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Press Releases

Republican Party: TNDP Turns Own Members Into Collateral Damage

Press Release from the Tennessee Republican Party, April 1, 2010:

NASHVILLE, TN – Just this morning, the Tennessee Democratic Party went on the attack against State House Republican Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver for a bill (HB 3627) she has been working to move through the legislature. Democrats characterized the intent of the legislation as “sheer lunacy.” Interestingly, the bill has already been approved by voice vote at the subcommittee and full committee levels with the support of Democrats. Further, the full committee that approved the legislation two days ago is actually chaired by a Democrat.

“I can’t imagine that the Democrats on these committees are very happy,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney. “Here at the Tennessee Republican Party, our strategy is to protect our incumbent members. This is clearly a far cry from the tactics being employed by our Democrat counterparts.”

The legislation targeted by Tennessee Democrats is HB 3627, which was first passed out of the Subcommittee on Rural Roads by voice vote without any of the four Democrats on the committee being recorded as no. And two days ago it passed out of the full Transportation Committee – a committee chaired by a Democrat – by voice vote without any of the six Democrats on the committee being recorded as no.

To demonstrate the lack of opposition on Rep. Weaver’s legislation, video of the bill’s consideration in the full Transportation Committee two days ago is below.

Click HERE to View

*Discussion of Rep. Weaver’s bill begins at 34:15

Categories
Liberty and Justice News

BTW, Effects of Laws Against DWSMSing Still Unknown

Text messaging behind the wheel of a moving vehicle is illegal in Tennessee and about 20 other states. But there’s continuing debate on just whether the laws here or elsewhere are showing any demonstrable policy successes.

That topic was the subject of a short discussion detour on this week during a AAA Auto Club presentation before the House Transportation Committee.

At this point, it is still “too early to measure statistical results (of the texting ban) in Tennessee” that was signed into law last spring, said Don Lindsey, public affairs director for AAA of East Tennessee.

But Lindsey said one of the only studies in the country to study texting behavior before-and-after passage of an anti-texting law — a “direct observation” survey of thousands of California motorists that was sponsored by AAA — indicated the practice had dropped off by more than two-thirds.

According to a AAA press release, visual surveys conducted prior to the texting ban showed that about 1.4 percent of Orange County drivers were texting while driving. “The two post-law surveys showed that level had dropped substantially — to about 0.4 percent — a decline of about 70 percent overall,” stated the release.

The release noted that “surveys of the general public and AAA’s membership” show support for texting laws running between 80 and 90 percent — but also that “20-25 percent of drivers admit to texting while driving at least once in the past.”

Lindsey told Tennessee legislators the California study gives clear indication that “laws can have an effect on behavior.”

Soon thereafter, Rep. Phillip Johnson, R-Pegram, one of 30 state lawmakers who voted against the anti-texting bill last year, stopped Lindsey’s presentation to signal his incredulity with the study’s methodology and results.

“I find it hard to attribute (the texting decline) to passing the law,” said Johnson, who chairs the Rural Roads Subcommittee. “And how do you know they were texting?”

“You could see them,” Lindsey responded.

Johnson then asked how the researchers could be sure the motorists “weren’t punching a phone number,” which is still legal.

“They could tell because they didn’t put it up to their ear. They were looking at it and reading it. They could tell for any number of reasons,” said Lindsey.

Johnson  indicated he remained unconvinced, and said that while the results might be “pretty dramatic,” “striking,” and even “shocking,” he wouldn’t read much into them.

“We have trouble with the texting law that we have right now, and I don’t think law enforcement has even applied it yet because they can’t prove it,” said Johnson.

Mike Browning, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Safety, reported after the meeting that state troopers have issued just seven citations for infractions of the law.

“(The Department of) Safety sees texting and driving as a very dangerous distraction behavior,” he wrote in an email to TNReport.

Browning added that “(i)t is a challenge for law enforcement since dialing on a cell phone is permissible, however if officers clearly observe a motorist engaged in texting or reading a device, they are subject to citation.”

After the exchange between the AAA spokesman and Rep. Johnson during the committee hearing, another lawmaker referenced a study released last month that suggested there’s no indication laws banning the use of cell phones while driving have improved traffic safety.

That study, sponsored by the Highway Loss Data Institute, found “no reductions in crashes after hand-held phone bans take effect.”

HLDI researchers said they examined monthly collision claims before and after hand-held phone-use by drivers was banned in New York, Connecticut, the District of Columbia and California. They also looked at similar data from nearby jurisdictions without the bans for control purposes.

The researchers determined “the laws aren’t reducing crashes, even though we know that such laws have reduced hand-held phone use, and several studies have established that phoning while driving increases crash risk,” said Adrian Lund, president of both HLDI and its affiliate, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is an automobile insurer-supported group.

“Whatever the reason, the key finding is that crashes aren’t going down where hand-held phone use has been banned,” Lund said. “This finding doesn’t auger well for any safety payoff from all the new laws that ban phone use and texting while driving.”

After that study was mentioned, it was AAA’s turn to scoff at the findings.

“It was very irresponsible of them to even comment on texting, because their study had nothing to do with texting,” said Kevin Bakewell, public affairs vice president for AAA Auto Club South. “Their study had to do with the use of hands-free, or hand-held cell phone bans in some states.

“There’s a huge difference between texting and using a cell phone.Texting obviously requires you to take your mind not only off the road, but your hands off the wheel, and you eyes off the road as well,” he added. “Their study did not even look at texting, but they did comment on it, unfortunately.”

Russ Rader, a spokesman for IIHS, acknowledged his group’s study didn’t look at texting bans, only cell phones.

“But we would not expect a different results if we had studied texting bans,” he said. “The reason for that is these laws are very difficult to enforce. Lawmakers who think these laws are going to have a significant effect on reducing crashes are likely to be disappointed — whether it is a hand-held cell phone ban or texting.”

Categories
Press Releases

Orange Barrels on Holiday Break

State of Tennessee press release, Dec. 18, 2009:

Tennessee Halts Lane Closure Activity for Seasonal Travelers

Rockslide detours demain in place for I-40 in North Carolina & U.S. 64 near Chattanooga

NASHVILLE –Holiday travelers should enjoy a smooth drive through Tennessee during the busy Christmas and New Year’s travel holiday. The Tennessee Department of Transportation is once again halting all lane closure activity on interstates and state highways in anticipation of higher traffic volumes across the state.

No lane temporary lane closures will be allowed for construction on Tennessee roadways beginning at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 23 through 6:00 a.m. on Monday, January 4.

“Many Tennesseans traditionally take advantage of the opportunity to travel to visit family and friends during this holiday period,” said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. “We want to ensure that motorists traveling in Tennessee arrive at their destinations safely and with as little disruption as possible.”

Except for a few long-term closures which must remain in place for safety, all construction related closures will be suspended. Workers will also be on site in some construction zones. Drivers should obey all posted speed limits, particularly in construction areas. Slower speeds are necessary in work zones due to the temporary layout of the roadway and will be enforced. Drivers convicted of speeding through work zones where workers are present face a fine of $250 to $500, plus court fees and possible increased insurance premiums.

“Drivers can expect to see increased law enforcement on the roads throughout the holiday with a particular focus on stopping drivers who are impaired,” said Governor’s Highway Safety Office Director Kendell Poole. “We want everyone to have a safe holiday so remember to buckle up, drive the speed limit and don’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you’ve had anything to drink.”

AAA predicts holiday travel will increase 3% in Tennessee. An estimated 1.3 million are expected to travel by automobile in the volunteer state and another 40,000 are anticipated to travel by air for a total of 1.46 million travelers. Across the U.S. 87.7 million are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this year.

Motorists in the eastern part of Tennessee will have to detour around two rockslides that have closed I-40 in North Carolina and U.S. 64 in Polk County, Tennessee near Chattanooga. Motorists can find more information on both rockslides, including detours, by visiting the TDOT website.

For up-to-date travel information, motorists may call 511 from any land line or cellular phone or visit. TDOT is also on Twitter. Click here for statewide travel Tweets. Motorists are reminded to use all motorist information tools responsibly. Drivers should refrain from texting, tweeting or using a mobile phone while operating a vehicle. Drivers should “Know before you go!” and check traffic conditions before leaving for your destination.