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A roundup of things newsworthy and noteworthy
in your neck of the woods.

March 30, 2009

Illinois – Eco-Friendly Roads

Illinois highways are continuing a green makeover. Some 80 miles of asphalt will be reserved for buses, carpoolers and hybrid cars in phase two of the state’s Tollway Improvement Plan. The first phase focused on relieving congestion. In phase two, dedicated “green lanes” will be joined by more than 110 miles of new roadways. The $1.8 billion project is designed to reduce congestion, cut down on emissions and invest in Illinois jobs.

Indiana – Healthy Hoosiers

The Indiana Department of Labor (IDOL) recently reported that the state’s work-related injury and illness rate is at a historic low—5.2 per 100 workers. The IDOL survey showed a downward trend over the past decade. Workplace fatalities have decreased by a third and illnesses are down 42 percent. The biggest contributors to the declining injury and illness rate? State and local government (down 14 percent) and manufacturing industries (down 10 percent).

Maryland – Extra Drive Time

New drivers in Maryland can take the time they need to get the experience they want. In October, the state’s Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) increased the time drivers permits are valid from one year to two years. New drivers who already have permits can get extended expiration dates at their local MVA offices even if they received their permits before the law went into effect on Oct. 1. The extension is meant to help drivers gain even more experience before becoming fully licensed.

New York – Safety in Numbers

In an emergency, first responders first need to find your house. That’s why the Van Etten Fire Company in Ithaca, N.Y., is selling five-inch reflective numbers for residents to place on homes and mailboxes. These numbers ensure that home addresses are clearly visible so that first responders can find the right building in emergencies. Firefighters and emergency personnel are also installing the numbers for an additional fee; installation is free for seniors.

North Carolina – Flooded Flood Areas

How effective are policies that limit development in areas prone to flooding? That’s what students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill wanted to know. The students measured the change in population in floodplains for five North Carolina counties between 1990 and 2000. Results were mixed. Orange, Durham, Wake and Buncombe counties all had increased population density and development in floodplains while Craven County effectively reduced the number of people residing in its floodplain.

Ohio – Next-of-Kin Notification

A new state law is helping hasten the notification process in emergency situations. The law requires the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) to provide a voluntary Next of Kin registry. With this database, police officers and firefighters will only have to search a few minutes, instead of a few hours, for information following an accident. Licensed Ohio drivers can provide names and contact information for loved ones through the bureau’s Web site at www.bmv.ohio.gov, or in person at a BMV office.

Beyond Ohio: A National Next of Kin registry, used by first responders in many other states, can be accessed through www.nokr.org.

Pennsylvania – Slowing the Speedster

The flat pieces of blue, white and orange plastic along northeastern Philadelphia streets look like speed bumps. But, they’re an optical illusion prompting safer driving. When applied to the pavement, these innovative stickers look like 3-D pyramids and warn drivers to slow down. So far, the faux bumps are doubling the percentage of drivers who obey the 25-mph speed limit. What’s more, they’re cost-friendly, running $60-$80 each. That’s a fraction of the $1,000+ for cement speed bumps.

Tennessee – Saving More than Daylight

Firefighters from several stations of the Nashville Fire Department knocked on city doors in November to remind residents to change the batteries in their smoke detectors. They also distributed and installed free batteries for smoke alarms as a part of the 21-year-old Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery program. The program encourages residents to change batteries in smoke detectors twice a year—at the same time they change their clocks for Daylight Saving Time.

Virginia Tools for Travelers

State visitors and local Virginians have a tool to help locate lodging, dining, attractions and more on the go. It’s an easily searchable Web site optimized for personal digital assistants (PDAs), or smart phones. Published by the Virginia Tourism Corp., the site appears overly simple on a computer screen, but perfect on a handheld. Check it out at www.virginia.org/pda.

Washington, D.C. – Get Ready Already

Washington, D.C., residents can sign up to receive real-time emergency messages via cell phone or e-mail as part of the Be Ready D.C. program. The local initiative also offers guidelines on preparing disaster kits and making emergency plans for families, children, pets, seniors and those with disabilities. Visit 72hours.dc.gov for more information.

West Virginia – Green Glow

Earlier this year, $3.1 million in Matching Advertising Partnership Program (MAPP) grants were approved by the West Virginia Tourism commission. Issued in 1995, MAPP helps promote West Virginia as a leading tourist destination. Charleston Civic Center, Glade Springs Village and Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort are a few of the 21 tourism projects receiving money from the grants.

Wisconsin – Biking with the Best

The League of American Bicyclists recently named Wisconsin the second best state in the nation for bicycling. The state has 42 named trails and nearly 10,000 miles of roadway suitable for bikes. The achievement is not by accident. The Wisconsin Bicycle Federation and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) have worked together to help promote a multi-modal transportation system, and have produced eight comprehensive maps that include trails, state and county parks, and forests.

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