Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Seventy Days of HEAT

The HEAT is on this summer and it won’t just be 90-degree August days. For the past four years, Missouri has recorded the highest number of fatal and serious injury crashes between July and September.

The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety is partnering with law enforcement to take precautions to reverse this trend. Law enforcement agencies across Missouri will be using High Enforcement Action Teams to crackdown on impaired drivers and ticket speeding and unbuckled drivers and passengers.

In order for Missouri to reach the statewide goal of 850 or fewer fatalities by 2012, the spike in fatalities between July and September must be prevented.

Enforcement will be coupled with paid media in July and August.

We had a lot of fun - and a lot of heat - shooting the video spot for the campaign. Check it out.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Braking News

Knowing that I work in the motor carrier world, friend Pepper Foxpath (not her real name) asked if I would address some things she’s always wondered about commercial trucks. She asked some fabulous questions that I’ll address over the next several postings.

Today’s subject is braking distance. Pepper wanted to know how cars and tractor-trailers compare. I found some stats from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that are very interesting. If we look at average total stopping distance at 55 mph, the reaction and braking time for a car and trucks are as follows:

Passenger car -193 feet (2/3 of a football field)
Loaded tractor-trailer with cool brakes -256 feet
Loaded tractor-trailer with hot brakes -430
(twice as long as a car!)
Empty tractor-trailer -249 feet
Tractor only
(driving without a trailer) -243 feet

I’m impressed that a loaded truck’s stopping distance is just 63 feet longer than a car when its brakes are cool. Think about it. The semi and its load weigh 20 times the average 4,000 lb. weight of American cars, minivans and SUVs. That’s some fantastic mechanics! Still, that same truck with hot brakes has a stopping distance 68 percent longer.

Truck brakes heat up as they’re used. That’s why in mountain states, downhill stretches of highway have mandatory pull-offs where trucks sit and cool their brakes.

So when you’re out on the road, how can you tell if a truck has hot brakes? From the driver’s seat of your car, it’s nearly impossible. I think I’ll just drive as if all the trucks around me are steaming hot. No darting in front of trucks or making a last-minute turn into the same lane. Giving trucks the full passing lane as we both descend Missouri’s steep spots. Not braking willy-nilly because I think a truck is tailgating me. Driving smart could keep me from being squashed!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Be On the Lookout for Striping Crews

This is a busy time for highway striping crews. These workers are taking advantage of the warm, dry weather to paint brighter, more visible lines on Missouri roads.
Despite the fact that several trucks, complete with flashing signs, travel behind the paint truck to warn drivers to slow down and change lanes, five MoDOT crews have already been involved in crashes this year and have narrowly escaped injuries.
So what more do motorists need, you might ask? MoDOT has a ready response: pay attention and focus on the task at hand - driving. Be patient, obey the speed limit, don't talk or text on cell phones, keep a safe distance from other cars and buckle up.

That just may keep a near-miss from happening to you.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Breathe Easier

Some people say government is full of hot air. With MoDOT and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources working together to reduce diesel emissions, our air will be easier to breathe.

The departments have joined forces to improve air quality and public health in the state's metropolitan areas. MoDNR will administer a grant that helps MoDOT retrofit more than 130 vehicles with technology that reduces pollutants.

Emissions will drop by 288 tons per year - enough to fill 427 Goodyear blimps. Updates for the fleet will also mean better fuel efficiency.
Blue skies all around!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Keep Your Cool

Summer officially began this week, and the heat is here in Missouri to prove it. If you're like me, you'll be spending some time looking for ways to keep cool. Swimming pools, movie theaters and a vacation to just about anywhere come to mind.

One of the most important places to keep your cool is on the road. MoDOT's Director Pete Rahn speaks this week about some of the biggest work zones to watch out for. There's not much use in heading to the pool or other summer activities if you're not going to get there safely. Focus on your driving, slow down when you see a work zone and arrive alive.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tell Us Your Thoughts About Busses

When was your last road trip by bus? What would you like to see improved? Perhaps you always choose a car over a bus - why?

MoDOT is studying ways to improve long-distance travel options in Missouri, specifically what is known as long-distance bus carriers such as Greyhound, Jefferson Lines, Burlington Trailways, etc. We would appreciate it if you took a few minutes to share your thoughts. It will help identify unmet needs for long-distance service in Missouri.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ride for Remembrance

Remembering the fallen.

Saturday, June 13, was brimming with the sounds of motorcycle engines as hundreds of people rode into Jefferson City in remembrance of fallen MoDOT workers. The choppers, cruisers and even some classic cars carried riders who were themselves MoDOT employees or who had some connection to a MoDOT worker, killed in the line of duty. MoDOT has lost 128 employees since 1945.

I’ve never been on a bike with an engine, but watching the motorcycles enter the parking lot one after another stirred a sense of pride in an organization whose employees are doing their best to make traveling Missouri better and safer than it has ever been.

The spirit of comraderie at the memorial rally was nurtured with food, games, vendors and fun for young and old. The proceeds go to the MoDOT Fallen Workers Memorial which we hope to have built near the Capitol soon. If you’d like to make a donation please go to www.teamontheweb.com.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Know Before You Go

With heavy rains today, remember some of these flood safety tips, and check MoDOT's Traveler Information Map for updated road closure information.

  • Slow your speed for better control on rain slick roadways.

  • Allow extra distance for braking.

  • Turn your lights on whenever wipers are required -- it's the law!

  • Don't try to cross a flooded roadway. If you see water on the road ahead, turn around and find another route.
  • If there is no other route, get to higher ground and wait for the water to subside.

  • Even if the water appears shallow, don't cross. The road underneath could have dips or may have washed away.

  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most cars, causing loss of control or possible stalling. One or two feet of water can sweep most vehicles away.

  • If your car stalls, get out immediately and move to higher ground.

  • Don't drive unless necessary.

  • If it's necessary to drive, know before you go. Check which roads are closed due to flooding on MoDOT's Traveler Information Map at http://www.modot.org/ or call 1-888-ASK MoDOT or the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Giving Green to Get the Green

Recycle, reduce pollution, use alternative fuels, and get cash back. What better incentive does a contractor need?

A new pilot green incentive program allows MoDOT contractors to receive "green credits" for using environmentally friendly practices during a project. Awards are received for meeting a green credit goal and additional award levels are available for exceeding the goal.

Meet the green credit goal: Redbud award - $5,000 bonus
Exceed goal by five credits: Hawthorn award - $10,000 bonus
Exceet goal by ten credits: Dogwood award - $15,000 bonus

The flip side is that a contractor not meeting their goal will actually lose green - they will pay a charge per credit that they are short. One more reason to keep that recycling bucket handy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Driving to Distraction

Today’s high school and college students text constantly. I should know, I’m one of them. Texting has become the favored form of communication for those in class, eating dinner, or hanging out with friends. However, if a new law passes in Missouri, young drivers will find texting from the drivers seat not just dangerous but also expensive.

The Missouri Legislature passed a bill that makes it illegal for anyone 21 or younger from text messaging while driving.

The bill seems like a good idea. The road should be the driver’s number one concern. However, I have to wonder, why the age limit on the ban? Is an older driver somehow better at texting? Sen. Ryan McKenna doesn’t seem to think so. As the bill’s sponsor, he originally wanted it to cover those over 21 as well.

Not including those over 21 isn’t the law's only loophole. Officers may not be able to tell the difference between drivers dialing a phone and completing a text message. The ban may outlaw texting, but phones today also have Internet access, which creates an entirely new level of driving distraction. Imagine music, weather, sports updates, and games all a button push away. These phone capabilities are not included in the ban, leaving drivers able to use them freely. Should an officer pull over an individual texting or scrolling through their favorite website, how will the officer be able to tell what exactly they were doing with their phone?

Don’t get me wrong, the ban has the best of intentions. Keeping any segment from texting while driving will reduce the number of accidents. I simply believe the ban’s specificity is what keeps it from being functional. For example, some states have handheld cell phones banned from anyone driving. Not much room for excuses there. Until the ban is defined a little more thoroughly we can continue to expect accidents simply because the driver is too busy texting to make good driving decisions.

Your MoDOT Minute

60 seconds of the latest Missouri transportation headlines:

Monday, June 8, 2009

New blue icon lets motorists see into the future

MoDOTs Traveler Information map gets thousands of visitors every month. With work zone season upon us, a recent addition to the online map will make traveling across Missouri even easier. A new blue icon has been added that lets travelers see the location of future work zones up to a week before they start. This means you can see what’s ahead of you days before you even leave your house. Want to know what the drive to Branson is going to be like next week? Go to http://maps.modot.mo.gov/travelerinformation/, click on the checkbox next to the blue icon and get a look. The blue icon can let you prepare for delays which makes for a less stressful drive to your destination. The feature is also great for truckers who want to schedule around routes that may cause them drive time. It’s like seeing into the future!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Go Green, Save Green

Did you know you can “Go Green to Save Green” by visiting MoDOT’s Web site? This week, we launched a new online carpooling “ride sharing” database that let’s you find -- or create from scratch -- carpools anywhere in the state.
Click on the “Find a Ride” button and follow the instructions to get started. You’ll be matched with people in your area headed in your direction. Carpooling saves money and reduces your carbon footprint. Basically, it’s a win/win scenario that’s good for you and good for Mother Earth. On the site, you’ll find a map of our state-operated commuter lots complete with directions to and descriptions of each lot. We’ve also added links to some existing ride-matching sites in Missouri who have a base of subscribers.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Summertime slide

Shriveled french fries in the cup holder, a sticky sucker on the seat and melty crayons on the floor. My car is the mecca of childhood messiness because in the summer, we sometimes let things slide. But in my car, and those of my friends, I am the car seat police. They know that in my car, or any car in which my kid is riding, they better be in the right kind of seat and they better be buckled up. No exceptions, no excuses.

I am quite often struck by how many well-loved children (and their parents) think its perfectly fine to ride to the ballpark, to the neighbor’s house or just up the road a ways without a seat belt. It’s NOT.

If you don’t believe me, conduct a summer time favorite – a science experiment. (Your kids can help!) Take your car to an empty parking lot. Put several heavy objects in your kids' seats, maybe a nice big watermelon, or a sack full of groceries with some eggs and milk, or heck, a bucket filled with water balloons. If the kids are along, position them safely out of the way, near a building, in the shade. Go ahead and get in and be sure to buckle up. Now, drive up to about 10 miles per hour and then slam on your brakes. Your precious cargo will most definitely be jolted from the seats and may suffer some damage.

Was it scary?

Thank goodness your kids weren’t riding with you – unbuckled. Please, make it a priority. It is a no-brainer, so easy and it’s one rule that you should NEVER back down on – not even on summer vacation!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Safe & Sound Web map can help you get around closed bridges

Today, five more bridges have been closed around the state to allow them to be swiftly re-decked. Two more will close tomorrow. This means 36 bridges on the Safe & Sound program are under construction. Twenty-five have already been completed!

We understand that road closures are an inconvenience. But doing so allows the construction team to work as quickly as possible. It also controls cost by virtually eliminating the need to buy new right of way and to build lots of costly new sections of roadway.

Since last fall, MoDOT has been holding community briefings to prepare residents for the projects that are coming to their areas, and to learn of local constraints that may impact construction schedules. So far, so good. A recent survey of people who attended some of those events found that 90 percent of them felt the decision-making process was open, transparent and fair; 97.7 percent said MoDOT had explained the projects in a manner that was completely understandable; and 86 percent said they were satisfied with how their concerns were addressed.

One tool MoDOT has been using to help people cope with bridge closures is an interactive map on the MoDOT Web site. The map locates each of the 802 Safe & Sound bridges with icons of different colors that indicate where the bridge stands within the schedule -- a future commitment, construction within 12 months, construction within 3 months, under construction, and construction completed. Clicking on each icon gives you a picture of the bridge, facts about the bridge and the construction plans, and in most cases a suggested detour map to get around the construction site. The data is updated every day.

It might help your travels this summer.