Motoring Issues

More than 800 members responded to a poll about traffic safety issues and transportation concerns in the January/ February issue of AAA Southern Traveler. Both state and federal legislators are being advised by AAA of the opinions expressed by AAA members in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi who responded to the poll.

HIGHWAY FUNDING

Before considering raising taxes for anything, there should be a perceived need for those funds. We asked if additional revenue is needed to properly maintain and improve our highway system. Yes was the answer of about 78 percent of the respondents.

While no one likes tax increases or new taxes, additional funds to improve and maintain highways will be given consideration at both the state and federal levels. So we asked members to rank the least objectionable of four tax methods or increases, assuming all would raise about the same amount of revenue.

The order of least objectionable was:
1. One-half cent general sales tax increase
2. 9-cent increase in the per gallon gasoline tax
3. 5-percent sales tax on gasoline
4. $100 increase in annual vehicle registration fee

To maintain roads, several states already allow for the leasing of public roads to private companies for significant sums. These private companies are allowed to increase tolls on the road to recoup their investment and maintenance cost and make a profit. While the federal government promotes these types of public/private partnerships, we wanted to know what the public thinks.

To gauge motorists’ attitudes toward these types of proposals, they were asked: Do you favor or oppose allowing states to generate revenue by leasing public roads and allowing tolls? An overwhelming 80 percent say NO! If the road was already a toll road, the opposition continued but with less intensity as 71 percent say No.

GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS

It has been 25 years since Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, that in effect set the drinking age at 21. But in recent years, debates have begun in some states about lowering the limit. Our readers responded as follows to the question of changing the drinking age:

Keep drinking age at 21 76%
Reduce drinking age to 18 17
Have more debate on the issue 7

Driver distractions are a major cause of crashes, and using a cell phone to talk or text behind the wheel can take motorists’ eyes and attention off what’s going on around them. When asked if states should pass laws to make it illegal for drivers to send text messages, an overwhelming number (92 percent) agreed. Additionally, most respondents (86 percent) said they wouldn’t favor a law that makes texting illegal only for newly licensed drivers.

When gas prices were spiking last year, there was renewed talk of re-establishing a national maximum speed limit of 55 mph, which Congress implemented in 1974 to reduce gasoline usage during a national energy crisis. The law was subsequently repealed and states set their own limit, often at 70 mph or above, which is how most motorists like it. Indeed, 74 percent of respondents to the poll said there should be no national speed limit and that states should be responsible for setting the limits within their own borders.

TRAVEL INTENTIONS

With the challenging economic situation, many consumers are making fewer purchases and spending less, including on their leisure travel. When asking readers to compare their travel frequency last year with how many leisure driving trips they’ll take this year, here is how they responded:

Taking the same number of driving trips 50%
Reducing the number of driving trips 36
Increasing the number of driving trips 14

HIGHWAY PROBLEMS/PRIORITIES

Compared to three years ago, motorists rate the condition of state highways in their area as:

Improved 29%
Stayed the same 31
Declined 40

AAA members responding from Arkansas ran counter to the overall rating as 38 percent rated their roads improved and only 28 percent indicated that their road conditions had declined.

Louisiana residents were the most critical as the majority (52 percent) rated their roads as having declined. Highway damage associated with hurricanes in recent years surely factored into that rating. In Mississippi, hurricane damage on roads also likely had an effect on the poll outcome as more respondents rated the roads as declined (35 percent) than those who offered an “improved” rating (32 percent).

When asked to rate the most important highway improvement among several choices, they rated as their top priority the following:

Four laning of existing two-laned roads 30%
Eliminating commuter bottlenecks 24
Resurfacing existing four-laned roads 23
Adding more road safety features (guardrails, etc.) 17
Widening secondary road bridges 6

Of the five safety concerns from which motorists selected, their No. 1 concern was “distracted drivers.” Their concerns include:

Distracted drivers 38%
Drunk drivers 20
Aggressive drivers 19
Large trucks 16
Road conditions 7

Mar/Apr 2009 Issue


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