Today I wrote my state representatives after a particularly stressful commuting week:
Representative Masin and Senator Carlson,
I am writing today about some thoughts I had on my commute home last week. I work in St. Paul (where I grew up) and drive I-35E to and from work. Traffic levels have been getting worse and worse all the time and I support increased funding through whatever means are fair and equitable to those who use the roads.
Other factors seem to contribute to traffic levels aside from money and construction, though. Driver skill and etiquette seem to be on the decline, leading to slower traffic and more accidents. Here are some suggestions for future legislation:
* Require more frequent re-testing to retain your drivers license. I took a drivers test once a million years ago, but aside from very infrequent vision tests, I never have to prove I know the rules ever again. Build an online test website that must be passed every time a license is renewed and add a testing fee to pay for it. Make sure the definition of a yield sign and the meaning of “slower traffic keep right” is on the test.
* Driving with cell phone restrictions. I’m not a big supporter of more restrictions on individual behavior, but the worst drivers are inevitably talking on their phones. If you really need to talk, pull over and park it.
* Increase penalties on smokers who use the roads as their personal ashtray. I realize the car is one of the last bastions of freedom for smokers in the state, but aside from the safety issues with being distracted by your cigarette (see above), it annoys me to no end to see smokers ignore the ashtray in their car and fling their butts everywhere else. Increase the fine and include mandatory community service picking up trash from the roadside.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
On the way home today, I thought maybe the law should just be “pay attention to driving and keep two hands on the wheel,” but I guess that’s implied (but rarely followed).
I’ll post any responses I get here as an update…
UPDATE (5/20): Heard from my state senator today:
Originally published by DK on May 7, 2007 at 10:33 pm
Thank you for your note. I can’t agree with you more.
I am on the Transportation Conference Committee which has the duty to work out the compromise bill that contains the initiatives heard in both the House and Senate and passed from both houses. We worked to arrive at a convincing bill which the Governor will sign. The Governor said he would veto any and all tax increases, even those which have wide support from cities, counties and state transportation working groups. We finished the bill, passed it overwhelmingly in the Senate and sent it to the House where it passed 90 to 43. A few days later, the Governor vetoed it. We are still one or two votes short of a veto override in the House so it may not come back to the Senate for override.
The lack of adequate transportation funding has become a critical issue in Minnesota. We are losing billions in Federal funding for major projects because we can’t put up matching funding. By the DOT’s own information, about 30% of the state highways roadways are in “poor” driving condition. If the Governor’s veto cannot be overridden our property taxes will rise to pick up critical costs to cities and counties.
I also agree on the need for better driving skills and rule compliance. Cell phone usage and resulting “inattentive driving” is the cause of more and more accidents and logged accident information is showing that some policies need changing. I co-sponsored a bill to enhance penalties for inattentive driving as a result of the young woman killed on Pilot Knob Road last summer. She was cleaning up the ditches when she was hit by a woman who said she fell asleep.
Thank you for your letter and stay tuned for the final outcome.
Senator Jim Carlson