Accident Reduction

Primary seat belt enforcement laws, in which a person can be ticketed solely for not wearing a seat belt, have resulted in an increase in national seat belt usage rates and a corresponding decrease in the number of automobile fatalities.  

On the day President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal was released and as Congress prepares to debate two competing surface transportation authorization bills this week, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood used a conference call budget briefing to both highlight the President’s own authorization proposal and to restate the administration’s preference between House and Senate authorization proposals.

The home state of CSG’s National Headquarters has been in the national transportation policy spotlight a fair amount in recent weeks. First, President Obama chose to highlight the need to repair the Brent Spence Bridge, which carries Interstates 71 and 75 over the Ohio River between Covington, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio, during his September 8 speech to Congress unveiling his jobs plan and its proposed infrastructure investments. Just a day later, Indiana officials ordered closed another Ohio River span, the Sherman Minton Bridge between Louisville and Southern Indiana, after cracks were discovered in its steel beams. It was a 2010 Kentucky truck crash that prompted the National Transportation Safety Board last week to recommend a ban on cell phone use by commercial drivers. And this week, the President used the Brent Spence Bridge as a backdrop to again tout his jobs plan in the backyards of both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). Kentucky is also the focus of an article I have out this week in the state business magazine The Lane Report. It examines why most highway projects take so long to complete.

Last week I blogged about a recent forum in which transportation and infrastructure experts came together to discuss how to move the conversation forward on addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs. One of the consistent themes throughout that meeting involved the need to put greater emphasis on performance metrics to assure the public and their representatives in government that investments in infrastructure are being well spent and having the kind of impact they hope in areas like economic development. Well there’s a new report out today from The Rockefeller Foundation and the Pew Center on the States that assesses the capacity of all 50 states to use those kinds of metrics to identify just what they’re getting for their transportation dollars.

Here’s one of those instances in which what I do hits close to home. In the latest issue of Capitol Ideas and a recent blog post, I wrote about how a number of states are following the lead of Missouri in employing a relatively new type of traffic interchange called the diverging diamond or double crossover diamond interchange to improve safety and reduce congestion. The interchanges can be built in less time and at a lower cost than other types of interchanges. Now, it appears I may soon get to see firsthand how the diamond works. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that Kentucky transportation officials announced this week that they plan to reconfigure a Lexington intersection that is part of my daily commute using the diamond model.

There is a new issue of the CSG magazine Capitol Ideas out this month that we call our “Best of the States” issue. The magazine contains a wide variety of innovative ideas states are employing to address various problems and needs across numerous areas. Among the innovative ideas in transportation detailed in the issue are a new type of traffic interchange in Missouri, Georgia’s planned regional transportation referenda and Utah’s road condition monitoring cameras that allow the state to determine when to send a snow plow to a remote area. While we tried to pack as much into the issue as we could, there was inevitably plenty of worthwhile stuff that landed on the proverbial “cutting room floor.” Here is a sampling.

Rural highways provide many benefits to the nation's transportation system. But rural areas face numerous transportation challenges including a looming highway capacity crisis. Their challenges are similar to those experienced by urban areas but different enough that they need to be carefully considered as officials in Washington debate a new long-term authorization of federal transportation programs. This brief examines some issues those officials should take into account regarding rural road capacity, congestion, road safety, connectivity and mobility and public transit. It also examines how policies addressing livability and transportation funding may impact rural communities.

With the holidays fast approaching, I thought it would be a good time to clear out the ol’ CSG Transportation inbox so that we can make a fresh start in the New Year. In doing so, I ran across a number of recent reports and news items that may be of interest and that may provide worthwhile reading should you have any downtime in between football bowl games in the weeks ahead. They address many of the themes we’ve examined here over the last year and look ahead to what might lay in store in 2011 on issues like federal transportation programs, the condition of America's infrastructure, gas taxes, highway finance alternatives, high-speed rail, freight transportation, transportation and the environment and intelligent transportation systems.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) today updated the status of its list of most wanted safety improvements that state governments can make. The list includes requiring booster seats for young children, primary seat belt laws, graduated licensing laws for young drivers, hard core drinking driver program elements, cell phone use restrictions for young drivers and passenger restriction laws for teen drivers. The NTSB also added a new issue area they’re now tracking: motorcycle safety and helmet laws. While a handful of states have made significant progress in adopting laws in all these areas, many states have not yet adopted them despite their proven ability to save lives, the NTSB reported.

Last week, I spoke with Mike Chalmers of USA Today for an article that ran in Wednesday's paper about states seeking alternatives to roadside memorials. Chalmers wrote about how Delaware has a memorial garden at a state rest area that provides a safe and tasteful alternative to the makeshift roadside memorials that honor victims of fatal traffic accidents but that sometimes pose safety hazards themselves. I told Chalmers that states will likely look to duplicate what Delaware is doing because it provides a sensible solution to what has proven to be a difficult balancing act for states.

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