Overweight trucks, tired drivers spell death on highways
Truck-driver fatigue has gained media attention because of the New Jersey Turnpike crash that killed a man and critically injured others, including actor Tracy Morgan. Unfortunately, that accident is just one of hundreds of thousands of truck crashes that occur each year.
Every minute and a half of every day, a large truck is involved in a crash resulting in, on average, 4,000 yearly fatalities and 100,000 more injuries. Truck-driver fatigue has been recognized as a major safety concern for over 70 years, which is why Congress should focus on remedying safety problems, not creating new ones.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has filed an amendment to the Transportation Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill to protect rules governing rest periods and the hours drivers may work. It was introduced in response to language increasing the work week from the current 60 to 70 hours to over 80 hours. This is equivalent to adding an additional workday.
I understand all too well how quickly life can change due to a big truck. My son, Guy, was killed by a coal truck that weighed over 134,000 pounds, had insufficient rear conspicuity and absolutely no rear underride guard.
As a forensic engineer, I have reconstructed dozens of crashes in which overweight was a factor. Local truckers have told me they work too many hours with not enough rest. Some take drugs to stay awake, others just for fun.
I urge you to talk with state troopers, especially those who work on I-75, about this issue.
Love Larry Webster
Larry Webster's columns are just getting better and better, and last Sunday's had me laughing out loud as every new person was ridiculed.
From the old geezer, then Hillary, Pelosi and Chelsea to Rand Paul, Jeb and Cantor — he slices them apart with equal disdain.
The writing is very witty, and if Webster had a TV presence to go with it, then he would be ready for a wider audience, and should at least have his own late night TV show, preferably on the comedy channel. Then he could make some real money, and give us the inside scoop on a network television to boot.
Webster is a "first read" when I open the paper these days.
Sworn testimony for laws
Legislators often rely on the testimony of witnesses to give them guidance in drafting or voting on bills. It is frightening to think that we could pass a law based on falsehoods or half truths.
With that in mind, I pre-filed a bill June 25 that would require all testimony given to committees, subcommittees or task forces be given under oath. Currently, Kentucky law vests discretion in committee chairpersons to place witnesses under oath. In practice, my observation is that this discretion is rarely exercised.
It is the assumption that persons who speak in front of legislative committees will do so forthrightly and honestly.
However, witnesses often have a bias toward a policy being discussed or a bill being considered for passage. Holding witnesses legally accountable for their testimony makes it less likely that they would make statements that are not factual to garner support for their point of view.
In the 2015 session, there will be many critical issues, such as continuation of the Common Core standards and the allowance of medical marijuana, upon which the General Assembly will deliberate.
Legislators need to be confident the testimony at committee hearings meets the highest standard of veracity. Likewise, persons who testify need to know that they are being held to a high standard of accountability.
When both of these standards are attained, then the public can be confident that members of the state legislature have the most accurate information available to decide on laws beneficial to our commonwealth.
State Sen. Reginald L. Thomas
Safer, still scenic Ky. 32
In a June 17 commentary, Suzanne Tallichet of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth questions the wisdom of building a new section of Ky. 32 in Rowan and Elliott counties.
The merits of any transportation project are subject to opinion. Ky. 32 is a two-lane highway built in steep terrain 80 years ago and little changed since. Like many another 80-year-old road in Appalachia, it has narrow lanes and meager, unpaved shoulders. Sharp curves require reduced speeds of 25, 35 or 45 mph in multiple locations.
Yet it has to be used every day by trucks, school buses, ambulances and students commuting to Morehead State University, among others.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has proposed a new route with straighter, wider lanes capable of carrying more traffic, more safely. From among all the possible paths for the new route, the cabinet has proposed an alignment — not mentioned in the commentary — that meets public needs while affecting the fewest landowners and avoiding all cemeteries. It also avoids two pristine cold-water streams.
The commentary contains two errors: that "fill" dirt for the new road will be "scraped from the surrounding hills" and that the old road's scenic value will be sacrificed. As proposed, the alignment requires no "borrowed fill," and scenic preservation actually is one of the goals of the project.
But the public's top concern about Ky. 32 has consistently been safety, and the result will be a far safer roadway.
Executive director, public affairs
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
A new use for courthouse While I agree wholeheartedly with historian Foster Ockerman Jr.'s op-ed about the need to restore the old courthouse in downtown Lexington to its former glory, I think we can go further to help focus the use of this historic building.
At a recent opening of a collection of historical art at the Hopewell Museum in Paris, a question was posed wondering why Lexington did not have a contemporary art museum. A number of us have wondered that for many years.
The presentation of art and its importance to a community speaks volumes about that community. A contemporary art museum in downtown Lexington will offer citizens and visitors alike an opportunity to enjoy, be entertained and be educated in a class of art which addresses the more recent world more than decorative art does.
A contemporary art museum provides a destination for visitors and would bring many of us downtown again.
Certainly, Lexington's political, business, civic and arts community leadership can join together to develop an art museum. We may need to be creative in an approach to develop such a museum and this can be done economically if we step outside the normal approach to museum offerings in today's art world.
It is time Lexington had its own museum, and this building and its grounds would provide a very interesting setting for an intimate one. Let us support Ockerman's vision and work to build a great museum for Lexington.
And an old one...
In response to the column calling for restoring Lexington's old courthouse, may I make a suggestion? The antique dealers were in Heritage Hall for many years and then at the tobacco warehouse. They have been disbursed and are now inconvenient to visit.
Would the courthouse not be an ideal location on weekends next to the Farmers Market? The city could charge booth rent and draw more activity downtown.
Ride-sharing companiesA simple yes or no, senator
I fail to understand why law enforcement or local elected officials continue to allow ride-sharing companies to invade the state. These new transportation network companies operate without insurance, pay no local business tax or permits and undercut small businesses and taxicab companies.
Local taxicab companies are required to undergo safety checks and provide adequate insurance on passengers. Yet these new companies feel that because they call themselves "ride-share" companies, they are exempt.
I contacted several of Sen. Mitch McConnell's offices after, in a recent Wall Street Journal article, some GOP leaders voiced support for Uber as a new technology. No response.
Perhaps others would write and find out if McConnell supports illegal cabs and where his opponent stands. Just a yes or no for small business or big tech.
Stephen C. Webb
Big Dog City Taxi
Clean up cabs to compete As Uber and Lyft establish their ride-sharing presence in Lexington, I have been hearing increasing calls for government restrictions to protect the existing taxi businesses. Disruptive technology has a long history of improving life in America, and this new kind of transportation service should be encouraged. They, of course, should be subject to the same kind of vehicle safety and insurance requirements. But additional requirements would simply be protection for the taxi business.
If the taxi drivers in Lexington are concerned about the competition, perhaps they should consider how they could deliver more value to their customers instead of asking the government to restrict potential competition: reduce late pickups and no-shows and clean up your vehicles. And the city should resist any regulations beyond those required to ensure public safety.
Don't bow to taxicab lobby
Lexington and Kentucky officials should not be overly eager to regulate newly introduced ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber, despite opinions of certain interested parties stated in a June 16 article in the Herald-Leader. The popularity of these ride-sharing services around the world suggests consumers are tired of the antediluvian and protectionist regulations of the traditional taxicab market.
In fact, "market" may be too strong a word, considering these regulations are made with the intent of restricting competition and empowering those already in the market, all in the name of consumer safety. Regulators diminish overall consumer well-being by artificially increasing taxi costs and reducing cab availability.
What officials should do is wait and give the market time to self-regulate, which Lyft and Uber will likely do if it means increased profits. Already they require certain vehicle requirements and criminal background checks for drivers. Officials can compare the results of this self-regulation to the traditional taxi cab market in terms of consumer satisfaction, and consider whether government regulation is necessary.
What Kentucky officials should not do is follow in Virginia's footsteps and ban ride-sharing services, which is almost certainly a result of taxi industry lobbying. This ban has led to disastrous results for drivers, customers and public employees who would much better serve society by focusing on more substantial crimes.
Kentucky should welcome 21st century ride-sharing innovations and give them time to improve operations on their own.