Driving News Roundup: March 17, 2017

In this Week’s Driving News Roundup:

-States consider raising gas tax—

-RLC Scam in FL—

-KY Court considers ALPRs—

-Reclined seats declared suspicious in KS—

-Nation needs $4.5 Trillion for Infrastructure—

Driving News Story of the Week

US auto recalls hit record high 53.2 million in 2016
After the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration came under criticism in 2014 for failing to detect a deadly ignition switch defect in General Motors Co cars linked to 124 deaths, the agency pressured automakers to recall more vehicles and issued record fines to companies which failed to follow safety rules.

Driving News Editorials of the Week

Editorial: ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ should mean what it says
Gerald and Royetta Ostipow had no idea what civil asset forfeiture was until sheriff’s deputies arrived at their farm in rural Michigan and seized and then sold the couple’s property. The Ostipows were required to provide a $150,000 cash bond before they could begin the legal proceedings to contest the forfeiture and get their property back. But they couldn’t afford to.

National News

Trump throws automakers a regulatory lifeline
NHTSA, which regulates Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards, is still reviewing those regulations but has been asked by the Trump Administration to do a midcourse review.

Why 2017 Looks Bullish for State Gas-Tax Increases
What are the odds that 2017 will see an increase in state fuel-tax increases? If it follows a recent pattern, the odds are looking pretty good. “If you go back to 2013, we’ve seen a significant group of states—19—enact gas-tax increases or reforms of some type. In many cases, these are states that have gone years or even decades without adjusting their fuel-tax rates,” says Carl Davis, research director for the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), Washington, D.C. States were more active in changing their rates in the odd-numbered years of 2013 and 2015 but less so in the even-numbered years of 2014 and 2016, Davis says.

Higher fuel taxes up for consideration in at least 17 states
State officials in a growing number of states are pushing for higher fuel tax rates to get needed road work done. The federal government has not raised the nationwide fuel tax in more than two decades. As a result, responsibility for infrastructure funding has increasingly fallen to states. To make matters worse, higher-mileage vehicles, changing driving habits and rising costs have contributed to reduced revenues. During the past four years 19 states have acted to increase or revise their fuel tax collections. Elected officials in at least 17 states stretching from West Virginia to Hawaii are discussing whether to collect more tax on fuel purchases to pay for upgrading roads and bridges.

Automatic Traffic Enforcement

New Marysville, WA School bus cameras to track, fine scofflaws
When the “stop” paddle goes out and red lights flash, the cameras capture video and photographs of vehicles that pass in either direction. Employees at American Traffic Solutions go through the videos and photos, then forward possible violations to Marysville police for review. Drivers could be fined $419 or cited for reckless driving for illegally passing a stopped school bus. Infractions detected by the cameras are treated like parking violations and do not go on driver records, according to state law.

California: West Hollywood to Install New Red-Light Cameras
According to a press release from the city of West Hollywood, red-light enforcement is going to be conducted at eight intersections, with two approaches on each of the four intersections, which all have a history of red-light traffic violations. Each camera enforced intersection approach will have a sign, notifying traffic that the intersection is being monitored.

Florida officials warn of red-light camera email scam
Officials in Florida are warning residents about an email scam connected to red-light cameras. The Palm Beach Post reports the Martin County tax collector’s office says residents have been receiving emails from what claims to be the Department of Motor Vehicles. The fake emails tell drivers they have been ticketed for a red-light camera violation and must pay the citation within 72 hours.

Kentucky Supreme Court to consider privacy concerns raised by license plate readers
The high-tech cameras can capture up to 60 license plates a second, in total darkness, across four lanes of traffic, and at speeds up to 150 mph. Law enforcement groups say that automated license plate readers allow police to immediately identify stolen vehicles and even find missing people. But privacy advocates say the images, which in most states can be held indefinitely, are a potential tool of mass surveillance that could allow the government to track our every move. And they say the concerns are not just hypothetical.

Texas Lawmakers Balk at Genuine Red-Light Camera Repeal
Senate leaders, however, balked at actual red-light camera repeal language that, if allowed to move forward, would endanger the $32 million in revenue the state pockets from municipal camera programs.

Texas Appeals Court Slams Houston For Refusing Camera Document Requests
The ten-year battle that led to the end of red light camera ticketing in Houston, Texas may finally be nearing an end.

Driver’s License Watch

New Mexico: Poor rollout of new driver’s license law
You can blame the federal government for the new policy requiring additional forms of identification when renewing your driver’s license. But, the state is to blame for the abysmal job of rolling out the new policy and making sure all drivers are informed of the new requirements.

NJ drivers may get more time to pay parking fines before losing license
Currently, the state Motor Vehicle Commission can suspend a person’s driver’s license or registration once it is notified that they have failed to pay a parking fine or respond to a court’s failure to appear notice.

Virginia: Case challenging driver’s license suspensions dismissed
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging a Virginia law automatically suspending the driver’s licenses of people who can’t pay court costs and fines. Judge Norman K. Moon said Monday that his court does not have jurisdiction over the matter. He did not make a judgment on the merits of the case. The Legal Aid Justice Center filed the lawsuit against the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles on behalf of low-income drivers who lost their license for failing to pay court debts. The lawsuit said the state’s failure to take into account people’s financial circumstances unfairly punishes the poor.

Driving in America

California Officials Pledge Not To Roll Back Fuel Efficiency Standards
California officials have said they will not back off the fuel efficiency standards established under Obama, despite the Trump administration’s plan to revisit those standards.

Sacramento man takes traffic ticket to federal court
When Sacramento native Howard Herships was caught on a red-light camera, he contested. Fighting this ticket has cost Herships his license and a penalty of $1,665.

Idaho Senate backs higher passing speeds on two-lane highways
If Gov. Butch Otter signs on, Idahoans could go up to 15 mph over the speed limit while passing on a two-lane highway without risking a speeding ticket. The change won support from the Idaho Senate on Monday on a 24-10 vote, sending HB 132 to the governor’s desk.

Kansas Supreme Court Declares Reclined Seats Suspicious
A car with a reclined passenger seat and a torn plastic bag in the center console can be searched by police at any time without a warrant under a divided Kansas Supreme Court ruling issued on Friday. The high court majority concluded that these two factors, taken together, were enough to establish a belief…

Michigan no-fault insurance fee to hike $10 per vehicle on July 1
The fee Michigan motorists must pay as part of the state’s no-fault auto insurance plan will rise $10 per vehicle, to $170, on July 1, the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association said Monday. It’s the latest in a series of extra costs to hit motorists this year. Effective Jan. 1, vehicle registration fees increased 20% and the state gas tax went up 7.3 cents per gallon, as part of a $1.2-billion road funding deal.

Texting while driving may lead to higher fines, penalties in Ohio
The bill defines distracted driving as engaging in any activity that isn’t necessary to operating the vehicle and that impairs the motorist’s ability to drive.

Texas House passes statewide ban on texting while driving
Members voted 113-32 to tentatively approve the legislation, which will get a final vote in the House before it can proceed to the Senate.

Utah Bill ending mandatory vehicle safety inspections passes Senate
Senate Minority Assistant Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, praised the language in the bill removing the sunset date for the seat belt law.

Washington State Patrol ramps up patrols for tailgaters
The Washington State Patrol is in the middle of emphasis patrols being conducted statewide that is focusing on drivers who follow too close to the vehicle in front of them. Officials with the WSP note that State Troopers investigated more than 9,500 collisions last year caused by following too close and stopped approximately 24,300 drivers for the violation.

Infrastructure Watch

Trump promises $1 trillion for infrastructure, but the estimated need is $4.5 trillion
The Trump administration promises to pump $1 trillion into improving the country’s crumbling infrastructure, but a benchmark report says it will take almost $4.6 trillion over the next eight years to bring all those systems up to an acceptable standard. The price tag for redemption has grown steadily for 15 years while an expanding country focused on building new infrastructure rather than maintaining existing systems that were nearing the end of their natural life.

Report on bad roads’ impact on your wallet will be a go-to source in Colorado transportation talks
As the debate over the transportation dollars intensifies in the statehouse, there will be plenty of citations from a report released earlier this month by TRIP, a national transportation research group.

Permanent highway tolls draw fire in Georgia General Assembly
Georgia lawmakers heard pushback Thursday to legislation that would let the state collect tolls permanently on the toll roads being built across metro Atlanta. The bill, which passed the Georgia Senate last week and is now before the state House of Representatives, would allow the State Road and Tollway Authority(SRTA) to continue collecting tolls after the bonds financing a toll project have been paid off if repaying the bonds is not the “primary or exclusive” purpose of the tolls.

2 Sweeping Transportation Funding Bills Introduced in Idaho
Two sweeping transportation funding proposals were introduced in the Idaho Legislature on Friday, providing a first look at what legislative leaders will spend their time doing in the final weeks of the session. However, the proposals introduced in the Senate are unlikely to be passed without facing significant edits in the House. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee the Senate and House will reach an agreement on how to provide significant transportation funding before hitting the adjournment target date of March 24.

Indiana toll proposal could be hitting a bumpy road
A bill that would establish new Indiana toll roads may not get out of committee without removing existing interstates from the mix, the committee chair said Tuesday. “I have my own deep hesitancy about tolling existing interstates,” said Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Monticello, who leads the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee. “I don’t anticipate moving a bill out of this committee that favors tolling of existing interstates. New lanes is a bit of a different story.”

New Mexico: Gas tax considered to help boost state budget
On Wednesday, the New Mexico House is expected to consider a $6.1 billion dollar spending plan that includes 350 million dollars in new taxes and fees. Lawmakers were supposed to discuss it Tuesday night but it never came to the floor. Many thought the House would debate a large budget package Tuesday that includes raising taxes and fees all across the state. One idea starts at the pump. If passed, drivers will pay more for each gallon of gas. Right now, New Mexicans pay a flat tax on gasoline. To be exact, motorists pay the State of New Mexico 17 cents per each gallon of gas you pump.

Oregon Mayors want new road tolls to pay for transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure
A group of Oregon mayors say they want legislators to pass a large, statewide transportation funding package that includes money for transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure. But they acknowledge there won’t be enough money with current sources like bonds, gas taxes and federal funds. So, some say it’s time to consider another method: tolling.

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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