Driving News Roundup: April 21, 2017

In this week’s Driving News Roundup:

–Fremont RLC Scandal gets worse—

–MT Gov Signs ALPRs legislation—

–MN might have Real ID deal—

–NJ Cops no longer free tolls—

–Bumblebee blocks road construction–

NMA Driving News Story of the Week

Study Finds Drivers Use Phones 88% of the Time
A recent study from Zendrive, touted as the largest distracted driving study ever conducted to date, found that 88 out of 100 trips on average are made while using a mobile device in some capacity. The alarming data comes from a 3-month study of some 3 million anonymous drivers. Over the course of the study, those drivers made 570 million trips, covering 5.6 billion cumulative miles. The study found that the average amount of time a phone is used in an hour of driving is about 3.5 minutes, or about 6 percent of a trip. From there, some simple math reveals that over 280 million miles were cumulatively driven while distracted, and that’s just within the survey group.

National News Watch

How dangerous air bags can find their way into used cars
A Nevada crash that nearly killed a young woman has exposed a hole in the government’s efforts to get dangerous Takata air bag inflators off the road: There’s nothing that prevents the devices from being taken from wrecked cars and reused.

97.5 percent of Volkswagen diesel owners have chosen buyback, not repair
When the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal first began making headlines in September 2015, many diesel owners expressed concern–not that Volkswagen had equipped their cars with illegal defeat devices, but that they might be forced to have their vehicles repaired, and the repairs would ruin their cars’ performance. That, in turn, led many to believe that most diesel owners would choose not to have their cars fixed at all. Just a few months into the process, though, it’s clear that that’s not the case. Very clear, in fact.

Federal V2V mandate meets growing resistance
A once-popular idea to equip cars with technology to communicate with one another and avoid collisions is encountering unexpected potholes in Washington. An array of forces, from free-market groups opposed to government mandates to cable providers angling for greater access to high-speed wireless airwaves, have mounted opposition to a proposal that all new cars have vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications systems.

Automatic Traffic Enforcement Watch

Fremont, CA: Red-light camera victims won’t get all their money back
Drivers who collectively received 1000 red-light camera tickets last year when the yellow lights were shortened at two Fremont intersections now may be shortened in their reimbursements.

Contract requires Camera Company to study wrecks, but New Orleans won’t push it
City workers have been installing signs warning drivers that cameras will soon enforce speed limits in school zones.

Signed by the Governor: Montana Laws to Limit License Plate Tracking and Warrantless Electronic Data Collection
On Friday, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed two bills into law that will increase privacy protections in the state and hinder at least two federal surveillance programs. The new laws will ban warrantless collection of data from an electronic device in most situations, and limit the use of Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) in the state. HB149 prohibits the use of ALPRs except for specified purposes, and will also place limitations on the retention and sharing of data gathered by license plate readers.

NC bill would allow license plate readers along state roads
For law enforcement finding that one car involved in a shooting or AMBER Alert can be like finding a needle in a haystack. But that’s where license plate readers can be invaluable. “We can’t be everywhere and I say ‘we’ (as in) law enforcement,” Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said.

Dayton Ohio Police renew push to turn red-light cameras back on
Dayton Police are renewing their effort to turn on red-light cameras, arguing they save lives. But, critics say they’re a cash grab. “All the data said red light violations went up,” Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said. “Speeding went up. Accidents went up. Injury accidents went up. And fatalities went up.” That’s why Chief Biehl says red-light camera enforcement needs to come back. Since 2014, the city has seen a 40 percent increase in traffic crashes and a 45 percent increase in traffic deaths.

Driver’s License Watch

Alaska House will urge congress to scrap Real ID Act
The state house of representatives Sunday voted in favor of a resolution urging congress to do away with the Real ID act. If Alaska fails to become compliant with the Real ID Act, it could keep people from being able to board a plane or enter a federal facility such as a military base. The act is an effort to improve reliability and accuracy when issuing state identification documents, to inhibit a terrorist’s ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification.

Proposal for Maryland Driver’s License include “Cremated”
This option will pertain to the decision of the driver to have his remains cremated in the case that he or she endures an accident leading to fatality.

Minnesota Lawmakers Signal a Possible Deal on Real ID Bill
Minnesota lawmakers seemed to indicate Thursday that compromise is underway to comply with federal ID standards, signaling a shift away from a provision that would ban immigrants living illegally in the state from getting drivers’ licenses.

Change will help Orange, Chatham North Carolina drivers caught without a license
The Orange-Chatham district attorney’s office is giving some drivers a second chance if they are caught without a license in the two counties. The new policy responds to a state law that bars illegal and undocumented immigrants from getting a driver’s license. Advocates say many unlicensed immigrants risk driving to take their children to school, go to work or be involved in the community.

Federal judge says again, Texas voter ID law is discriminatory
U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi on April 10 ruled the State of Texas has failed to prove that the voter identification law was not written with discriminatory intent and purpose.

Driving in America

With Governor’s Signature, Arizona is the 20th state to pass civil asset forfeiture reform
Governor Doug Ducey signed bipartisan legislation to meaningfully reform Arizona civil forfeiture laws. Under civil forfeiture, law enforcement agencies can seize property merely suspected of involvement in criminal activity. Unlike criminal forfeiture, civil forfeiture allows the government to permanently keep property without charging anyone with—let alone convicting them of—a crime. And Arizona law allows the seizing agencies to keep up to 100 percent of the proceeds from forfeited property.

California Lawmaker’s Push for Zero-Emission Autonomous Vehicles Fizzles
Faced with opposition from the tech lobby, a Bay Area lawmaker has gutted legislation that would have required self-driving cars registered in California to be zero-emission vehicles. Sen. Nancy Skinner’s bill, SB 802, amended just before a committee vote Tuesday, would now simply create a task force to study “broader” issues surrounding the deployment of driverless cars in the state.

California again leads list with 6 of the top 10 most polluted U.S. cities
California’s smoggy reputation appears to be deserved: Six of the USA’s 10 cities with the worst air pollution are in the Golden State, according to a new report. Bakersfield, Calif., again holds the dubious distinction of having the USA’s most days of highly polluted air, based on data from 2013-2015, the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report released Wednesday found.

Michigan Appeals Court Turns Dim Tail Lights Into A Crime
A three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals decided Tuesday to expand the ability of police to stop and search motorists by declaring it unlawful to have a “dim” tail light.

New Seat Belt Law in Mississippi Starts July 1st
Here in Mississippi, a driver could face a $25 fine. Buses, vehicles for farm use, and ATV’s are exempt. The new seat belt law starts July 1st.

Missouri Ballot Measure Would Outlaw Toll Roads
Activists in Missouri are out gathering signatures in the hopes of permanently blocking all plans to impose tolls on existing freeways. State lawmakers have been trying for decades to erect toll booths on various routes, most recently securing federal approval to toll Interstate 70 under a deal that is set to expire on December 4. The group A Better Way Forward wants to amend the state constitution to prohibit such deals.

Court Cancels Free Rides for Cops on New Jersey Toll Roads
Off-duty state troopers will no longer enjoy free rides on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. A Superior Court appellate panel decided Thursday to pull the plug on a perk that allowed officers to commute to and from work in their personal vehicles without paying tolls on any of the state’s toll roads.

RI House Rep. seeks to repeal controversial truck tolling law
Rhode Island House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan plans to submit legislation to repeal the so-called “Rhode Works” law, a truck-only tolling law.

Group lobbies Texas lawmakers for toll-free highways
On Monday critics of toll roads came to Austin to try and get rid of the tolls or at least keep toll roads from getting worse. And what do these folks think would make the toll roads worse? A group called Texans for Toll-Free Highways is fighting private-public partnerships.

Toll Runners Owe Texas DOT Millions
According to TXDOT records, 2016 ended with $41.7 million in unpaid tolls and fines on the books.  So far this year, the tab has reached $12.5 million with a combined total of $54 million.

Infrastructure Watch

Rebuilding America: The toll of public-private partnerships
President Trump is promising a major overhaul of America’s infrastructure, but his trillion-dollar proposal might not be enough. Public-private partnerships are widely expected to play a big role in his plan. In those types of partnerships, fewer taxpayer dollars are needed because private industry picks up some of the cost.

California Senate approves projects linked to gas tax hike
The California Senate on Monday approved more than $900 million worth of road and train projects that were promised to lawmakers in order to secure their support for a hike in gas taxes and vehicle fees.

Bumblebee Blocks Illinois Toll Road Construction
A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked the groundbreaking for a new Illinois toll road project over a bee. US District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman issued a directive ordering Kane County to stop work on the Longmeadow Parkway Bridge toll road, a planned 5.6 mile route crossing the Fox River, pending further court proceedings at the end of the month.

Indiana Statehouse: Road funding proposal ‘historic’
A long-term road funding deal forged by Statehouse Republicans would mean about $870 million in new money for state roads and $340 million for local infrastructure by 2024. But the proposal still must get the seal of approval from the party caucuses and be voted on in both the House and Senate. “It’s a historic plan that recognizes states have to take care of their own problems,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Long of Fort Wayne. “We are not kicking the can down the road and dumping the problems on our kids and grandkids. We’re stepping up.”

Iowa DOT says $100M to be spent on interstate system
About $110 million will be spent this year improving the interstate highway system in Council Bluffs as the largest highway funding effort ever by the Iowa Department of Transportation continues.

Minnesota county roads still getting worse, but sales tax helps
There is good and bad news for Winona County roads. Overall, county-owned paved roads are still getting worse, not better. Every four years since 2008, Minnesota Department of Transportation crews have driven a sensor-loaded van across every mile of paved road in the county and analyzed the conditions of its pavement. According to the latest report, the countywide average fell again in 2016, slipping from a 3.33 rating on zero-to-five scale in 2008 to 3.17 in 2012 and now 3.09 last year. The percentage of county roads in “poor” condition rose from five percent of county roads in 2008 to 15 percent last year.

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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