Toughest States On Distracted Drivers

Focus on the road in New Hampshire.

In that state, if you cause harm to another vehicle or a pedestrian while engaged in an activity behind the wheel, you face a maximum fine of $1,000 and lose your license for up to a year.

“This is a good deterrent to have on the books,” says Peter M. Thomson, coordinator of New Hampshire’s Highway State Agency. “I travel 65 miles to work, on Interstate 93, and I see a ton of distracted drivers. You name it, and I have seen it. It drives me crazy to see people trying to drive with a full plate of food on their lap while trying to steer with their knees.”

New Hampshire’s no-nonsense law carries the greatest fine and penalty of the nine states with the harshest laws for distracted drivers on our list.

Distraction Equals Accidents

Almost 80% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds of the event, according to the 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and released in April 2006.

The most common distraction cited was cellphone use (followed by drowsiness).

Bans on using a handheld cellphone while driving are in the works in several states, including California, which on July 1 will become the latest state to ban cellphone use, joining New York, Washington, D.C., Connecticut and New Jersey–though hands-free phones will still be permitted. This will be a primary offense, meaning police officers can ticket motorists talking on a handheld phone even if they haven’t violated other traffic laws.

Connecticut bans the use of handheld cellphones, yet goes a step further by prohibiting the use of other electronic devices, such as personal digital assistants. New Jersey does the same and adds text messaging to its list of specific offenses. Washington State banned text messaging in January and, come July 1, will prohibit the use of handheld cellphones in general.

Ohio is the only state on the list that doesn’t ban using cellphones while driving. But, in Ohio, it is a primary offense to drive while wearing earphones or earplugs for listening to devices such as iPods or CD players (though ear-in devices for cellphones are permitted). This law has been on the books since 1989. Violators are cited for committing a minor misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $1,000, says Bradley Shaw, a spokesman for the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The amount of the ticket varies by county and is determined by your driving record, prior convictions and other moving violations.

While other states are debating bans on cellphones, text messaging and other distractions, lawmakers and auto safety agencies continue to review the best ways to deal with people who insist on multitasking while driving.

Like New Hampshire, Utah prohibits multiple activities that it deems distracting, like smoking, eating, drinking and “physically attending to a passenger.” The maximum fine is $50 on top of fines incurred for related moving violations, such as running a red light or causing an accident.

Rules For Hands-Free Phones

No state has entirely banned the use of cellphones while driving; you can still use hands-free wireless devices, but the rules aren’t the same for all drivers. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have various levels of restrictions for all cellphone use, hands-free included, for teens age 18 and younger, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

For now, drivers over the age of 18 with full driving privileges can use hands-free communication devices, even in the states that ban handheld electronics. But this is something that Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a Washington-based consumer watchdog for auto safety and quality founded by Ralph Nader in 1970, is fighting to change.

In March, the CAS filed a petition with the NHTSA, asking the agency to write rules prohibiting the use of interactive systems that allow drivers to have wireless access to e-mails and phone calls. “There is a false perception that hands-free phones are better,” says Ditlow. “Your mind is still off the road and focused on the conversation.”

When Washington’s ban on text messaging goes into effect July 1, it will be a secondary offense; you’ll only receive a ticket if you commit another moving violation, other than speeding. Though the same holds true for distracted-driver laws in several states, it pays to play it safe. In Connecticut and New Hampshire, for example, the fines and license-suspension terms go up with each offense.

However, you don’t have to worry about inadvertently breaking the law when commuting across state lines: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ( www.iihs.org) and AAA publish a state-by-state listing of cellphone bans and distracted-driving laws.

Story by Jacqueline Mitchell, Forbes.com

Traffic ticket defense lawyers.

Police Ready to Enforce Speed Limits in School Zones

Police will be watching school zones for speeders as local schools reopen this month.

Champaign police Sgt. Dave Griffet reminded motorists that speeds in school zones are 20 miles per hour unless otherwise posted.

Champaign elementary schools with a “balanced calendar” are already in session, but the rest will begin Aug. 21.

“Drivers should be attentive to pedestrians in crosswalks in and around the local school,” Griffet said.

Pedestrians should cross at designated intersections and crosswalks when they have the right of way, he said.

Champaign police officers will be posted near school zones to monitor the speeds of vehicles, along with improper lane changes, tailgating or other safety issues, according to Deputy Chief John Murphy.

School patrols will be done with regular shift officers, as well as extra manpower through the Selective Traffic Enforcement Patrol program, which hires back additional officers.

August will also be one of the months for allocation of state grant money to pay for traffic enforcement. Champaign received a grant of $130,000 from the Illinois Department of Transportation to hire back additional officers to target speeding violations on Windsor Road, Church Street, Bradley Avenue and Neil Street.

School for Urbana begins Aug. 27 and 28, depending on grade level.

“We ask motorists to be vigilant not only in school zones, but also in areas where students will be walking to and from school,” said Urbana school spokesman Mark Schultz. “There’s going to be a lot of kids out there.”

Urbana police Lt. Anthony Cobb, patrol supervisor, said extra patrols will be made around schools when they are in session. In addition to speeding violations, police will be watching for drivers who ignore school bus stop-arm warnings and pedestrian crossing issues.

Cobb said most school traffic violations will result in tickets, and some carry heavy fines or possible license suspension.

Article by Steve Bauer

The News Gazette, Champaign Illinois

Fewer Drivers Expected on South Carolina Roads

Despite a recent in gasoline prices, fewer people are expected to travel during the Labor Day weekend than in 2007.

South Carolina gasoline prices have dropped about 11 percent since the July 4th holiday. At $3.44 on Wednesday, it is down 93 cents from the Fourth of July holiday, but higher than 2007 Labor Day weekend prices.

AAA Carolinas has estimated that 352,000 South Carolina drivers will travel more than 100 miles round-trip over the weekend, a less than 1 percent decrease from last year’s statistics. About 70,000 South Carolinians are expected to travel by air. AAA Carolinas, a not-for-profit organization, uses survey research and a forecast model to estimate travel statistics.

In Spartanburg County, average daily traffic counts have historically increased by about 30 percent during the Labor Day weekend, according to figures from previous years.

Gasoline prices have fallen for 39 consecutive days, but most people changed vacation plans to stay closer to home following record high gasoline prices this summer, AAA Carolinas President David Parsons said in a news release.

The S.C. Department of Public Safety has launched a Sober or Slammer enforcement campaign to target drunk and aggressive drivers and those who aren’t wearing seat belts. Last year, there were nine fatalities on South Carolina roads during the Labor Day weekend, and four of those were alcohol-related. None of those occurred in Spartanburg, Cherokee or Union counties.

“The Sober or Slammer campaign not only targets impaired drivers, but we look at everything that has the potential to cause an accident,” Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Scot Edgeworth said.

The Highway Patrol will partner with other law enforcement agencies to conduct safety and DUI checkpoints through the weekend.

“Our goal during this weekend is the same as it as throughout the year, to reduce the number of crashes and fatalities in this state,” the trooper said. “That means cracking down on speeding violations, aggressive driving, seat belt violations and those who choose to drink and drive.”

Other than delays caused by traffic collisions, South Carolina motorists shouldn’t have to worry about delays on the state’s highways through the weekend. S.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Poore said no construction projects are scheduled through the weekend and those that are ongoing will stop midday on Friday and resume Tuesday morning.

Those driving to Atlanta on Labor Day weekend can expect heavy traffic delays where I-85 south meets I-75 south in Georgia because of a major interstate reconstruction project. Delays up to two hours are expected in the area immediately surrounding the Georgia Dome, where Clemson University will play the University of Alabama on Saturday.

About 140,000 people are expected at events in downtown Atlanta over the weekend, including the football game and a marching band competition.

The Georgia Department of Transportation said in a news release that work will begin at 9 p.m. on Friday and the I-85 southbound lane will be reduced to two lanes near I-75, and I-75 southbound will be reduced to one lane at the merge.

The work will continue until early Tuesday, and those traveling from South Carolina on I-85 are urged to take I-285 east to I-20 west to access the Georgia Dome.

Motorists can call 511, a free phone service, for real-time traffic and travel information.

Lynne P. Shackleford
shj.com

South Carolina Traffic Ticket?

Police Think Cameras Reducing Traffic Tickets

The number of speeding tickets issued this year seems to be on the decline. And Tempe police say the city’s speed cameras may be part of the reason.

Tempe contracted with Redflex Traffic Systems to set up 17 cameras and two speed vans throughout the city in September 2007.

From January through March of this year, Tempe had 34,293 violations that resulted in citations or notices. From April through June of this year, there were 26,223.

Sgt. Steve Carbajal, the media-relations sergeant for Tempe Police Department, said cameras are placed in high-collision intersections. He said the cameras were installed because Tempe police “want people to drive reasonably and safely at all times.”

He said that while the citations seem to show the cameras have lowered speeding violations, some drivers simply tend to “slow down and then speed up” around the cameras.

“It’s hard to say what the effect of the program is,” he said.

Tempe residents seem to have mixed emotions about the cameras.

“They are important at some intersections, and they greatly reduce the number of accidents/fatalities,” Arizona State University student Aleksander Robinson said. “I sometimes question the intentions of the state when they place cameras at some intersections. They should only place the cameras in areas where accident rates are high, or where many people get pulled over for speeding.”

Arizona State University student Jason Rivera said he believes such cameras should monitor different driving dangers.

“The cameras don’t catch cars weaving in and out of lanes,” he said.

Traffic or Speeding Ticket in Arizona?

Debate Over Red Light Cameras Flaring Up in Santa Clara County CA

From San Francisco to Santa Cruz to Fremont, nearly two dozen cities in Northern California use cameras to catch drivers who run red lights — and a lot of studies suggest they reduce accidents.

But in Santa Clara County, there is not a single red-light camera, and San Jose police are speaking out against them, partly for fear that they may cause more accidents.

Why? If you know the camera is there, the theory goes, you’re more likely to slam on your brakes at a yellow light, increasing the chances of being rear-ended.

The debate over these devices, which snap a picture of the front and back of any car that enters an intersection when the light is red, came to San Jose City Hall this month, when Deputy Police Chief Don Anders presented a report to council members recommending against installing the cameras on city streets.

“What studies reveal are an awful lot of ambiguity,” Anders said. “As we look around the country and look at red-light running, some jurisdictions have noted a reduction in traffic accident rate and others have noted an increase in their traffic accident rate.”

The recommendation didn’t go over well with some council members. Several have voiced strong support for the cameras, saying red-light crashes can result in severe injuries and are a growing menace to public safety.

“The recommendation is to essentially let it die,” Councilman Sam Liccardo said. “Some of us are eager to keep alive the option.”

San Jose police oppose the cameras for other reasons: They think having a traffic cop at an intersection is more effective, and they say the cost of installing expensive equipment — $50,000 to $100,000 per intersection — can be better spent.

The bigger debate is: Do red-light cameras make streets safer? Most studies indicate yes, but not all.

A New York Times survey three years ago found that rear-end collisions rose nearly 15 percent after traffic cameras were installed in seven East Coast cities, with injuries from such crashes up 24 percent. Stockton saw a similar jump when it began using cameras.

But a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety two years ago said red-light cameras have reduced side-impact crashes by an average of 24 percent and injuries by 16 percent. San Francisco has reported a 50 percent drop in crashes as a result of its cameras, and Fremont has seen a 40 percent decline, those cities report.

“We believe that the cameras are very effective not only in reducing the number of traffic signal-related collisions,” said Fremont officer Geneva Bosques, “but also in educating the public on traffic safety.”

Cupertino is the only Santa Clara County city that has ever used these cameras, but it removed them after a two-year trial period in 2004 because tickets did not cover the $110,000 cost.

Red-light crashes have nearly tripled over the last two decades in California, and one in three crashes at busy intersections is caused by drivers running a red light. In Santa Clara County, such wrecks lead to about 1,200 injuries a year.

Menlo Park installed a camera at Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road earlier this year following the death of Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Halberstam a year earlier. The car in which he was riding ran a red light and was struck in the intersection.

The state vehicle code permits cameras to be used for red-light enforcement, unlike photo radar, which requires an officer to monitor the equipment and sign off on tickets.

Agencies in Santa Clara County aren’t ignoring red-light runners. The county and cities have installed about 100 “rat boxes,” which are small lights attached to the back of a traffic signal that show when a light has turned red. They enable cops to position themselves down the street from the red light, in a place where they don’t have to run the light themselves to catch the offender.

Yet those lights present a problem. A cop must be present, and most traffic units are understaffed. But when police were present at 10 intersections, the San Jose police study found, crashes fell 19 percent.

Installing red-light cameras would require still more officers to sort through the images, identify drivers and deal with claims of mistaken identity That would require hiring or transferring several officers to the traffic unit, and that is unlikely to happen in these budget-tight times.

The police’s opposition to camera enforcement riles some safety advocates.

“There’s no logic for a police department to oppose these cameras,” said Jonathan Adkins, communications director with the Governors Highway Safety Association. “Their use complements traditional enforcement and is not a replacement for police officers. We can’t have a cop at every intersection.”

Article by Gary Richards – mercurynews.com .

CANDID CAMERAS

Here are some of the cities across California that use cameras to catch drivers who run red lights. They snap a photo of both the front and rear license plates, and advanced systems capture the violation on video. The fine is $370, but fees can add nearly $200 to the cost:

Belmont, Berkeley, Capitola, Citrus Heights, Daly City, Fremont, Glendale, Hayward, Los Angeles, Marysville, Menlo Park, Millbrae, Newark, Oakland, Oxnard, Redwood City, Sacramento, San Carlos, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, San Rafael, Santa Cruz, Santa Maria, Stockton and Union City.

Traffic ticket in California?

Beachwood Ohio Lawyer Blake Dickson Wins Appeal of Camera-issued Tickets

Cleveland faces a possible avalanche of court challenges to tickets issued by the city’s controversial traffic cameras after a lawyer won an unprecedented court ruling Thursday.

Beachwood lawyer Blake Dickson discovered a loophole in a city ordinance that he believes — and the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals agrees — shields drivers of leased or rented cars from exposure to the infuriating cameras.

Without quick action by Cleveland to plug the loophole, drivers of leased or rented cars could use the court ruling to fight camera-issued tickets at City Hall, Dickson said.

And previously ticketed drivers also could pursue a class-action lawsuit.

Drivers who own their cars and believe they are victims of a double standard could choose to file bias claims in court, Dickson said.

Cleveland began using the traffic cameras in late 2005 to increase safety and raise money. Unlike tickets issued by police officers, which are criminal violations, camera-issued tickets are civil infractions and are contested at a hearing at the Parking Violations Bureau.

The city’s 41 stationary and mobile cameras have issued more than 108,000 tickets over the most recent 12-month reporting period, or about one every five minutes. That adds up to at least $10.8 million in fines.

Dickson called the city’s camera ordinance unfair and blamed the use of the automated devices for driving thousands of people out of downtown.

“Will the city of Cleveland abide by this ruling, change the code and close this loophole? They should – the law is so ridiculous,” Dickson said.

In siding with Dickson, the appellate court agreed that the city law requires camera-issued tickets to be paid by the owners of cars. But the law does not address how to ticket cars that are leased or rented.

Dickson was the first to successfully exploit the loophole after traffic cameras issued two speeding tickets to an Audi leased by his firm, Dickson and Campbell, in 2007. Rather than paying the two $100 tickets, he fought the case on principle through three courts at an estimated cost to the firm of more than $11,000.

Appellate Judge Mary Jane Boyle wrote the opinion, reversing a ruling by Common Pleas Judge Eileen T. Gallagher, who found in favor of the city in 2007. Judge Melody Stewart concurred; Judge Colleen Conway Cooney dissented.

Boyle said in a telephone interview that Cleveland could easily fix its faulty ordinance by copying the wording of a similar ordinance in Akron, which applies camera traffic laws equally to vehicles that are leased and owned.

Cleveland Law Director Robert Triozzi said he will ask the City Council to consider an amendment.

Until that happens, however, Dickson said Cleveland could become overwhelmed by drivers who choose to fight the camera fines, believing they were unfairly ticketed.

But first, they would have to work their way through the city’s multilayered appeals process, and pay $225 in fees, Dickson said.

Triozzi said the ruling will have no impact on prior cases because the drivers of leased or rented cars would have had to challenge the law at the time the ticket was issued.

Boyle recommended against using the court’s ruling to challenge tickets.

“I was writing on this specific occurrence,” she said. “I was speaking to the evidence that was presented in these proceedings, so it may not be applicable in other cases.”

Ohio Traffic Laws

Lawmakers Look To Expand Cameras Giving Traffic Tickets

(Springfield) — Traffic cameras that snap a picture of your license plate when you run a red light may soon also send you a 100-dollar ticket when you break the speed limit.
Lawmakers are looking at adding traffic cameras to ticket speeding drivers in Chicago, the suburbs, and the Metro East.
Right now the cameras are attached to red lights,but the new cameras could be put anywhere to catch people driving too fast.
Cameras could only monitor speeding on surface streets, not expressways or interstates.

House Democrat Joe Lyons says people are driving too fast, and cameras sending out speeding tickets should slow them down.  Waukegan State Senator Terry Link says more traffic cameras will stop people from speeding and save lives. Link says since Chicago put in red-light cameras, drivers running lights dropped by half.

He says he expects cameras could also be a deterrent to speeding.

Critics say traffic cameras send out too many bogus tickets and are just a way for cities to get more money from drivers.  Link is also pushing a separate plan to expand red-light cameras to Bloomington-Normal, Rockford, DeKalb, and Decatur. Some lawmakers are fighting to keep red-light cameras out of their cities.

Link says that drivers who complain about getting tickets from cameras would be fine if they don’t run red lights or drive too fast.

WCIA3 News

Illinois Traffic Laws

Speeding Fines Could Double In NH

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Speeders in New Hampshire could be in for sticker shock as state lawmakers have proposed doubling fines.

Critics are called the proposed fine increases dramatic and unnecessary, while supporters said the state has held off on raising the rates too long, WMUR News 9’s Aaron Kellogg reported.

New Hampshire drivers pay a low price for speeding tickets compared to drivers in some New England states, but no one with whom WMUR News 9 spoke on Sunday in Epping liked the thought of raising the fines.

“I try to keep under the speed limit anyway, but that’s a lot of money,” said Josh Bergere, of Brentwood.

“I think that’s a little outrageous,” said Janice Verbe, of Epping.

“Normally, people just drive a few miles over and it just seems ridiculous to boost it that much,” said Christine Snyder, of Kingston.

A new proposal in Concord could double speeding ticket prices. Drivers traveling at 10 mph over the limit would pay $120, up from $50. Driving 20 mph over would cost $152 more at $252, and driving 25 mph over would net a fine increase of $148 at $348.

Currently in New Hampshire, ticket prices are cheaper than tickets in Maine and dramatically cheaper than tickets in Massachusetts.

If the fines change, New Hampshire tickets would, in most cases, be cheaper than tickets handed out in Massachusetts. Drivers in New Hampshire would pay more than drivers pay for tickets in Maine.

Lawmakers reviewing the plan said it’s designed make sure New Hampshire isn’t undercharging for speeding.

“The original idea was to make the fines more or less similar to other states so that we don’t have a lower fine schedule, which would indicate that we’re not serious about speeding on our highways,” said Kingston Rep. David Welch, R-District 8.

The question now is whether lawmakers will approve the plan. Even some of people who have watched the debate unfold are a little uneasy.

“I would go so far as to say that they’re a little higher than I’d like to see them. Whether they’re excessive or not depends on how fast you drive,” Welch said.

There was no clear indication when lawmakers will make a decision on the plan, but they could reach some sort of agreement as early as this week.

New Hampshire Speeding Ticket Laws

Winston County Judge Dismisses 220 Traffic Tickets

DOUBLE SPRINGS, ALABAMA – A Winston County judge threw out 220 traffic tickets this week after he and the defendants showed up for court but had nowhere to meet.

The only courtroom large enough to handle the crowd was in use by another judge, court officials said.

Winston County District Court Judge Michael Newell ordered that all pending traffic cases on his Tuesday docket, except DUI cases, be dismissed. They included tickets for speeding, driving without a license or with a suspended or revoked license, driving with switched and expired tags, driving without seat belts, and one for racing on a highway.

One man had eight tickets dismissed for various traffic infractions stretching back to 2006.

Newell said that, if a defendant had arrived late to court, he would have held the person accountable. Because of the courtroom mix-up, people with tickets who showed up on time Tuesday were being made to wait, which didn’t seem fair to Newell.

“I should hold myself to the same standard and that’s what I was trying to do,” Newell said. “I feel like I did what was appropriate in light of the situation we encountered on Tuesday.”

By the time the cases were dismissed, the defendants, some of whom were missing work, had been held up more than an hour, he said.

People who had pleaded guilty before Tuesday by paying their fines did not get their cases dismissed.

Winston County Circuit Court Judge John Bentley took the blame for the scheduling conflict. “If anyone is to blame for this stuff, it’s the presiding judge and that’s me. … The buck stops here.”

Newell had scheduled traffic court for 9 a.m. Tuesday at the county courthouse in Double Springs. That’s the same time Winston County Circuit Court Judge Lee Carter was beginning scheduled probation revocation hearings.

Carter was handling both his and Bentley’s probation revocation dockets Tuesday because Bentley was out of town, Bentley said. The revocation hearing docket had been set since September, and Bentley didn’t realize Newell had scheduled traffic court that day, he said.

Bentley said he wasn’t going to criticize Newell’s decision to dismiss the cases rather than delay them until another day.

“He felt that was the proper thing to do and I support him 100 percent,” Bentley said. “He’s the judge of that court and I’m not.”
The Alabama Administrative Office of Courts was notified of the traffic case dismissals, an official with that agency said.

“The chief justice understands from talking with presiding judge John Bentley that this incident was a result of a scheduling error with the one courtroom in Winston County and that the chief justice has been assured by Judge Bentley that he is working on this issue and that it will not happen again,” said Keith Camp, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of Courts.

One thing that will help keep scheduling conflicts down in the future is that Winston County officials are working to build a courthouse annex, Bentley said.

Winston County Administrator Joanie Wright said the county has borrowed about $6.5 million for construction. An area next to the courthouse has been cleared and prepared for construction, and county officials are reviewing plans for the annex that will include space for the additional courtroom, new jail, and district attorney and circuit court clerk offices.

“We want it as bad as they do,” she said.

Birmingham News – Kent Faulk

Traffic and speeding ticket laws in Alabama.

Monterey California Vice Mayor Cited For Running Stop Sign

MONTEREY, Calif.—Monterey Vice-Mayor Jeff Haferman insists he didn’t run a stop sign and he demands to go to trial over the $159 ticket.

Haferman is also suing the city.

He was given a traffic citation on July 26 for failure to stop Camino Aguajito and Fremont Street at the exit from northbound Highway 1.

The Monterey council member says the intersection is a “speed trap,” that city police have a ticket quota and that the city knew the sign was illegally placed in front of a traffic signal. The city has denied the allegations.

Besides wanting the traffic ticket dismissed, Haferman has asked the court for $3,000 in damages from the city.

Read about California Traffic Ticket Law

From AP Story & Monteray County Herald