If there is one thing that people like to discuss it's the price of gasoline. This is because everyone drives and everyone knows what it's like to sit in front of a pump and watch the dollars go up and up and up as they fill their motor vehicle with fuel. Of course, most people don't think much about how the price of gas gets to the number that it gets at. They probably assume it's all based on supply and demand, along with other factors related to the global economy. Naturally, with the United States being a net importer of fuel, gas prices here are certainly related to stability of world markets and efficiency in oil producing countries. However, gas is also taxed by the state in a number of different ways to provide funding for new roads and the maintenance of others. This raises the cost of fuel and the cost can be significant depending on the state the consumer is located in.
VMT taxes are a way that some states are looking to even the playing field when it comes to gasoline taxes because this new form of tax would charge people by the actual total of miles driven. It would also replace the current model of tax in place. How VMT taxes would be assessed would be through the use of locational based technologies that use GPS tracking devices to calculate mileage driven. The GPS tracking system would be equipped on the vehicle of the driver and the GPS device would determine every location that driver has been. Daily driving reports that break down mileage would be used to show exactly how much wear and tear that motorist contributed to public roads. This would make it easier to determine the amount that driver should pay for road maintenance. The goal of the VMT tax would be to make those who drive more pay more for road maintenance.
Most stories in the news associated with GPS vehicle tracking tend to be those that focus on privacy rights being infringed upon. Naturally, privacy has became a topic making more and more headlines with stories about the NSA surveillance, domestic drones and more. This is the one problem that VMT taxes will certainly encounter if they are to be applied across the board to every state because the taxes would need to be assessed by mileage driven, which will need to be accounted for using GPS tracking systems. The challenge would be having the majority of people agreeing that having the government monitoring their every move with GPS tracking would be a positive thing.
GPS tracking technology is constantly evolving and making life better for businesses concerned with fleet management and consumers in need of automotive security solutions. The technology is accurate, affordable and reliable, making it the perfect mechanism to be used for taxation. The only problem is that mechanism also provides a wealth of personal data related to driving activity and that will be the hurdle VMT taxes will need to jump.
Would you allow the government to place a GPS tracker on your vehicle if it resulted in lower gas prices?
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Over the past few years no subject has been under more debate and scrutiny among 4th Amendment advocates, police agencies and lawyers than the use of GPS tracking system technology and how it relates to vehicle monitoring. This is because the use of GPS trackers among government and police agencies to conduct personal surveillance has been heavily criticized for infringing on the privacy rights of citizens. However, people should understand that an individual's right to privacy is entirely based on if that individual would have what is defined as a reasonable expectation to that privacy. This is essentially what is looked at when GPS tracker systems are placed upon a person's automobile.
Clearly, there are certain forums people understand they cannot expect privacy. Such as the case if a person sends out a message using Twitter or posts something on their Facebook wall (assuming they don't have privacy settings). When information is exposed in a public forum privacy simply cannot be expected. However, this same principle applies to people participating in everyday actions such as driving down the street. People who drive down the street can't cover up their license plates because when people become part of the public their information also becomes public. If a person doesn't want their vehicle seen by the public they have every right to keep it hidden in their garage. Basically, if a person is in public they shouldn't have an expectation of privacy.
Although the laws regarding the use of GPS vehicle tracking devices continue to change in different states, in many cases a person or government agency can place a GPS tracker on a person'a automobile if that automobile is in a public location. The street, the store or essentially any location outside of a person's private property could be classified as public. This means a police officer could affix a real-time GPS tracking system underneath a person's vehicle while they are inside a store shopping and then monitor the driving activity of that vehicle for days or weeks! Police authorities who go through the proper legal channels and acquire a warrant could also be granted the ability to place a GPS tracker inside the cab of a person's vehicle or hard-wire the tracker system.
There have been a number of cases reaching high courts involving police use of GPS tracking systems to monitor vehicles and people suspected of engaging in illegal activity. Of course, each case has had different results based on procedure and state laws so it is difficult to set a concrete standard, but regardless the authorities do have some ability to utilize search warrants as a method of using GPS trackers on vehicles.
What people should know is that they should not expect privacy while conducting affairs in public, and that police will always have some authority to use GPS tracking systems if they can establish some justifiable cause why. Therefore, people engaging in illegal conduct and activity should be aware that at any given time they could be under surveillance.
Australia has been one of the very few nations in the world that has kept unemployment low and the economy relatively strong in the midst of a global slowdown. The Aussie dollar continues to be strong against many other global currencies, and with vast natural resources such as gold and silver being mined this trend should only continue. Unfortunately, with a growing economy comes some unique challenges. One of those challenges Australia is facing is land management practices that are leading to a direct decline in koala populations based upon new data gathered from GPS tracking systems.
What researchers at the University of Sydney did was conduct an experiment that monitored approximately 40 koala bears in the Gunnedah region using GPS tracking devices. The GPS trackers provided real-time tracking data showing the koala bears fed on eucalypts during the evening then escaped to find shelter from the hot temperatures during the day. The problem is that trees offering a shaded protection from the brutal Australian heat waves are being cut down in mass frequency, placing koala bears at an increased risk of dehydration or death from heat related illness. The rise in temperatures combined with loss of shaded trees that offer protection is something that is of great concern to researchers who monitor koala bear activity. In fact, a heat wave that struck Australia roughly 5 years ago killed nearly 25% of the koala bears being monitored by the University! This is very alarming, especially with data showing warmer weather will likely increase due to human activity.
A researcher for the University of Sydney explained that the best thing people can do to help koala bear populations is by maintaining or increasing the areas of shaded trees that offer protection from the sun for the animals. The researcher explained that large trees provide shade and a mixture of nutrient requirements that help the beloved animal in Australia survive. Simply put, koala bears are large animals that live and take shelter in trees so if land management regulations and deforestation remove those trees the impact will be koala bear populations on the decline.
Researcher will continue to use GPS systems and other tools to monitor koala bear activity to better gauge how human interaction is impacting the animal populations. Hopefully, lawmakers and land management officials will recognize certain activity is having a negative impact on the koala bears along with other animal species resulting in more environmentally friendly legislation.