The Transporter | NCSL's Transportation Newsletter


Florida Embraces Innovation to Aid Mobility   

The Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged and the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT)  recently awarded a $300,000 Mobility Enhancement Grant to the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, the transit agency for the St. Petersburg area, to provide transportation-disadvantaged residents with free Uber rides between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. The program targets low-income individuals working overnight shifts. The Florida Legislature, via HB 5001 of 2016, authorized $1.75 million for the grant program to test innovative and cost-effective mobility options for older adults, persons with disabilities and people with low incomes.

Louisiana Active on Drone Legislation

Since late May, Louisiana has enacted five laws addressing drone use. House Bill 19 prohibits using a drone to photograph schools or correctional facilities. House Bill 335 permits the establishment of fees for UAS registration and licensing. House Bill 635, Senate Bill 73 and Senate Bill 141 create new criminal offenses involving drones.

Missouri Governor Vetoes Bill to Allow Truck Platooning Pilot Program 

Trucks on road.Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced his veto of legislation that would have eliminated the provision prohibiting trucks from following within 300 feet of another vehicle and enabled the testing of freight trucks traveling closely in packs using connected and intelligent vehicle technology to potentially achieve fuel and congestion efficiencies. Missouri HB 1733 passed both chambers overwhelmingly. Florida and Utah currently have laws enabling such testing, Nevada and Virginia have approved via regulatory actions, and Michigan and Pennsylvania are debating such bills.


Join us in Chicago! 

There is still time to register and join us for NCSL’S Legislative Summit Aug. 8-11 in Chicago. On the transportation front, there will be a deep dive on the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 10, that immerses attendees into the rapidly approaching future of autonomous vehicles and connected vehicle technology. There also will be a session on the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 9, discussing alternative funding options for transportation, and a pre-conference on utilizing public-private partnerships for public infrastructure the morning of Monday, Aug. 8. Contact with questions.  

Taking Off: State Unmanned Aircraft Systems Policies

Thirty-two states have enacted laws addressing UAS (drones) and an additional five states have adopted resolutions. This new comprehensive report from NCSL provides information on all of these state laws, as well as federal action addressing drones. State laws covered in this report address topics ranging from privacy concerns to hunting and fishing to commercial use. Learn more about states that limit the operation of UAS near prisons and critical infrastructure and find out which states are home to FAA test sites.

NCSL Postcard Highlighting New Federal Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety Grant

States where the amount of bicyclist and pedestrian traffic deaths exceeds 15 percent of total annual statewide traffic deaths will be eligible for approximately $14 million in new annual federal funds; 22 states are eligible for these funds based on 2013 data.  A new NCSL Postcard details eligible states. Grants may be used to train law enforcement personnel about state pedestrian and bicycle safety laws, to fund enforcement campaigns related to such laws and to fund public education campaigns for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

NCSL LegisBrief on School Bus Seat Belts

School bus seats.Seat belts on school buses have garnered legislative attention for many years, particularly after Mark Rosekind, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, announced in November 2015 that “NHTSA’s policy is that every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt” and that the administration would work toward achieving that goal. NCSL released a LegisBrief, Should School Buses Have Seat Belts?, in June 2016 exploring state and federal action on this topic. 

NCSL Examines How States Assess Fiscal Impact of Motorcycle Helmets

Motorcycle rider with helmet.Each year, a number of legislatures debate bills that would strengthen or relax motorcycle helmet laws. When considering the impact of potential legislation, fiscal notes are often created, estimating the effect a bill will have on state revenues and expenditures. NCSL transportation experts Anne Teigen and Douglas Shinkle, along with fiscal expert Erica MacKellar, developed a web report on this dynamic entitled Assessment of Fiscal Notes Connected to Motorcycle Helmet Legislation.

NCSL out and about

Transportation Funding Session Held at NCSL’s Western States Fiscal Leaders Meeting 

NCSL staff Kevin Pula and Doug Shinkle traveled to San Diego in June to participate in the Western States Fiscal Leaders Meeting. The meeting was attended by key Western legislators and legislative staff working on budget and revenue issues. Shinkle moderated a panel which included Representative Judy Clibborn (D-Wash.), Senator Mike Vehle (R-S.D.), Transportation Commissioner Jim Madaffer (Calif.) and Kevin Pula (NCSL) as they discussed recent transportation funding trends and state legislation. Visit NCSL’s Transportation Funding Deep Dive to see materials from the event and all of NCSL’s transportation funding resources.

NCSL Meeting Discusses Traffic Safety and Injury Prevention

NCSL staffer Amanda Essex moderated a panel on traffic safety at NCSL’s Strategies for Preventing Injury and Violence: State Team Meeting, organized by NCSL’s Health program and put on in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). State legislators, legislative staff and executive branch officials from five states heard from Jennifer Ryan, AAA National’s director of state relations, and Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz with CDC, who was involved in the development of CDC’s Motor Vehicle Prioritizing Interventions and Cost Calculator for States (MV PICCS)

State Legislative Trends Related to Ignition Interlock Devices

Anne Teigen, NCSL’s impaired driving policy expert, spoke at the fourth Annual Association of Ignition Interlock Program Administrators Conference in Denver on May 18.  Teigen presented on state legislative trends relating to ignition interlocks including laws that require mandatory installation of ignition interlocks for every offense, including the first offense, and laws requiring cameras on the devices to ensure the right person is using the device. Approximately 150 professionals from state ignition interlock programs, courts, and law enforcement attended the three-day conference. For more information on state ignition interlock laws, check out NCSL’s webpage on the issue.

NCSL Staff Discusses State Role in On-Demand Mobility Future 

NCSL’s on-demand transportation expert, Douglas Shinkle, participated in a panel discussion moderated by Denver City Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman at the Live.Ride.Share meeting in Denver in mid-May. The meeting included robust debate amongst local, state and federal government officials and private on-demand mobility companies such as Lyft, Uber, ZipCar and Bridj on how to best create partnerships and regulatory structures to harness the rapid emergence of dynamic new shared and on-demand transportation options. 

NCSL Foundation Partnership on Multi-Sector P3s Kicks-off 

Facing funding shortfalls and increasing needs for infrastructure, states are exploring the use of public-private partnerships (P3s), a procurement mechanism which increases the private sector’s role in delivering public infrastructure through a combination of risk transfers, packaging multiple phases of delivery and long-term contracts. The NCSL Foundation and the NCSL Transportation Program recently kicked-off a new initiative, bringing together lawmakers and private sector stakeholders to discuss policy questions surrounding P3s and the best practices for states who choose to utilize this approach. 

National Meeting on P3s and Transportation Funding 

NCSL convened two panels of state legislators for the American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s (ARTBA) annual Public-Private Partnerships Conference and Transportation Funding Workshop, which took place July 13-15 in Washington, D.C. Lawmakers from Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and South Dakota traveled to D.C. to discuss recent successful and unsuccessful transportation funding packages as well as the merits and shortfalls of utilizing public-private partnerships (P3s) to deliver infrastructure projects.


Feds to Provide Guidance to States on Autonomous Vehicles 

Autonomous vehicle.NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind indicated that states will be responsible for regulation of autonomous vehicles and that NHTSA doesn’t intend to create federal regulations for self-driving vehicles. They are, however, slated to release model guidelines for states to consider in the very near future. Stay tuned.

New FAA Regulations for Small Drone Commercial Use

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released final rules regarding small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drones) for commercial operations. The rule mandates that the drone must not only remain within eyesight of the operator, but that it cannot fly in the evening, it can only fly to a maximum height of 400 feet and that it can operate at a maximum speed of 100 mph. The FAA, at this time, does not believe specific text addressing pre-emption is required in the final rule–pre-emption issues involving small UAS will require a case-by-case analysis. For additional information see NCSL’s News Alert.

USDOT Awards New Grants for Freight and Highway Projects 

The U.S. DOT gave initial notification of 18 projects selected to receive a total of $759 million in fiscal year 2016 as part of the FASTLANE program, created by the FAST Act. The program is intended to provide financial assistance to nationally and regionally significant freight and highway projects that align with program goals. Per the FAST Act, U.S. DOT must first notify the authorizing committees of jurisdiction regarding projects being awarded under the program and the list of projects must then remain with the committee for a 60-day review period before awards can be issued. A fact sheet on the FASTLANE program can be found here and the list of proposed awarded projects can be found here.

VMT on American Roads Hits All Time High

Traffic highways.Vehicle miles traveled on U.S. roads reached a record setting volume for the first quarter of 2016, increasing by 4.2 percent from 2015. Vehicles traveled 746 billion miles in January-March, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).


Recommendations for Small Drone Operations Released 

The Micro Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Aviation Rulemaking Committee released its report and recommendations of performance-based regulations that would allow certain types of unmanned aircraft to operate over people not directly involved in the flight of the aircraft. The report recommends establishing four small UAS categories, defined primarily by risk of injury to people below the flight path. For each category, the group recommends assigning a potential risk linked to either weight or impact energy. The report also addresses operational restrictions and standards to minimize the associated risks, including a minimum operating distance of 20 feet above people on the ground, along with takeoff and landings being at least 10 feet away from bystanders. 


2015 Traffic Fatalities Likely to Hit Highest Levels since 2008 

Preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows a 7.7 percent increase in traffic deaths in 2015. An estimated 35,200 people died in traffic crashes in 2015, up from the 32,675 reported fatalities in 2014. The most significant increases in fatalities were for bicyclists (13 percent), pedestrians (10 percent) and motorcyclists (9 percent). 

"Crash" not "Accident" - Words matter say Traffic Safety Advocates.  

Two car accident.A recent New York Times article examined the movement by NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, traffic safety advocates and state DOTs around the country to replace the use of the word "accident" with "crash" to more accurately reflect that 94 percent of crashes are the result of driver behavior. At least 28 state DOTs have switched to using “crash” according to the article. 

Driving Stoned in Washington State Seems to Increase Following Legalization 

AAA recently released a report entitled “Prevalence of Marijuana Use Among Drivers in Fatal Crashes: Washington, 2010-2014.” Their analysis shows that that the proportion of drivers testing positive for THC (the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) in Washington state was generally flat before the passage of the marijuana legalization initiative, but that proportion began increasing significantly approximately nine months after legalization. The study also found that the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes who had a detectable concentration of THC in their blood nearly doubled after legalization of adult use of marijuana. For more information on drugged driving, see NCSL’s Drugged Driving page

NHTSA 2014 Traffic Safety Data Released 

Drive Safely highway sign.The latest official traffic safety statistics from NHTSA provide a helpful window into trends and state-to-state comparisonsThe fact sheet examines traffic fatality rates and percentage changes, alcohol and speeding related crashes, motorcyclist fatalities and other categories. 


Is Pay-Per-Mile Driven Better Than a Gas Tax?  

Carl Davis, research director at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, asks this question in a new article on transportation funding options. With California on the verge of launching the nation’s second large-scale pilot program for a road usage charge model, questions still remain regarding consumer opinion, privacy and political support. Davis highlights Georgia’s recent effort to mend an ailing gas tax structure to better fit a “user pays” model. Last year, lawmakers in the Peach State enacted legislation to tie the state’s gas tax rate to the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and therefore allow tax rates to increase as American vehicles become significantly more fuel efficient, and presumably decrease the amount of gasoline purchased.

New Study Finds Americans Support a User Pays Approach 

Transportation stakeholders are still debating the merits of a road charge structure to fund transportation, but the tides of public opinion may be shifting. A recent national survey by HNTB Corporation, a national engineering and construction firm, found that nearly 65 percent of Americans “would support the use of road-usage fee options such as vehicle miles traveled or mileage-based user fees to help fund transportation costs.”

CDC Examines Traffic Safety “Vital Signs”

On July 6, the CDC released a new report, part of their Vital Signs series, addressing motor vehicle crash deaths. The report found that crash deaths in the U.S. fell 31 percent from 2000 to 2013, compared to an average decrease of 56 percent in 19 other high-income countries. Among the countries evaluated, the U.S. had the highest rate of crash deaths per 100,000 people and the fifth highest rate of crash deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Only Canada, at 34 percent, had a higher percentage of crash deaths involving alcohol-impaired driving; the U.S. came in at 31 percent. The report highlights ways the CDC believes crash deaths can be reduced in the United States, including increasing seat belt use and reducing alcohol-impaired driving and speeding.

More than a Slap on the Wrist for Left Lane Slow Pokes

States are imposing higher penalties for drivers who violate slowpoke laws according to a recent New York Times article, which references NCSL research. Every state has a law requiring slow-moving vehicles to keep right, but in recent years, states have been enacting legislation to increase the penalties for violators. While Tennessee already has a law on the books specifying that slow drivers must drive in the right lane, the new legislation specifically creates a $50 penalty for remaining in the left lane if a driver is not passing another vehicle. NCSL has resources on speeding and speed limits on our website.

National Working Summit on Transportation in Rural America

Over 18,000 people die on rural roads every year and rural fatalities account for 54 percent of all traffic fatalities, despite making up less than 20 percent of America’s population. The National Center for Rural Road Safety is hosting a working summit in Denver, Sept. 7-9, to provide an opportunity for organizations and individuals with different interests to collaborate to advance the deployment of a safe, efficient, seamless and financially sustainable rural transportation network. NCSL will be part of a session focusing on possible policy solutions to rural traffic safety issues. Take a look at the agenda and register here.