Transportation Infrastructure in CT Among Nation's Worst; Including Structurally Deficient Highway Bridges

When the Mianus River Bridge on Interstate 95 in Greenwich collapsed 35 years ago, killing three motorists and putting an unprecedented focus on road and bridge infrastructure in Connecticut, it was apparently not preceded by public warnings about the poor condition of the state’s roads and bridges. Today, the warnings are abundant, in Connecticut and elsewhere, including a new ranking which underscores that New England and the Northeast are the epicenter for transportation infrastructure in need of improvement.

The latest comes from a ranking developed by CNBC, which found that 73 percent of Connecticut roads are in bad shape, giving the state a grade of D, while noting that nearly 8 percent of Connecticut's bridges are deficient.  Data from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA)  earlier this year indicated that 332 of the state’s 4,238 bridges were deemed deficient, six fewer than the previous year.    

Connecticut is not the only state in the region with acute infrastructure problems in need of costly solutions.  From the bottom up, the states ranking lowest in the analysis are Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Maryland and West Virginia (tie), New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Mississippi.

The CNBC report said of Connecticut:  “The infrastructure situation in the Nutmeg State is so bad, you could say Connecticut is moving backward. With the state facing a fiscal crisis, Gov. Dannel Malloy had to cancel $4.5 billion in transportation projects last year, proposing instead to restore tolls to the state’s highways for the first time in more than 30 years. That idea, so far, has gone nowhere. As politicians continue to debate, Connecticut roads continue to deteriorate.”

According to data published by ARTBA, Connecticut’s most traveled structurally deficient bridge – and the 60th most traveled structurally deficient bridge in the nation – is on I-95 in Norwalk, over the Norwalk River at Hendricks Avenue, between exits 15 and 16.  Additionally, highway bridges in New Haven, Fairfield and Hartford are also among the 110 most highly travelled and structurally deficient in the United States, the ARTBA indicates. 

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association has noted that the state's Special Transportation Fund faces insolvency by 2020—despite Connecticut having the seventh highest gas taxes in the nation, adding that this fall, voters will consider a constitutional amendment creating a lock box to protect dedicated transportation funding from being diverted to other uses.

According to Ballotpedia, the measure would require that all revenue placed in the state's Special Transportation Fund (STF) be used for transportation purposes, including the payment of transportation-related debts. The state legislature would be prohibited from spending the fund on non-transportation purposes.

The STF is funded by the motor fuels tax, motor carrier road tax, petroleum products gross earnings tax, certain motor vehicle receipts and fees, motor vehicle-related fines, and a portion of state sales tax.

The top five states with the best transportation infrastructure, according to the CNBC analysis, are Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Ohio, and Tennessee.


Toll Technology, Revenue Considered in Indiana, Minnesota and (Possibly) Connecticut

“Toll technology advancements significantly altered the tolling landscape, expanded the types of toll facilities being operated and improved customer experience,” a report on tolling feasibility developed for the Minnesota Department of Transportation explained.  “New toll facilities using all-electronic tolling are being implemented in several places across the country to add new roadway capacity, manage congestion and provide a sustainable revenue source for asset lifecycle costs.” The 106-page report, issued in January, concluded that more study is needed — if that’s the direction the state wants to take, the Minneapolis StarTribune reported.  The StarTribune noted that “Minnesota doesn’t have the kind of toll-road system that is common on the East Coast and other regions of the country. The E-ZPass electronic toll system, for example, was first deployed in New York 25 years ago and now serves 17 states, stretching from Maine to Illinois to North Carolina.”

The MnDOT study, initiated at the legislature’s behest, cost $175,000 and recommended a follow-on in-depth study, anticipated to have a considerably larger price tag.  The report stated that “results of the feasibility analysis are a high-level revenue assessment based on numerous assumptions and a more detailed study would be required before any decision is made to implement a specific toll project.” The report was prepared by four consultants – the Minneapolis offices of WSB and HNTV Corporation, and Prime Strategies, Inc. and Lock Lord LLP, both of Austin.

Indiana is also giving tolls a careful look, with the type of in-depth study recommended in Minnesota, and proposed by Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, who signed an Executive Order authorizing a $10 million study.  Malloy’s proposal is to be considered by the State Bond Commission later this week.  “Without transforming the way the state funds its highways,” Malloy said recently, “we will be unable to pay for the large-scale construction and rehabilitation projects that our state needs to ensure continued safe travel while attracting businesses and growing our economy.”

In Indiana, a strategic plan that could clear the way for that state to add tolls to its interstate highways, including inside the I-465 loop in Indianapolis, is currently being developed by one of the companies utilized by Minnesota.

The Indianapolis Star reported earlier this summer that the state signed a $9.6 million contract with HNTB Indiana Inc. to study the impact of tolling and provide project planning if the state chooses to move forward with tolling.  The administration of Gov. Eric Holcomb is required to study tolling under a road-funding plan lawmakers passed in 2017, but a decision has not been made on whether the state will go forward with authorizing a tolling plan, according to published reports.

Under the law, Indiana’s Governor is permitted to draft a strategic plan "if the governor determines that tolling is the best means of achieving major interstate system improvements in Indiana."   That decision has yet to be made.

"He wanted more information to make an informed decision and will use the strategic plan due Dec. 1 as a basis for that," a spokesman for the Governor told the Star. "If after reviewing the plan the governor determines that tolling is not the best option, the state won’t move forward with the remainder of the contract."

The contract with HNTB lays out specific requirements for the consultant if the state chooses to add tolling. For example, the Star reported, HNTB would be required to assist with project start-up for tolls in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Area, which includes Indianapolis and portions of nearly all of the bordering counties.

In Iowa earlier this year, a state DOT report on tolls was received by political leaders with distain.  In an editorial, The Gazette noted the possibility of tolls “is worthy of much more careful consideration than the political class is willing to grant.”  The publication added “Political fecklessness will not solve Iowa’s mounting transportation funding problems. Iowans love driving, we have a lot of roads and somebody has to pay for them.”

“Many Iowans have noticed a pattern in state government, a repetitive cycle of studies, recommendations and inaction. That may serve politicians fixated on their next election, but it does little to solve the very real problems Iowans face.”

Video: Connecticut House Democrats

Graphics:  2018 Minnesota DOT Toll Study Report

Struggles Continue for Thousands Who Relocated from Puerto Rico to Connecticut in Storm Aftermath

About 13,000 residents of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who arrived in Connecticut in the aftermath of the hurricanes Maria and Irma continue to struggle with obtaining basic needs including adequate housing, food, medical care and jobs, according to a survey commissioned by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. The vast majority of those who have come to Connecticut, over 70 percent, have extremely low incomes (under $30,000), adding a heavy responsibility on an already over-extended and resource-limited Puerto Rican community in Connecticut, given the extreme levels of need that are present in the community, even before the storms, the Foundation pointed out.

Approximately 1,300 people participated in the survey, which utilized online and in-person questionnaires in English and Spanish and field research.  It was conducted by the University of Connecticut’s El Instituto: Institute for Latina/o Caribbean and Latin American Studies and the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College. The objective was to understand the long-term impact of displacement on Puerto Rican households in the Greater Hartford region.

“The Hartford region has one of the highest concentrations of people of Puerto Rican origin outside Puerto Rico and last year’s hurricanes brought thousands more to the region, many of whom will likely stay,” said Scott Gaul, the Hartford Foundation’s director of Research and Evaluation. “The hurricanes were an unprecedented event, but we can anticipate similar crises will happen again. The survey is one tool to help the Hartford region understand the needs of evacuees and the potential long-term impacts of displacement.”

The survey found that while some households surveyed had initially relied on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for funding basic needs, the majority of those affected relied on Greater Hartford’s nonprofit organizations, school districts and family members for support.

During the 2018 Legislative Session, the Connecticut General Assembly  approved $4.4 million in education and housing assistance for displace residents, including $1.5 million in aid to the departments of education, housing and social services.

More than half of respondents (56%) mentioned that it was very likely (36%) or somewhat likely (22%) that kin would relocate from the Caribbean to Connecticut, with most of those relatives and friends staying with respondents.  Those living in Hartford’s outer ring suburbs were relatively less likely (72%) to have kin in the Caribbean than those living in Hartford or its immediate suburbs. And they expect nearly 1,500 additional people to arrive from Puerto Rico in the wake of the hurricane.

In addition, those responding to the survey indicated that they expected displaced kin to remain in Connecticut into the medium and long terms. Nearly a third of respondents (32%) reported that kin would stay in Connecticut for a few months, and a quarter (26%) would remain for a few years.

The survey also found:

  • The most pressing need for respondents hosting displaced Puerto Ricans is lodging, with fully one-third indicating that housing was one the biggest needs they face.
  • Nearly three-fifths of respondents indicated housing was displaced person’s first order need, followed by 16 percent who mentioned it in second order.
  • Food was a first order need for one-fifth of survey respondents’ displaced friends and relatives and second order need for 35 percent.

Survey respondents identified housing issues and insufficient food as the most critical needs they are facing in Connecticut, along with healthcare, in the after aftermath of the crisis. These are needs not only of those who are in the state already, but of those who are very likely to arrive in the short term,” wrote Professors Charles R. Venator-Santiago, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and El Instituto and Carlos Vargas Ramos, Center for Puerto Rican Studies.

"These needs are adding a heavy responsibility on an already over-extended and resource-limited Puerto Rican community in Connecticut, given the extreme levels of need that are present in the community and pre-dated the crisis created by hurricanes Irma and Maria," the report stated.

Results from the survey are aimed at helping to inform long-term planning and action by funders, nonprofits, municipalities and schools.  The Foundation intends to work with community organizations and leaders in the region to disseminate and act on survey results.

The report indicated that preliminary estimates by the government of Puerto Rico indicate that approximately 70,000 residential properties were totally destroyed, with an additional 300,000 partially damaged residences. As of February 2018, 1.1 million households had applied for disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Bridgeport, New Haven Among Nation's 50 Most Stressful Cities, Analysis Says

Stress?  Look no further than Bridgeport and New Haven.  Both cities were ranked in the top 50 Most Stressed Cities in America, a new ranking produced by the financial website WalletHub. Bridgeport ranked 33rd and New Haven 41st, based on analysis that considered stress in four areas:  the workplace, finances, family, and health and safety as contributing factors.

The most stressed cities in America, according to the analysis, were Detroit, Newark, Cleveland, Birmingham, Toledo, Baltimore, Wilmington, Milwaukee Gulfport and St. Louis.  Among New England cities, Bridgeport led the list, followed by Worcester (37), New Haven, Boston (52), and Providence (57). 

Bridgeport ranked 17th in the workplace stress category and 23rd in financial stress; 103rd in family-related stress. Bridgeport also had among the lowest average weekly work hours, tied for 176th among the 182 cities included in the rankings.  New Haven ranked 168th in that category.

New Haven was 37th in health and safety related stress; in the mid-50’s in the other categories.

WalletHub evaluated the 150 most populated U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populated cities in each state, using the four dimensions including 37 relevant metrics.  Those metrics included job security, traffic congestion, unemployment rate, average commute time and income growth in the work stress category.  Financial stress included evaluation of annual household income, foreclosure rate, food insecurity, housing affordability and debt per median earnings.

The family stress category included the separation and divorce rate, number of single parent households, child care costs and other factors.  The ten factors considered as part of the Health & Safety stress category included mental health, smoking, obesity, inadequate sleep, crime rate and hate-crime incidents.

Greensboro, North Carolina, residents spend the fewest annual hours in traffic congestion per auto commuter, 4, which is 25.5 times fewer than in Los Angeles, the city where residents spend the most at 102, according to the data.  Bridgeport and New Haven tied for 36th in the traffic congestion rankings.

Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, INRIX, Chmura Economics & Analytics, Indeed, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Renwood RealtyTrac, County Health Ranking, Zillow, Administrative Office of the United States Courts, TransUnion, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Council for Community and Economic Research, Gallup-Healthways, Numbeo, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Sharecare.

Nuclear Attack on NYC Could Impact CT, Report Suggests

The illustration in a recent edition of New York magazine has drawn some attention in Connecticut.  Accompanying an article describing the anticipated aftermath in the tri-state region of a nuclear attack on New York City, the potential path of nuclear fall-out was shown to extend through Connecticut towns including Greenwich, Stamford, Wilton and others, reaching as far north as the town of Monroe. Within two hours of an attack on Times Square, the article described, a plume of radioactive fallout would “unfurl 60 miles beyond the city, lingering for weeks, contaminating food and water supplies.”

The article explains that “In the hours and days after a nuclear blast, a massive plume of fallout would unfurl past the city’s borders and up the Eastern Seaboard, scattering radioactive dust on everything in its path: people, homes, farms, animals, forests, rivers. The most radioactive region of the plume would reach its full length of 20 miles an hour after the explosion, exposing every unsheltered person in the area to toxic levels of radiation; if it were to spread north from Times Square, it would reach as far as New Rochelle. Within a day, this danger zone would shrink to about a mile in length. Within a week, it would have dissipated completely.

A much bigger but less radioactive region of the plume, called the hot zone, would reach its maximum length of 60 miles — extending, say, as far north as Monroe, Connecticut — two hours after the explosion. A week later, the hot zone would still extend 20 miles from the city, and it would take many more weeks for it to disappear altogether. Although radioactivity in the hot zone would likely be too weak to cause any acute symptoms of radiation sickness, it could still subtly damage the human body and increase the chance of cancer.

How far and in what direction a plume of fallout travels depends on the altitude of the mushroom cloud, as well as temperature, wind, and other meteorological variables. Within an hour of an explosion, FEMA’s Interagency Modeling and Atmospheric Assessment Center would begin to track the plume’s movement, providing updates and projections to federal, state, and local authorities. They would use the information to evacuate people in the opposite direction of the plume and warn people in the plume’s path to seek shelter and avoid consuming any exposed water or food.”

Nearly a decade ago, a New York Times story on the subject included this:  Suppose the unthinkable happened…Do not flee. Get inside any stable building and don’t come out till officials say it’s safe.”  That advice, the Times indicated, was “based on recent scientific analyses showing that a nuclear attack is much more survivable if you immediately shield yourself from the lethal radiation that follows a blast, a simple tactic seen as saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Even staying in a car, the studies show, would reduce casualties by more than 50 percent; hunkering down in a basement would be better by far.”

“We have to get past the mental block that says it’s too terrible to think about,” W. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the time, told the Times. “We have to be ready to deal with it” and help people learn how to “best protect themselves.”

Connecticut's state website focuses on nuclear preparedness related to an emergency at a nuclear power plant in the state.  The Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security site indicates "While the Dominion Energy- Millstone Station in Waterford is the main focus of emergency planning in Connecticut, the fuel storage site at the former Connecticut Yankee site in Haddam, CT and the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, New York, are also included in Connecticut's radiological emergency preparedness and response program."

Communities near those sites are linked, and a calendar of upcoming training is provided.  The United Way also provides information related to evacuation and taking shelter on the agency's website. New Haven conducted an exercise of their host community reception center to prepare for the unlikely event of a nuclear release at the Millstone power plant in 2015; video here:

(New York magazine illustration)



New Haven is Among Safest Cities in U.S. for Cycling, Analysis Shows

New Haven is one of the nation’s ten safest cities for cyclists, according to a new analysis.  In a ranking dominated by communities in California, with six of the top ten, New Haven was not only the lone Connecticut city to earn a spot among the top ten, it was the only city in the Northeast to do so.  The ranking saw Davis and Berkeley California named the safest cities for bicyclists, followed by Boulder, Colorado; Eugene, Oregon; Palo Alto, Chico, and Mountain View, California; Fort Collins, Colorado; Santa Barbara, California, and New Haven.  Minneapolis ranked number 12.

Five other Connecticut cities made their way into the top 100 nationally:  Hartford at number 55; Norwalk at number 82; Bridgeport at number 85; New Britain at number 91 and Waterbury, which was ranked at number 92.  Lower down the list were Stamford, ranked number 221 and Danbury,  which came in at number 229.

New Haven debuted Connecticut’s first protected bike lanes a year ago, according to published reports, from City Hall to Long Wharf, and city officials have said  “New Haven encourages alternative transportation options in the city so there is a variety of existing supported infrastructure available, including off-street shared use paths, on-street bicycle lanes, a contra-flow bike lane, bike boxes at intersections, on-street bike corrals, bike racks on sidewalks, bike racks on parking meters and bike racks on buses.”

"New Haven likely fared well due to their bike laws, a high percentage of spending per capita on bike lanes and their low percentage of fatal crashes," said Laura Schmitz, Safety Writer with Your Local Security. "The city of New Haven should be proud of their efforts to make their city safer for cyclists!"

The city also launched a bike sharing program this year, in February, and celebrated National Bike to Work Day in May with a program encouraging bike riding.  In addition, Yale University is a Gold-level Bicycle Friendly University, as awarded by the League of American Bicyclists, and the city has developed on-line bike route maps.

The safest city in Massachusetts, Somerville, ranked number 58.  Providence was the safest in Rhode Island, but ranked number 482 on the national list.  Syracuse was determined to be the safest in New York State, ranking number 537.

The rankings were issued by, an ADT Authorized Premier Provider.  To determine the safest and least safe US cities for bikers, metrics and data were used from, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, People for Bikes, and The League of American Bicyclists to find the percentage of bike commuters, number of fatal crashes, amount of bike lanes, and what bike laws are in place or in the works in each city.

At the bottom of the list, the ten most dangerous cities included Los Angeles, New York, Houston, and five cities in Iowa.  Cities were included if these sources had data for them. Cities included had populations of 20,000 or more.

CT Pilot Program Testing Fully Autonomous Vehicles Begins Accepting Municipal Applications

Driverless cars may be coming to a Connecticut town near you. The state Office of Policy and Management, pursuant to Public Act 17-69, has begun accepting applications from municipalities to participate in a Fully Autonomous Vehicle Testing Pilot Program (FAVTPP). The state agency can select up to four municipalities to participate in the pilot program.

The purpose of the pilot program, according to OPM, is to encourage and allow for the testing of fully autonomous vehicles (FAV) on local highways in Connecticut. The goal for the pilot program is to allow a variety of FAV testing to occur in four municipalities throughout the state, bringing Connecticut to the forefront of the innovative and burgeoning autonomous vehicle industry.

Thus far, state and local officials indicate that two municipal application have been filed, from Stamford and Windsor Locks, three additional communities have expressed interest (Bridgeport, Manchester, and New Haven) and at least one additional application is anticipated.  A handful of other communities have expressed some degree of interest, but are uncertain if they will be applying to participate in the pilot program.  OPM expects to begin its review process of the filed applications shortly.

In order to apply, interested municipalities must complete and submit the formal application now on the agency’s website, along with a copy of the City/Town Council’s resolution approving the application.The law stipulates that OPM consult with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Department of Transportation (DOT), Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) and the Connecticut Insurance Department (CID).

Connecticut municipalities provide a wide range of challenges and opportunities for testing the limits of FAV technologies and services, according to the program description. Examples cited include operation in communities with varying climate and weather conditions, urban and rural geographies, access or lack thereof to adequate transportation and/or workforce opportunities, new and aging infrastructure, varying levels of traffic volumes and congestion and users of multiple modes of transportation including car, pedestrian, bicycle, bus, rail, freight, etc.

Prior to completing an application, interested municipalities are encouraged to search for and partner with interested autonomous vehicle testers.  The application must include “Specific Location(s) and Route Where FAV Testing is Expected to Occur.”  Municipalities are asked to attach a map “with the anticipated location(s) and route highlighted” and to “identify all public roads, all private roads, and any important entities or buildings (i.e. critical infrastructure, schools, hospitals, fire stations, etc.) within/near the testing area.”

OPM also is asking the applying municipalities to describe what it hopes to achieve by participating in the pilot program, why specific locations were selected, and “the municipality’s ability to safely oversee fully autonomous vehicle testing.”

The program requirements include that while operating a FAV, the autonomous vehicle operator shall at all times:

  1. Obey all traffic laws, provisions of the general statutes and ordinances of the applicable municipality concerning the operation of motor vehicles.
  2. Be seated in the driver's seat of the FAV.
  3. Be monitoring the operation of the FAV.
  4. Be capable of taking immediate manual control of the FAV.

In addition, municipalities are required to conduct a public outreach campaign to notify local officials, first responders, the general public and local media outlets about their participation in the FAVTPP prior to testing.  At a minimum, as part of the public outreach campaign, the municipality must outline an education program for police and residents regarding FAVs and the municipality’s participation in the FAVTPP; and share the finalized specifications on where and when such FAV(s) will be tested within the municipality as part of the FAVTPP.

The posting of electronic or printed signs at various testing area entry and exit points may be required by the municipality to inform the public and emergency responders when and where testing of FAVs is taking place. The signage must be approved by the municipality’s Traffic Authority, and that with respect to State highways and bridges and State railroad rights-of-way, the planned signage must be approved by the state DOT.

The state law outlines a framework of the minimum requirements to be included in agreements between municipalities and autonomous vehicle testers approved for participating in the Fully Autonomous Vehicle Testing Pilot Program (FAVTPP). The Connecticut law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), specifies the requirements for testing, including having an operator seated in the driver’s seat and providing proof of insurance of at least $5 million. It also establishes a task force to study fully autonomous vehicles. The study must include an evaluation of NHTSA’s standards regarding state responsibility for regulating FAVs, an evaluation of laws, legislation and regulations in other states, recommendations on how Connecticut should legislate and regulate AVs, and an evaluation of the pilot program.

In the event that a FAV experiences a crash during the FAVTPP in which a death, physical injury or property damage occurs the autonomous vehicle tester and applicable municipality must comply with specific notification and investigation procedures outlined by OPM.  A recent testing death in Arizona continues to receive scrutiny.

According to NCSL, 29 states including Connecticut have enacted legislation related to autonomous vehicles, and the Governors of seven additional states have issued executive orders on the subject.

Dangers of Distracted Driving Focus of New Documentary Produced in CT

A decade ago, local producer/director/writer Jennifer Boyd’s documentary Teens Behind the Wheel brought an EMMY Award and generated impactful airing on Connecticut Public Television and PBS, along with much discussion on news programs and increased awareness at driving schools across the country.  Well, it’s a decade later, and technology has provided the foundation for a sequel that is, in many ways, more troubling than the original. 3 Seconds Behind the Wheel, which debuts on Connecticut Public on Thursday evening, is a new documentary and podcast series that follows the lives of eight drivers over six months using in-car cameras and tracking technology to expose the often-hidden behavior of distracted drivers.

The documentary is scheduled for national release in this fall.  It has been described as a “window into our own lives,” by its realistic depiction of the pervasiveness – and dangers - of districted driving.

Why three seconds? That is the amount of time it takes to send a text message, choose a song, or engage in other activities that can impact safe driving behavior. That is also how long it takes to drive across a football field.

Producers gathered weekly data from subjects in Florida and Connecticut to get an honest picture of the many activities drawing drivers’ attention off the task of driving. Experts from MIT, Cambridge Mobile Telematics, Safety Track, and the University of Connecticut provided monitoring equipment, data storage, and expert analysis. The production took well over a year to complete.

The film also gives audiences a firsthand look at emerging technologies that could one day offer solutions to rising crash statistics. The documentary follows researchers at Google who are using driving simulators to develop next-generation in-car infotainment systems, and explores how one Swedish company is experimenting with technology that could one day allow cars to understand human feelings and make driving decisions based on individual needs.

“While many of these drivers’ habits will shock you, this is a very honest and intimate look at human nature,” said Jennifer Boyd, producer, director and writer of 3 Seconds Behind the Wheel. “And it provides a little insight into some truths about all of us.”

State DOT Commissioner James Redeker noted that distracted driving is a major contributor to crashes and deaths on highways.  Officials also noted that “it only takes three seconds to take a life or to end your own.”

Over the past 20 years, Boyd has produced public television documentaries on topics ranging from climate change to gun control, and she's won 9 Emmy Awards for that work.  Assisting her on the latest project were Catherine Sager, Senior Producer/Corporate Liaison; Cecilia Prestamo, Video Editor/Producer and Script Supervisor; Paul Smith, Director of Photography; and Tom Nelson, Editor. Nancy Bauer, Connecticut Public’s Vice President Sales/Corporate Support, is credited a being a driving force in the decision to research and produce the documentary.

3 Seconds Behind the Wheel premieres Thursday, June 21 at 8 p.m. on Connecticut Public Television and will rebroadcast Tuesday, July 17 at 10 p.m. and Saturday, September 15 at 7 p.m. More information about 3 Seconds Behind the Wheel can be found at Funding for 3 Seconds Behind the Wheel is made possible by Presenting Sponsor Travelers with additional support from General Motors and the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

High School A Risky Time for CT Students, Survey Finds

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System was designed to focus the nation on behaviors among youth related to the leading causes of mortality and morbidity among both youth and adults and to assess how these risk behaviors change over time. In Connecticut, the times they are a changin’.  Data released this week by the state Department of Public Health highlights changes over the past decade, and disparities among current students depending upon their grades in school.

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System measures behaviors that fall into six categories:

  • Behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence;
  • Sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection;
  • Alcohol and other drug use;
  • Tobacco use;
  • Unhealthy dietary behaviors; and
  • Inadequate physical activity.

The 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) includes randomly chosen classrooms within selected schools, and is anonymous and confidential.  It was completed by 2,425 students in 38 public, charter, and vocational high schools in Connecticut during the spring of 2017. The school response rate was 76%, the student response rate was 81%, and the overall response rate was 61%. The results are representative of all students in grades 9-12, according to the state Health Department.

The survey found that during the past decade, the percentage of students who rarely or never wore a seat belt has declined by one-third, as has the percentage who drove a car at least once in the previous month after they had been drinking.  That drop was between 2013 and 2017.

The percentage of students who “felt sad or hopeless” almost every day for a two week period “so that they stopped doing some usual activities” during the previous year climbed from 228% in 2007 to 26.9% in 2017 – more than one-quarter of students.  The survey found that in 2017, 13.5% of students seriously considered attempting suicide and 8.1% attempted suicide during the past year.

More than one-third of students (34.6%) of students did not eat breakfast every day in the week preceding the survey, and 14.1% did not eat breakfast on any of those days.  The percentage of students who got 8 or more hours of sleep on an average school night dropped from 26% in 2007 to 20% in 2017,

The survey also found that 25.8% of students with mostly A’s and 48.6% of those with the lowest grades (D or F) have used marijuana at least once in their lifetime.  More than one-quarter of students, across all academic grades (A-F) responded that they drank alcohol at least once in the month prior to the survey.

The survey found that 38 percent of students whose grades were mostly A’s texted or e-mailed while driving a car on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior to the survey.  The percentage was slightly less among students with lower grades:  31% of students with mostly B’s, 30% of students with mostly C’s and 23% of students with mostly D’s and F’s.

When it came to the percentage of students who rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol (one or more times during the 30 days prior to the survey), students with better grades did so less often, ranging from 12% of students with mostly A’s to 26% of students with mostly D’s and F’s.

The survey also found that 1 out of 5 students (20.1%) whose grades were mostly D’s and F’s did not go to school because they felt unsafe at school or on their way to or from school, on at least one day during the 30 days prior to the survey.  Among those with mostly A’s, that percentage was just under 4 percent.

Among those with the lowest grades, 38.9% were in a physical fight at least once during the previous 12 months, and 19.7% were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property, such as a gun, knife, or club, at least once during the past year.  Among those with mostly A’s, the percentages were 10.2% and 3.6%.

Where is Childhood Least Threatened? CT Ranks 5th Among States

The child poverty rate in Connecticut’s rural areas, 7.8 percent, is the lowest in the nation.  It is considerably higher in urban areas, 13.1 percent, which ranks 12th among the states.  Overall, in an assessment of where childhood is most and least threatened, Connecticut ranks 5th, according to Save the Children, the Fairfield-based organization that annually assesses the threats to childhood in the U.S. and internationally.  The state ranked sixth a year ago. The ranking does not capture the full extent of deprivations or hardships affecting children. Instead, it focuses on some key rights, or “guarantees” of childhood: life, healthy growth and development, education and protection from harm. If a child experiences all of these, his/her childhood is considered to be “intact.”

The ranking tracks a series of events that, should any one of them occur, mark the end of an intact childhood. These events are called “childhood enders” and include: child dies, child is malnourished, child drops out of school, child is a victim of violence, child has a child.

States were ranked according to performance across this set of enders, revealing where childhood is most and least threatened.  Connecticut’s average ranking across all categories was 8.2.

Connecticut had the 15th lowest percentage of students dropping out of high school, ninth lowest infant mortality rate and 11th lowest malnutrition levels.

The report indicates that “Save the Children hopes this report will stimulate discussion and action to ensure that every last child fully experiences childhood.”  The data reviewed includes the infant mortality rate, food insecurity rate, high school graduation rate, child homicide and suicide rate, and teen birth rate.

The report notes that “While children are only 20 percent of the population, they are 100 percent of America’s future.” Save the Children’s ranking reveals children in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire are far more likely to experience safe, secure and healthy childhoods than children in Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Connecticut is the only state in the nation where fewer than 1 in 10 rural children live in poverty. It is followed by New Hampshire, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Wyoming, all of which have rural child poverty rates below 12 percent.

Rural child poverty rates exceed urban poverty rates in 40 of 47 states with available data. Only Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin have more urban child poverty than rural child poverty. However, in most of these states, the urban and rural child poverty rates are similar. The difference is less than two percentage points, with the exception of Connecticut and Massachusetts.