Traffic Safety

Pedestrian fatalities rose for two consecutive years between 2009 and 2011, according to a report this month from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)  and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is taking action to prevent what may or may not be a trend from continuing. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx used one of his first press conferences  since taking office to address the NHTSA data and to announce a new grant program and website which could give states and communities the tools they need to save lives.

Distracted driving killed more than 3,000 people in 2011, accounting for ten percent of traffic related deaths in the U.S. The high death toll has sparked an increase in laws that crack down on elements related to distracted driving, such as texting or using a handheld device. Despite the strict laws, 31 percent of U.S. drivers ages 18-64 reported reading or sending a text message or email while driving at least once within 30 days of the responding to the survey. States are now focusing on new strategies to combat distracted driving. 

On May 22, 2013, Illinois became the fourth state since March where the legislature has sent a bill to the governor’s desk either ordering or permitting a speed limit increase on some roads.  Governor Pat Quinn has been coy on the measure but the overwhelming support by the legislature would seem to make the initiative veto-proof. Ohio, Iowa and Maine have all passed similar measures since March and 34 states already have speed limits of 70 miles per hour or greater on some roads. With initiatives working through the North Carolina and Nevada legislatures and with bills being introduced in at least eight more states, it appears more of America’s roadways will permit higher speeds. States raise speeds on some toll roads, like America's fastest road, as an inovative funding mechanism and congestion measure. Higher speeds are sold to the consumer as a premium service.  Some question the timing of and rationale for these actions, coming as recently released preliminary traffic fatality analysis data for 2012 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed a 5.3 percent uptick in motor vehicle fatalities nationwide. But a review of the research on speed and safety isn’t as cut and dried as one might think.

Stateline Midwest ~ June 2013

Illinois lawmakers passed a bill in late May to make their state the first in the Midwest to ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Chicago and some other municipalities had already outlawed the use of cell phones without a hands-free device. Illinois’ ban, though, has only applied to school and construction zones.

Stateline Midwest ~ June 2013

Illinois lawmakers passed a bill in late May to make their state the first in the Midwest to ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Chicago and some other municipalities had already outlawed the use of cell phones without a hands-free device. Illinois’ ban, though, has only applied to school and construction zones.

On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its report: “Reaching Zero: Actions to Reduce Alcohol-Impaired Driving.” A call to action, the report issued recommendations to curb the 10,000 alcohol-related yearly highway deaths. The easy take-away from the press release was the call for states to reduce their .08 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) DUI laws to .05 as it is in much of the developed world. Currently, all states define driving at or above .08 BAC as a crime.

This recommendation drew a great deal of press coverage; however, the report also calls for expansion of some other policies which didn’t necessarily make the headlines but that may prove to be far more politically palatable.

I’m about to head to Washington, D.C. for the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting (more on that below). But before I hit the road, I thought I would leave you with a few links to some recent transportation-related reports and articles that might be worthy of your time. I have items on mileage-based user fees, the future of tolling, speed limits, the road building industry forecast for 2013, transit-oriented development and how to communicate the value of preserving infrastructure.

We have several new transportation-related publications here in the Knowledge Center this month. Here are a few updates and additional resources on the topics they address.

Stateline MIdwest ~ October 2012

Iowa will issue driver’s licenses and state identification cards next year that meet the initial security standards set out under the federal government’s REAL ID program. According to the Quad City Times, all new driver’s license applicants will be given Iowa’s new cards. Individuals with existing licenses will not have to make the switch.

Stateline Midwest ~ October 2012

A new Nebraska law is dramatically changing how DUI offenses are handled, the Lincoln Journal Star reports, with the use of interlock ignition devices on pace to increase by 20 percent in 2012.

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