'Dumb drivers' target of Minnesota gubernatorial candidate

| Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A gubernatorial hopeful in Minnesota is calling for drivers who cause crashes because they're too busy scarfing down a burger, slapping on makeup or chatting on the phone to face fines for being distracted. The revenue would go toward improving the state's transportation system.

The five-point plan revealed by Independence Party candidate Peter Hutchinson includes a 10-cent-per-gallon state fuel tax boost and a call for more toll roads. But his ire for “dumb drivers” drew the most attention.

“Listen to the morning traffic report – it's not mostly about too many cars on too little road,” Hutchinson told KSTP-TV in St. Paul. “It's about too many drivers causing too many dumb things that back up traffic mile after mile.”

Statistics aren't available to determine the frequency of accidents caused by distracted drivers, but some studies suggest that 2 to 5 percent of accidents result from cell phone use. Those figures could translate into 2,000 to 5,000 crashes per year in the state.

The fuel tax increase and other funding reallocations would raise about $7 billion for roads and bridges during the next decade, The Associated Press reported.

Hutchinson said he would sign the transportation bill that Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed in 2005. A provision in the bill called for a dime increase to the state's diesel and gasoline per-gallon tax.

Hutchinson said he also would support tolling major freeways to get users to car pool or take transit. In addition, as vehicles become more efficient, he said he wants to pursue how to tax drivers for miles driven, instead of by fuel consumed.

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