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North Carolina considers hand-held phone ban while driving

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Sixteen states and the District of Columbia now prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cellphones, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A new Georgia law began last summer. (FOTOSEARCH)

RALEIGH, N.C. — With smartphones now ever-present, North Carolina lawmakers are revisiting distracted driving laws and on Tuesday advanced a prohibition on hand-held cellphone use they say will reduce accidents and potentially rein in insurance rates.

The House Transportation Committee overwhelmingly backed legislation to bar all motorists from holding wireless devices with their hands or against their body while operating their cars. Drivers would also not be allowed to text or watch videos. First-time violators would face $100 fines, growing to $200 with additional penalties on insurance records for repeat offenses.

There would be exceptions for all in emergencies, and adults could use hand-held phones sitting on stands or in drink holders for a call if pressing only one button to start or end it. Drivers under 18 would be barred from using a device except to follow a preset navigation system route.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia now prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cellphones, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A new Georgia law began last summer.

North Carolina has had a prohibition on texting or emailing while driving since 2009, and drivers under 18 can’t use mobile phones at all. But backers of the legislation say a stronger ban is needed in light of automobile crashes, deaths and injuries related to distracted driving. Adults also could no longer make calls or texts while idling at a stop light, as is currently allowed.

“I tend to not be very excited about regulation, telling people what they can and cannot do,” said Rep. Jon Hardister, a Guilford County Republican and one of nearly four dozen sponsors of the bill. “But liberty has to stop whenever your actions put others in danger, especially when it puts their lives in danger.”

Tammy Garlock’s 17-year-old son died in a 2008 accident in suburban Charlotte that she later learned likely happened as he tried to make a cellphone call. She told House members the current cellphone laws are unenforceable because it’s difficult to prove a violation.

“There are more drivers on the road than ever, and there are more people focused on the road on (their phones) instead of the primary task at hand,” Garlock said. “The only way to enforce a ban on doing things other than talking is to get the phone out of the hand.”

But some lawmakers said there are already laws dealing with reckless or careless driving, and that preventing motorists from holding their device didn’t eliminate the real distraction.

“The problem is the conversation. Are we as a legislature willing to legislate no phone calls while you’re driving?” asked Rep. Michael Speciale, a Craven County Republican and one of two committee members voting against recommending the bill. “And if we’re not willing to do that, then we’re not going to solve the problem.”

Lobbyists for the state’s independent insurance agents’ association, General Motors and state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey spoke in support of the bill. George Robinson, who represented Causey, said fewer accidents due to the law could result in lower personal injury expenses and insurance costs.

The bipartisan legislation still must go through several more House committees before reaching the floor. It also would have to pass the Senate before heading to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk.

Jennifer Smith with the nonprofit group StopDistractions.org said Georgia has seen positive results since the new law took effect there, including a 22 percent drop in phone swiping or typing by motorists, based on telecommunications data. In 13 of 15 other states where the law has been implemented, traffic fatalities fell 16 percent within two years of a ban, according to the Hands Free North Carolina coalition.

In North Carolina, distracted driving contributed to 49,643 crashes in 2012, growing to 54,302 in 2016, while related fatalities increased from 140 to 177 during the same period, according to the state Department of Transportation. While fatalities declined in 2017 to 152, crashes largely stayed flat. DOT said the extent of distracted driving may be greater since the factor is self-reported.

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Minnesota legislative panel debates Walz 70 percent gas tax hike plan

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz says the gas tax increase is needed to provide a stable, long-term revenue stream for transportation projects. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Legislature began work in earnest Thursday on Gov. Tim Walz’s transportation plan, including his hotly disputed proposal to raise the state’s gasoline tax by 70 percent.

A House transportation committee gave the Democratic governor’s plan its first hearing. Supporters then rallied in the Capitol rotunda, where they heard key lawmakers and Walz urge the Legislature to approve the package. Altogether it calls for $77 million in new spending on roads, bridges and public transit for the two-year budget that takes effect July 1.

“There is no reason that Minnesota can’t have nice things,” Walz said. “And those nice things improve lives.”

Walz said the only obstacle “is the political will inside this building,” a reference to the strong Republican opposition to raising the gas tax by 20 cents a gallon from its current 28.6 cents per gallon. GOP leaders say there’s no need given the state’s $1 billion budget surplus.

Rep. Paul Torkelson, of St. James, the lead Republican on the transportation committee, said during the hearing that they all understand the need for increased investments in transportation — their differences are on what resources to tap for those investments.

But Walz says the gas tax increase is needed to provide a stable, long-term revenue stream for transportation projects.

“This is not a choice between raising the gas tax or not raising the gas tax,” the governor told the rally, which was heavy on public transit supporters. “This is a choice about having a robust, multi-modal, safe transportation system or having potholes that your children can drown in.”

Walz has been targeting Senate Republicans who represent districts he carried in the November elections. He touted his plan at a railroad crossing in Anoka on Tuesday that’s been dubbed the most dangerous in the state but made a political misstep in the process.

The senator who represents the area, Jim Abeler, didn’t get an invitation until shortly before the event. Abeler has sent mixed signals since then about whether he would support even a smaller gas tax increase. Given that Abeler broke ranks with fellow Republicans to override GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of the state’s last gas tax increase in 2008, he’s the kind of Republican that Walz needs to cultivate.

The governor told reporters he’s going to keep reaching out to Republicans.

“I’m going out to try to make the case to them, come to the table and talk to me about this,” he said. Let’s start to have the conversation.”

 

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Ohio Senate proposes 6-cent increase to state gas tax

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Republican Gov. Mike DeWine proposes raising Ohio's current tax of 28 cents per gallon on gas by 18 cents beginning July 1, and adjusting it annually for inflation. The tax on diesel fuel under his plan also would go up by 18 cents. (The Trucker file photo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio  — The Ohio Senate on Thursday voted in favor of a proposal to increase the state’s gas tax by 6 cents a gallon, down from the House’s planned increase of 10.7 cents a gallon and well below the governor’s proposed 18-cents a gallon to maintain roads and bridges.

The Senate’s transportation committee unveiled its tax plan Thursday for an increase of 6 cents a gallon for gas and for diesel fuel in a substitute version of Ohio’s transportation budget that passed the committee 6-5. The full Senate voted 24-to-6 later in the day to approve the bill. It now heads back to the House for almost certain rejection, which would call for a House-Senate conference committee to convene for an attempt at a compromise.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine proposes raising Ohio’s current tax of 28 cents per gallon on gas by 18 cents beginning July 1, and adjusting it annually for inflation. The tax on diesel fuel under his plan also would go up by 18 cents.

The House proposes an increase of 10.7 cents a gallon over three years beginning Oct. 1. The House proposal would increase the current 28-cents-per-gallon diesel-fuel tax by 20 cents a gallon, with that increase also phased in over a three-year period.

The House plan, which would not index the increase to inflation, would raise about $872 million per year, compared with about $1.2 billion from DeWine’s plan. The Senate proposal, which also does not set the tax to automatically rise with inflation, would raise about $400 million per year.

DeWine, who has already said that the increase proposed by the House wasn’t enough, said again Wednesday that his proposal was the “bare minimum” to keep up with needed repairs of poorly rated bridges, dangerous intersections and some new construction. A message seeking comment on Thursday’s vote was left with a spokesman for DeWine.

House GOP members had indicated their plan would lessen the impact of a tax increase on consumers while still meeting road-maintenance needs. Republican Rep. Scott Oelslager, chairman of the House Finance Committee, has described the House plan as a “more equitable” distribution of the tax burden.

Senate Transportation Chairman Rob McColley voted against the Senate version Thursday because it doesn’t contain a corresponding tax cut to off-set the 6-cent increase. McColley said, however, that he was comfortable after an “extensive analysis” that the 6-cent proposal is enough to fund existing road maintenance with some extra construction on top.

“Our policy, number one, should be taking care of existing roads and bridges, and this budget definitely does that,” said McColley, a Republican from Napoleon in northwestern Ohio.

The Senate committee’s proposed transportation budget also would reinstate the requirement for Ohioans to have both front and back license plates on their vehicles. The House has proposed eliminating the front license.

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L.A. tops list of metro areas with most aggressive drivers

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Cars and trucks choke the San Diego Freeway in both directions during the afternoon rush hour in Los Angeles near an interchange. Los Angeles has the most aggressive drivers in the United States, according to a study published by GasBuddy. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

BOSTON — Honking, squeaking brakes and bumper-to-bumper traffic are common problems in many of America’s congested cities.

Frustrated drivers can get agitated quickly, and their aggressive driving habits like speeding, rapid acceleration and braking can lower gas mileage by as much as 40 percent, costing them as much as $477 per year in additional fuel consumption.

GasBuddy has revealed the major metropolitan areas in the United States with the most aggressive drivers, causing them to pay more for gasoline by making more frequent trips to the pump.

GasBuddy compiled data from its Drives feature in the GasBuddy app, examining the top 30        metropolitan areas by population as defined by the United States Census Bureau from November 2018-February 2019, noting the frequency of an aggressive event while driving, whether it be speeding, hard braking or accelerating.

The top 10 cities with the most aggressive drivers included:

  1. Los Angeles
  2. Philadelphia
  3. Sacramento, California
  4. Atlanta
  5. San Francisco
  6. San Diego
  7. Orlando, Florida.
  8. Detroit
  9. Austin, Texas
  10. Las Vegas

Los Angeles consistently tops the list of having some of the most expensive gas prices in the nation, currently averaging $3.35 per gallon. Combined with traffic and congestion, the GasBuddy Aggressive Driving study revealed that the way Los Angeles motorists are driving is also contributing to a larger gasoline budget. And it doesn’t stop with Los Angeles: four of the top 10 cities with the most aggressive drivers are in California, including Sacramento, San Francisco and San Diego.

“Frustration while driving in densely populated cities with high levels of congestion leads motorists to drive more aggressively and with more urgency. Interestingly, these are areas that typically see some of the highest gas prices in their respective states,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “With drivers in Los Angeles, Philadelphia,

Sacramento and Atlanta being 20 percent more aggressive than the average driver in America, it’s particularly important for commuters and rideshare drivers in these areas to work on shedding their lead foot and relax more to keep money from flying out the window each time they hit the road.”

Last year GasBuddy’s Aggressive Driving Study examined the states with the most aggressive drivers. Seven of the top 10 cities with the most aggressive drivers from this year’s study are within the top 10 states with the most aggressive drivers, including California, Georgia, Texas and Florida.

Additional findings include:

  • Frustrating Fridays. Motorists are 1.2 times more likely to encounter aggressive driving on Friday than on Wednesday. The most aggressive day on the road is Friday, with 14 percent more aggressive driving events occurring compared to the average across the United States. The least aggressive day on the road is Wednesday, with 6 percent fewer aggressive driving events occurring compared to the average across the United States.
  • Wearing Out the Brakes (All Week). The most frequent aggressive driving habit on weekdays is hard braking, followed by rapid acceleration and speeding. On weekends, the most frequent aggressive driving habit continues to be hard braking, followed by speeding and rapid acceleration.

San Diego’s Need for Speed. While cities like Los Angeles and Philadelphia take the top spots in regards to hard braking and rapid acceleration, San Diego, Orlando and Detroit take the top three spots for cities with the most speeding incidents.

GasBuddy is a company that connects drivers with the company’s Perfect Pit Stop. As a source for crowdsourced, real-time fuel prices at more than 150,000 gas station convenience stores in the U.S., Canada and Australia, millions of drivers use the GasBuddy app and website every day to find gas station convenience stores based on fuel prices, location and ratings/reviews.

For more information, visit www.gasbuddy.com.

 

 

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