Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Google Glass No Panacea for Texting and Driving

Google's driverless cars may make the roads safe for humans but it's unlikely that Google Glass -- the smartphone-like eyewear -- will alleviate problems associated with texting and driving. According to a recent peer-reviewed study, the only advantage afforded by Google Glass is that drivers were able to regain control faster after an accident with Google Glass.
P.S. Worried about texting and driving? Consider one of these monitoring apps:

Friday, June 20, 2014

If this van's a rockin: Is it illegal to have sex while driving?

There is no established nationwide sex-while-driving (SWD), engaging in sexual activity while behind the wheel violates all reckless driving laws as well as state indecent exposure laws. Although it is often treated as a humorous subject, SWD can be deadly. Two jurisdictions have specifically designated SWD as a crime: the city of Detroit has banned it; and the State of Washington categorizes such “embraces” as a specific reckless driving offense. (see Section 46.61.665 of the Washington Code). How prevalent is SWD? And can passengers be arrested? Read the answers here.

Friday, June 13, 2014

... And the Biggest Distraction for Teen Drivers?

As we proceed through the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers, the distractions for these young road warriors keeps increasing. Parents already worry about the effect of cell phones, iPads, errant pets, GPS devices, grooming and makeup, and other in-car disturbances. But it turns out that the biggest distraction may be none other than teens themselves -- that is, other teen passengers. According to a recent report: one passenger in a teen driver's car increases fatality risk by 44%, two passengers doubles the risk. Another recent study of teen drivers provided some nuance to the statistics:
"As might be expected, the frequency of potentially distracting conditions depended not only on the presence of passengers, but also on who those passengers were. Compared to when one teenage peer was in the vehicle, loud conversation and horseplay were more than twice as likely when teens were carrying multiple teenage peers. Conversely, the likelihood of loud conversation and horseplay were markedly less likely with one sibling passenger or when a parent/adult was present."
Conclusion. Parents who have concerns may want to limit the number of passengers (or spouse to sit shotgun).

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Refusing a Blood Test on Federal Property is a Crime (And You Must Be So Advised)

It's a crime to refuse a blood test if stopped for a DUI on federal property. However, you can't be convicted of a crime for refusing if the arresting officer failed to tell you it was a crime. That's the final word on the situation from a federal appeals court who overturned a driver’s conviction.
On the night of June 10, 2011, a federal park ranger observed Sean Harrington’s car stopped in a nonpublic area of Yosemite National Park. The car’s lights were on; its engine was running. The ranger approached the vehicle, finding Harrington alone in the driver’s seat. According to the ranger, Harrington was inebriated, argumentative, and upset. Harrington refused a field sobriety test and was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI). Later, at the police station, Harrington refused any test to determine his blood alcohol level. The jailer, another federal park ranger, erroneously read the California admonition to Harrington.
It states: You are required by state law to submit to a [breath test] or other chemical test to determine the alcohol and/or drug content of your blood. . . . If you refuse to submit, or fail to complete a test, your driving privilege will be suspended for one year or revoked for two or three years. . . . Refusal or failure to complete a test may be used against you in court. Refusal or failure to complete a test will also result in a fine and imprisonment if this arrest results in a conviction of driving under the influence. (emphasis added.) 
The supervising ranger later read the California admonition twice more. Harrington was never read the federal admonition, nor was he informed of the consequences under federal law of his refusal to be tested. After being convicted for refusing (under federal law), the conviction was overturned by a federal appeals court that held: " ... it was fundamentally unfair to convict Harrington on the refusal charge when he was told time and again that his refusal to submit to a blood alcohol test was not in itself a crime, even though it was."

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.