Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How Much Does a DUI Cost?

$20 to get arrested; $12,000 to deal with it. Most people pay less than $20 for a 12 pack of beer. That's more than sufficient, if the beer is drunk over a few hours, to fuel you with 1600 calories (assuming it's Lite Beer) and to raise your blood alcohol level way, way above .08% -- the border line for committing a DUI in all fifty states. In other words, the cost to get arrested for a DUI is less than $20. But what's the cost of dealing with a DUI arrest?
First offense, no injury, no damage. For a first offense (and we'll presume you're lucky enough not to have hit anyone or caused property damage), expect to pay somewhere between $5,000 and $12,000 with the biggest cost typically being the jump in your insurance rates. (BTW, subsequent offenses may double or triple the costs.) Here's a breakdown of the costs.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Can Police Stop You to See If You're Okay?

What if it's late at night and you've pulled over on a dark rural road? Can a police officer -- who has been following you  -- stop to check that you're okay ... even though your driving has been impeccable? What if the police officer determines you are inebriated? Can that be the basis for a DUI? Apparently not in Vermont, where driver David Button, who had been followed by a police car, pulled over without being asked. The police officer had not noticed any signs of driver impairment. However, the officer stopped, supposedly to check if the Button was okay. At that point, the officer determined that Button was inebriated and busted him for a DUI. Button appealed and the Vermont Supreme Court eventually reversed his conviction. Although it was evident that the officer had not observed any impaired driving while following Button, the question on appeal was whether there was enough evidence for the officer to conclude that Button was in distress, which would be a reasonable basis for the officer to stop and investigate. The Vermont high court found no such evidence and knocked out the DUI further clarifying that state's rules on what constitutes probable cause for a police officer to stop.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Who is Responsible for Stop Signs?

If you're having trouble sleeping  (and hopefully you're not behind the wheel), here is some backstory on everybody's favorite traffic control mechanisms ...
Stop Signs. When automobiles first appeared at the turn of the 20th Century, they frightened horses, confused buggy drivers, and often endangered pedestrians. William Phelps Eno didn’t own a car but he recognized the need for safety and order on the streets and he came up with an idea that has since saved millions of lives as well as annoying legions of drivers – the stop sign. The iconic sign was first installed in an ironic location – Detroit, Michigan, home of the automotive industry. Eno didn’t stop with the octagonal red sign, he also developed the idea for one-way streets, taxi stands and pedestrian safety islands. (His legacy continues with the Eno Center for Transportation).
Traffic Signals.  The first electric traffic signal using "stop" and "move" signs is attributed to James Hoge whose design was used in 1914 in Cleveland. The first automatic traffic signal using colored lights (red and green) is attributed to a 1917 invention by William Ghiglieri of San Francisco. The four-way, three-color traffic light is credited to police officer William Potts (1920). Some historians attribute the invention of the mechanical traffic signal to Garrett Morgan, the first African-American to own an automobile in Cleveland, Ohio. But Morgan’s device (which appeared in 1923) was not widely adopted and he achieved more fame with other innovations such as an early gas mask (which he personally used in a heroic Cleveland rescue), a self-extinguishing cigarette, and a hair straightener.
Red Light Cameras. The reviled red light camera was first developed in early 1960s in the Netherlands by a Dutch company, Gatso. (It used a series of road side tubes to “trip” the camera.) But it was not until the 1980s that these devices were perfected by several companies following a horrific New York City red-light-running accident.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Car-sometrics: Lose Weight in Gridlock

Does it seem counterproductive to drive your gas (or electricity) guzzler to the gym?
Good news! Turns out you don't need that gym membership after all. You can pack those pecs while you're behind the wheel (and without having to listen to a high-priced personal trainer yelling in your ear).
Don't try this at home. Yes, there are  many things you can do in your car to build muscle or lose weight. You can push up against the roof of the car (hopefully while you're stopped), you can grab the bottom of your car seat and twist your torso to the right (please keep your foot on the brake), you can pull your belly button in towards your spine as you try to pull away from the waistband of your pants (sounds dangerous), or you can just squeeze your butt really tight for ten seconds.
Of course one advantage of exercising in the car is that it may keep you from gobbling down Luna bars (so you won't weigh in at more than when you departed). Of course, if you're not behind the wheel, then a whole 'nuther world of exercise in the car is open to you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Harleys Can Run Red Lights ... Really

Drivers stuck in gridlock jealously watch as motorcyclists zoom between lanes (known as "lane splitting" and permitted in many states). If that isn't enough to raise your vehicular ire, consider this -- in ten states motorcyclists are also allowed to run red lights. Huh?
Where you can do it. So far North Carolina, Wisconsin, Idaho, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma Minnesota, IllinoisKansas and Wisconsin have joined the red-light running party with laws permitting red light running (and the state of Washington is also considering similar legislation). Wisconsin's red-light running statute, passed in 2006, is pretty typical. Under that statute, motorcyclists and bicyclists can disregard red lights if they (1) believe traffic signals aren't picking up their presence, (2) the intersection is free of cross traffic and (3) they've waited at least 45 seconds.
Why? These laws are derived from a technical problem. Devices that trigger red lights have difficulty "reading" the presence of motorcycles and bicycles. Cyclists are often left standing for long periods, or until a car approaches. Of course, legislators could save a lot of time and paperwork if they handed out one of these to everyone who applies for a motorcycle license. (Here's where to go for more on state motorcycle laws.)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Can You Get Sued For Texting to a Driver?

If you text a driver who causes an accident, can you be financially liable for the resulting injuries? In a 2009 accident an 18-year old man plowed his pickup truck into a couple on a motorcycle. The driver had been texting with his 17-year old girlfriend. The couple on the motorcycle were injured -- each lost a leg -- and they sued the driver, and in a novel twist, they also sued the 17-year old girlfriend claiming that she knew her boyfriend was driving and therefore she contributed to the accident. The trial court dismissed the claims against the girlfriend and yesterday an appellate decision also failed to find her liable, citing a lack of evidence.
So why the hubbub? What triggered the viral news machine (and endless commenting) was the majority decision in the case that said that despite the ruling about the girlfriend, third parties who text -- depending on what they knew about the driver -- could be held liable for resulting accidents.
"We do not hold that someone who texts to a person driving is liable for that person's negligent actions, [but] when a texter knows or has special reason to know that the intended recipient is driving and is likely to read the text message while driving, the texter has a duty to users of the public roads to refrain from sending the driver a text at that time."
Although the case involved a boyfriend and girlfriend, the message is clear for New Jersey businesses: Don't text employees when you know they are on the road. The decision can be appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court and is only binding within the New Jersey appellate district from which it was issued (Morris County and surroundings). But the liability logic is not out of the question, and the angry comments in response are analogous (to some degree) to the uproar caused by the first social hosting cases in which party hosts were held liable for resulting accidents after they supplied drivers with alcohol and knew they presented a hazard on the road.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Alcoholic Beverages Most Likely to Get You a DUI?

You may have viewed our popular BAC calculator -- just plug in your alcohol consumption and Voila!, you can get a rough idea whether you're legally drunk for DUI purposes. But that chart can be deceptive when it comes to some booze. For the following liquors, you should count a single drink as two when using the calculator.

  • Everclear is a grain alcohol, the most popular version of which is 95% alcohol (190 proof or twice the potency of most vodka). It's been banned in half the U.S. which sounds responsible except that it means many drinkers drive across state lines to get the stuff. (Here's a six minute video showing what a few shots of Everclear can do to a raw egg.) You know it's bad stuff when DUI lawyers warn against its use.
  • Did we say that Everclear was twice the potency of vodka? Not all vodka. Devil's Spring Vodka is 160 proof (that's 80% alcohol)
  • And let's not forget Bacardi 151, a rum that clocks in -- as the label warns  -- at 151 proof or 76% alcohol.
Bonus Question? What booze is most likely to land you in the ER? We can't tell you what the most common liquor is for DUIs, but apparently old-fashioned Budweiser beer is the most commonly imbibed booze by emergency room patients.