Monthly Archives: April 2009

Recession Keeping People Off Roads, Alive

The Associated Press has a story this morning about the bright side of the economic downturn. U.S. highway deaths in 2008 fell to their lowest level since 1961. That’s 9.1 percent lower than the year before. The fatality rate — the number of deaths per 100 million miles traveled — also was down It was 1.28 in 2008, the lowest on record. A year earlier it was 1.36.

Preliminary figures released by the government Monday show that 37,313 people died in car crashes last year.

Because of the bad economy and high gas prices part of the year, people drove less. The police also cracked down more on seat belt use and drunk drivers.

“Not only do they drive less but the kinds of driving they do tend to be less risky — there’s less discretionary driving,” said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

It’s not the first time tough economic times have decreased roadway deaths. Fatalities fell more than 16 percent from 1973 to 1974 as the nation dealt with the oil crisis and inflation. Highway deaths dropped nearly 11 percent from 1981 to 1982 during a recession.

Regarding tougher seat belt laws, 27 states allow police to stop motorists whose sole offense is failing to buckle up. The rest of the states, including Washington, have laws that allow tickets for seat belt violations if motorists are stopped for other violations. New Hampshire, believe it or not, has no seat belt law for adults.

National seat belt use in 2008 climbed to 83 percent, a record. Washington has the third-highest seat belt use, at 97.2 percent. Michigan is first with 97.2 percent and Hawaii second with 97 percent.

Even with the declines, more than 100 people die on U.S. roads every day.

State-by-state highway death totals will be available later in the year.

Better Cover Up Those Tomatoes

The National Weather Service does more than warn of avalanches, power outages, flying branches, dangerous driving conditions and flooding. Today it issued a special weather statement for sensitive plants.

Yep, temperatures could hit freezing Saturday morning, so the forecasters say if you have sensitive plants in the ground you’ll want to protect them.

Record low temps are possible as the skies clear out overnight. Doesn’t look like there’ll be one in Bremerton. The coldest April 4 was in 1955, when it got down to 29 degrees. The forecast for Saturday is 33 degrees.

There’s also been a wet start to April, with records for both the 1st and 2nd at Sea-Tac. Total rainfall for the two days was 1.31 inches. At the Bremerton airport, it was just .75 inches, according to the Weather Service. The wettest first two days of April here were in 1969, with 1.24 inches.

Once the cold air moves out on Saturday, we could see our first 60-degree days of the year, with 64 predicted for Sunday and 62 for Monday.


State Still Trying to Get Rid of Steel-Electrics

The four 80-year-old steel-electric ferries were yanked from service because of rust and cracks in their hulls in November 2007. The state has been trying to get rid of them, but so far they’re still taking up space at the Eagle Harbor maintenance facility. Other ferries need that space, now, so the state is trying to move the steel-electrics ASAP. Check out the story in the Herald here.

Narrows Tolls Meeting Thursday in Gig Harbor

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Citizen Advisory Committee will meet from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday to review proposed toll rates. An open house will be held before the meeting, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., to give the public a chance to review toll financial and operations information. The event will be at the Inn at Gig Harbor, 3211 56th St. NW.
The citizens committee, as required by law, will review the toll rate proposed earlier this month by the state Transportation Commission.
In December, the citizens committee recommended maintaining the current toll rates of $2.75 for Good To Go! electronic tolls and $4 for manual tolls through June 30, 2010.
Based on traffic and revenue projections since then, the Transportation Commission proposed raising the Good To Go! electronic toll rate to $3.25, leaving the $4 manual toll rate the same.
Individuals will have a chance to comment. They can also submit comments or questions online to the Citizen Advisory Committee or by mail to TNB-CAC, 3214 50th St. Court NW, Building D-302, Gig Harbor, 98335-8583.

Even Less Chance for Bridge Head-Ons

The opening of the second Tacoma Narrows Bridge eliminated the potential for head-on crashes that could occur when both directions of travel were one bridge. The skinny lanes were separated by some little plastic doohickeys.
Now the state is installing crossover barriers at each end of the bridges to keep head-ons from happening there. The project, which costs $199,000, will begin in May and take about two weeks. It will be paid for with tolls.
The barriers can also be moved to divert traffic from one bridge to another in the event of a major blocking collision or bridge closure.