Gov. Mike Dunleavy and his staff have still failed to provide any analysis on his plan to open roads with a posted speed limit of 45 mph or below to snowmachines and ATVs.

The governor’s staff claims the regulatory language contains all the answers and there is no need for clarification. That’s a dodge by people who won’t take responsibility for their actions.

Judging by the incompetent rollout of the scheme, I suspect there was no analysis before Dunleavy pulled the trigger.

A Dunleavy campaign donor or one of his friends probably came up with the idea, according to the former Public Safety Commissioner fired by Dunleavy, Amanda Price, and Dunleavy gave the go-ahead, opposing efforts by state officials who wanted to create a plan with public safety in mind.

Dunleavy has not taken any credit for his proposal, which is in keeping with his duck-and-cover brand of governing.

Dunleavy would benefit by reading the evaluation of Nathan Belz, an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who has studied transportation for many years.

The proposal will “certainly lead to an increase in the number of serious injuries and fatalities on our roadways. This is not in line with the State of Alaska Strategic Highway Safety Plan,” Belz said in an eight-page analysis submitted in response to the Dunleavy plan.

One of the goals of the highway safety plan is to “reduce the number of off-road vehicle fatal and serious injury crashes.”

“We are regularly in the top ten highest ATV rider death rates on public roads. We should be asking ourselves: What are we going to do about that? Opening up roads to OHVs (off-highway vehicles) and snowmobiles at a statewide level is not the answer.”

As Belz notes, the Dunleavy proposal is poorly written and features discrepancies and inconsistencies that will confuse everyone and make it more difficult for state officials to do their jobs.

Allowing off-highway vehicles on the highways “suggests to the public that using the vehicles on roads is safe and responsible. In fact, industry, regulators and consumer and public health and safety advocates unanimously agree that OHVs are not safe on public roads, particularly those that are paved.”

Belz writes that an Alaska State Trooper told a Fairbanks highway planning group that the policy of the Troopers is to not pursue a snowmachine or ATV if a rider flees from a traffic stop. This policy sounds reasonable, given the inability of a Trooper car to follow an off-road vehicle. If the policy is accurate, how does Dunleavy intend to change the rules to allow fair enforcement of the law?

Comments on the governor’s plan are due by April 18 and can be made by writing to dps.awt.directors.office@alaska.gov.

Dermot Cole is a longtime Alaskan, an author of several history books and a former Daily News-Miner staff columnist who now writes an occasional column on Alaska politics and history at Reporting From Alaska, www.dermotcole.com. His email address is dermotmcole@gmail.com.

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