A California Senate bill proposing restrictions on motorcycle lane splitting was placed on hold this week pending a safety study currently being conducted by UC-Berkeley. The bill, which would have eliminated lane splitting from highways of less than three lanes and required motorcyclists to engage in the activity at a “safe speed” only when facing [...]
Posts Tagged ‘congress’
Congress is looking at a transportation spending bill this week, but bike advocates are worried that senators who are “anxious for a deal” will toss out a provision that would provide bicycling safety measures. The Senate originally presented the transportation bill as a two-year, $109 billion measure that also funded bike paths and sidewalks through [...]
In September 2008, a train accident near Chatsworth California killed 25 passengers and injured more than 135. Since commuter Metrolink was so clearly at fault for this accident, observers have said the company could have been on the hook for nearly $400 million in damages if not for a 1997 law that limits the liability for train accidents at $200 million. While this is great for Metrolink, it leaves hundreds of wrongful death and catastrophic injury victims out of the funds they deserve. This week, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Peter D. Lichtman Jr. concluded the case with a ruling that emphasizes the incredibly difficult task of allotting funds to victims that deserve much more.
As the number of cyclists throughout California continues to rise each year, the state has consistently taken incremental steps toward improving bicycle safety on city streets and highways. This week, bike safety advocates celebrated a major milestone for a law that would require motorists to allow three feet while passing cyclists in most cases, a key issue for the California Bicycle Coalition. Despite spirited opposition, the California Assembly Transportation Committee approved the bill by a vote of 8-5, sending it to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Last year, I wrote a post for this blog titled “California Lawmkers Get Serious About Bike Safety.” At the time, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced his support for a California bike helmet law, and the city’s city council took steps toward endorsing a law requiring motorists to allow 3 feet while passing cyclists. This month, the California legislature has an opportunity to join 18 other states in implementing a 3-foot passing law, which would drastically reduce the number of passing accidents, the number one killer of adult cyclists in California and across the country.
Legal aid clinics are in danger. As part of last month’s budget compromise, the nonprofit organization Legal Services Corporation saw its funding slashed $15.8 million, 4 percent of its total budget. Initially, House Republicans suggested cutting the LSC’s budget by a whopping $75 million, but after President Obama suggested an increase of $30 million, both sides agreed to the smaller cut. But this marks the newest in a string of legal aid cuts that have left poor Americans vulnerable to the worst aspects of the economic recession with little legal protection.
There’s no question about it: when it comes to reducing car accidents, pedestrian accidents, or bicycle accidents, states and local governments have been proposing the most interesting plans to save lives and prevent injuries. But so far, when the federal government gets involved, safety measures that often look like “no-brainers” on the local level get muddled by political ideology and Washington groupthink. This has already been the case for a federal distracted driving law and a federal teen drivers license law currently languishing in Congress. The next safety policy to be doomed by Washington policy is the Safe Routes to School program.
As Distracted Driving Awareness Month comes to a close this week, it’s helpful to look back at what lawmakers and safety advocates have accomplished over the past few years, when distracted driving was really on the rise. While most states hadn’t even considered distracted driving laws five years ago, about 7 now ban the use of handheld cell phones, and more than 30 states prohibit texting while driving. Fortunately, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood isn’t only thinking about distracted driving during April every year. He’s laid out a forward-looking plan that promises to get even more comprehensive as the year progresses.
Teenagers here in California eagerly await their 16th birthday, that all-important landmark that means they can now drive a car. In South Dakota, the situation is much different, since teens earn their learner’s permit at the age of 14. If a new teen driver safety law imposing a national driving age passes through Congress, that could all change. A set of lawmakers have reintroduced the law that would impose the 16-year permit – and a handful of other safety measures – on teens nationwide. Proponents say it will reduce fatalities from car accidents, the number one killer of teenagers. Critics say it violates a state’s right to make its own laws.
Due to the ever-dwindling coffers of legal aid clinics over the past decade, and the “everything must go” approach to the national budget this year, most observers expected the President Obama’s budget plan to include extensive cuts to the Legal Services Corporation, which has funded aid for low-income people in need of a lawyer since the 1960s. Instead, the president suggested a $30 million increase to the LSC’s budget, an apparent nod to the view that legal aid for the poor is even more essential considering the tough economic climate.
For the past decade, many states across the country have worked hard to implement auto safety laws designed to reduce the number of car accident deaths. On the national level, however, proposed laws to implement a national distracted driving law and increase regulation on auto safety have repeatedly fallen flat. Undeterred, a set of senators announced this week that they would pursue a nationwide transit plan to reduce car accident fatalities 50 percent in 20 years, even as population continues to rise.
For months, national lawmakers have been sparring over the benefits of a proposed auto safety overhaul, potentially the largest update for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration since it was created in 1966. Democrats, led by West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, say the overhaul is essential and would save lives. Republicans, speaking for the business community, say it would put an undue burden on the auto industry. Regardless, Democrats are hoping to push the safety overhaul through Congress before the end of the year.
We wrote in May that California lawmakers were considering a bill that would end a liability loophole for adults responsible for teen drinking. Currently, California is one of only three states that don’t hold “social hosts” accountable when a teenager is killed by illegal alcohol consumption. But last Thursday, the California state Senate unanimously passed a bill that would hold eliminate the liability loophole if Governor Schwarzenegger signs it in to law.
Reacting to the growing public denunciation of distracted driving and consumer distrust of the auto industry following Toyota’s massive worldwide safety recall, an auto safety overhaul is moving rapidly through Congress. Last week, the Senate Commerce Committee voted to pass a bill that, after debate and compromise, has earned the support of consumers and automakers.
Congress has made clear that it intends to launch a safety overhaul for the country’s fledgling auto industry. And despite years of heightened safety complaints and automobile recalls, Detroit, along with leading international automakers, appeared set to resist such restrictions, which they say will drastically increase the consumer cost of new cars.
At a Congressional hearing today, lawmakers had some harsh words for Toyota, which has recalled nearly 9 million vehicles worldwide, including 6 million here in the United States. “Toyota has repeatedly told the public it has conducted extensive testing for electronic defects,” said California Rep. Henry Waxman, chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “We can find no basis for these assertions.”
Until recently, Toyota has done everything it can to minimize the impact of its embarrassing string of safety violations and product recalls by admitting fault and forking over government fines without protest. Last week, the Detroit News reported that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) have teamed up to demand more accountability from Detroit’s massive but flegling car industry. Now, the car industry is poised to remove the tail from between its legs and is starting to fight back.
Toyota recalls aside, the debate on distracted driving has been the month’s most compelling consumer issue. Over the past few years, eight states have banned the use of cell phone handsets while driving, and the dangers of such actions have been well documented in the main stream media. This Tuesday’s Pulitzer Prize announcements, for example, honored two New York Times articles exposing the serious risks of texting, typing, and talking in the car. On his blog, Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood applauded these articles in addition to television shows like Modern Family, The Office, and Glee, which have all promoted themes against distracted driving, the number one killer of teenagers.
Though this publicity helps Lahood’s goal to eradicate distracted driving, nationwide legislation against the practice continues to stall in congress.