Uniontown Herald-Standard. April 13, 2024

Imagine it’s morning rush hour and you’re at a stop light. Your child is strapped into the back seat and you are driving her to day care.

You look in the mirror and see a woman who is putting on makeup and looking down at what is probably a screen. OK, that’s multitasking, but you assume she is going to have her makeup set and keep her eyes on the road once the light turns green.

Certainly many distracted driving mishaps are the result of people talking on cellphones. This week, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives took the long overdue step of expanding laws that prohibit texting while driving to include talking on a handheld phone. Violating the law would be a summary offense subject to a $50 fine. The Pennsylvania Senate has already passed a similar measure and, presuming it is signed by Gov. Josh Shapiro, the commonwealth will become the 27th state to ban the use of handheld devices while driving. In fact, the 26 states that have already outlawed using a handheld device while driving include all the states that border Pennsylvania.

“It’s Pennsylvania’s turn,” according to state Rep. Ed Neilson, a Philadelphia Democrat who leads the House Transportation Committee. “Drivers need to put down the phone and keep their eyes on the road.”

Opponents to the law have argued that hands-free technology might be out of reach for some drivers. Yes, but those drivers should pull over and take a call if it’s absolutely urgent, or simply wait until they make it to their destination. Drivers who simply can’t resist glancing at a text or calling somebody should stash their phone in a glove box or their trunk while they are driving.

Look at it this way: We endured for decades when we had to find a payphone to make a call. It’s not too much of an inconvenience to wait just a few minutes to call someone back while you are piloting a vehicle that weighs 4,000 pounds and is traveling at a high rate of speed.


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. April 13, 2024

Spotted lanternfly killing season is about to begin. The invasive species is set to return to Western Pennsylvania later this summer, but as eggs begin hatching in early May, state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding encourages all Pennsylvanians to destroy the egg masses before the flying insects wreak havoc on Keystone State agriculture.

“As you clean up your yard or enjoy these early spring days, every egg mass you scrape and squash means 30–50 pests won’t hatch in May,” he said in a statement. “Everyone can help stop this nuisance that threatens valuable plants and outdoor businesses.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture remains aggressive in its battle against Lycorma delicatula, seeking and destroying the insect whenever possible and declaring a vehicle quarantine in 52 counties across the state, including almost every county in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

As the Post-Gazette previously reported, “The quarantine applies to trucking firms, train lines and companies that dispatch vehicles of any kind into or out of the impacted zones. Owners of those commercial vehicles are required to obtain a free permit verifying that the driver can recognize and will remove spotted lanternflies and their egg masses.”

As the pest moves westward, its presence has tapered in the Eastern half of the state. But here in the Pittsburgh region, more bugs are expected than last year, as the predator-free invaders gorge on the sap from high-value agricultural crops. They’re coming for our apples and grapes, and it’s up to us to bring the fight to them before the situation gets out of hand.

Egg masses look like dried mud or dirt on walls, cars, building-sides and even airplanes. The masses should be scraped with a putty knife or hard, flat tool like a credit card, to ensure their complete removal.

Spotted lanternflies are persistent. Simply scraping off the egg masses is not enough, especially if you flush or trash them. They will quickly adapt to new environments, so the best course of action is to drown the masses in rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer after scraping, keeping the unhatched flies in a fluid hostile to their existence.

Previous estimates have placed the annual threat to the commonwealth’s agriculture at over $300 million.

We don’t have to wait until July, when the flies are big and distinctive (and excellent at jumping out of the way of stomping shoes), to begin their eradication. We should all get our scrapers and rubbing alcohol, drowning egg masses before the adult lanternflies make it impossible to enjoy a nice, Pennsylvania-made glass of wine.


Altoona Mirror. April 13, 2024

It should not have taken the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration two years to make the common-sense ruling against one-person crews for America’s major freight railroads.

However, the ruling, having been finalized April 2, is better late than never. The prospect of one-member crews for what have become ever-longer trains — many carrying hazardous cargoes — was a preposterous idea that never should have been proposed.

Although railroads disagreed and continue to disagree, the plan was a prescription for tragedy.

Railroad communities such as Altoona and Johnstown can at least breathe a little sigh of relief that there will be an extra crew member aboard, should the crew member otherwise in charge become incapacitated or distracted for whatever reason.

It is not difficult to imagine the terrible consequences possible if a runaway train stemming from a lone crew member’s sudden disability were bearing down here, with people in its path unaware of what was about to befall them.

Several times in the past, the Mirror editorialized against the one-crew member proposal. People here need to remain watchful, though, that the idea, or something as potentially damaging as it, does not again rear its ugly head with the same unwanted outcomes.

As an Associated Press article published in the Mirror’s April 3 edition reported, more than 13,000 comments about the new rule were received by the Federal Railroad Administration. Out of that total, only about 60 opposed the rule, and it is not difficult to deduce the sources of that opposition.

The April 3 article reiterated that rail unions have long opposed one-person crews because of safety and job concerns, although many short-line railroads already operate with one-person crews without problems.

Nevertheless, labor agreements requiring two-person crews have been in place for approximately 30 years at major railroads, and in that three-decade span, freight trains have become longer, and no doubt are carrying a wider variety of dangerous cargos than when those two-person agreements first were negotiated. It makes sense for railroads, communities and the general public not to condone practices that carry the potential for catastrophe. Yet, as the April 3 article noted, railroads have a history of resisting new regulations.

“The railroads argue that the size of train crews should be determined by contract talks, not regulators or lawmakers, because they maintain there isn’t enough data to show that two-person crews are safer,” the article said.

But the topic “railroad safety” vaulted to center stage in February 2023 as the result of the fiery derailment in Ohio, virtually next-door to that state’s border with Pennsylvania.

That derailment and its aftermath have not become forgotten topics here in the Keystone State, especially in places like Altoona and Johnstown, through which freight trains pass daily — and more than once.

“FRA is doubling down on an unfounded and unnecessary regulation that has no proven connection to rail safety,” argues Ian Jefferies, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads trade group.

Not so.

The concerns are valid and the new rule is correct, although not a panacea.


Por favor ingrese su comentario!
Por favor ingrese su nombre aquí