NMA Driving News Weekly Roundup for May 19, 2017

In this week’s Driving News Roundup:

–Study finds variable speeds dangerous—

–Fremont offers RLC rebates—

–FL Supremes hear RLC arguments—

–Minnesota passes Real ID—

–Louisiana gas tax bill gains momentum–

NMA Driving News Story of the Week

‘The Drug Whisperer’ | Georgia Drivers arrested while stone cold sober

Drunk driving arrests are down sharply after decades of aggressive enforcement, while drugged driving arrests are climbing. Georgia now has more than 250 officers with special ‘drug recognition expert’ training.

NMA Driving News Editorial of the Week

Durham, NC Editorial: A welcome decline in Stop and Search law enforcement

While officials acknowledge more change is needed, it’s promising that the Durham Police Department stopped and searched far fewer vehicles last year. Traffic stops and searches have been the cause of considerable and justifiable community concern in recent years, in large part because black drivers were far more likely to be subject to each than white drivers.

National News Watch

UK Report Finds Variable Speed Limits Dangerous

Variable speed limits on British highways are confusing and dangerous, according to a report released Tuesday by Confused.com. The automobile insurance provider commissioned One Poll to survey 2000 motorists about their experience with “smart motorways” where officials have the ability to lower the speed limit displayed on dot matrix signs, claiming the devices reduce congestion. According to the new findings, many motorists believe UK officials have other motives when dropping the speed limit from 70 MPH to as low as 20 MPH, particularly when those limits are enforced by speed cameras.

U.S. prepares to sue Fiat Chrysler over excess diesel emissions

The Justice Department is preparing to sue Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV if talks fail to resolve differences over the automaker’s alleged violations of U.S. clean-air rules with its diesel vehicles, according to two people briefed on the matter. A lawsuit could be filed as soon as this week.

Why are U.S. auto sales suddenly slipping into reverse?

When news leaked out Tuesday that Ford Motor (F) would cut 10 percent of its salaried workers, it underscored how the auto industry’s strong sales are slipping after years of consecutive growth since the Great Recession.

Automatic Traffic Enforcement

Fremont, CA offers red-light traffic-ticket rebates

The City of Fremont announced its offering rebates to red light traffic offenders. The city acknowledged it “inadvertently” reduced the yellow light time at two major intersections. This week 672 motorists will get a letter notifying them about the rebate.

Redding, CA red-light cameras to remain in place

The Redding City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to renew a contract with Redflex Traffic Systems for red-light traffic enforcement. The contract calls for four more years at the five intersections in Redding where the cameras already cover…

Florida Supreme Court to consider legality of red-light cameras

The Florida Supreme Court has accepted a case that will likely end the argument about whether it is legal to use cameras to catch red-light runners. The move comes after two appellate courts ruled that cameras in Oldsmar and the city of Aventura in Miami-Dade County can be used to ticket drivers.

Muscatine, Iowa: Despite judge’s ruling, Highway 61 traffic camera still on

City officials said the traffic camera on University Drive at Highway 61 is still on, despite a judge ordering it to be removed last month. Muscatine is appealing the judge’s decision that found the Iowa Department of Transportation has the authority to order the city to remove the automated traffic-enforcement camera. Des Moines and Cedar Rapids also are appealing the decision made by a Polk County District Court judge. The cities requested a judicial review in 2015 after the DOT ordered some traffic cameras be turned off because they were not improving road safety.

82 percent of school-zone lights in New Orleans work now, the most we’ve seen

Most of the city’s school-zone lights are working, and they’re sporting a new, bright yellow feature — photo enforcement signs. In late April and early May, The Lens checked every school-zone light in the city and found 82 percent worked properly.

Baltimore, Maryland Restarts Faulty Traffic Camera System

The same for-profit companies responsible for Baltimore, Maryland’s error-plagued photo enforcement program are back. The city’s Board of Estimates is expected later today to approve a new contract that puts Xerox back in charge of the city’s red light cameras.

Santa Fe, NM city advisory board greenlights speed cameras

Santa Fe previously contracted with a Phoenix-based company called Redflex Traffic Systems to post radar-equipped SUVs next to school zones and other traffic lanes but let that arrangement lapse four years ago. The top executive for Redflex at the time was being prosecuted for bribery in other states. And while proponents said the enforcement effort made streets safer with minimal use of police manpower, the program wasn’t uniformly popular. Now a proposal to seek bids for a new contract is working its way through city committees, though with changes such as more relaxed penalties for registered owners whose vehicles are recorded exceeding speed limits.

Staten Island State Senator Calls on DOT to End Speed Camera Program

State Senator Andrew Lanza says if it comes to a vote, he will not support putting more speed cameras on the streets of New York. “It doesn’t focus on safety it focuses on revenue and that’s the wrong approach,” said Lanza. City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg lobbied lawmakers in Albany on Monday, to advance legislation that would allow as many as 750 speed cameras on city streets, up from the current limit of 140.

Ohio Lawmaker Seeks Crackdown on Alleged Red-Light Camera Abuse

The use of red-light cameras is one of those rare issues that doesn’t split along party lines. State lawmakers have banned the use of these traffic …

Driver’s License Watch

Louisiana bill to revoke deadbeat parents’ driver licenses goes to full House

The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) wants to revoke the drivers’ licenses of deadbeat parents faster when they fall behind and saw a proposal, with that in mind, sail through the House Appropriations Committee Monday headed to the full House for debate.

Lawmakers hammer out Real ID bill — and Minnesota is last to do so

For years, Capitol officials have been stymied as they tried to find agreement on changing the state’s licenses to be Real ID compliant. But Tuesday evening, they reached a deal that would allow the House and Senate to send a bill to Gov. Mark Dayton this week. “We have to have a Real ID pass in this session or Minnesotans won’t be able to get on airplanes next January,” Dayton said. If the bill becomes law, Minnesota would be the last state to adopt the federal license standards.

As States Lag to Comply With 2005 ID Law, Washington Makes Moves

People in Washington State likely won’t have to worry next year about the identification they take to the airport after Gov. Jay Inslee signed a measure Tuesday seeking to make the state one of more than two dozen in compliance with federal identification requirements.

Driving in America

Judge denies reversal of Damascus, Arkansas ‘speed trap’ ban

A Faulkner County Circuit Judge has denied a request to reverse a prosecuting attorney’s order barring the City of Damascus from issuing traffic tickets. Damascus mayor, L.B. Pavatt, filed an ‘ex parte order’ for injunctive relief in Faulkner County Circuit Court, hoping to reverse prosecuting attorney, Cody Hiland’s order. Ex parte matters are when a judge makes a decision without requiring all parties to be present.

In California, a Failed Fight for Car Owners’ Privacy Rights

California state law permits car owners to cover their legally parked cars to protect them against weather and incidental damage. It’d be easy to assume that, because cars can be covered in their entirety, it would also be perfectly okay for motorists to keep only their license plates covered on those same legally parked vehicles. That’s not necessarily the case: Another law prohibits obscuring the license plates of parked cars in California.

Lakeland, Florida police department broadcasts speed trap live on Facebook

The Lakeland Police Department is hoping to crack down on speeding in the city with a new initiative called “Slow Your Roll.” It’s an old school response to the common problem of people driving too fast: a speed trap. However, it’s how the department is doing it that’s getting people’s attention. They post on Facebook exactly when and where they’ll be doing it. Once they’re there, they broadcast live, showing as cars get pulled over.

Chicago Police Finalize New Rules on When to Shoot and Use Force

Chicago police officials on Wednesday announced policy changes intended to cut back on questionable shootings and other uses of force that have haunted the department for years. The changes, made after months of back-and-forth revisions, will tighten department rules that experts and advocates have criticized as too permissive of unnecessary uses of force.

Not everyone is happy about all-electronic tolling in Massachusetts

After years of scrounging for change and straining for his wallet, Bill Desmond finally caved. He picked up an E-ZPass transponder, joining the cashless era more than 20 years after it began. Now, he’ll be able to pay his turnpike tolls without even slowing down. But Desmond, 65, wants to get one thing straight. He’s not happy about it. “I didn’t want them to track me,” Desmond said as he waited in line at the East Boston E-ZPass customer service center last week. “And I didn’t want the government to have access to my accounts.”

Speed trap stopped in Kinloch, Missouri

Fox Files investigators Chris Hayes went to court Thursday as Kinloch was busted for using a private security …

A persisting problem: Lincoln, Nebraska PD probes into the racial disparities in Lincoln traffic stops

Over the last five years, the disparate percentage of black drivers pulled over by Lincoln police has climbed even as police officials focused more attention on the problem. African-Americans accounted for 4.1 percent of the city’s population last year, but black motorists accounted for about one in every 10 drivers pulled over in 2016, a year when police stopped 47,028 drivers.

Nevada gives 80 mph speed limit the green light

Nevada has become the seventh state to enact an 80 mph speed limit. The signs announcing the change started going up on I-80 last week. It’s the fastest limit allowed in the Silver State since before the national 55 mph limit was established in the 1970s. Prior to that, Nevada let drivers to travel at “safe and sane” speeds, which effectively meant there was no limit on some roads.

NY State Troopers are handing out traffic tickets at astronomical rate

They’re super troopers — at least when it comes to slinging traffic tickets. State Police officers doled out 14,542 summonses to New York City motorists in the first four months of this year — an astonishing 759 percent increase from all of last year, when they scribbled just 1,692, records show. The troopers — blue-and-yellow fixtures on upstate highways but once a rarity on city streets — gave out only four tickets in here in 2015 and none in 2014.

New York City Mayor De Blasio’s congestion plan won’t improve gridlock, official says

Details of the mayor’s strategy has been scarce so far, with Polly Trottenberg, the Department of Transportation commissioner only saying that it will target commercial delivery hours, parking regulations, and will incorporate data-driven approaches to certain points of gridlock.

Ohio: Group urging people to shut down Brice speed trap

It’s a tiny village in southeastern Franklin County that’s long been known as a speed trap. Some people call it ‘policing for profit.’ Now, a local citizens group is urging people to write letters to state legislators, urging them to shut down the Village of Brice…

Rhode Island bill to ban ‘lollygagging’ in fast lane headed to full House vote + Poll

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday night approved Rep. Dennis Canario’s bill, which would impose an $85 fine on those traveling too slowly in the high-speed lane, moving the measure along to a full House vote.

Texas Lawmaker warns of ‘open toll roads’ as House votes to cap toll fines

The Texas House unanimously passed a bill Tuesday to keep the lights on at the Texas Department of Transportation, but not before approving a surprise change that caps total toll fines at $73 every six months for any given customer. “You can drive for free all day long,” said a disgusted Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, one of only three House members to vote against the amendment. Gonzales is the House sponsor of Senate Bill 312, the TxDOT sunset bill. “Open toll roads. And you only pay a $6 fine (per violation).”

Salem, VA couple sues over car that was impounded then sold

A Salem woman who lost her car in part to a glitch in a Department of Motor Vehicles computer is challenging a Virginia law that allowed a towing company to auction off the car before the charges against her were dropped.

Washington State Governor Inslee to sign DUI and distracted driving bills

On Tuesday Gov. Jay Inslee will sign three transportation safety bills designed to increase safety of drivers on the state’s roadways. Inslee has worked on strengthening DUI laws since his first year in office and will sign legislation to make an individual’s fourth DUI a felony. Inslee will also sign the ‘distracted driving’ bill which will make any use of a mobile phone while driving – not just texting – a traffic infraction.

Black and other minorities still stopped more often by Spokane police

Spokane police continue to disproportionately stop black, Native American, Middle Eastern and Pacific Islander residents, according to a new study from Eastern Washington University. The study, presented Monday at the city’s Public Safety Committee, analyzed 39,730 police stops from March 2014 to September 2016.

Infrastructure Watch

Tucson voters agree to raise sales tax for roads, public safety

Tucson voters said yes to increasing the city’s sales tax to help pay for road repairs and public safety equipment and facilities. Proposition 101, which would raise $250 million over five years, was leading with 62 percent of the vote in the first release of totals Tuesday night. The election was done through the mail, with the city having seven election sites open for voters to drop off ballots by the 7 p.m. deadline.

Lobbyists Urge Kansas Lawmakers to Increase Gas Tax To Fund Highway Projects

Lobbyists for Kansas highway contractors are urging state lawmakers to increase the gas tax, but it’s proving to be a tough sell. Forced to deal with massive budget problems in recent years, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and lawmakers have diverted billions of dollars from the Kansas Department of Transportation. As a result, KDOT has indefinitely delayed more than 50 highway projects and dramatically reduced the amount it’s spending to maintain state roads.

Boost for Louisiana Gas Tax Takes First Step in Legislature

A push to raise Louisiana’s gasoline tax and pump millions more yearly into roadwork has narrowly crossed its first, and possibly hardest, legislative hurdle.

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