,508 pedestrians lost their lives on South Florida roads — the third highest death toll in the nation, trailing only the New York and Los Angeles metro areas. Those figures come from Smart Growth America, an urban planning group that set out to study where pedestrians are being killed and why. The conclusion: Bad road design is just as much to blame as bad drivers.

D.C. Mayor Bowser says reducing traffic fatalities and Vision Zero is a regional issue everyone can support
Data show that more education is needed, said David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. There are too many …

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 nma@motorists.org. Every other Sunday, catch the Car of the Future Roundup blog post.

Not an NMA Member yet?

Join today and get these great benefits!

Leave a Comment