Primaries Picking Up Speed

All around the country primary elections are beginning to take place in preparation for the general elections this fall. As previously reported, several incumbents have decided not to seek reelection or are running for other offices. The primary races have caused some interesting inter-party races to occur. Some of these races have generated national attention, as the candidates going into the general election will directly affect which party will control the majority in the 107th Congress.

Two of the primary races being watched closely were in Nebraska; a third was in West Virginia. Senator Bob Kerrey (D) of Nebraska is not running for reelection to a third term. The primary voters have determined former Gov. Ben Nelson (D) will face off in November against State
Attorney General Don Stenberg. The other Nebraska race is for the 3rd District where incumbent Rep. Bill Barrett (R) is not running for reelection to a sixth term. The head to head match up places former University of Nebraska head football coach Tom Osborne of LeMoyne as the Republican nominee against Grand Island real estate investor Rollie Reynolds (D). Football fans are enthusiastic!

In West Virginia, the 2nd District Incumbent Rep. Bob Wise (D) won the Democratic nomination for governor. Filling his spot on the democratic ballot, this fall will be former state Sen. Jim Humphreys who will face State Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R), daughter of former Gov. Arch A. Moore, Jr.

As these primaries define the races in each state, motorcyclists should be contacting the candidates to find out where they stand on motorcycling issues and then spread the word which ones will be supportive. Remember the true term limit is the vote.

ITS of America

Some of you may have heard the term ITS America, others may not have a clue. ITS, is the Intelligent Transportation System. ITS America is the organization working in conjunction with the US Department of Transportation to improve highway conditions and safety across America. May 1st through May 4th ITS America held their annual convention in Boston, Mass. The MRF attended this meeting to see what is on the technological horizon. Transportation professionals, engineers, and equipment manufacturers gathered to exchange ideas and exhibit the latest and greatest technology. The transportation advancements being developed and in some cases implemented are using modern technologies such as wireless phone systems, robotics and satellite systems, just to name a few. The recent advancements in computers, software and electronic sensing devices have made possible such advancements as; Automatic Collision Avoidance Systems that maintain a specified distance from the vehicles in front and behind; Automatic Crash Notification that notifies the authorities of your location if the sensors indicate abnormal conditions of the vehicle; Side Impact Warning Systems that send a audible warning and visual warning lights in the side view mirrors; heads-up displays that can provide vehicle information and enhanced night vision; and Locator systems that help you find your way when lost or your car when stolen. Several of these products are being included as accessories on many of the more expensive models currently in production.

While safety is the rallying cause, other issues need to be addressed. Technology now allows for a black box device on vehicles that records, on a looping tape, all actions, and activities in the vehicle just before a crash. On board video recorders that create a record of what is going on inside the vehicle, and global positioning systems that can locate the vehicle at any time day or night raise questions of privacy. Not only is privacy an issue but also the question of who owns the information on the record becomes an issue. These "advancements" will change the tort system and how the courts view admission of the information into civil cases. In addition, how insurance companies will charge for coverage and settle claims should be considered.

Where it all will end is anyone's guess. Intelligent Transportation Systems are a "techno-geek's" heaven here on earth. The future is here and motorcyclists need to be aware that these advancements are being implemented now, either as production items or as experimental projects by highway departments. The Minnesota highway department currently has a 17-mile section of highway fitted with "tapes" on either side of the roadway. The state has attached sensors, which read the presence of the tapes, to an experimental snowplow and allows the driver to plow just the roadway. Because of the heavy snow at times in Michigan, the sensors will aid the plow drivers to stay on the road and not plow the shoulders possibly hitting parked cars. The advancements can in fact be a benefit to society and road safety, but we need to move slowly, and motorcyclists need to make sure we are included in the design and implementation.

Truckers Beware

It seems over the road truck drivers are not getting enough sack time. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced revisions to the hours-of-service rules that determine how much sleep truckers and bus drivers must get in a twenty-four hour period. Based on estimates from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) highway fatalities reached 755 annually due to drowsy or fatigued drivers. The DOT is proposing the total number of hours a driver would be allowed operate per twenty-four hour period would be no more than twelve. The rule changes will also require the use of on-board electronic recording devices to keep track of the hours and miles. Current law permits ten hours of driving followed by an eight-hour rest break and no more than fifteen hours on duty time in twenty-four hours.

The proposed rules state that a long haul driver must have ten consecutive hours off in a twenty-four hour period with an additional two hours off during the fourteen-hour work period. The proposed rule will help the FMCSA meet their goal of a fifty percent reduction in motor carrier fatalities.

Trucking associations are questioning the soundness in the proposed rules, saying that the time limits will increase the number of big rigs on the roads in order to maintain the current volume of goods being transported. The industry is already having difficulty filling the 80,000 drivers seats needed today. This rule will increase that number to 180,000, according to the American Trucking Association (ATA). The ATA raised concerns that the rules are not based on sound scientific evidence but rather on FMCSA estimates. The recording devices also raise questions of privacy for the ATA. In addition the Teamsters are concerned about enforcement and the earning potential of union members. There is also the question of economic impact to the consumer for longer delivery times and the need for more drivers to do the job.

The proposed rules will be posted on the Federal Register with a 90-day comment period. The FMCSA will also hold hearing in Atlanta, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Springfield, Mass, and Washington, D.C.

Cinderella Liberty in Kentucky

'You be home by midnight!' That's the new rule in Cloverport, Kentucky. The city council has passed a new crime fighting law that requires adults be off the city streets between midnight and 5 a.m. on week nights and 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. on weekends. First time violators will be given a warning, but repeat offenders will receive a $250 fine. Sounds kind of like martial law in the Philippines during the Ferdinand Marcos days. At least in Kentucky they are not shooting on sight, not yet anyway.

Lisa Dean writing for the Free Congress Foundation says, "Adults should be treated as adults and not as children. But government treating adults like children has been the American way of life during much of this century." She goes on to say that most people look at something the government does that may be unconstitutional and if it doesn't affect them, they do nothing.
I suppose if you work nights you can get a permit to be out after dark.

Grab Your Crystal Ball

The week of April 24 raps up a two- week series of "visioning sessions" held by Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater. The "Multi-Modal" tour began with stops in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Buffalo, New York. The tour's primary purpose is to tout the achievements of the Clinton administration. The secondary purpose is gathering information and input from state officials and industry representatives for a report to be called "Trends and Choices", due to be released in June 2000.

The report is supposed to give insight to the future of transportation trends, including issues such as the effect of globalization in the transportation sector, the impact of technology, and the aging population. According to the Bureau of National Affairs, Slater has stated that he expects the trend will shift from the view that a new highway is the answer to every instance of congestion. The visioning sessions looked at all aspects of transportation including air, surface, and mass transportation.

MRF DC will be back soon with more news from our nation's capital. Anyone with an e-mail address can receive MRF DC. Simply send a request to <MRF-NEWS@mrf.org> and they will be added to our list. I hope you've found the information contained in MRF DC useful. If you appreciate the work MRF is doing in our nation's capitol, please help us to remain a strong voice for all motorcyclists by becoming a member. You can join online at the MRF website <http://www.mrf.org>, or contact Bev Waters at 202-546-0983 in our Washington office and she'll be happy to send you an application.


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