Driving News Roundup: February 17, 2017

This Week’s Highlights: 

–Traffic fatalities rise 2nd year in a row—

–CA speed cam bill—

–MT limits ALPR use—

–TX wants to lower speed limits—

–Arizona does not pass a gas tax increase—

–Oregon wants Vision Zero entire state–

NMA Driving News Story of the Week
More than 55,000 U.S. bridges are in need of repair or replacement
The yearly American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) report on bad bridges, was released Wednesday, and Pennsylvania ranks second to Iowa in the number of structurally deficient bridges. Nearly 20 percent of the Keystone State’s bridges achieved that level of decrepitude. Nationwide, 55,710 bridges were found to be deficient.

NMA Editorial of the Week
Wyoming Editorial: Don’t use fees to avoid taxes
The fees charged for state services should cover the cost of the service. That’s basic enough. Wyoming shouldn’t lose money on the vehicle registrations, birth certificates and other services and paperwork it provides to residents every year, and if it needs to plan for projected inflation that would certainly be wise, too. After all, looking at those fees and costs is especially important now, as the state navigates a significant budget shortfall. Wyoming is facing a $156 million deficit in government operations and a looming $400 million gap in education spending. But what state lawmakers must not do is add to those fees in hopes of finding a new revenue stream.

National News
Rise in US Traffic Deaths Reported for a Second Year
After years of steady progress making highways safer, auto-safety advocates are voicing alarm over a surge in traffic fatalities and fears that the deadly trend is strengthening. Last year, traffic deaths increased 6 percent to 40,200, according to preliminary estimates released on Wednesday by the National Safety Council, a nonprofit organization that works closely with federal safety agencies.

Lawmakers Want NHTSA to Study Connected Car Security
Aiming to beef up security in connected and driverless cars, a group of lawmakers have introduced a bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives that would put the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in charge of studying security issues for cars and trucks that are connected and eventually driverless. According to a report, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) co-sponsored the bill, dubbed The Security and Privacy in Your Car Study Act.

Bipartisan Senators Eye Self-Driving Car Bill
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune and Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters announced they would weigh legislation that would regulate self-driving cars. Such a measure would be the first federal bill targeting self-driving cars. The senators said they wanted to make regulations more flexible so self-driving vehicles could be tested and developed without changing the rules for conventional automobiles.

Auto CEOs Ask Trump to Revisit Obama-era Fuel Efficiency Rules
The chief executives of 18 automakers asked President Donald Trump to reinstate a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency review of fuel efficiency regulations through 2025 that they say was unfairly cut short during the final days of the Obama administration.

Automatic Traffic Enforcement
Center Point, Alabama issues 8,000 tickets for drivers running stop signs in Nov.
Many cities are now using traffic cameras to catch speeders and red light runners. But cameras in Center Point have sparked intense outrage among some saying they’re about raising money and not safety. Eight thousand tickets were written in November. In October 12,000 warnings were written. The fine is $110.

Speed Enforcement Cameras Could Be Coming to California under New Bill
New legislation would install sensors along California’s roads that would automatically ticket speeding drivers, prompting concerns the program may not improve safety on state roads. The sensors would only be activated on vehicles traveling 10 miles over the speed limit. The idea of a 5-year test program for speed cameras has opponents crying foul, fearing it could spread statewide. The group Safer Streets Los Angeles argues the cameras are more about money than safety.

Illinois Lawmaker wants to ban red-light cameras statewide
“Red-light cameras do not enhance public safety … raising revenue is not a valid reason to continue the red-light camera program in Illinois,” State Rep. David McSweeney said.

Illinois Court won’t hear Chicago’s appeal in red-light camera lawsuit
A court has declined to hear the city’s appeal of a decision that certified class-action status for a lawsuit over tickets issued through the Chicago’s Red-Light Camera Program.

Montana Committee Passes Bill to Limit ALPR Use, Help Block National License Plate Tracking Program
A Montana bill that would limit the use of Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) in the state, and 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, passed an important House committee by a wide margin last week. Rep. Daniel Zolnikov (R-Billings) sponsors House Bill 149 (HB149). The legislation would prohibit 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.

Judge rules New Miami, OH speeders owed $3 million
A Butler County judge has ruled the village of New Miami must repay speeders every penny of the $3 million it collected from drivers who were caught by the former stand-alone speed cameras.

Texas: City Council votes to end the red-light camera program
Corpus Christi City Council voted Tuesday to end the red-light camera program. Their vote came shortly after Corpus Christi Police Chief Mike Markle recommended that the program be stopped.

Driving in America
Napa County, California reluctantly changes speed limits
Speed limits changes — in most cases increases — are coming to 25 rural road segments with Napa County Board of Supervisors approval, but without its ringing endorsement. Supervisors must convince people that faster speed limits, even if only by 5 mph to 10 mph, improve safety. They can understand the skeptics.

Idaho bill would allow motorists to speed up while passing
A Twin Falls lawmaker wants to allow motorists to go up to 15 mph above the speed limit when passing another vehicle in certain cases. Republican Rep. Lance Clow told a House Transportation Committee that his bill deals with a situation that many have experienced: how to safely pass another motorist going a couple of miles below the speed limit. Current law doesn’t allow exceeding the speed limit to make a pass.

Iowa’s Highest Court Ruling May Keep Officers from Asking for ID in Some Situations
An Iowa Supreme Court ruling on a Scott County case could have ramifications for law enforcement officers throughout the state on the conduct of traffic stops. In their ruling, the Supremes said that when a law enforcement officer makes a valid traffic stop supported by reasonable suspicion that an offense might be being committed, must terminate the stop when the underlying reason for the stop is no longer present.

Massachusetts State Senator files bill to tighten privacy protections on Mass. Pike all electronic tolling data
Under Massachusetts’ new all electronic tolling system, the state knows more about people traveling on the Massachusetts Turnpike than it ever has before, from license plate numbers and travel speeds to location data for individual cars. Access to that data is restricted by Massachusetts Department of Transportation regulations. But Longmeadow State Sen. Eric Lesser says that is not enough, and has introduced a bill that would enforce privacy controls by law.

Lawmakers put brake on speed limit changes for interstates in ND
The state Senate declined to boost the speed limit on North Dakota’s interstates Tuesday, Feb. 14. Senate Bill 2057, introduced by Sen. Lonnie Laffen, R-Grand Forks, would have increased the speed limit on interstates 29 and 94 from 75 mph to 80 mph. It would have also bumped up the fines for speeding on the highway. Ultimately, the bill failed 18-28, with opponents worrying the change would make North Dakota roads less safe.

Lawmakers want to lower speed limits in Texas cities
The presumed speed limit in Texas cities is 30 mph. The truck that hit Ben was traveling faster than 30 mph when it struck the boy in his family-friendly Austin neighborhood. Israel’s House Bill 1368 would reduce the speed limit on streets like that to 25 mph.

Virginia Lawmaker Forces Toll Rate Transparency
Motorists who pay extra to take an “express” toll lane on a highway can sometimes find themselves not saving any time at all. A Virginia state senator fed up with his hour-long commutes decided to do something about it earlier this month by introducing a bill that would force transparency regarding the time savings, if any, before taking a Northern Virginia toll road.

Washington State Lawmaker’s New ‘Drunk Driving’ Proposal Is So Severe That Even MADD Is Weighing In
Legislators and traffic safety officials should target these hardcore drunk drivers, not average Americans having a glass of wine with dinner. Not only would a 0.05 legal limit fail to significantly reduce traffic fatalities, but it would place an undue burden on social drinkers.

Infrastructure Watch
Buy a car, help fix California’s roads
Assembly Republicans released a road-funding plan Monday that contains no new taxes but poses a $4.6 billion hit to the general fund, the main source of money for state programs. The $5.6 billion package would get the bulk of its revenue from the estimated $3 billion in sales tax collected on vehicle purchases – money that currently flows into the general fund. In addition, the plan would redirect $1.1 billion in truck weight fee revenue that now goes toward paying off past transportation borrowing. And the plan takes $550 million in vehicle insurance fee revenue away from the general fund.

Arizona: State gas tax won’t increase, but panel OKs other fees to pay for roads
Unable to find the legislative votes for a statewide gas-tax increase, a Senate panel approved a package of alternate methods on Tuesday to raise money for road construction and repair. One measure would impose a new series of fees and taxes on motor vehicles and is designed to raise about $120 million a year. SB 1146 would replace the money that Gov. Doug Ducey plans to take from gasoline taxes and vehicle-registration fees to fund the state highway patrol.

Hawaii Drivers May Face Higher Taxes, Fees to Maintain Highways
Katherine Kupukaa of Mililani is living on a fixed income, so she must be frugal in her spending. And yet, state lawmakers are considering raising some of her expenses — specifically, three regarding motor vehicles. “With Hawaii’s cost of living, it is appalling that you keep on adding costs to the citizens of the state just because we are able to afford a car,” she told a Senate panel Monday. Kupukaa did not get her way, however.

Money for roads, repeal of hybrid car surcharge both accelerate in Idaho Legislature
House and Senate committees approved four transportation-related measures Tuesday including a modest increase in money for road and bridge repairs and a repeal of a registration surcharge for hybrid vehicles adopted in 2015.

With money tight, Texas budget writers eyeing billions approved by voters for roads
More than a year after Texas voters approved routing billions in state sales taxes to roads and bridges, some lawmakers are questioning whether the first payment of $5 billion should move forward as planned. Texans voted in 2015 to boost funding for state’s public roadways and bridges, which have strained under the state’s growing population. Proposition 7 — loudly cheered by top Texas leaders and supported by 83 percent of voters — changed the state constitution to route some taxes collected on car sales to the State Highway Fund.

Vision Zero
How Cities Can Take Vision Zero to the Next Level in 2017
“If you can’t say with precision how traffic safety problems or disparities are greater in a specific community, then it’s very difficult to go from there to address interventions,” says Elva Yanez, co-author and director of health equity at the Los Angeles-based Prevention Institute.

How Los Angeles Is Working to Cut Traffic Fatalities by 20 Percent This Year
In the case of Los Angeles, Vision Zero releases a detailed Safety Study every year detailing both the progress and the areas of traffic safety that need improvement.

Proposed Measure Aims to Zero out Traffic Fatalities in Oregon
Oregon lawmakers are considering a measure that would push the state toward adopting a traffic safety program with the goal of eventually zeroing out all traffic fatalities.

Seattle considering Four-way Stops instead of Traffic Signals at some Intersections
The Seattle Department of Transportation is considering a low-tech approach to managing traffic at some of the city’s smaller intersections by switching from full traffic signals to flashing reds and four-way stop signs.

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.

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