Roger Wentz, executive director of the American Traffic Safety Services Association, called on President George W. Bush to “stay the course” in the development of a long-range energy policy, and resist efforts to cut the federal user fee assessed on gasoline.

The letter to the President was in response to moves by several members of Congress to introduce legislation that reduces the current 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax by 4.3 cents per gallon.

“Reducing the federal motor fuels user fee will cost states billions of dollars annually in much needed highway funding, and consumers will not benefit from lower prices at the pump,” says Mr. Wentz.

The federal Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century provides approximately $32 billion a year to states from the Highway Trust Fund to improve the quality and expand the capacity of their roadways. Reductions in this fund will equate to less roadwork and repairs and further traffic congestion.

Most of the nation’s roadways were built in the 1950’s and lack modern-day safety features designed to save lives. Technology exists now – such as brighter signs, stripes and lifesaving guardrails – that help save lives by enabling motorists to see the roadway in virtually any condition.

Mr. Wentz also focuses on the direct impact of a user fee reduction on the nation’s economy.

“Every state that has issued bonds based on the state’s anticipated share of the federal highway funds will likely receive a lower bond rating, and every publicly traded roadway construction and manufacturing company will be hurt financially,” he says.

Motorists would also feel additional impacts of a user fee reduction nationwide. According to Mr. Wentz, “If we further delay repairing and upgrading our roadways, in large part for the “baby boom” generation of older drivers, more people will needlessly suffer and die in accidents due to outdated and unforgiving roadways.”

According to federal statistics, one third of all traffic fatalities involve poor road conditions. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of thirty, and older driver fatality rates are at an all time high. Many states are in the process of refurbishing roads and bridges, many of which are between forty and sixty years old. These roads were not designed to handle large volumes of traffic.

ATSSA (www.atssa.com) is an international trade association headquartered in Fredericksburg, Va. The association represents the roadway safety industry.