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AAA urges state leaders to focus on road safety and funding

trafficwebWith the recent commencement of the legislative session and release of Governor Brewer’s 2015 executive budget, public policy debates on a variety of critical issues have once again assumed the spotlight.  Indeed, our elected officials are tasked with making difficult choices, balancing our state’s growing needs with dwindling resources.

As an advocacy organization representing over 850,000 Arizona motorists, our core mission remains focused on ensuring the safety and security of the motoring public. These are the main reasons we were founded in 1902 and they continue to drive us today.  However, both of these elements are in jeopardy.

While we have made strides in recent years toward saving lives on our roadways, more needs to be done. According to a new study by the New England Journal of Medicine, novice drivers are more likely to become distracted by a wireless communication device in a car compared to more experienced drivers.  Further, the study found that young drivers are three to five times more likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash when reaching for or dialing a phone. This research adds to a growing body of data that shows novice drivers and distractions — particularly mobile phones — pose a deadly combination.

That’s why we applaud Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, for sponsoring HB2359, which would ban the use of wireless communications devices for young drivers.  As a safety organization, we also continue to recognize the importance of a statewide ban on text messaging, as we understand the clear and present danger posed by all drivers who engage in this deadly behavior.

In addition to keeping our roads safer, we also remain concerned with our continued underinvestment in our transportation infrastructure.  AAA long has identified the declining purchasing power of the federal gas tax and the need for a sustainable model to fund transportation improvements and maintenance into the future.

The situation is dire.  If additional revenues are not secured, the Highway Trust Fund will be depleted within a year, jeopardizing the safety and security of the all-road users. Necessary road maintenance and repair work will go undone, and new projects designed to alleviate congestion and allow for growth will be postponed or cancelled.  Specific to Arizona, it’s critical that Arizona Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) dollars are used to meet our growing transportation infrastructure needs and are not diverted to support programs that are more appropriately funded by the General Fund.

While proposals are being debated on the national front, it is imperative that our leaders work together to seek a permanent funding solution, and to secure funding of the HURF.

Our leaders must make difficult decisions and we recognize there are no easy answers.  However, we urge our elected officials to act now in order to secure safe and efficient transportation for our immediate and future generations.

— Mike Tully is the president and CEO of AAA Arizona.

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