2017 in the Rearview Mirror
Even though the push for safer roads is a common issue that everyone can agree on, there are still political decisions that can help or hinder that process. We have legislators advocating daily for bills that will benefit drivers in the Carolinas.
Below are the 2017 top three traffic safety legislative wins for North and South Carolina, as chosen by AAA Carolinas.
North Carolina “wins”
1. Driver Education Funding: This year’s state budget established a dedicated source of revenue for driver education classes for the first time ever. Prior to this fiscal year, driver education funding depended solely on the budget line item.
- The Appropriations Act of 2017 appropriates approximately $27 million per fiscal year to driver education.
- The proceeds will come from late fees from the Civil Penalty & Forfeiture Fund.
- This is important because without it, some public schools were considering eliminating the class.
- This funding allows North Carolina to continue with its GDL program in which drivers are required to take the class in order to get a license before the age of 18.
- To read more about this funding, click here.
2. Roads Funding: It is no secret that many areas of North Carolina have poor infrastructure. With the passage of more funding for roads, progress will continue and be expedited. There has been an increase in funds from the last fiscal year as well as new funds which are outlined below.
- The new funds increase the maintenance budget by $63.9 million in the 2017-2018 fiscal year and $103.8 million in the 2018-2019 fiscal year. These funds will include:
- $5.4 million in FY 17-18 and $35.2 million in FY 18-19 for general maintenance activities.
- $30 million for high-cost deficient bridges (costing over $20 million) and $8 million for the Bridge Program, which is responsible for the maintenance, preservation, rehabilitation and replacement of NC bridges.
- $15 million recurring for pavement preservation activities.
- $5 million in FY 17-18 and $15 million in FY 18-19 for contract resurfacing.
- The new funds establish a $50 million recurring construction fund for immediate need highway construction projects.
- Additionally, the new funds establish a new Bridge Preservation Fund to employ cost effective solutions to maximize bridge life and lower lifetime cost, awarding $80 million for FY 17-18 and $85 million for FY 18-19.
- Lastly, they will increase recurring funding by $139.7 million in FY 17-18 and $180.5 million in FY 18-19 for the Strategic Transportation Investments Program fund.
3. New Requirements for Driver Education Curriculum: Driver’s ed classes will now also include the proper law enforcement procedures during traffic stops and the actions motorists should take during a traffic stop.
- House Bill 21 requires the DMV to consult with State Highway Patrol, the Sheriff’s Association and the Association of Chiefs of Police to revise the driver license handbook to include a description of law enforcement procedures.
- This will help ensure that drivers understand what to do when they are pulled over and how to act when approached by an officer. This is in an effort to avoid miscommunication based on mannerisms and behaviors.
- To read more about the curriculum, click here.
South Carolina “wins”
1. Big Roads Bill: South Carolina approved a bill that increases the state’s gas tax by 12 cents a gallon over six years to pay for major road improvements. The revenue is expected to raise an additional $630 million annually for road repair. The legislation requires all of the new money to be spent on existing roads.
- The gas tax will increase by 2 cents each year through 2022.
- Drivers are able to recoup the extra money paid in gas in their income tax returns.
- Prior to this bill, South Carolina’s 41,400 miles of roadway have been primarily funded by the state’s 16.74 cent per gallon tax – which is the nation’s lowest.
- The state’s first priority is a $50 million rural road safety program.
- To read the bill in its entirety, click here.
2. New Moped Laws: South Carolina passed a bill requiring moped drivers to either have a valid driver’s license or a separate moped exclusive license. Additionally, it gave police the ability to enforce traffic laws for people traveling on mopeds.
- Prior to this bill, mopeds were a way for non-licensed drivers or those who have had their licenses revoked for various reasons to still get around on the roads. This proved to be dangerous as drivers convicted of crimes such as a DUI were back on the roads and becoming repeat offenders.
- Mopeds in South Carolina have been nicknamed “liquorcycles” as officers could not enforce DUI laws or other violations.
- The new legislation requires that people trying to obtain a moped license do so from the DMV and be at least 15 years old. Starting in November 2018, moped drivers must register their mopeds with the DMV.
- Drivers under the age of 21 are required to wear helmets.
- This legislation comes in response to the growing number of moped fatalities in South Carolina.
- To read the legislation in full, click here.
3. Child Passenger Laws: South Carolina enacted new car seat and booster seat laws to better protect children in the event of a car crash.
- Most prominently, an infant or child under 2 years of age must be properly secured in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system in a rear passenger seat of the vehicle until the child exceeds the height or weight limit allowed by the manufacturer of the restraint system.
- A child at least 2 years of age must be secured in a forward-facing child passenger restraint system with a harness in a rear-passenger seat of the vehicle until the child exceeds the height or weight requirements.
- A child at least 4 years of age must be secured by a belt-positioning booster seat in a rear seat of the vehicle until they can meet the height and age requirements of a seat belt.
- A child at least 8 years of age and at least 57 inches tall may be restrained by an adult safety belt.
- To read the law in full, click here.