DOT funds rural road safety

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The number of people killed in crashes where a vehicle operator had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher dropped 3.7 percent in 2007 to an estimated 12,998, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in late August. While 43 percent of automobile crashes involved an alcohol-impaired driver, fewer than 1 percent of fatal crashes involving large trucks – 40 out of 4,551 – involved a truck driver meeting that BAC threshold. For more information, go to this site.

David Kelly was appointed NHTSA’s acting administrator by President Bush. Previously, Kelly was the agency’s chief of staff, serving as the top adviser to former Administrator Nicole Nason. Prior to joining NHTSA in July 2006, Kelly served as DOT’s deputy assistant secretary for government affairs.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in late August ordered Autobuses Rio Verde of Irving, Texas, to cease operations after determining that the company was affiliated with Green River Bus, which was ordered to cease operations in April. An investigation revealed that the two companies shared identification of officials and functions, physical addresses, vehicle ownership, employee identification and operational similarities.

CEI Group added “Mini Lessons” to DriverCare Risk Manager, its online fleet risk management service. The 7- to 10-minute lessons complement CEI’s full-length driver training modules.

National Safety Council selected Pace Transportation driver Steve Powers as a Regional Best Safe Driver of the Year. Officials for the Omaha, Neb.-based company nominated Powers, who has exceeded 4 million safe miles in more than 35 years of driving.

Fourteen states, three counties and two parishes competed for and will receive $14.7 million in Rural Safety Innovation Program (RSIP) funds to improve safety on rural roads, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced in late August. Rural roads carry less than half of America’s traffic but account for more than half of the nation’s vehicular deaths. Last February, DOT launched the “Rural Safety Initiative” to address this issue. Though last year’s fatality rate – 1.37 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled – is the lowest in the nation’s history, the 41,059 fatalities in 2007 remain “entirely too high,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Thomas Barrett said. “The RSIP program will help us put a national focus on a local problem.”

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The awards, made possible by funds from DOT’s Delta Region Transportation Development Program and Intelligent Transportation Systems Program, are part of a $287 million effort to help local and state governments reduce crashes on dangerous rural roads. RSIP recipients include:

· Arizona DOT, $480,000, Interstate 10 severe weather warning system;
· Arkansas Highway and Transportation Dept., $1,540,786, cable median barrier on I-55 in Crittenden County;
· California DOT, $1,575,175, coordinated speed management in work zones;
· California/El Dorado County, $304,000, intersection safety using ITS technologies;
· Colorado DOT, $324,390, speed management on U.S. 160, Wolf Creek Pass Snow Shed;
· Colorado DOT, $140,749, speed information on approach to curves on U.S. 50 in Fremont County;
· Illinois DOT, $344,000, rural curve improvement strategy on county and township highways;
· Illinois DOT, $40,000, vehicle-actuated advanced warning on curves;
· Iowa DOT, $500,000, traffic and criminal software improvements;
· Kansas DOT, $284,000, dynamic message signs and road weather information system;
· Louisiana/Rapides Parish, $1,140,943, roadway departure crash reduction action plan;
· Louisiana/Grant Parish, $597,954, roadway departure crash reduction action plan;
· Louisiana DOT, $1,925,983, rural intersection safety implementation plan;
· Minnesota DOT, $160,000, installation of dynamic curve warning systems;
· Mississippi DOT, $1,925,983, low-cost road-departure crash countermeasures;
· Mississippi/Hinds County, $303,552, low-cost road-departure crash countermeasures;
· Missouri DOT, $800,000, dynamic message signs and closed-circuit TV on I-57, I-55 and U.S. 60;
· South Carolina DOT, $840,000, to decrease hydroplaning on U.S. 25 in Greeneville County;
· Tennessee DOT, $650,800, sign inventory and assessment/management system project;
· Washington/King County, $202,400, advanced curve warning and driver feedback signs; and
· Wisconsin DOT, $609,000, rural thru-stop intersection crash prevention.

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Preventable or not: Doe goes West, gets grief
On the fateful day of the accident, longhaul trucker John Doe had been plagued by triple-digit Arizona temperatures that’d scalded his driver’s side door so hot that he’d blistered his arm when he opened the window to lean his elbow out for a little relief from his in-cab sauna. Worse yet, he forgot he’d left his last bag of Spicy Ranch Doritos on the sun-drenched dashboard, leaving the goodies inside less than tasty from the scorching heat.

“Jeez, what next?” Doe asked himself. Alas, the answer to that question wasn’t long in coming. Arriving at Big Al Murphy’s Western Wear on Main Street in Tucson with some cartons of cowboy boots, Doe maneuvered his tractor-trailer around a large Dumpster, pulled up to the curb within a no-parking zone, engaged his four-way flashers, glanced at both mirrors (nothing coming except a green Chevy van) and proceeded to back his rig toward the front of the store.

Without warning, the driver of the van, Sammy “Tex” Johnson, attempted to squeeze past the end of Doe’s trailer, intent on gaining access to Big Al’s tiny parking lot before its entrance was blocked and .. SMASHO! CRUNCHO!