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Archive for the ‘highways’ Category

Last year, the NTSB studied several safety issues with tractor trailer trucks. The NTSB proposed measures to reduce blind spots, and a requirements for side guards on new vehicles. The good news is that the NTSB has now officially adopted those safety measures.

The need for these safety measures is clear.  Bicyclists and pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to truck accidents. They are not visible to the driver up in the cab, and they have no external protection:

The NTSB analyzed data from vie states (Delaware, Mayland, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Utah) that linked hospital records with police reports under the auspices of NHTSA’s Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System (CODES). Data from these states showed that death rates of vulnerable road users involved in collisions with tractor-trailers were high: 152.8 per 1,000 involved pedestrians/cyclists and 119.5 per 1,000 motorcyclists. In comparison, death rates were 2.0 per 1,000 involved tractor-trailer occupants and 10.9 per 1,000 involved passenger vehicle occupants.

The NHTSA has 90 days to respond to the NTSB safety recommendation.

sideguard1

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Between the years 2001 and 2012, automobile fatalities were reduced by more than half in the EU:

Figures from the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), a non-governmental body, found more than 12,000 people were killed in cars in 2012 in the European Union and neighbouring Switzerland, the latest available figures, less than half the 28,000 deaths seen in 2001.

The council, in its report on Tuesday, credited stricter safety measures for the improvement.

Spain and Latvia stand out for the most progress, cutting the number of deaths by two-thirds from 2001 to 2012, but other nations still have bad records. The worst is Poland, where 11 people are killed in cars per billion kilometres travelled, compared with only around 2 in Britain, the Netherlands and Switzerland, according to the ETSC.

According to the report, the large reduction in fatalities was mainly a result of new modern highways that replaced rural roads. Advances in automobile technology and improved enforcement were other factors. The ETSC had little to say about promoting alternatives to driving, though it does mention that non-motorized road users had very little safety improvement.

The 2012 EU population was 508 million, vs. 313 million in the US. In 2012, the US had 33,561 traffic fatalities vs 12,000 in the EU.

 

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You would think 7 DUI’s and a 100 mph high-speed chase would earn some serious jail time for this asshole:

Angry protesters are promising to march on the Thurston County courthouse on Friday to voice their outrage that a drunk driver who led police on a dangerous high speed chase got off with no jail time.

The protesters say the rules are different for rich people when it comes to jail time for DUI offenders.

A Thurston County judge sentenced Shaun Goodman to just a year of work release for the Dec. 29 drunk driving episode.

In that incident, Goodman led police on a chase through downtown Olympia at top speeds of 100 mph. The chase ended when he crashed his 2000 Ferrari F360 into a parked car and a home. His blood alcohol measured 0.16, twice the Washington state threshold for drunken driving. During the chase, a passenger in Goodman’s vehicle begged him to stop. The passenger later jumped out when the Ferrari slowed down at an intersection.

Goodman eventually pleaded guilty to felony eluding a police officer and DUI, and the judge sentenced him this week to a year of work release, with no jail time.

Some have called this another case of affluenza, an alternate standard of justice for rich people. I would disagree — his sentence is actually not atypical for DUI. Unless there is a fatality, a DUI conviction mostly involves fines (which are no big deal if you are wealthy).

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A Federal court has halted a controversial Caltrans project to widen highways 197 and 199 along the Smith River Canyon:

The judge ruled that there is a risk of irreparable harm to the Smith River if the project were to proceed before the case is heard on its merits; he also ruled that a valid argument has been raised by plaintiffs that the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the federal Endangered Species Act by failing to properly analyze whether the project will jeopardize protected coho salmon or their critical habitat. The court characterized both agencies’ biological assessment documents for the project as “contradictory and unclear,” citing “serious questions about the adequacy of the ESA review and consultation process” raised by the plaintiffs. The court noted that it “cannot rubber-stamp a haphazard consultation process.”

Caltrans tried to downplay the threat project construction poses to salmon habitat and water quality along the Smith River and failed to look at safety hazards from increased truck traffic. The agency has thus far refused to consider alternatives besides widening the highway and ignored the cumulative impacts of numerous other associated Caltrans highway-widening projects in Northern California for oversized truck access. Despite the Fisheries Service’s own data on the imperiled status of coho salmon in the Smith River, the agency rubber-stamped the project without sufficient review.

Highway 199 is a scenic byway along the Smith River Canyon that passes through the Six Rivers National Forest and the Smith River National Recreation Area and provides access to Redwood National and State Parks. The Smith River is the only undammed river in California, with the longest stretch of designated “wild and scenic” river in the lower 48. A 1989 Caltrans report acknowledged the physical constraints of the narrow, steep and rocky Smith River Canyon and concluded that environmental concerns make Highway 199 “a poor candidate for extensive upgrading.”

Meanwhile, Caltrans is sticking with Alternattive “B” alignment for the Centennial Corridor, a controversial freewway project in Bakersfield that would bisect the Westpark neighborhood:

Alternative B through the Westpark neighborhood remains Caltrans’ preferred and least expensive route for Centennial Corridor, the controversial freeway link between Highway 58 and the Westside Parkway — but would require the demolition of far more homes and businesses than previously thought.

With its release Friday of the project’s draft Environmental Impact Report, the state transportation agency found Alternative B would improve traffic throughout metropolitan Bakersfield — but as currently planned would require the demolition of 200 single-family homes, 110 multiple-family structures and 121 commercial buildings.

Previously, the freeway alternative through southwest Bakersfield was thought to require the demolition of more than 199 single-family homes, 16 multiple-family structures and 36 businesses. Currently, Caltrans also estimates Alternative B would require 293 full parcel acquisitions, 129 partial parcel acquisitions — and could displace an estimated 961 people.

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A key stretch of Highway 1, the world-famous coastal highway, would be widened to 6 lanes under a proposed Caltrans project. The Calera Parkway widening project would affect a scenic 1.3-mile stretch of highway above Rockaway Beach.

Here is the before and after:

pacifica

According to Caltrans, the project is needed to reduce peak hour delay by 5 minutes — in the year 2035. Many residents in Pacifica are not convinced that the environmental impact of the project is worth a hypothetical 5-minute travel savings.

Highway 1 is also a world famous bicycling route. Caltrans has incorporated bikes into its planning, by proposing cyclists use the 10-foot shoulder that would be built as part of the project. I don’t know about you, but riding on a high-speed 6-lane expressway is not very “accommodating”.

The project would be funded mainly by the San Mateo County Transportation Authority. San Mateo County has always been indifferent to the safety needs of bikes/peds, and yet has no problem coming up with money for idiotic highway widenings.

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In California, a driver is only required to carry $15,000 in liability insurance coverage. That is the second lowest in the nation (only Florida is lower with $10,000). A car crash can cause well over $100,000 in medical expenses (not to mention lost wages). So if you are wondering why the amount is so ridiculously low, it is because the amount has not been raised in 40 years:

Enacted in 1974 when the average new car cost $4,440, California Vehicle Code 16056 dictated that drivers need to have insurance with $15,000 to cover bodily injury or death to one person in a motor vehicle accident, $30,000 to cover two or more people and $5,000 to cover property damage.

California is one of only seven states in the U.S. — the others are Arizona, Delaware, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — with limits that low, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. Only Florida has lower minimums, at $10,000, $20,000 and $10,000, respectively. Alaska and Maine have the highest at $50,000, $100,000 and $25,000.

Adjusted for inflation, $15,000 in 1974 dollars is equivalent to $70,800 in today’s dollars.

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Andrew Rosenthal is wondering the same thing I am. Why hasn’t Justin Bieber been deported?

A foreign national living in the United States on a work visa is arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana, alcohol and prescription drugs, while drag racing in a residential area. Given the climate of hostility toward immigrants in many parts of the country, and the Obama administration’s love affair with deportation, you’d expect him to be sitting in a holding cell awaiting a one-way trip out of the country.

At least you would expect that if he were poor, obscure and, say, Hispanic. But what if the malfeasant were wealthy, famous and, say, Justin Bieber?

The answer is that Biber is here on a O-1 visa. Individuals with “extraordinary” gifts in the arts are eligible (which just goes to show there is no accounting for taste). Under Federal law, re-evaluation of O-1 visa status only occurs for prison sentences longer than 1-year.

Perhaps it is time for Congress to reconsider the O-1 visa conditions. Drag racing and DUI are serious offenses that can injure or kill other road users. Why should such dangerous individuals be permitted to remain in the country?

Canadian Prime Minister presenting Justin Bieber with the Diamond Jubilee medal. The medal is awarded to Canadians who have made great achievement abroad.

Canadian Prime Minister presenting Justin Bieber with the Diamond Jubilee medal. The medal is awarded to Canadians who have made great achievements abroad.

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