At one point in our lives we have all enjoyed the ‘freedom of the open road.’ That sensation may be on the way to becoming extinct as our highways and roads fall into disrepair without the proper funding to repair them. Many believe the solution may be a black box that relays every mile that you drive back to government tax collectors. The black box would determine how much tax you owe above and beyond income taxes, payroll taxes, sales taxes and toll fees.
The device would fit neatly on your dashboard and track every mile. The box may not only reveal your miles, but also your location. Right now Libertarians and environmental groups are pushing the idea. While the Tea Party and the American Civil Liberties Union have voiced their concerns, Congress is finding it difficult to decide whether or not to go ahead with the project, but several states aren’t waiting. So far, thousands of motorists have taken the black box for a test drive.
Part of the reason that the Highway Trust Fund, which is financed by the taxes we pay at the gas pump, is dwindling is the fact that Americans are purchasing less gasoline. Today’s modern vehicles are getting far better gas mileage resulting in less time at the pump.
The federal tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents and hasn’t seen a hike in 20 years. Our elected officials do not want to raise the tax while the price per gallon is so high.
Lee Munich, a transportation policy expert at the University of Minnesota says, "The gas tax is just not sustainable.” Munich’s home state is testing out the black box in 500 cars. "This works out as the most logical alternative over the long term.”
The Senate approved a $90-million project just last year that would have tested the box in 10,000 cars, but the House shot it down. A handful of states and cities have moved ahead on their own. Oregon is enlisting 5,000 drivers and Nevada has already completed a pilot test. Illinois is testing it on a ‘limited basis’ with trucks and New York City is seriously considering testing it out.
The 50 volunteers in Nevada, whose cars were equipped with the black box, voiced their concerns about the government being able to track their movements.
“Concerns about Big Brother and those sorts of things were a major problem," said Alauddin Khan, the director of strategic and performance management at the Nevada Department of Transportation. "It was not something people wanted."
Ryan Morrison, chief executive of True Mileage, said, "People will be more willing to do this if you do not track their speed and you do not track their location. There have been some big mistakes in some of these state pilot programs. There are a lot less expensive and less intrusive ways to do this."
Edited by Alisen Downey