Article December 28, 2000
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Americans paying at pump

On average the American motorist pays approximately 43 cents per gallon in federal, state and local gasoline taxes, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API). Over the course of a year, this adds up to about $528 in gasoline taxes for each household (about 10% of which reflects gasoline taxes passed through in consumer goods shipped by gasoline-powered vehicles). Based on current consumption, the nation as a whole pays nearly $53 billion each year in total gasoline taxes.

Gasoline customers pay 18.4 cents per gallon in federal taxes, an average of 22.6 cents per gallon in state taxes and about 2 cents per gallon in local taxes. This 43 cents per gallon in total taxes amounts to about 40% of the pump price. Taxes on diesel fuel are even steeper, at an average of 22.8 cents per gallon. Diesel customers also pay 24.4 cents per gallon in federal taxes. The 49 cents per gallon in total diesel taxes represents about half the average price of a gallon of diesel fuel.

How much motorists pay in motor fuel taxes depends on where they live, how much they drive and on the fuel efficiency of their cars. Rural Americans drive farther to work and school than urban Americans, and, therefore, pay two to three times as much in gasoline taxes. In addition, state fuel taxes vary greatly. In Alaska, the gasoline tax is only 8 cents per gallon, while in Connecticut it is more than 35 cents per gallon. Florida levies the highest tax on diesel fuel—approximately 38.8 cents per gallon, including local taxes, according to the API.

Female fatality facts

Deaths of female drivers in the U.S. rose 82% between 1975 and 1997, researchers recently reported at the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) annual meeting.

Yet, among males, highway deaths decreased by 5% during the same period, said Susan A. Ferguson of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Although American men still are more likely than women to die in motor vehicle crashes, Ferguson said, this “gender gap” is narrowing. More women are getting their driver’s licenses and driving more miles than ever before, she noted.

The trend toward increased female highway deaths is apparent in other countries. In the U.K., for instance, deaths and injuries to female drivers have been increasing in recent years, and female drivers there now sustain more injuries than men, per kilometer driven. For every 100 million kilometers driven, female drivers in the U.K. are 32% more likely to be killed or seriously injured, according to TRB speaker Murray Mackay of the Birmingham Accident Research Centre. Susceptibility to fatal road trauma seems to be affected mainly by gender and age, Mackay noted. In any type of crash impact, he said, women are at greater risk of injury than men. Also, females between 15 and 45 years of age have a 25% greater fatality risk than males.

Road rage rages on

Nearly one-third of Washington’s drivers have been victims of road rage and two-thirds of the state’s driving population have witnessed an act of road rage recently, according to Exlpress, published by the Washington State DOT. These are just two pieces of the first profile of belligerent behavior on Washington’s highways—a portrait based on a statewide survey completed in November.

Four state government agencies—the Washington State Patrol, Washington State DOT, Washington Traffic Safety Commission and the department of licensing—decided to join together to investigate the highway anger issue and seek solutions. They established the Road Rage Task Force (RRTF).

The research produced a portrait of Washington’s belligerent driver. Those who engage in aggressive driving tend to be:

• Male (62%)

• Eighteen to 39 years old (64%)

• Married (56%)

• Have children at home (53%)

• Do not have a college degree (80%)

• Average income: $54,300.

Bridge construction for the birds

The Virginia DOT (VDOT) has taken up a new area of expertise—home building. The residents of these homes are not people but are peregrine falcons—an endangered species since 1970 and considered the world’s fastest bird.

Several years ago, VDOT became actively involved with peregrine falcons during construction to improve the Coleman Bridge over the York River. During the project, it was determined that the bridge was a potential nesting site for the falcons, which generally nest on tall cliffs or urban skyscrapers. In order to safely accommodate the falcons, VDOT placed a nesting box on the bridge. Since then, VDOT has continued this effort, placing nesting boxes on bridges as recently as this year in an effort to help preserve the peregrine in Virginia.

As a result, VDOT recently earned the Federal Highway Administration’s Excellence Award in the category of Environment Protection and Enhancements.

VDOT has also placed nesting boxes on the James River Bridge, the Berkley Bridge, and most recently on the Godwin Bridge and the West Norfolk Bridge.

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