Extra Extra : May 2007

Speeders more deadly than drunk drivers

While alcohol-related accidents and deaths may receive more attention, speed-related accidents kill more people — about 10 each week — in North Carolina, according to a The News & Observer report by Pat Stith, Mandy Locke and David Raynor."But while state legislators and court officials have gotten tough on drunken drivers, they have eased up on speeders." Database editor Raynor analyzed 3.4 million speeding cases from the state court system, plus a decade of highway patrol citations and state motor vehicle data.

ATVs: Deceptively Dangerous

An in-depth special report by The Oregonian explores the dangers of ATVs. "Over the past decade, the machines have soared in popularity, with 7.6 million in use. The result: Record numbers of riders end up in emergency rooms and morgues as accidents kill about 800 people a year and injure an estimated 136,700." The multimedia report includes myriad documents and video footage detailing the reality of ATV safety issues and concerns.

Investigation puts bus drivers' histories online

Lafayette Parish in Louisiana placed the roughly 20,000 children who ride the school bus daily in the hands of drivers with multiple driving and criminal offenses, an investigation by The Daily Advertiser's Jason Brown and Claire Taylor found. "The investigation revealed that the school system lacks policies for handling bus drivers who speed, wreck, steal or drink while driving in their personal vehicles and buses." The Advertiser built and posted online a database that allows parents to search for their child's bus by driver name, bus number, or school.

Will parking violators pay in Peoria?

Nishi Gupta of WHOI-Peoria, Ill., found the city was owed nearly $1.2M in parking fines. She reviewed thousands of cases and found many people owed hundreds, even thousands of dollars. The city would take them to court to collect, but it wasn't successful, despite numerous hearings and bench warrants. At times, the courts would close the cases with no consequences for those who decided not to pay up. After the story aired, Peoria's city hall adopted a policy to collect the fines from parking ticket deadbeats.

Residential areas grow in wildfire risk zones

According to a USA Today report by Brad Heath, "Since 2000, roughly 450,000 people — enough to populate a city the size of Atlanta — moved to Western areas endangered by wildfires." Heath's analysis combined historical fire data from the USGS Forest Service, Census population data, fire modeling software used by researchers and a wild and urban interface map to discover this dangerous migration.

Teachers cheat on California achievement tests

Teachers cheat to improve their students' scores on the high stakes achievement tests, a review of documents by the San Francisco Chronicle found. Although "schools admitted outright cheating in about two-thirds of the cases," cheating is likely more widespread than the numbers indicate, since the California Department of Education currently relies on schools to investigate possible cheating.

Eurasian crime syndicates set up shop in U.S.

Los Angeles Daily News staff writer Troy Anderson reports that Eurasian crime syndicates have continued to scam the government since the 1970's. The crime syndicates, which come from a dozen republics in the former Soviet Union as well as Eastern and Central Europe, systematically exploit government funded programs for personal gain. "A recent report by the California Attorney General's Office estimated that 5,000 to 10,000 criminals - including former inmates of KGB prisons - were among the immigrants."

Michigan schools face economic time bomb

According to a report by Ron French of The Detroit News "Michigan's school retirement system is riddled with loopholes and slipshod policies costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and driving the state's public education system toward financial crisis." In the 2006-07 school year, the cost of retirement benefits per student was $1,015 — more than is spent on "books, buses, computer technology and building maintenance combined." Loopholes that qualify retirees for lifetime health coverage could alone cost the system $2 million a year. It's projected that $1 billion could be lost in a program that allows ... Read more ...

Former meth labs declared "safe" still unfit for residence

A report by Debbie Dujanovic of KSL 5 (Salt Lake City) details how seized homes in Salt Lake County that had once functioned as meth labs are being reopened and declared safe without proper clean up. Unsuspecting buyers are moving into contaminated homes because lax disclosure laws negate the need to report homes ever served as meth labs. Upon learning that their house had been a meth lab, one family discovered a child's bedroom had "levels 14 times above what the state considers 'safe.'" listing properities that were considered contaminated at one time.