Flashing Headlights May Be Considered Free Speech

flashing headlightsYou’re driving down a highway and focusing on the road when you notice someone up ahead flashing his or her lights at you. Instinctively, you slow your vehicle down and start obeying speed limits. There aren’t very many people who have driven down a road or highway and have not had someone flash their lights at them. No matter where you’re from, flashing headlights or high beams has a universal message – slow down or watch out, there are police nearby.

For some, flashing headlights can be seen as a way to warn other motorists of a radar or speed trap near by, a courtesy from driver to driver. But for those others who flash lights to warn drivers of an impending drinking and driving road block, it can be seen by lawmakers and police as a way of impeding justice and potentially letting a drinking driver get away with driving over the legal limit.

The debate over the courtesy of flashing headlights at other drivers is coming to a head. A bill has been introduced into New Jersey legislature recently that could make the practice of flashing lights to warn other motorists legal. In addition to that bill, a Missouri federal court recently declared the flashing of lights to be free speech and that law enforcement could not prohibit it. The judge banned law enforcement from ticketing motorists who were caught in the act.

Ticketing those who have been cited for flashing lights is seen as a cash grab, but these legal steps are not addressing the potential danger of flashing lights to warn others away from speed traps or road blocks set up to catch those drinking and driving. Lawmakers are also concerned that if the flashing of lights is seen as free speech, those who are pulled over specifically for flashing lights and have been found to be drinking and driving could use the law to avoid charges.

The debate will continue on whether the flashing of lights is a personal right given to each driver, but if you decide to flash your lights while driving, be sure you’re aware of the local laws in your state before you do so.

Tips to Prevent Your Vehicle From Being Stolen

Prevent Your Vehicle From Being Stolen   If you’ve ever walked around a parking lot after forgetting where you parked your car, you know that sinking feeling you get when you wonder if you’ll ever see it again. Now imagine what it would feel like if you couldn’t find it because it was stolen. Suddenly, your transportation to work, home, and everywhere in between is gone, and you’re left scrambling.

According to statistics from NHTSA, 10,568 vehicles were stolen in 2010. The top types of vehicles stolen include the Mitsubishi Galant, Chrysler 3000, and the Kia Rio, but they caution that any vehicle is susceptible to theft. You don’t have to be out to have your vehicle stolen either, as a large number of vehicle thefts occur right in your own driving way.

You can prevent your vehicle from being stolen by keeping in mind these tips:

  • Never leave your keys in or on your vehicle
  • When parking at home, keep your vehicle in your garage
  • Park in well-lit areas
  • Be sure to close and lock all of your windows and doors when you leave your car
  • Avoid leaving valuables in your vehicle and if you must do so, never leave them where they can be seen

USA Seeks International Ban On Texting While Driving

texting while drivingMaybe you think it’s OK to take your eyes off the road for a moment or two to check your phone for a text message, but did you know texting while driving makes it 23 times more likely you would be in a crash. As the problem of distracted driving is becoming more and more widespread in this country, the United States has decided to push the United Nations  for a global resolution to support an international ban on texting while driving.

According the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 43 U.S. states have bans on texting while driving. There is a difference in states between whether the ban is a primary offense, where a driver can be pulled over by police because they are violating the ban, or a secondary offense where the driver is pulled over for a traffic violation and cited for texting while driving.

A United Nations Ambassador, Samantha Power, is behind the initiative to globally outlaw texting while driving. She cites the fact that texting while driving is becoming a global epidemic and that more and more teens are being killed while texting. This has been proven with research by the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York – they found more than 300,000 teens are injured and 3,000 die each year due to texting while driving. In contrast, 282,000 teens are injured and 2,700 are killed due to drinking and driving. All cellphone use for novice drivers is restricted in 30 states, and fines and penalties for texting while driving and use of cell phones vary according to state.

With her remarks to the United Nations, Ambassador Powers hopes to bring attention to the fact that texting while driving is extremely dangerous and can delay a driver’s reactions to a situation in the same way that drinking and driving can.

Research Shows Drunk Driving Deaths May Be Underestimated

drunk driving A recent study on the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs highlighted data that shows how deaths due to drunk driving have been underestimated. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the blood alcohol levels of those who die due to drunk driving or an alcohol-related traffic fatality are often left off of formal death certificates.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a Fatality Analysis Reporting System that tracks the blood alcohol levels of those individuals involved in traffic fatalities. From 1999 to 2009 the NHTSA registered 21 percent of traffic fatalities as due to people who had a blood alcohol level over .08, but those doing the study found that only 3 percent of death certificates during that time frame stated that the death was alcohol-related.

In the United States the abuse of alcohol has led to over 88,000 deaths, and it’s the third leading lifestyle cause of death in the entire nation. The data from this particular study is especially important because researchers have documented the number of alcohol-related deaths over the past 30 years, and the data shows how the number of people involved in these types of traffic fatalities has dropped by 50%. Without consistent data reporting of alcohol-related fatalities on death certificates, it can be difficult to continue accurately estimating the actual number of alcohol-related deaths.

The researchers also note that the data from death certificates varies from state to state, with states like Minnesota and Iowa seen as more likely to include alcohol-related data on the death certificate and states like New Jersey and Nevada less likely to include the information.

Excessive alcohol use can have many negative effects on an individual, and one of the most likely to occur are traffic injuries if that person chooses to get behind the wheel after drinking. Accurate reporting of traffic fatalities as due to alcohol could spread the message that an individual is highly likely to be involved in a crash or die if they drink and drive.

Factors that can increase your teen's chances for drunk driving

teen's chances for drunk drivingHigh school is when children begin to explore the world on their own. It’s a time to feel out their boundaries and find out where they fit in the world. Unfortunately one of the ways teens test their boundaries is through underage drinking. It’s even scarier when they choose to drink and get behind the wheel of a vehicle. But what factors can increase your teen’s chances for drunk driving?

A recent survey of 2,300 junior and senior high school students revealed that 13% had driven after drinking. Parents have been found to be a major influence on whether a teen chooses to drink and drive. In a 2011 survey of 10,000 teens, it was found that parents who drink increase the chances of their own child drinking and driving at the age of 21. As well, if the teen’s friends are OK with drinking and driving, the teen is more likely to engage in drinking and driving.

The perception of negative consequences is also a factor in whether or not your teen will drink and drive. There are many people who don’t think there are negative consequences to drinking and driving, but 94% of teen’s surveyed did say that if a passenger asked them not to drink and drive, they wouldn’t get behind the wheel.

Preventing your teen from driving after drinking should start at an early age. By the time your teen is 15, you should begin to make an effort to get them to accept the consequences of drinking and driving. You can also work to:

  • Set a good example by not drinking to excess, never joking about drinking and driving, and letting your teen know that alcohol doesn’t solve problems.
  • Get to know your teen’s friends and limit the time they spend with friends who drink.
  • Help your child come up with an action plan to stand up to peer pressure.

Louisiana Ignition Interlock Laws

louisiana ignition interlock laws

 

In Louisiana, if a person is convicted of a DWI involving a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher, he or she is required to install an ignition interlock device on any vehicles owned. Louisiana ignition interlock laws are specific regarding several aggravating factors that will determine the consequences for each person’s DWI charges, including refusal of a chemical test, accidents that cause severe bodily injury or risk of fatality and more.

Louisiana ignition interlock law also considers a person who is driving drunk with a child 12 years old or younger to be an aggravating circumstance. In these instances, Louisiana ignition interlock law requires the offender install an ignition interlock device before reinstating any driving privileges.

 

 

Minnesota Bill May Hold Lawmakers Accountable for Drinking and Driving

drinking and drivingWhat may have been seen by lawmakers in 1857 as an important addition to the Minnesota State Constitution has come under fire recently by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and individuals at Concorida University.  According to a provision written into the 19th century document, local lawmakers cannot be arrested during the legislative session unless they’ve ‘committed treason, felony or breach of peace.’ Due to the wording of the provision, lawmakers can also avoid drinking and driving charges, and there are 43 states in the USA that have a similar version of this legislative immunity.

Now Mothers Against Drunk Driving and members of the Minnesota House and Senate want to change the Minnesota Constitution to strike that provision and hold lawmakers or legislative members accountable for their actions. There have been many glaring examples of why the exemption needs to be changed including a 2012 DUI stop in Colorado where a Republican was stopped for an illegal U-turn and invoked her legislative privilege after officers suspected her of drinking and driving.

The Minnesota House of Representatives voted 115 to 13 to pass a bill that will remove legislative immunity from the Minnesota Constitution, but that doesn’t mean the bill will pass.  A similar bill was struck down because local lawmakers aren’t certain if an entirely new law is required to hold legislative members accountable for driving under the influence.

Minnesota has one of the worst ratings for drunk driving in the country, with 28,418 motorists charged with driving while intoxicated in 2012 alone. An additional 2,644 people suffered injuries in alcohol-related crashes and 395 people died in traffic crashes involving drunk drivers. Due to these statistics, groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving believes a new law holding lawmakers accountable for their actions will improve the states poor rating for drinking and driving and is definitely a worthwhile avenue to pursue.

Who Are the Enemies of Drunk Driving?

Families of drunk driving victims Walk Like MADD

Wayne Miller Photography

You might have seen the bright red banners and the legions of people in t-shirts, the tables with pamphlets and friendly people eager to promote their cause. You might even know that the event – Walk Like MADD – promotes awareness about the dangers of drunk driving. But do you really know who supports MADD?

Last weekend a very large crowd turned out to Walk Like MADD in Dorey Park in Richmond, Virginia. It was a diverse group. Despite the organization’s name (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) the participants were not all mothers – indeed, they were male and female, young and old, in all colors, sizes and walks of life.

Who, then, are the people who take time out on a weekend to rally against drunk driving?

Families and Friends of Victims. At most MADD events you’ll find people who have lost loved ones in drunk driving accidents. They’ve come to honor the memory of the victims by saving the lives of others. And there are many to save: drunk driving still claims some 10,000 lives each year.

Businesses. A large number of Richmond businesses showed their public spirit by sponsoring the Walk, which raises funds to keep MADD on the front lines in the battle against impaired driving.

Highway Safety Experts. The Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) is an active proponent of MADD’s work. VASAP runs local programs across Virginia to promote better enforcement and education in areas related to impaired driving.

Media. Public awareness is one of the strongest forces against drunk driving. If people today hunt up a designated driver for a party, and take the car keys away from a tipsy friend, it’s probably because the media have signed onto the cause and made it popular. Television cameras, radio microphones and news photographers captured the buzz at the Richmond Walk Like MADD, keeping the issue in the public eye where it belongs.

Drunk Driving Simulator

Wayne Miller Photography

Law Enforcement. Police organizations find in MADD an important ally in the fight against drunk driving. “We’re on criminal justice side,” says Brad Lehmann, Career Officer with
the Henrico County Police Division. “We deal with the ultimate results of drunk driving – the arrests, the crashes. MADD is working on prevention. The problem will never go away if people wait until an arrest is made.”

Police personnel were on hand in Dorey Park to help educate the public about the dangers of impaired driving. Trooper Lee Schoolar of the Virginia State Police brought a DUI Simulator. Participants wore a pair of “Fatal Vision” goggles to mimic the effects of alcohol on perception, and tried to pilot a golf cart on a course of traffic cones. Drivers who might have thought they could handle a car after a few drinks were shown the truth in a manner that was dramatic, memorable, and safe.

People like you and me at Walk Like MADD Virginia

Wayne Miller Photography

You and Me. Many of the walkers are just people doing their part to prevent senseless death on the roads. “We try to get the word out that the criminal justice system can’t solve this problem alone,” says Lehmann. “It takes a full community effort to combat drunk driving. Walk Like MADD is a way to further that community partnership.”

Two more Walks are coming up in Virginia: May 17 in Sterling and June 7 in Virginia Beach. Some of the participants will have been at Richmond, many others will be new. But all of them have one thing in common: the desire to eliminate drunk driving and make our roads safer for everyone.

No Refusal Policy Says No to Breathalyzer Denials in Texas

Breathalyzer“Don’t mess with Texas” is something you might have heard in relation to an anti-littering campaign, but if the Texas Department of Transportation has anything to say about it, the same slogan can now work for their latest anti-drinking and driving campaign.

Beginning this Friday, the Brownsville Police Department in Texas has instituted a year-round driving while intoxicated (DWI) no refusal policy. That means if you are suspected of driving while intoxicated, you won’t be able to refuse to submit to the Breathalyzer or provide a blood sample. In the past, the police in Brownsville had only put no refusal policies in place during busy holiday weekends when they’d be more likely to catch drinking drivers, but they moved to a year-policy to crack down on those who choose to drive while intoxicated.

Current DWI laws in Texas includes an implied consent law. Implied consent requires that you submit to the test, only receiving penalties such as a 180-license suspension should you refuse the test. With the new no refusal policy, if you are suspected of DWI and you refuse the Breathalyzer you will be sent to a local clinic for a blood draw.

Texas currently leads the nation with the highest amount of alcohol-related fatalities. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, 2012 saw 1,099 alcohol-related fatalities in the state. In Brownsville alone there were 174 alcohol-related crashes.

The new no refusal policy has met some opposition from local lawyers. They believe the police department and district attorney are violating individual constitutional rights by forcing suspected offenders to submit bodily fluids. There have also been supporters of the decision including Mothers Against Drunk Driving. As part of the MADD Take the Wheel Program they continually encourage drinking drivers to appoint a sober driver or Person Appointed to Stay Sober (PASS) when drinking.

Tips for driving in the rain

Tips for driving in the rainFor many States, especially the Pacific Northwest, winter means day after day of pounding rain. Wet weather comes with its own set of precautions, so before the rainy season really sets in, take time to brush up with tips for driving in the rain.

The first rule of thumb for driving in the rain is to slow down! Wet roads can be extremely hazardous because of excess water, making it easier to skid and slide when trying to stop. Other tips for driving in the rain include:

  • Stick to the middle lane of the roads. Water from rain will pool in the outside lanes.
  • Avoid driving too close to other cars and ease up on the accelerator so you don’t need to slam on your brakes. If you stick to the 3 second rule, where the car ahead of you is at least 3 seconds distance away, you’ll have more time to stop.
  • Turn your headlights on for increased visibility.
  • If the rain is coming down and it’s difficult to see ahead of you, follow in the tracks of the car in front of you.
  • When driving through large puddles, go slow or find another way around the puddle. If you drive through water that is too deep, you can affect your car’s components.
  • If you’re driving through a thunderstorm and are having a hard time seeing ahead of you, pull over somewhere safe and wait out the storm.
  • Try to avoid splashing pedestrians on the sidewalks

Even for the most experienced driver, rain can be almost as hazardous as driving in the snow. By following these tips for driving in the rain, both you and those driving with you will stay safe during the rainy season.