Monday, December 13, 2010

States Warn Drunk Drivers: Over the Limit. Under Arrest

 More than five hundred Georgia police agencies are conducting DUI road checks and patrols to keep families safe on the road this holiday season. The state's Operation Zero Tolerance (OZT) enforcement mobilization runs Dec. 17 through Jan. 2. 

The Governor's Office of Highway Safety's (GOHS) is also launching a Thunder Task Force initiative targeting a county with some of the highest traffic fatality stats in the state. This is a three month program to reinforce local jurisdictions with increased state-coordinated traffic safety enforcement, focusing on DUI during the mobilization. GOHS Director Bob Dallas joins trauma surgeons and DUI victims to kick off the campaign with a news conference at a Savannah trauma center. Other news conferences are being held around the state to announce regional high visibility crackdown activities.

GOHS is supplementing its radio and TV paid media campaign with live radio announcements during traffic reports and University of Georgia football game broadcasts. UGA Coach Mark Richt begins every home game with a JumboTron stadium message: “Hang-Up...Buckle-Up...and Drive Sober so everyone has a safe trip home.” GOHS is also targeting drivers in high-risk, Hispanic, and minority communities with gas pump-topper ads at neighborhood convenience stores, and is using Facebook to reach millions of 18- to-34 year old high-risk drivers online.

/PRNewswire/ -- The Governors Highway Safety Association strongly supports the national "Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest." holiday drunk driving enforcement crackdown. According to GHSA Chairman Vernon F. Betkey, Jr., "State highway safety agencies are aggressively participating in this year's effort. State law enforcement partners will be making a very visible enforcement presence by increasing their drunk driving checkpoints and saturation patrols."

GHSA members are purchasing paid advertising and conducting a variety of awareness events to remind drivers that there's zero tolerance for those driving drunk this holiday season. Those citizens who may selfishly consider driving drunk should know that they will be pulled over and the consequences will be severe.

The holiday season is too often a deadly time on our roadways. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in December 2009, 753 people were killed in crashes that involved a drunk driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher – above the legal limit in every state and the District of Columbia.

To help move the nation toward zero roadway deaths, GHSA has been actively addressing the issue of impaired driving. Just last month, GHSA and NHTSA brought together a variety of state officials to discuss best practices in implementing alcohol ignition interlock programs. In 2011, GHSA will begin a three-year NHTSA-funded research effort to determine the most effective elements in a model interlock program. The Association strongly supports these devices and urges that they be required for all convicted drunk drivers. According to Chairman Betkey, "The technology exists to make it impossible for a person convicted of drunk driving to get behind the wheel of their vehicle unless they are sober. Every state should support these commonsense, lifesaving laws for all convicted offenders." Currently, 12 states have passed these laws.

State efforts will complement NHTSA's multimillion dollar "Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest." advertising campaign. The national holiday crackdown is organized by NHTSA and implemented by state highway safety agencies with the support of local law enforcement and other organizations. The crackdown runs through January 3.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) Receives Grant

Funds Earmarked for Georgia Motorcycle Safety Program
The Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) announced today the receipt of a grant totaling $104,700.00 earmarked for the DDS’s motorcycle safety training known as the Georgia Motorcycle Safety Program (GMSP). The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) approved the funding to be used for increasing the awareness of motorists and motorcyclists on sharing the road responsibly and safely. The funds will be used to pilot test a mobile licensing project and to purchase training motorcycles.

“The important partnership between DDS and GOHS allows our agencies to continue to provide quality rider education and safety awareness messages across the state. We are proud of the significant achievements that this cooperative spirit has produced.” said DDS Commissioner Gregory C. Dozier.

The Georgia Motorcycle Safety Program offers basic motorcycle training for new riders or those who want to learn how to ride a motorcycle safely in today’s traffic mix. Students do not need a motorcycle since the Program provides both a motorcycle and a helmet. After the course, successful graduates receive a license waiver card that exempts them from both the written and on-cycle skills tests at a DDC Customer Service Center.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Two out of Five Drivers Admit to Falling Asleep at the Wheel, Finds AAA Foundation Study

/PRNewswire/ -- Two out of every five drivers (41 percent) admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel at some point, with one in ten saying they've done so in the past year, according to a new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study. More than a quarter of those surveyed admitted they drove despite being so tired that they had difficulty keeping their eyes open in the previous month.

Eighty-five percent of drivers surveyed felt it was "completely unacceptable" for someone to drive if they are so tired they are having trouble keeping their eyes open. Unfortunately, drivers may not always be aware of the effects of fatigue resulting from a lack of sleep. In recognition of this week's Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®, hosted by the National Sleep Foundation, AAA wants all drivers to recognize the seriousness of this dangerous, yet underestimated, driving practice.

"When you are behind the wheel of a car, being sleepy is very dangerous. Sleepiness decreases awareness, slows reaction time, and impairs judgment, just like drugs or alcohol, contributing to the possibility of a crash," said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. "We need to change the culture so that not only will drivers recognize the dangers of driving while drowsy but will stop doing it."

A new analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash data estimates that about one in six (16.5 percent) deadly crashes, one in eight crashes resulting in occupant hospitalization and one in fourteen crashes in which a vehicle was towed involve a driver who is drowsy. These percentages are substantially higher than most previous estimates, suggesting that the contribution of drowsy driving to motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and deaths has not been fully appreciated.

"Many of us tend to underestimate the negative effects associated with fatigue and sleep deprivation and, conversely, overestimate our abilities to overcome them while driving," said Kathleen Marvaso, vice president, AAA Public Affairs. "This data underscores the importance of educating drivers on the simple, yet effective steps they can take to prevent a possible tragedy. Unfortunately, too many drivers have adopted the 'I'm tired, but I can make it' mentality, often to their own peril or to the peril of others."

David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation, added, "It is shocking to consider that one quarter of drivers admit to operating a vehicle in the last month in an incapacitated state." The National Sleep Foundation has been championing better drowsy driving awareness and education since 1991. Cloud adds, "We applaud AAA's work to elevate this issue for public scrutiny and action."

To remain alert and avoid drowsiness, AAA suggests:

* Getting plenty of sleep (at least six hours) the night before a long trip;
* Scheduling a break every two hours or every 100 miles;
* Traveling at times when you are normally awake, and staying overnight rather than driving straight through; and
* Stop driving if you become sleepy; someone who is tired could fall asleep at any time.


Symptoms of sleepiness include but are not limited to:

* Having trouble keeping your eyes open and focused;
* The inability to keep your head up;
* Daydreaming or having wandering, disconnected thoughts; and
* Drifting from your lane or off the road, or tailgating.


These findings were part of the AAA Foundation's third annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, a nationally-representative survey conducted by Abt SRBI Inc. The Traffic Safety Culture Index was a telephone survey of 2,000 U.S. residents ages 16 and older conducted from May 11, 2010 through June 7, 2010. The estimated proportion of crashes involving a drowsy driver is based on analysis of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System, a nationally-representative sample of crashes involving a passenger vehicle that was towed. Data analyzed was from years 1999 – 2008.

For more information about the drowsy driving study, including the full report and fact sheet, visit www.AAAFoundation.org.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) Reminds Teens of Driving Restrictions

Curfew (for driving by teens) is midnight to six a.m. – no exceptions!

Parents and teens should be mindful of Georgia’s teenage driving restrictions especially as holiday activities ramp up. Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) lists all the restrictions on their website www.dds.ga.gov. Restrictions for teens holding a “Class D” license (sixteen to eighteen years of age) include:

1. No driving between the hours of 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. No exceptions.
2. Passenger restrictions:

For the initial six-month period immediately following the issuance of a Class D license, any Class D license holder shall not drive a motor vehicle upon the public roads, streets or highways of this state when any other passenger in the vehicle is not a member of the driver's immediate family. During the second six-month period immediately following issuance of a Class D license, any Class D license holder shall not drive a motor vehicle upon the public roads, streets or highways of this state when more than one other passenger in the vehicle (who is not a member of the driver's immediate family) is less than 21 years of age. After the second six-month period, any Class D license holder shall not drive a motor vehicle upon the public roads, streets or highways of this state when more than three other passengers in the vehicle (who are not members of the driver’s immediate family) are less than 21 years of age.

“Buckling up is the first safety step, but please be mindful of teen passenger restrictions and the limited driving hours,” said DDS Commissioner Gregory C. Dozier. “These laws are mechanisms which support safe teen driving, and they do make a difference with lowering crashes and fatalities when observed,” he added.

Most recently, the Georgia Legislature passed new teen cell phone legislation which forbids any teen operating a motor vehicle from any cell phone use – including texting.

For more information including access to many Internet Services, please visit www.dds.ga.gov.
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Friday, October 29, 2010

Mayor Kasim Reed and the City of Atlanta Announce Partnership with Nissan North America to Advance Zero-Emission Mobility in Atlanta

Atlanta Prepares for Nissan LEAF 100% Electric Vehicle

Today, Mayor Kasim Reed announced the city’s efforts in readying for electric vehicles and joined Nissan North America Inc. (NNA) to celebrate Atlanta as one of the first cities in the Southeast to launch the Nissan LEAF Electric Vehicle. NNA announced that it is entering into an agreement with Clean Cities-Atlanta (CC-A) to advance zero-emission mobility by promoting the development of electric vehicles and an electric-charging network. The announcement was part of the City of Atlanta’s Sustainability Week, a series of events to raise awareness throughout Atlanta about issues such as energy and water conservation, the creation of green jobs, locally produced food and fuel efficiency.

The Nissan LEAF, the country’s first all-electric vehicle designed for the mass market, makes its global debut in December in certain states and will be rolled out throughout the United States in 2011.

Earlier this week, Mayor Reed unveiled Power to Change, a plan that will guide the City of Atlanta’s sustainability efforts for the next several years. As part of the plan, Mayor Reed has set the aggressive goal of making Atlanta a top 10 city for sustainability.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a critical component of making Atlanta a cleaner, greener and more sustainable city,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. “We appreciate Nissan for choosing Atlanta to be one of the first cities in the southeast to launch the Nissan LEAF. This public endorsement affirms our commitment to alternative fuels and supports our drive to be a top-ten sustainable city.”

As part of the agreement, NNA and CC-A will collaborate on plans to promote a charging infrastructure for EVs, as well as the deployment, operation and maintenance of a charging network. CC-A is a coalition of government agencies, utilities, public interest groups, and public and private fleets that advance the use of alternatives to gasoline, and diesel fuels in cars, trucks and buses. The partners in the agreement also will work to coordinate the establishment of policies and help streamline the deployment of an EV infrastructure.

“The Renault-Nissan Alliance is committed to becoming a global leader in zero-emission vehicles, and Clean Cities-Atlanta has shown similar leadership through their progressive policies and focus on clean energy,” said Eric Noziere, vice president, Corporate Planning and Program Management Office. “This agreement further demonstrates the commitment by Atlanta to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We look forward to bringing the zero-emission Nissan LEAF to the roads of metropolitan Atlanta.”

The agreement adds Atlanta to a growing network of zero-emission vehicle initiatives across the United States and around the world. Nissan, along with its alliance partner Renault, has formed partnerships with more than 80 governments, cities and other organizations to advance the deployment of electric vehicles. It is the only automaker committed to making affordable, all-electric vehicles available to the mass market globally. The Nissan LEAF will roll out to the state of Georgia in 2011.

Consumers and other interested drivers have their first opportunity to test-drive a Nissan LEAF in select markets through the “Drive Electric Tour.” The tour provides information about the car, its technology, and its features, along with the first public test-drives. Interested drivers can learn more about the tour, including specific locations, and register to drive the Nissan LEAF at www.drivenissanleaf.com.

The Nissan LEAF is a five-passenger compact electric car that uses no gas, creates no emissions and has no tailpipe. It has a top speed of 90 mph and is powered by advanced lithium-ion batteries, which provide the car with a range of 100 miles on a single charge as tested on the LA4 test cycle, enough to satisfy the daily driving needs of more than 90 percent of Americans.

In North America, Nissan's operations include automotive styling, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing. Nissan is dedicated to improving the environment under the Nissan Green Program 2010 and has been recognized as a 2010 ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency. More information on Nissan in North America, the Nissan LEAF and zero emissions can be found at www.nissanusa.com.
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Day and Night Lane Closures Week of October 25th on I-85 Express Lanes

Lane closures continue this week on the Interstate 85 Express Lane project in DeKalb and Gwinnett Counties. Georgia DOT’s contractor, World Fiber Technologies will work day and night next week as weather permits.

The work plan will require the overnight closing of the outside lane of I-85 northbound from Pleasant Hill Road to State Route 316 in Gwinnett County starting at 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday, 25th through Friday, 29th. “If the weather cooperates, crews will bore under the interstate for the third week. Boring is the first step to running the hundreds of miles of conduit needed for the technology that will operate the Express Lane system,” explained Georgia DOT District Construction Engineer, Randall Davis.
Daytime work will occur Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The outside southbound lane of I-85 southbound will be closed from Dawson Blvd to I-285 so crews can inspect and repair existing communications equipment. The lane will be closed from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. only.

The I-85 Express Lanes Project includes installation of 16 miles of fiber and signage along Interstate Highway 85 between Chamblee Tucker Road and Old Peachtree Road and along State Route 316 between I-85 and Riverside Parkway. This $11.7 million project was awarded to World Fiber Technologies, Inc., of Alpharetta.

When completed, registered transit buses, motorcycles, alternative fueled vehicles and vehicles with three or more passengers will be allowed to use the inside (left) HOT lane for free, while single- and double-occupant vehicles will be allowed to use the lane if they choose to pay a variably priced toll.
For additional information and construction updates on this project, please email Teri Pope at tpope@dot.ga.gov.

Georgia DOT urges travelers to call 511 for updated information about these or any other construction projects on interstates and state routes. Georgia 511 is a free phone service that provides real-time traffic and travel information statewide, such as traffic conditions, incidents, lane closures, and delays due to inclement weather. Callers also can transfer to operators to request assistance or report incidents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More information is available at www.511ga.org.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Avoid Deer on Road by Taking Extra Caution During this Time of Year

With an estimated 50,000 deer-car collisions annually in Georgia, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division advises motorists across the state to be extra cautious of increased deer and wildlife sightings this fall season.

Increased deer sightings occur for a number of reasons – increased populations, habitat fragmentation and mating season are a few. With fall breeding season in full swing – a peak time of year for deer-related car collisions – the division offers motorists some tips and information to help avoid potential collisions.

“Some Georgia motorists may only expect deer to cross rural roadways, while in fact, urban and suburban roads are also prime areas for deer-car collisions,” explains Don McGowan, Wildlife Resources Division biologist. “Hunting is oftentimes mistakenly blamed for increased deer-car collisions in autumn when, in reality, deer are on the move due to a series of both natural and human causes.”

One such cause is mating season. Deer mating season occurs between October and early December. Male deer go into rut and begin actively searching for mates. This greatly contributes to the increased movement of deer, bringing them across roadways.

Increased human population and rural development also lend to increased deer sightings. As the human population continues to grow and expand into traditionally rural areas, deer lose their natural food source and consequently move into new areas in search of food and water.

Additionally, as we begin to “fall back” for daylight savings time, our days become shorter and nights become longer. Rush hour for most commuters tends to fall during the same hours in which white-tailed deer are most active – at dawn and dusk.

The division advises drivers of the following:

·    Unpredictable: Always remember deer are wildlife and therefore, very unpredictable. A deer calmly standing on the side of a road may bolt into or across the road rather than away from it when startled by a vehicle.

·    One Deer Usually Means More: Take caution and slow down when a deer crosses. Deer generally travel in groups, so if one crosses, be prepared that others may follow.

·    Time of Day: As deer are most active at dawn and dusk, they typically are seen roadside during the early morning and late evening – the same times most people are commuting to and from work.

·    Time of Year: While many deer-car collisions occur in early spring and late summer, when natural food sources are scarce, the fall breeding season is also a peak time for such accidents. Road shoulders generally provide green food both during extremely dry times of the year and following a long, hard winter.

·    Minimize Damage: If it is too late to avoid a collision, drivers are advised to slow down as much as possible to minimize damage – resist the urge to swerve to avoid the deer, this may cause further damage, sending drivers off the road or causing a collision with another vehicle. If an accident occurs, alert the police as soon as possible.

For more information on deer-car collisions in Georgia or to learn more about white-tailed deer or deer seasons, visit www.georgiawildlife.com , contact a Wildlife Resources Division Game Management office or call (770) 918-6416.


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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

2011 Jump Start Conference: Defining Success in Transportation

January 17-19, 2011
Renaissance Concourse Hotel
Atlanta, GA
Sponsored by SMC³
www.smc3conference.com

At the SMC³ 2011 Jump Start Conference you will:

· Hear from the CEOs of major shippers, carriers and logistics service providers on trends and business concerns in 2011.
· Learn the risks and rewards of integrating sustainability concepts with traditional supply chain practices.
· Get updated on global economic indicators and domestic legislative initiatives.
· Extend your network of shippers, carriers, and 3PLs—2011 Jump Start brings all the supply chain players together.
· Enjoy outstanding conference value, including free bonus sessions on supply chain outsourcing, temperature-controlled LTL, and international LTL costing.

Know what to expect in the global supply chain and how to strategize for it—the information you discover at 2011 Jump Start will define your success in the coming year.

Clayton State Students Affairs Receives Grant from Governor’s Office of Highway Safety

The Division of Student Affairs at Clayton State University recently received the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) grant in the amount of $7,490. The grant is effective Oct. 1, 2010 through Sept. 30, 2011.

André Clanton, assistant director of Student Conduct and chair of the Alcohol and other Drugs Education and Prevention Team (ADEPT) at Clayton State, along with Deborah Dupree, director of Special Projects for Student Affairs, worked together on the grant proposal.

“The GOHS grant will be used to provide alcohol and other drug education and prevention programming at Clayton State University,” Clanton says. “In addition, the grant will support a peer health educator position, survey tools to assess the alcohol and other drug climate on campus, education and training for our BACCHUS (Boosting Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students) peer health educators, and attendance to local alcohol and other drug education conferences.”

Clanton is excited about receiving the grant.

“This grant will help us educate students and provide them with the knowledge they need to make wise decisions regarding alcohol and drug use and abuse,” he says. “It also helps us teach other students how to share this information with their peers. As a student affairs professional, I am all about education, prevention, and leadership development.”

Clanton admits that it was challenging to gather statistics on alcohol related incidents involving Clayton State University students as well as creating a programming agenda for the entire year. However, despite the challenges, Clanton feels rewarded by the experience.

“What's most rewarding is seeing some of the results of our labor,” he says. “Over the summer, our institution received its BACCHUS Network Charter. We received our charter through the hard work and dedication of our student peer health educators. We also attended the Governor's Office of Highway Safety Young Adult Conference. While there, we interacted with other institutions and shared struggles and triumphs of alcohol education and prevention on our perspective campuses. What we learned is we are all fighting for the same cause...saving lives.”

Clanton notes that BACCHUS is affiliated with Clayton State University ADEPT.

“The grant will be used to train our BACCHUS students to develop programs, present information, and recruit members,” he says. “In addition, the grant allowed us to purchase an assessment tool to help us collect statistical information about Clayton State University students' actual use and perceptions of alcohol and other drug use and abuse on campus.”

The grant will be used for National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week programming, which occurs from Oct. 17 to Oct. 23, during which BACCHUS will be sponsoring programs with the Campus Events Council.

The first program is a dinner/movie program on Monday, Oct. 18. BACCHUS and CEC will be showing "Higher Learning" and having a discussion about the many issues it addresses. Clayton State’s Peer Health Educators are Charnele Dobbins, sophomore Nursing Major and Chanielle Lee, senior Healthcare Management Major.

A unit of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State University is an outstanding comprehensive metropolitan university located 15 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Teens Not Exposed to Diverse Driving Experience Prior to Licensing, Finds AAA Foundation Study

/PRNewswire/ -- In advance of National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 17-23), today the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released the first naturalistic study using invehicle cameras to capture teenage drivers and their parents during their supervised driving phase. Nearly half (47 percent) of parents in the study reported that after the yearlong learner's stage, there was still at least one condition in which they did not feel comfortable letting their teen drive. Yet, more than one-third (37 percent) of these families allowed their teen to obtain a license within a month of being eligible, although a few families restricted driving in certain scenarios.

The average amount of weekly driving varied greatly among families, ranging from just twenty minutes to almost five hours the study found. Sixty-eight percent of parents reported that opportunities to drive together were limited by busy schedules of both parents and teens. Teens averaged just over an hour and a half of supervised driving per week, mostly on routine trips along the same routes. Meaning, few teens gained significant experience in more challenging situations, such as driving in inclement weather or in heavy traffic. After a full year of driving:

* One in three parents said they still didn't consider their teen ready to drive unsupervised in heavy traffic or on the highway.
* One in five didn't think their teen was ready to drive unsupervised in the rain.


"Driving in a variety of settings is the best way to build competence; starting early and practicing often can make the crucial difference between being a tentative novice driver or one capable of handling challenging and unavoidable driving scenarios," said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. "Until now, there's been almost no scientific research on what parents actually do while supervising their teens' driving. This study reinforces that parents are ideally positioned to assess their teen's early driving ability and provide invaluable training and guidance during this critical time."

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in this country. The first few years of unsupervised driving are the most dangerous – 1,363 U.S. teen drivers age 15-18 died in traffic crashes in 2008. However, teens are clearly a danger to others as well because the total number of deaths resulting from these crashes was 3,495.

"Humans learn complex tasks like driving more from direct experience than by being told what to do," said Arthur Goodwin, the report's primary investigator and a Senior Research Associate with the University of North Carolina (UNC) Highway Safety Research Center. "Parents should ask themselves: Do I want my teen to learn how to handle bad weather, darkness, rush hour traffic or narrow rural roads without me in the car?"

Although graduated driver's license (GDL) systems vary by state, most require at least six months of supervised driving for beginners; several states require up to a year. During the supervised stage of GDL, the research showed parents need to:

* Ensure ample practice in all driving situations– including frequent practice at night, in bad weather, in heavy city traffic, on rural highways and on busy interstates.
* Share their driving "wisdom" to help teens spot dangers that aren't obvious and see the "big picture."


Parents should use "I" statements, explaining what they would do in critical situations, so teens will be more likely to listen to and remember.

* Teach teens to drive defensively, be wary of other drivers and anticipate the unexpected things they might do. For example, "Even when I have a green light, I always glance both ways to make sure other cars are stopping, because sometimes they don't."


The AAA Foundation commissioned the UNC Highway Safety Research Center to conduct the study. The initial phase concluded in January 2010 and the second phase will conclude this fall as researchers continue tracking teens once they obtain their provisional license. Ultimately, the study will shed light on how teens handle the high-risk transition to independent driving and provide insight on the nature of distractions facing newly licensed teen drivers.

AAA offers online tools and information to help parents work with their teen drivers. The motor club's new Web site, www.teendriving.aaa.com, helps parents and teens manage the complex learning-to-drive process by providing them with state-specific information that they need based on the teen's progress toward licensure.

The site features AAA StartSmart, a series of online lessons and newsletters based on the National Institutes of Health's Checkpoints program, which has been proven to help parents improve teen driver safety and is being offered nationally for the first time. Launched this summer, the site also offers an online version of AAA's Dare To Prepare workshop and lessons from the motor club's Teaching Your Teen To Drive program, both of which assist families that are or soon will be learning to drive.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Official release: GDOT, SRTA Boards Approve GA400 Lease Extension

Toll Funds to Be Used for Improvements to GA400

State Route 400, also known as GA400, is now in position to receive a series of improvements that will reduce travel times on GA400, many adjoining surface roads, and at its interchange with Interstate 85. The projects have been developed between the State Road & Tollway Authority (SRTA) and Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) after considerable input from many metro Atlanta government officials, civic leaders and business executives.

The State Transportation Board approved extending the ground lease for GA400 to SRTA until September 20, 2020. The SRTA Board also approved the lease extension as well as a resolution to issue toll revenue bonds and to establish the toll rate and the toll expiration date. The new bond would be paid for with tolls set at the same rates that are in place today.

“Metro Atlanta and the GA400 corridor have experienced phenomenal growth since this road first opened 20 years ago,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “While growth was expected, nobody could have foreseen the amount of growth that has taken place. Both the roadway and its interchanges are in desperate need of improvements to better manage traffic flow. A plan is in place and can now be implemented to make those much-needed improvements.”

New connector ramps that join GA400 and I-85 are specified in the new lease agreement. The connector ramps were part of the original plans for GA400 when the road was first built but were excluded because of budget. Cost to build the ramps at the time was approximately $21.5 million. Today, the cost is projected to be $40 million and an initial scheduling projection states the ramps can be completed in 2013. According to GDOT, if a new toll is not used to fund the project the earliest that this or any other GA400 improvement project could take place is 2020.

“I had the privilege of being involved with GA400 when it was first conceived as a way to open the north Georgia suburbs to Downtown Atlanta,” said Tom Moreland, former GDOT Commissioner and head of Moreland Altobelli Associates, Inc. “That was a very different time. We anticipated a lot of growth, but you have to remember that this was at least five years before we knew Atlanta was even getting the Olympics. There’s no way that any of us could have anticipated the growth that Metro Atlanta has experienced. A lot has changed since then, but tollways are still one of the best ways to effectively build, improve and maintain intercity expressways and GA400 is no different. Keeping the tollway makes perfect sense.”

SRTA and GDOT initially developed a list of 160 possible projects with input from the North Fulton Atlanta Mayors Association; Buckhead, North Fulton and Perimeter CIDs; Atlanta Regional Commission, Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and various city and county planning and transportation entities. Those projects were then reviewed based on their impact to GA400 corridor, mobility, strategic objectives and project schedule. The short-list of 11 projects ranked the highest based on these criteria.

“SRTA and GDOT have been jointly exploring many different options for GA400, which include both removing and keeping the tollway,” said SRTA Executive Director Gena Evans. “After a significant amount of input from community groups and civic and business leaders, SRTA is recommending that a new toll be implemented to fund much needed improvements along the GA400 corridor.”

The next step is to solicit public comments on the projects for a 30-day period. This comment period will look much like the GDOT Open Houses before a project is confirmed.

The 11 projects that are recommended for implementation are:

· New ramps that connect GA400 and I-85 so motorists no longer need to travel on local surface streets, saving 4 to 7 minutes of travel time;

· Improving the GA400 southbound to I-85 southbound merge so GA400 has a dedicated lane in I-85;

· Widening GA400 from McFarland Rd. to SR20 with a third general purpose lane;

· Extend the third northbound lane approximately ¾ miles to enhance the transition from the existing four lanes to two lanes near McFarland Rd that extend to SR20 in Forsyth County;

· Extend the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) and Highway Emergency Response Order (HERO) north from McFarland Rd to SR20 by providing video detection and ramp metering to more effectively manage congestion and reduce the impact of incidences along GA400;

· Install ITS from Barnwell Rd on SR140/Holcomb Bridge Rd to SR9/Alpharetta Street, utilizing existing Active Traffic Management System devices to optimize costs and coordinate with the existing City of Roswell traffic infrastructure;

· Construct a triple left turn lane for the Mansell Road corridor between the GA400 northbound exit ramp (Exit 8) and the North Point Parkway intersection with Mansell Rd to accommodate planned growth from the current 18,650 cars per day to the projected 59,700 cars per day in 2034;

· Continue funding the GRTA Xpress service from Forsyth County to the North Springs MARTA rail station near Perimeter Center and direct service to Downtown Atlanta from Cumming;

· Reconstruct the ramp from westbound Abernathy to northbound GA400 to allow motorists additional time and distance to merge onto GA400; and

· Increase capacity and make operational improvements to the three intersections that directly tie into the Northridge Road intersection at GA400, which are Northridge Road at Dunwoody Place, Roberts Drive and Somerset Court, and Roberts Drive and Dunwoody Place, and add a traffic roundabout at Somerset Court to the east; and

· Initiate Preliminary Engineering (PE) of managed lanes between I-285 and McFarland Road.

GDOT has final approval over plans and specifications for any such construction projects before they can be put out to bid.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announces partnership with US Department of Transportation to combat distracted driving by workers

/PRNewswire/ -- Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of worker fatalities, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today announced a partnership between the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation to combat distracted driving.

"It is imperative that employers eliminate financial and other incentives that encourage workers to text while driving," said Secretary Solis. "It is well recognized that texting while driving dramatically increases the risk of a motor vehicle injury or fatality."

Prohibiting texting while driving is the subject of an executive order signed by President Barack Obama last year for federal employees and the subject of rulemaking by the Department of Transportation.

OSHA is launching a multi-pronged initiative that includes:

* An education campaign for employers, to be launched during "Drive Safely Work Week" in early October, will call on employers to prevent occupationally related distracted driving, with a special focus on prohibiting texting while driving.
* An open letter to employers to be posted on OSHA's website, http://www.osha.gov during "Drive Safely Work Week." The website also will showcase model employer policies and encourage employer and labor associations to communicate OSHA's message.
* Alliances with the National Safety Council and other key organizations as outreach to employers, especially small employers, aimed at combating distracted driving and prohibit texting while driving.
* Special emphasis on reaching younger workers by coordinating with other Labor Department agencies as well as alliance partners and stakeholders.
* Investigating issue citations and penalties where necessary to end the practice when OSHA receives a credible complaint that an employer requires texting while driving.


"We call upon all employers to prohibit any work policy or practice that requires or encourages workers to text while driving," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "The Occupational Safety and Health Act is clear; employers must provide a workplace free of recognized hazards."

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Car Seat Inspections Offered Nationwide as Part of Child Passenger Safety Week

From Savannah to Kennesaw, car seat inspections will happen at many points throughout Georgia on Saturday, September 25.

/PRNewswire/ -- Safe Kids USA and its network of coalitions will inspect thousands of child safety seats during Child Passenger Safety Week (September 19-25) by conducting more than 400 car seat checkup events for families and their children across the nation. Nationally certified child passenger safety technicians will lead the inspection events and deliver hands-on education to parents and caregivers throughout the week.

In partnership with the General Motors Foundation since 1997, Safe Kids Buckle Up, the child passenger safety program of Safe Kids USA, has inspected 1.28 million car seats; held approximately 65,000 car seat checkup events around the country; donated more than 457,000 car seats to families in need and educated more than 21 million parents and caregivers.

Research shows that as children age, they are less likely to be in the appropriate child safety seat for their age and weight," said Torine Creppy, Director of Safe Kids USA Buckle Up programs. "Safe Kids USA would like to change that by helping assure that each child in a vehicle is properly protected. Every child deserves to grow up safely, and we are pleased to work through our coalitions at the state and local levels to promote and improve child safety in vehicles during this week."

Safe Kids coalitions will also join the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in activities to support Seat Check Saturday on September 25.

"When it comes to child passenger safety, there is absolutely no room for error. It's critical that parents and caregivers understand how to properly install their child seats in their vehicles," said Administrator David Strickland, U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "We urge parents to visit one of the thousands of seat check sites across the nation to ensure kids are safely buckled up – every trip, every time."

Checkup events will be held in locations convenient for families. Parents and caregivers can locate a Safe Kids Buckle Up checkup event in their community by visiting www.safekids.org.

"General Motors commends the many committed members of the Safe Kids community and their partners who dedicate their time and expertise to improve child safety during this week of focus and throughout the year," said Michael J. Robinson, General Motors vice president of Environment, Energy and Safety Policy.

A 2008 report from NHTSA shows that children from birth to age 1 were in a car seat 99 percent of the time. Children from ages 1-3 were in car seats 92 percent of the time and kids 4-7 were in seats 89 percent of the time. Sadly, as kids get to be between 8-12 they ride in a restraint only 85 percent of the time.

Also according to NHTSA, child safety seats reduce the risk of death for infants (under 1 year old) in a vehicle crash by 71 percent, and reduce the risk to toddlers (1 to 4 years old) by 54 percent. All 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws requiring children to be restrained while riding in cars.

Parents and caregivers should follow a few basic guidelines to determine which restraint system is best suited to protect their children in a vehicle:

* For the best possible protection, keep infants in a back seat, in rear-facing child safety seats, as long as possible—up to the height or weight limit of the particular seat. Never turn a child forward-facing before age 1 and at least 20 pounds, although keeping kids rear-facing until at least age 2 is safer and preferred if the seat allows.
* When children outgrow their rear-facing seats, they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats, in a back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular harnessed seat. Many newer seats exceed the old 40 pound weight limit.
* Once children outgrow their forward-facing seats, they should ride in booster seats, in the back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly.
* Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt rests on the shoulder or collar bone (usually when the child is between 8 and 12 years old, approximately 4'9" tall and 80 to 100 pounds).

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fifty Propane Autogas Vehicles Hit the Roads in Florida, Georgia as Part of Department of Energy Clean Cities Alternative Fuel Program

/PRNewswire/ -- West Palm Beach, Florida-based Peninsula Propane and Pendergrass, Georgia-based Force 911 converted 50 vehicles from gasoline to clean propane Autogas last month as part of the groundbreaking Southeast Propane Autogas Development Program. The $8.6 million Recovery Act-funded Program will put nearly 1,200 propane Autogas vehicles on the road in nine Southeast states and Washington D.C., implement at least 20 refueling stations, and create dozens of American jobs.

"Thanks to our dedicated partners, we are making tremendous progress on the deployment of this extensive Program," says Chelsea Jenkins, the director of Virginia Clean Cities at James Madison University, which is managing the Program. "With the DOE funding and the Program participants who are leading the way in adopting alternative fuels, we are advancing the use of green fuels and technologies in the Southeast."

Peninsula Propane is an affiliate of a paratransit, shuttle and taxi company with more than 1,200 transport vehicles in South Florida. John Obeid, a Peninsula Propane managing partner, says the company became a certified propane Autogas vehicle conversion center more than a year ago because they're dedicated to reducing the area's vehicle emissions.

"Propane Autogas vehicles are cleaner than gasoline vehicles, and they have a history of lasting longer and saving fleets money," says Obeid. "Many of our vehicles chart 75,000 to 100,000 miles per year, so if we convert our vehicles to propane Autogas, and convert other Florida fleet vehicles, the displaced emissions and gasoline will add up quickly." Peninsula Propane converted 6 vehicles in August and is scheduled to convert a total of 250 of their vehicles.

Force 911 is a full-service law enforcement vehicle outfitter and a certified conversion center for the Program. The center works with government agencies to provide customized vehicles based on their specified needs, such as K9 transport systems, prisoner transport units, and bi-fuel propane Autogas vehicle conversions. Force 911 has already converted 44 vehicles from gasoline to propane Autogas for Carroll and Cobb County fleets in Georgia and is scheduled to perform more than 200 vehicle conversions under the Program.

Force 911 President Wayne Abbs says: "We are proud to be a part of this project and provide Georgia law enforcement agencies with low-emissions propane Autogas vehicles. Vehicle performance is paramount for officers, and propane Autogas vehicles provide virtually the same power as gasoline vehicles while reducing emissions and using a domestic fuel source."

Peninsula Propane and Force 911 were trained and certified by Alliance AutoGas, a national network that provides shovel-ready propane Autogas vehicle solutions to public and private fleets. Alliance AutoGas - with founding partners Blossman Gas (the largest independent propane supply company in the nation) and American Alternative Fuel (alternative fuel vehicle systems specialists) - is training technicians to perform the vehicle conversions for the Program, installing the refueling stations and supplying the propane Autogas fuel.

"Propane Autogas is a clean, domestic and cost-effective fuel that's available now, and this Program, along with the other ARRA-funded projects, are contributing more than 250 propane Autogas refueling stations to an already-strong national refueling network," says Stuart Weidie, Alliance AutoGas president and Autogas for America founder. "This project is making it easier for fleets to fuel up with Autogas, but it's also a major step toward bringing Autogas into the national alternative fuels discussion."

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Survey Shows Importance of MADD's Work to End Drunk Driving

/PRNewswire/ -- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today released a National Survey of Drinking and Driving Attitudes and Behaviors confirming the importance of MADD's work to eliminate drunk driving and keep alcohol out of the hands of kids.

"The survey makes one thing very clear: drunk driving remains a primary threat to the American family," said Laura Dean-Mooney, MADD National President. "This means that MADD's work won't be done until cars are turned into the cure, eliminating drunk driving forever."

While drunk driving fatalities have dropped nearly 44 percent since MADD's inception 30 years ago, four out of five persons surveyed still consider drinking and driving as a major threat to their personal safety. The survey also showed support for in-car breathalyzers, known as ignition interlocks, as well as sobriety checkpoints, both key parts of MADD's Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®.

"It is gratifying to see that Americans overwhelmingly support MADD's Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®," said Dean-Mooney.

The campaign aims to protect families by supporting the heroes who keep our roads safe through high-visibility law enforcement; requiring convicted drunk drivers to blow before they go with the use of ignition interlock devices; and turning cars into the cure through the development of technology that automatically determines whether or not the driver is above the legal limit of .08 and failing to operate if the driver is impaired.

The survey also shows that underage drinking remains a significant problem among America's youth. When young people decide to combine drinking and driving, they do so after drinking heavily.

"We know that the younger kids start drinking alcohol, the more likely they are to become drunk drivers," said Dean-Mooney. "This data reiterates that point and makes it clear that parents need to talk to their kids about the dangers of drinking underage early and often."

Understanding that parents are the number one influence in their child's decision to drink, MADD launched a new program with the support of Nationwide Insurance called Power of Parents, It's Your Influence®. The program provides parents the tools necessary to talk to their children about alcohol.

"Ultimately, the survey just emphasizes the importance of MADD's work," said Dean-Mooney. "We must continue our work to make American families safe from the dangers of drunk driving and underage drinking - lives are at stake."

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

CDC Study Finds Annual Cost of Motor Vehicle Crashes Exceeds $99 Billion

/PRNewswire/ -- In a one-year period, the cost of medical care and productivity losses associated with injuries from motor vehicle crashes exceeded $99 billion - with the cost of direct medical care accounting for $17 billion, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The total annual cost amounts to nearly $500 for each licensed driver in the United States, said the study in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention.

The one-year costs of fatal and non-fatal crash-related injuries totaled $70 billion (71 percent of total costs) for people riding in motor vehicles, such as cars and light trucks, $12 billion for motorcyclists, $10 billion for pedestrians, and $5 billion for bicyclists, the study said.

CDC researchers used 2005 data because, at the study time, it provided the most current source of national fatal and non-fatal injury and cost data from multiple sources.

"Every 10 seconds, someone in the United States is treated in an emergency department for crash-related injuries, and nearly 40,000 people die from these injuries each year. This study highlights the magnitude of the problem of crash-related injuries from a cost perspective, and the numbers are staggering," said Dr. Grant Baldwin, director of CDC's Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

The study also found:

-- Costs related to fatal motor vehicle-related injuries totaled $58
billion. The cost of non-fatal injuries resulting in hospitalization
amounted to $28 billion, and the cost of injuries to people treated in
emergency departments and released was $14 billion. More men were
killed (70 percent) and injured (52 percent) in motor vehicle crashes
than women. Injuries and deaths among men represented 74 percent ($74
billion) of all costs. Teens and young adults made up 28 percent of
all fatal and nonfatal motor vehicle injuries and 31 percent of the
costs ($31 billion). These young people represented only 14 percent of
the U.S. population.
-- Motorcyclists made up 6 percent of all fatalities and injuries but 12
percent of the costs, likely due to the severity of their injuries.
Pedestrians, who have no protection when they are hit by vehicles and
are also often severely injured, made up 5 percent of all injuries but
10 percent of total costs.


Motor vehicle crash injuries and deaths and the associated costs are preventable. CDC's Injury Center supports proven, effective strategies for prevention such as:

-- Graduated driver licensing (GDL) policies: these laws allow new teen
drivers to get experience on the road in lower-risk situations as they
gain experience over time and are proven to reduce teen crashes.
Strong GDL laws have been associated with up to 40 percent decreases
in crashes among 16-year-old drivers.
-- Child safety seat distribution and education programs: increased use
of correctly installed and fitted child safety seats could help reduce
the $3.6 billion annual bill for injuries to children, the cost number
found in this study.
-- Primary seat belt laws: these laws allow motorists to be stopped and
cited for not wearing seat belts. Seat belts reduce the risk of death
to those riding in the front seat by about half.
-- Enhanced seat belt enforcement programs: Enhanced enforcement programs
in which law enforcement officers focus on getting people to buckle up
(e.g.: Click It or Ticket), are effective at increasing safety belt
use and reducing deaths and injuries.
-- Motorcycle and bicycle helmet laws: helmets can reduce the risk of
death in a motorcycle crash by more than one-third and reduce the risk
of brain injury by 69 percent.
-- Sobriety checkpoints: these checkpoints, where drivers are stopped to
assess their level of alcohol impairment, can reduce alcohol-related
crash deaths by more than 20 percent.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Seniors Slam Car Company Efforts to Escalate a Repair Parts Monopoly That Harms Older Americans

/PRNewswire/ -- Today, RetireSafe President Thair Phillips, representing 400,000 older Americans, slammed the car companies' latest effort to enhance their monopoly over repair parts and car repairs. "There is a certain irony that after a year-long parade of car company recalls, a number of car companies are attacking aftermarket repair parts in an effort to push their own, usually much more expensive repair parts," Phillips said. "In the toughest economy since the Great Depression, seniors and all American consumers count on having the money-saving choice of high-quality aftermarket parts to repair their vehicles," he stressed. Phillips called recent statements by Hyundai and Honda pushing Hyundai Genuine Parts and Honda Genuine Parts, "shameless efforts to strangle vital competition that we absolutely need to have more of in the automotive marketplace."

He noted that "after billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded bailouts and 'Cash-for-Clunkers' sales promotions that we paid for to push new car sales for them, it's even more insulting to have car companies bash far less expensive, high-quality aftermarket parts which are certified to be safe and more often than not, made by the very same parts makers who make the original equipment parts." Phillips continued, "These same companies even attack perfectly good recycled parts - parts from vehicles they originally sold."

"Consumers pay a huge price for these car company repair parts monopolies, and Congress should act to protect the older Americans held hostage by these automotive shakedowns," he stated. "RetireSafe has long supported legislation that would do just that in both the U.S. House and Senate," Phillips said. He urged Congress to immediately "pass H.R. 3059 and S. 1368, the Access to Repair Parts Act."

"It's time for Congress and the White House to stand up for seniors by putting a stop to car company monopolies that destroy competition, harm consumers, and eliminate free choice in the marketplace," Phillips concluded.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Extreme Heat May Increase Vehicle Fire Threat

/PRNewswire/ -- The extreme heat experienced in communities across the U.S. makes conditions ripe for vehicle fires. State Farm reminds car owners to be vigilant and have their autos inspected and properly maintained during severe hot weather.

"Nobody wants to be that person standing by the side of the road watching helplessly as their car is engulfed in flames. And the very hot conditions across the country increase the chance of a vehicle fire--especially in older models," said Tom Hollenstain, research administrator at the State Farm Vehicle Research Facility. "But if you keep your car in good operating condition, you'll do a lot to help avoid that danger."

The National Fire Protection Association® says most highway vehicle fires occur in the months of July and August on Friday afternoons. This report also cited mechanical or electrical failure (leaks, breaks, worn-out parts) as causing approximately 49 percent of U.S. highway vehicle fires.

To lessen the likelihood of a highway vehicle fire, State Farm recommends the following car care tips:

-- Engine Coolant - Maintaining the coolant at the proper level is vital
during hot summer weather. Refer to the vehicle's owner's manual for
additional instruction or consult with an automotive technician. Never
remove the engine's coolant cap if the vehicle has been in operation.
-- Engine Oil Level - Motor oil is the life blood of the engine. It not
only provides lubrication, it also assists in engine cooling.
Maintaining the oil level at the proper range will reduce the chances
of engine damage or failure.
-- Belts & Hoses - During hot weather, additional stress is placed on the
engine's belts and hoses. Gaskets and seals may leak, hoses might
deteriorate, and belts could become brittle causing oil consumption to
increase. A failed hose or broken belt may cause the engine to
overheat. Before turning on the engine, inspect the belts and hoses
for unusual wear and cracks.
-- Keep it Clean -- Have the engine degreased to cut down on the buildup
of oil and grease.
-- Slow and Easy - All vehicles should be driven easier during hot
weather. If there is a heat advisory, motorists should try to avoid
heavy traffic, idling, high speeds and aggressive driving, all of
which contribute to the vehicle's engine overheating.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Study: How to Increase Federal Highway Investment by $10 Billion a Year Without a Tax Increase

/PRNewswire/ -- Where can we find the money to modernize and maintain our major highways? The federal government would have an additional $10 billion a year to spend on crucial highways if it stopped diverting federal gas tax money to projects with no national benefits, according to a new Reason Foundation study.

The federal gas tax was supposed to be used to build and maintain the Interstate Highway System. Today auto and truck drivers pay federal gas taxes that are diverted to ferryboats, trails and mass transit programs. Since these other programs aren't national, are unable to generate significant user revenues and require large subsidies, the Reason Foundation report says they should be funded by state and local governments. The 18.4 cents a gallon federal fuel tax should be refocused on rebuilding and modernizing vitally important Interstates.

"Sooner or later Congress is going to have to deal with the highway bill and the major shortfall in highway investment," said Robert Poole, principal author of the report and director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. "It is time to rethink and refocus the federal transportation role more on core federal purposes and less on peripheral concerns. Congress could dramatically increase funding to reduce the large backlog of cost-effective highway projects by shifting non-highway programs either to states or to general revenues. This would restore the users-pay/users-benefit principle of the Highway Trust Fund by focusing on rebuilding and modernizing the Interstate system. This Interstate 2.0 approach would increase federal investment in the nation's most important arteries by nearly $10 billion a year without raising taxes."

The study explains how refocusing the Highway Trust Fund can restore the public's trust in infrastructure spending, which has been severely damaged by too many bridges to nowhere. Along with needed investment in an Interstate 2.0 system, the proposal would also reduce federal mandates and give states more control over their transportation spending. The Interstate 2.0 approach would give states incentives to reduce waste and administrative costs; prioritize projects that will produce the largest benefits; embrace public-private partnerships that shift financing and risk away from taxpayers and onto private investors; and utilize technology, tolling, and congestion pricing to produce a sustainable, user-pays 21st-century highway system.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Opinon: Beware Where Policy-makers Go With Transit

The drumbeat for more public transportation by planners and policy-makers rises in inverse proportion to the public's enthusiasm. The reality of the steady decline in Americans' use of public transportation fades into the background, overwhelmed by transit-oriented hype.

It started with "smart growth" and "new urbanism." Now this elitist focus on public transit as the solution to congestion now has a frightening hold on the U.S. Department of Transportation. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who has long cited his preference for "livability" instead of mobility, this month announced a $293 million "investment" so that "residents in dozens of communities nationwide will soon enjoy major transit improvements, including new streetcars, buses and transit facilities." It would "boost economic development and recovery, and further reduce our dependence on oil.”

Free-market think tanks and policy analysts around the nation who oppose this approach are maligned as "anti-transit." Not so. Transit is a necessary tool in the transportation policy toolbox to accommodate the needy, those unwilling and unable to drive and a growing elderly population. What's at issue is (a) what type of transit to choose and (b) who should manage it.

Why are these issues? First, the numbers of transit users are low and declining. Demographer Wendell Cox reports that in 1955, transit's market share was more than 10 percent; by 2005, it was at 1.5 percent. By 2008, amid high fuel prices, transit market share climbed – to 1.6 percent. It is also high cost. The farebox covers around 25 percent of operations. It requires massive subsidies from already-struggling taxpayers.

Unfortunately, planners are opting for trolleys, street cars and rail. President Obama's $8 billion in grants for "high-speed" rail have over-excited states. And Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff says, “Streetcars are making a comeback because cities across America are recognizing that they can restore economic development downtown. ...These streetcar and bus livability projects will not only create construction jobs now, they will aid our recovery by creating communities that are more prosperous and less congested.”

Atlanta's Beltline greenbelt project proposes using light rail, estimated at $25 million to $50 million per mile and the costliest of three options. Cobb County also is looking at light rail. Planners maintain it encourages economic development.

Which leads to management: With taxpayer funds materializing from the federal government to cover up to 90 percent of the cost of the projects they support, policy-makers inflate requests with expensive, ambitious projects that have little relevance to consumer demand. LaHood's streetcar initiative will fund up to 80 percent of projects. The profit motive of a private-sector investor can encourage efficiencies and protect taxpayers.

The feds do appear to be rethinking their generosity. Rogoff said recently it is time to "put down the glossy brochures. ... At times like these, it's more important than ever to have the courage to ask a hard question: If you can't afford to operate the system you have, why does it make sense for us to partner in your expansion? ... [A]re we at risk of just helping communities dig a deeper hole for our children and our grandchildren?"

This is especially not the time to commit funds to fixed transit as a solution. An Atlanta Regional Commission "snapshot" of congested corridors resembles the can of worms it is. Regional planners are considering delaying needed maintenance to fund new projects. The region needs a stunning $56 billion through 2040 just for repairs and maintenance, and $113 billion more to build, operate and maintain "all additional identified needs in the region."

The good news is that even in automobile-oriented Georgia, where land is cheap so lots are large and business centers dispersed, there are less costly transit options. The law enabling regional referenda on a transportation sales tax also creates a commission to investigate combining regional transit entities into one, and another to encourage transit cost-sharing by various agencies.

Then, too, the proposed high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane network proposed for the metro region could provide a seamless, congestion-free transit network for express buses and bus rapid transit (BRT). For reference, the Beltline's estimates for BRT are $15 million to $25 million a mile.

Nobody's taking the train. Georgians must demand that social engineers stop trying to get them on board. Georgians want mobility: freeing their cars from congestion, not moving them out of their cars. As transportation policy advances, focus the finite dollars on practical plans that advance regional mobility, not on modes from which Americans have long moved on.

Read the Foundation's proposals for transportation policy in Georgia at http://www.gppf.org/pub/agenda2011/transportationagenda.pdf

By Benita M. Dodd 
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Friday, July 23, 2010

American Honda Expands Vehicle Recall Information Availability for Consumers

/PRNewswire/ -- In an effort to improve access to information as vehicle ownership changes, American Honda Motor Co., Inc., is providing details about Honda and Acura vehicles with open recalls to Carfax.

American Honda's participation with Carfax seeks to ensure that shoppers can research recall details through a convenient third-party database, in addition to those already available from American Honda. By transferring information daily to Carfax, American Honda is taking additional measures toward enhancing safety recall awareness within the used-car market.

"Recall completion is critically important to us," said Jim Roach, senior vice president of Parts & Service for American Honda. "By working with Carfax, American Honda provides another way for customers to increase their awareness and need to address recall repairs."

Millions of used car buyers and sellers every year rely on Carfax Vehicle History Reports as part of their used-car evaluations. Open recall information reported to Carfax for Honda and Acura vehicles appears on Carfax Reports and also is available free to consumers at carfax.com/recall.

"Carfax and American Honda are committed to keeping our roadways safe," said Larry Gamache, communications director at Carfax. "Adding Honda and Acura to the list of manufacturers providing open recall information to Carfax helps notify car owners and buyers and gets these cars into dealerships to be fixed."

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed Appointed Chair of the Transportation and Communications Committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors

Committee will play a pivotal role in developing sustainable transportation policies for cities and regions across the nation

Mayor Kasim Reed recently was appointed Chair of the Transportation and Communications Committee by the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth B. Kautz.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations greater than 30,000. There are 1,204 such cities in the United States today, and each city is represented in the conference by its chief elected official, the mayor.

“I am extremely honored to be appointed by Mayor Kautz as the Chair of the Transportation and Communications Committee by the U.S. Conference of Mayors,” Mayor Kasim Reed said. “I am committed to helping develop real transportation solutions in our country. To help resolve many of the nation’s transit governance issues, the Transportation and Communications Committee will work to ensure that federal transit policies meet the needs of urban communities across the country. We also will share factual information on transit plans and benefits.”

The president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors appoints standing committees and designates the chairperson for those committees. Once the president proposes the committees and its chairperson, those candidates must be approved by a majority vote of the Executive Committee. The Transportation and Communications Committee is responsible for developing and implementing sustainable transportation and communications policies for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"As called for in our 2010 Metro Agenda for America, Mayor Reed and the Transportation and Communications Committee will fight to fix our nation's broken transportation system,” said Conference of Mayors President Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth B. Kautz. “Our federal government must redeploy existing resources and commit new resources to reduce congestion and increase our nation's energy security. Specifically, we must increase investments in transit, and provide dedicated funding for high-speed intercity rail program equal to the investment our nation made a half-century ago building the Interstate Highway System."

Mayor Reed has been a leader on transit governance issues for most of his political career. As a member of the Georgia State Senate, Mayor Reed served on the Senate Transportation Committee and was a strong advocate for improving the state’s regional transit network. This spring, he played a key role in the passage of House Bill 277, a groundbreaking transportation funding bill.

Most recently, Mayor Kasim Reed was voted Chair of the Regional Transit Committee (RTC), a newly developed policy committee of the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). The Regional Transit Committee focuses on issues of regional transit system planning, funding and governance. The RTC is a policy body specifically charged with governance of a multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional regional transit system.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors strives to promote the development of effective national urban/suburban policy; strengthen federal-city relationships; ensure that federal policy meets urban needs; provide mayors with leadership and management tools; and create a forum in which mayors can share ideas and information.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Governor Announces Transportation Infrastructure Project Grant Awards

Eight Georgia Community Improvement Districts to receive funding totaling $10 Million

Governor Sonny Perdue announced today the approval of $10 million in grant funding for eight transportation infrastructure projects in Metro Atlanta. The projects were developed by Community Improvement Districts (CIDs) and focus on improving mobility and congestion in business centers. In addition, the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) today approved parameters for financing transportation infrastructure loans totaling up to $4 million. Funding for the grants and loans will be provided by the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank (GTIB), a revolving infrastructure investment fund established in 2008 by Georgia legislators as a part of Governor Perdue’s legislative agenda. Only CIDs are eligible for the grants. The eight CIDs awarded are as follows: Town Center, Perimeter, South Fulton, Downtown Atlanta, Gwinnett Village, Buckhead, Evermore and Cumberland.

“These partnerships have resulted in transportation investment that will decrease congestion and increase the efficiency of our existing transportation facilities,” said Governor Perdue. “The projects approved today are a testament to the commitment these communities have made to advance major transportation improvements in their area.”

SRTA manages the GTIB funds, as well as the extensive grant application review and selection process. Final approval is made by the SRTA Board.

“The projects awarded today represents over $60 million in total project value and provides much needed transportation improvements to communities that have approved this innovative financial solution,” said SRTA Executive Director Dr. Gena Evans. “In addition, GTIB loans will offer competitive rates and terms for those communities trying to accelerate completion of projects or redirect focus on projects that were previously overlooked.”

Serving as a member of the SRTA Board, GDOT Commissioner Vance C. Smith, Jr., applauded SRTA’s efforts and the partnerships created in the eight community improvement districts.

“These projects represent exactly the kind of collaboration and partnerships between state and local governments that will help us move transportation forward throughout Georgia,” said Commissioner Smith.

SRTA began receiving applications for grants in October 2009. Thirteen grant applications and two loan applications were received totaling over $21 million in requested funding. Grant applications were scored using a point system based on the following criteria: transportation/engineering merit, economic merit, local, state and federal matching funds and project specifics including the project phase and feasibility.

Below are details of the eight CID grant projects:

Town Center Community Improvement District

The Town Center Community Improvement District Project will restructure segments of Big Shanty Road in order to alleviate congestion at the Chastain Road/I-75 Interchange. Grant funds will also help to provide a more direct route for the Kennesaw State University population and local residents to access the Town Center Regional Activity Center and the Noonday Creek multi-use trail. The GTIB grant award is $1.75 million.

Perimeter Community Improvement District

The Perimeter Community Improvement District Project is intended to relieve the severe congestion along Ashford Dunwoody Road in the area surrounding I-285 through the diverging diamond interchange (DDI) concept, the second DDI in the United States. The DDI would provide additional capacity without reconstructing new lanes by restriping, altering signal timing, improving turning conditions and reconstructing a ramp. The GTIB grant award amount is $800,000.

South Fulton Community Improvement District

The South Fulton Community Improvement District Project will widen 1.69 miles of Oakley Industrial Boulevard from two lanes to three lanes and will tie to a new bridge over the CSX railroad to the west and a new development to the east. The project is intended to increase safety by reducing conflicts between industrial and residential traffic. The GTIB grant award amount is $1,500,000

Atlanta Downtown Improvement District

The Downtown Atlanta Traffic Signal System Upgrades and Retiming Project will serve to improve traffic signal system operations, mitigate traffic congestion and ensure consistent wireless communication among signalized intersections in downtown Atlanta. The GTIB grant award amount is $1.49 million.

Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District

The Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District Project will heighten economic development, relieve traffic congestion and provide for safe movement of vehicles and pedestrians through the intersection of Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Singleton Road. As a part of the Urban Redevelopment Plan, this project will address the prevalent issues around the corridor including vacancy, blight and crime that has deterred existing businesses to relocate while new businesses and residents have not replaced those vacancies. This trend has been partly due to inadequate infrastructure, traffic congestion and obsolete land use patterns. Redevelopment of this area can halt this trend and revitalize a once thriving business community. The GTIB grant award amount is $1.5 million.

Buckhead Community Improvement District

The Buckhead Community Improvement District Project has three phases in which the final phase will enhance a portion of Peachtree Road from Maple Drive to Shadowlawn including access management, median with dedicated turn lanes, street-scaping, ADA improvements, signal upgrade, street lighting and furniture and innovative bicycle facilities. The project will address through traffic and local circulation, improve efficiency and address safety related to left-turns, multi-modal traffic, pedestrian movement and high density development. The GTIB grant award amount is $1.75 million.

Evermore Community Improvement District

The Evermore Community Improvement District Project will construct a two-lane road that will run parallel to Highway 78 for a distance of one mile from Hewatt Road to Britt Road. The project will include sidewalks and a refuge island to provide for pedestrian safety. As a result, the project is intended to provide an alternate route for commercial truck traffic, reduce the number of turning conflicts on Hwy 78, re-direct traffic to signalized locations and retain businesses on the corridor. The GTIB grant award amount is $763,961.

Cumberland Community Improvement District

The Cumberland Community Improvement District Project will enhance the Cumberland Parkway Intersection by reconfiguring turning movements, replacing “strung” traffic signals to mast arms, improving right hand turn movements from Paces Ferry Road onto Cumberland Parkway. These enhancements will also include improving crosswalks, installing countdown signals and reconfiguring ingress and egress into nearby shopping center. The GTIB grant award amount is $445,039.

Additional funding of the projects consists of CID investment funds and two projects will receive GDOT and federal earmarks. For information on GTIB loan and grant procedures including application, guidelines, terms and interest rates are available on the SRTA website www.georgiatolls.com.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Department of Driver Services (DDS) Offers Advice for Replacing a Driver’s License or ID Card Lost or Stolen on Vacation

If you survive your Summer vacation, but your driver’s license does not, the Department of Driver Services (DDS) offers these valuable tips for obtaining a replacement.

Plan Ahead

Make a copy of your driver’s license or make a note of the driver’s license number from the front of your card. Keep the copy in a safe location, so you can access the information quickly if your license is lost or stolen. This may also come in handy in case of natural disaster such as a fire or flood.

Replacement of a Lost License

A replacement license may be ordered from DDS online at www.dds.ga.gov. You will need to provide the license number, your social security number and have an American Express, Discover, Mastercard or Visa credit card. A replacement license will be mailed to you within thirty days.

To obtain a replacement license in person, please bring proof of identity which includes your name as it appears on your driver’s license. All documents presented must be originals or certified copies. No photocopies or faxes can be accepted.

The easiest way to prove your identity is with your birth certificate or passport. If the name printed on your driver’s license does not match that on your birth certificate, you should also plan to bring along your marriage license or whatever court order documents the name change.

If a birth certificate or passport is not available, customers should be prepared to show two items from the list below:

• Original Social Security Card

• Certified Copy of Marriage License

• Previous Year's Income Tax Return

• Current Auto, Home, Life or Health Insurance Policy (Cards Not Accepted)

• Current Auto Registration Receipt

• Voter Registration Card

If you are a victim of theft, please bring a copy of the police incident report with you when you visit a DDS customer service center so that your new driver’s license or ID card can be issued with a new license number.

DDS Hours of Service

All DDS Customer Service Centers statewide are closed on Monday. Tuesday is typically the busiest day statewide. The middle of the week during the middle of the day is the best time to visit DDS. Most centers open earlier to serve you better. A complete list of locations, services and hours can be accessed at http://www.dds.ga.gov/locations/LocationList.aspx.

Driving in Another State

A valid Georgia driver’s license is acceptable proof to drive while visiting another state. However, drivers must obey all traffic laws and procedures which may be different from Georgia’s.

Receiving a ticket from another state.

A ticket issued in another state will be sent to Georgia DDS and will affect your driving record just the same as if you had received the ticket in your home state. Citations from other states typically appear on your Georgia driving record within 60-90 days after your court date.

Be diligent in following up after a citation. Failing to respond or appear in court on a ticket issued in another state can result in the suspension of your Georgia driver’s license. DDS attempts to notify all customers prior to a license suspension or revocation. However, many notices are returned to DDS undeliverable. To verify that your license is valid, you may call (678) 413-8400.

DDS also recommends purchasing your driving history or motor vehicle report (MVR) at least once a year to see if the DDS shows tickets that were not issued to you just as you would review your credit report for fraudulent activity. An MVR can be accessed online, or you may obtain a certified copy by visiting in person.

Please visit the DDS website at www.dds.ga.gov for complete driver’s licensing and testing information.
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Idlying buses bad for air, kids

The sign in front of Fulton Science Academy Middle School is clear: “No Idling. Little lungs at work.”
As cars line up to drop children off at the Alpharetta, Ga., school, the rule is strictly enforced. Monitors walk along the carpool line and tap on windows to remind drivers to turn off their engines.

Dispelling the myth

“You can sit and idle in a carpool line for 30 minutes,” said Sharon Gibson, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension specialist and director of the Children, Youth and Families at Risk – Sustainable Communities Project. “There is a myth out there that it’s cheaper to keep your car running and it’s better for your car. It’s a total myth.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, idling uses more gas than turning your engine off and restarting it. “Idling your car for 30 minutes in a carpool line causes more wear-and-tear on your engine that driving the same amount of time at low speed,” Gibson said.

Saves money and the environment

There are even bigger savings when it comes to school buses. The EPA warns that idling buses increase air pollution, cause wear-and-tear in bus engines and waste gas and money.

“A line of idling school buses doesn’t just pollute the air around the buses,” said Pamela Turner, a UGA Extension housing specialist. “They also pollute the air in the bus and can emit particulates that can enter the school, reducing the air quality inside, too.”

Asthmatic children suffer most

According to Gibson and Turner, pollution from idling buses is particularly problematic for children with chronic respiratory problems like asthma.

“Diesel exhaust has particulate matter that can cause health risks,” Turner said. “Thousands of them can fit on the period at the end of this sentence. They easily pass through the nose and cause real problems for children.”

Most at risk, they said, are those who have existing heart, lung or respiratory problems. The particulates are most dangerous to children and the elderly.

Polluted air drifts into schools

“And, where do we idle?” Gibson asked. “In front of schools.”

The particles can even contribute to creating more haze. “Idling buses aren’t just a health risk, they’re an environmental risk and can cause long-term damage,” she said.

Schools can take simple steps to reduce risks and save money.

“Today’s bus engines don’t need to be warmed up for long periods of time,” Turner said. “They should be warmed for less than five minutes.”

Idling wastes fuel

According to an idling calculator on the EPA website, reducing idling to just 10 minutes a year saves 300 gallons of gas. Turner estimates reducing the warm-up time for just 20 buses will save more than $1,200 per year.

Changing policies isn’t easy, Gibson said. But, she offers these suggestions to get the discussion going at local schools.

Look at the EPA’s National Idle-Reduction Campaign website and learn the facts. “Once people know the facts, they can start a movement in the community or the school’s parent organizations to show the risks and benefits if the practices are changed,” she said.

Take the 'walking bus'

Start a “walking school bus” in your neighborhood. “If your neighborhood has adequate sidewalks to the school, a walking school bus is an excellent idea,” Gibson said.

The idea is to arrange a group of parents who walk to school and pick children up along the route. “The kids are escorted to school safely by adults,” she said. “They benefit from the exercise, no fuel is used and no emissions are put into the air.”

Gibson also said this concept builds community among parents and children.

Some parents say they choose carpooling over buses because they are concerned about bus safety or enjoy the extra time with their children. “They get both of those benefits in the walking bus, too,” she said.

Make these changes

American school buses travel more than 4 billion miles a year. While EPA agrees that school buses are the safest way to transport children to and from school, the agency offers these suggestions to school systems to reduce the impact of buses on the environment:

Use cleaner fuels.
Upgrade bus engines to reduce emissions.
Replace older buses with less polluting buses.

“It takes individual, family and community action to change these practices,” Gibson said. “Each person taking baby steps will add up. If every parent waiting in line to pick up their children turns their car off, it helps.”

For more information on EPA’s National Idle-Reduction Campaign, visit their website at http://epa.gov/cleanschoolbus/antiidling.htm .

To calculate the savings from not idling, check out the calculator at www.epa.gov/cleanschoolbus/idle_fuel_calc.htm .


By J Faith Peppers
University of Georgia

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

States Strengthen Seat Belt and Texting Laws

/PRNewswire/ -- GHSA applauds Georgia, Kansas and Vermont for enacting new laws to improve highway safety in their states. Kansas and Georgia strengthened their seat belt and distracted driving laws, while all three states have banned texting for all drivers.

Yesterday (June 3), Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed a bill that removed a pickup truck exemption in that state's seat belt law. Now, all Georgians must 'Click It or Ticket.' State estimates indicate at least 100 lives annually will be saved by requiring pickup drivers to be belted. Today (June 4), Governor Perdue also signed a bill banning cell phone use for novice drivers as well a ban on texting for all drivers. Georgia is now the 28th state to ban texting for all drivers.

Earlier this week, Vermont Governor Jim Douglas added his state to the list of those with a texting while driving ban. In only three years since the first statewide texting ban, states have been quickly acting to address this problem. GHSA expects more states to come on board in the near future.

Last week, Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson signed a primary seat belt bill that allows Kansas police to stop drivers who are not buckled up. Prior to this, Kansas law enforcement officers could only issue tickets for failure to wear a seat belt if a driver was stopped for another traffic violation, such as speeding. The new law also requires all vehicle occupants to buckle up, not just those in the front seat. Kansas will get $11 million in federal funding for passing the new law, which becomes effective June 10. Governor Parkinson also recently signed a statewide texting while driving ban.

GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha notes, "Georgia, Vermont and Kansas have set a good example for other states by strengthening their highway safety laws. We know that primary seat belt laws are the single most effective thing states can do to save lives on their roads. And texting bans send the message that drivers need to focus on the task at hand--driving."

For a list of all state seat belt laws, visit: www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/seatbelt_laws.html.

Distracted driving laws can be found at: www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html.

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