Driving News Roundup: May 12, 2017

In this week’s Driving News Roundup:

–GOP Pushback on Trump’s Gas Tax Idea–

–Des Moines still issues speed cam tickets–

–Alaska House advances Real ID–

–NM-brushing edge of the lane not illegal–

–Atlanta-collapsed interstate bridge will open Monday–

NMA Driving News Stories of the Week 

For speed-trap violation, Damascus, Arkansas told to stop highway patrols
A prosecutor who previously found that Damascus had violated the state’s speed-trap law ordered Wednesday that the town’s police quit patrolling along all highways covered by his decision, including U.S. 65.

Mississippi’s richest county uses police checkpoints to enforce segregation, lawsuit claims
Madison County, Mississippi, is among the most segregated places in America. Past court decisions have made note of its “racial isolation” and “confluence of…geography and demography.” Part of the reason the state’s wealthiest county remains so divided, according to a new class-action lawsuit filed Monday, is that county leaders want it that way — and are willing to use local law enforcement to enforce an unofficial cordon around the county’s roughly 40,000 black residents.

NMA Editorial of the Week

California Editorial: Congress: Don’t send those huge trucks onto our local roads, bridges
One of the biggest issues we are staring down right now is a federal proposal to allow heavier and longer trucks to operate on our local roads. Two years ago, Congress rejected a proposal to allow 91,000-pound trucks and longer double-trailer trucks on interstate highways. This was a wise decision. However, both these proposals have resurfaced on Capitol Hill.

National News Watch

GOP flashes stop sign at Trump on gas tax
Republicans are balking over President Trump’s openness to raising the federal gas tax to help pay for U.S. roads and highways — a politically fraught issue that lawmakers have avoided for years.

Raising the Gas Tax Is No Longer Taboo in Many States
While raising the gas tax is still a politically treacherous idea in Washington, lawmakers in state capitals are increasingly coming around to it. Already this year, governors in California, Indiana and Tennessee signed laws to raise fuel taxes, meaning a total of 22 states have passed laws imposing higher gas taxes in the past five years. Chances are also good that the list will grow even longer this year.

Trump’s Public-Private Infrastructure Vision Rejected in Texas
President Donald Trump’s plan to invest $1 trillion in U.S. infrastructure with the help of public-private partnerships has hit a speed bump in Texas. Wary of public opposition to new highway tolls, the Texas House voted on May 5 to reject a bill that would have allowed the partnerships, known as P3s, to participate in 18 highway projects costing as much as $30 billion. The defeat leaves the second most-populous U.S. state unable to tap into the partnerships to finance the infrastructure improvements, even as Trump is proposing to expand their use.

Law enforcement has a plague of ‘professional courtesy’
Under the 1994 Driver Privacy Protection Act, government officials who improperly access DMV databases are subject to a $2,500 fine for each offense. Police organizations are now rallying to weigh in on Watts suit . . . in favor of the officers who were harassing her. For example, Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Agencies, told the AP, “I think it would be unfair and outside the scope of the legislation to think individuals would get whacked like that.”

Automatic Traffic Enforcement

California Senate Committee Votes against Privacy for Our Travel Patterns
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU of California joined forces with California State Sen. Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) on Tuesday to testify in favor of SB 712, a bill that would have allowed drivers to cover their license plates when parked in order to protect their travel patterns from private companies operating automated license plate readers (ALPRs).

West Hollywood, CA: Deputies Plan to Enforce Right-on-Red Laws at Red-Light Camera Intersections
Sheriff’s deputies using West Hollywood’s red-light photo enforcement program, an updated version of which went live in March, may begin ticketing drivers who make illegal right turns at stop lights as well as those spotted running through them.

Des Moines speed cameras still issuing tickets, despite judge’s ruling
Speeding drivers can still receive tickets from the automated traffic enforcement cameras on Interstate Highway 235 in Des Moines, despite a judge’s ruling that the Iowa Department of Transportation can order the city to remove the devices.

Louisiana House committee: Red-light cameras are here to stay
Though 89 percent of Louisiana residents disapprove of traffic cameras, they are here to stay — at least for another year. Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington, failed Monday to move his hotly debated House Bill 257, which would have prohibited municipal or parish governments from using cameras or other speed detectors to regulate traffic on public streets and highways. Hollis told the House Transportation Committee, which soundly dumped HB257 on a 14-1 vote, so few Louisianans are in favor of the devices because “they see them for what they are.”

Missouri Committee Approves Bill to Prohibit Warrantless Stingray Spying
Today, a final Missouri House committee passed a bill that would ban the use of “stingrays” to track the location of phones and sweep up electronic communications without a warrant in most situations.

New York Top court upholds license plate checks by police
Police may scan license plates of vehicles even if they do not suspect that the motorist has committed a crime, the state’s top court ruled recently. Such scans are a regular practice among police, but the Court of Appeals ruling affirms its legality.

Dayton approves new red-light camera ordinance
In a 5-0 vote, the Dayton City Commission approved restarting a traffic safety program that uses cameras to catch and fine motorists who speed and run red lights. The city stopped using traffic cameras two years ago to comply with tough new restrictions on the devices that forbid their use unless a police officer is present at the time they record violations.

Red-light camera lawsuit against Killeen, TX dismissed for now, lawyer says
The attorney who filed a lawsuit against the city of Killeen for its use of red-light cameras is dismissing his suit. For now, that is. Brett Pritchard filed a lawsuit against the city on April 6 that labeled the cameras as “unconstitutional in many respects.” He received a ticket — which initially costs $75, and has a $25 late fee if not paid in time — and asked that the city dismiss his ticket. City Attorney Kathy Davis told him previously that the city wasn’t going to consider dismissing his ticket.

Driver’s License Watch

Alaska House committee advances Real ID legislation
An Alaska House committee has advanced legislation aimed at bringing the state into compliance with national proof-of-identity standards, putting it one step closer to a floor vote. The bill, from Gov. Bill Walker, would allow Alaskans to choose between driver’s licenses and identification cards that are compliant with the federal Real ID law and those that are not.

Kansas Senate passes bill raising fee to reinstate driver’s licenses
Motorists in Kansas may soon have more of an incentive to pay their traffic tickets on time. The Kansas Senate on Monday narrowly passed a bill that would nearly double the fee for reinstating a license that was suspended for failing to comply with a traffic citation from $59 to $100.

Maine preps for compliance with federal Real ID law
Maine’s Secretary of State says they hope to begin issuing drivers licenses under the federal Real ID program in the summer of next year. Last month the Legislature passed a law requiring the state to comply with federal Real ID, and the Governor signed it. The Department of Homeland Security has indicated it will give Maine a waiver extension now that the state has signaled it will comply with the law, although that extension been given yet.

Class-action lawsuit says Michigan traffic fine laws discriminate against poor
Adrian Fowler’s problems with unpaid traffic tickets is one of the biggest barriers trapping her in poverty, her lawyers say. While living in Georgia years ago, Fowler got several traffic tickets and didn’t pay the fines because she didn’t have the money, the lawyer say. When she moved to Detroit in 2012, those unpaid fines kept her from renewing her driver’s license.

Ohio: A million suspended licenses don’t stop drivers
There are 47 offenses by which the state can suspend a driver’s license. More than a third have nothing to do with bad driving. To a wealthy driver, a $200 fine is affordable. To a poorer person, the same ticket can be excessive.

“Non-binary” could become third gender option on Oregon driver’s license application
The Department of Motor Vehicles is considering adding another gender option on Oregon’s driver’s license application. “Non-binary gender” could be the third option for those who don’t identify as male or female. The option would appear as an “X” in the application. The DMV heard numerous testimonies at a forum Tuesday in Eugene. Many in the audience supported the idea.

Driving in America

Southern California community opposition mounts against tollway extensions
If the Transportation Corridor Agency in Orange County tries to extend the 241 Toll Road south from Oso Parkway, it can count on intense opposition from residents along any of four potential routes. San Clemente is mobilizing a fight against any path slicing through San Clemente. The City Council is already on record and has produced a video to rally the town against the new tolls.

Grand Forks, ND leaders put brakes on speed limit changes
Right here, right now, isn’t the right time to lower Grand Forks speed limits, City Council President Dana Sande said Wednesday. Sande’s remarks came just after city leaders nixed an item on Monday’s council agenda lowering speed limits on Washington Street, 32nd Avenue South and Columbia Road. It previously received a committee vote on Monday evening, when city leaders voted 6-1 to develop a policy regarding future speed limit changes, according to city staff.

Minnesota: Speed limit increase to 60 mph on Highway 95
The trip to St. Cloud or Cambridge has gotten quicker for Princeton-area motorists. That’s because the speed limit on Highway 95 has been increased from 55 mph to 60 mph both east and west of Princeton. The Minnesota Department of Transportation increased the Highway 95 speed limit along the entire 104 miles of the highway from St. Cloud to south of Stillwater. The highway was the subject of a legislative mandated study of speed limits, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Nevada: Higher speed limits making rural I-80 safer?
Driving faster to be safer? The Nevada Department of Transportation says new speed limits on I-80 east of Fernley are designed to get everyone traveling the same pace. The change increases the limit from 75 mph to 80 mph along I-80 between Fernley and Winnemucca. Studies show most drivers are already going 80 along the stretch. The goal of the change is to get everyone going the same speed. ”You actually help smooth out and help enhance traffic safety,” said Meg Ragonese, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Transportation.

New Hampshire Bill to Close Federal Asset Forfeiture Loophole Faces Intense Police Opposition
A New Hampshire bill that would close a federal loophole allowing state and local police to circumvent stringent state asset forfeiture laws by passing cases off to the feds will go to the Senate floor later this week facing fierce opposition. Rep, Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont) and Rep. John Burt (R-Goffstown) introduced House Bill 614 (HB614) on Jan. 5. The legislation would prohibit New Hampshire law enforcement agencies or prosecutors from entering into agreements to transfer seized property to a federal agency directly, indirectly, by adoption, through an intergovernmental joint taskforce or by any other means, unless the seized property includes more than $100,000 in cash.

New Mexico Court: Brushing the Edge of A Lane Is Not Illegal
Briefly touching the painted yellow lines on a road while passing slow-moving traffic is not a crime that justifies a traffic stop, the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled last week. A three-judge panel came to that conclusion after finding the March 20, 2013 traffic stop of Karen Siqueiros-Valenzuela was unjustified.

New York’s top court upholds strict drunk driving rules
The state’s top court has upheld a policy implemented by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration that allows the state Department of Motor Vehicles to permanently revoke driving privileges for repeat drunk drivers. In a 5-0 decision, the state Court of Appeals upheld Cuomo administration rules, put in place in 2012, that take steps going beyond state law governing relicensing procedures for drivers with multiple DWI convictions.

Asheville, NC: No big policy changes after race, traffic stop analysis
Police plan no broad policy changes in how they deal with black motorists despite calls from activists who have pointed to data they say shows African-American drivers in Asheville are stopped and searched at higher rates than are drivers who are white. Some City Council members following a Tuesday presentation by police said they wanted to mandate a change in search procedures. But that effort during the council meeting failed to win majority support. Deputy Chief Wade Wood said while the department would not make the search procedure changes or eliminate stops for broken equipment and registration issues, police would make other adjustments, including reducing financial impacts for low-income drivers.

Utah State Supreme Court rules officer safety permits extending stop long enough to check passenger’s ID
This case presents a single issue: does a law enforcement officer violate the Fourth Amendment if he or she requests that a passenger voluntarily provide identification and then runs a background check on that passenger without reasonable suspicion that the passenger has committed—or is about to commit—a crime? We conclude that an officer does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Infrastructure Watch

Collapsed interstate bridge in Atlanta to open next week
Georgia officials say a section of a heavily used Atlanta interstate will reopen at the latest by next week, less than two months after it collapsed due to a large fire under a bridge. Gov. Nathan Deal and state transportation officials announced Wednesday that the bridge will be open by the Monday morning rush hour.

New Iowa transportation improvement plan includes focus on bridge repair
The Department of Transportation’s draft of the new 5-year for improving the transportation system across the state estimates there will be $3.5 billion in funding available. The director of the DOT’s planning and programming division, Stuart Anderson says the five year plan continues the effort to improve and maintain the highway system.

Montana Highways Department Adding Centerline Rumble Strips
The Montana Department of Transportation is in the middle of a five-year project to install center line rumble strips in an effort to decrease the number of head-on crashes caused by distracted driving.

Tolls, bike tax part of $8.2B Oregon transportation plan
Oregon lawmakers rolled out a 10-year transportation package this week that would raise consumer prices at the gas pump and when buying a new car and impose highway tolls for the first time and a statewide payroll tax.

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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