Category Archives: Reckless Driving

New Law Allows Police to Use Street Racing Videos to Track Down Violators

Street racers are taking over roads with deadly consequences as laws struggle to keep up | KATU

Florida passed a new law allowing street racing videos to be used as evidence to track down violators. Florida House Bill 399, which Governor Ron DeSantis signed earlier this year, went into effect October 1. It bans everything from street takeovers to drag racing to doing donuts on public roads.

Under this law, police don’t have to physically see the incident take place to go after violators. They can simply track down violators based on the license plates, the cars and the people in the video. Violators can be charged with a  misdemeanor and face a possible fine between $500 and $1,000. If charged, they also risk losing their driver’s license up to one year.

There was essentially no opposition to the bill in Florida’s legislature. It passed unanimously.

For now, there is only a patchwork of laws across the country that criminalize the dangerous activity. Because there’s no federal legislation about the issue, individual municipalities are left to come up with their own solutions.

According to Insurify, just in the 10 states they examined, the penalties for street racing range from just a $20 fine to a year of jail time. Insurify also conducted studies which found the following:

  • National averages. Across the United States, 3.48 per 100,000 drivers have a street racing violation on record. Plain old speeding is much more common, as a whopping 9,175 drivers per 100,000 report a speeding ticket on their record — that’s nearly 1 in 10 drivers. The penalty for street racing differs widely by state, ranging from as little as $20 to as much as $2,500 among states with the most street racers. Jail time and temporary license revocation are also possible punishments.
  • Despite the attention, street racing is still rare. Road racing has been on the rise for the past couple of years in America, and its flashy nature tends to draw headlines. Overall, however, street racing is a rare occurrence. For perspective, police issue more than 2,600 speeding tickets for every 1 street racing citation. Despite racing’s outsized fame, plain and simple speeders are who pervade the roads.
  • Street racing is inversely related to population density. Researchers at Insurify found a significant negative correlation (R = −0.27, p < 0.05) between a state’s street racing rate and its population density. This means that states with fewer residents per square mile are more likely to have high rates of street racing and that states with a high number of residents per square mile are more likely to have low rates of street racing. Coupled with the knowledge that road racing levels increased during early COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, this is further evidence that emptier roads are attractive to drivers with a penchant for racing.

My opinion? Expect similar laws to spread around the country. Street racing is an activity on the rise, from Baltimore and Portland to Seattle and Salt Lake City, and many more communities all across America. Chicago recently formed a task force to try to tackle the problem. Just this past month, Phoenix police said four people were killed as a result of street racing. The issue took root during the Coronavirus Pandemic, when roads normally clogged with commuters suddenly emptied, opening the door to a surge in illegal street racing.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with Reckless Driving or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Eliminate Unnecessary Traffic Stops

New Report Details How Routine Traffic Stops Turn Deadly

Excellent article by Finesse Moreno-Rivera gives solutions to eliminating unnecessary traffic stops. Unfortunately, many of these impromptu occurrances become escalated and result in fatalities. To protect motorists and police, we need better protocols.

The Data

According to recent data from Mapping Police Violence, an unfortunate amount of civilian deaths occur during traffic stops.  In many cases, the police department responsible refused to provide details or justification. Purported traffic violations account for about 40% of these killings. And almost half of those involved individuals under the influence of drugs, alcohol or with mental illness.

In nearly 430 of these fatal traffic stops, the victim was suspected of carrying a weapon. But in 20% of the cases – that’s more than 80 deaths – the individual was unarmed. In about 350 deadly incidents, the officer initiated a traffic stop for unspecified circumstances.

To reduce police violence, states need to reform their policies:

Limit stops for minor traffic violations. Clearly, more states need to adopt policies to prevent police from pulling over nonthreatening vehicles. Cities such as Los Angles and Philadelphia have passed legislation to end unnecessary traffic stops. These reforms aim to decrease unnecessary exposures to danger and to mitigate police’s tendency toward racial bias. We must stop pulling vehicles over for minor traffic violations with intent to investigate for larger offenses. Instead, we must incentivize officers to determine whether a vehicle is involved in a serious crime before pulling them over.

Eliminate incentives for ticket revenue. The financial incentive for police to stop drivers has been an issue for a long time. This is because many communities rely heavily on ticket revenue. Many local and state governments are so dependent on officers’ traffic stops for revenue, they often evaluate officers based on ticket quotas. This system attaches monetary gain or promotions to the number of tickets issued. Making matters worse, the federal government awards municipalities money for the number of tickets issued. This negative financial incentive goes all the way to the top, establishing a system conducive to corruption. To date, more than 20 states have prohibited quotas. This is a step in the right direction.

Create national campaign for traffic stop awareness. Police academies train recruits in basic traffic stop fundamentals. However, motorists in driving school do not get the run-down on police procedures. This unpreparedness increases the risk of danger for both motorists and officers. The lack of standardization in traffic stop conduct is a real problem.

Motorists can send mixed signals to officers or be wary of traffic stops, especially if they’re a person of color. Teaching drivers about police protocol and their rights and responsibilities would promote safe and effective roadside communication.

Some organizations already offer this kind of roadside safety education. The National Association of Black Law Enforcement hosts events in Black communities to teach people the risk of traffic stops, how to act when stopped by police given what police are trained to watch for, and what their actions will communicate to their officers.

Police reforms so far aren’t keeping people from dying. The only way to protect motorists and officers is to limit traffic stops and to promote clear communication between officers and citizens after the sirens have sounded.

My opinion? The challenges facing law enforcement are difficult. Perhaps a shift in protocols would ensure that everyone – officers included – are more safe in their day-to-day contacts with citizens. Let’s prevent Reckless Driving or DUI incidents from becoming lethal. And please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Alcohol Detection Systems in All New Vehicles?

Clemson Vehicular Electronics Laboratory: Alcohol Sensor

Great article by journalist Murray Slovik says that technologies are needed for alcohol-impairment detection in cars.

Apparently, DUI remains a leading cause of injury-involved highway crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2020, roughly one in three traffic fatalities resulted from crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers.

Since 2000, more than 230,000 people have lost their lives in crashes involving alcohol, again according to NHTSA. In 2020, an estimated 11,654 fatalities occurred in alcohol-impaired crashes. This number represented about 30% of all traffic fatalities that year and a 14% increase over the 10,196 individuals who died because of alcohol-impaired crashes in 2019. This comes at a time when vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. decreased by about 13.2% in 2020.

In response, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is making a major push to cut down on the number of alcohol-related crashes and deaths. They’ve asked the NHTSA to require that all new cars have an alcohol detection device in them. This move stems in part from an investigation into a California crash that killed nine – including seven children.

TECHNOLOGY RECOMMENDATION DETAILS

The NTSB is recommending measures leveraging new in-vehicle technologies that can limit or prohibit impaired drivers from operating their vehicles as well as technologies to prevent speeding. They include:

  • Requiring passive vehicle-integrated alcohol-impairment detection systems, advanced driver monitoring systems, or a combination of the two that would be capable of preventing or limiting vehicle operation if it detects driver impairment by alcohol. The NTSB recommends that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration require all new vehicles be equipped with such systems.
  • Incentivizing vehicle manufacturers and consumers to adopt intelligent speed adaptation systems that would prevent speed-related crashes.

The issues of impaired driving and excessive speeding are both on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements. To prevent alcohol and other drug-impaired driving crashes, the NTSB has called for, as previously mentioned, in-vehicle alcohol detection technology as well as the lowering of the blood alcohol concentration limit to .05 g/dL or lower. They also recommend alcohol ignition-interlock devices for people convicted of driving while intoxicated and that regulators develop a standard of practice to improve drug toxicology testing.

Furthermore, the NTSB has called for a comprehensive strategy to eliminate speeding-related crashes. It would combine traditional measures like enforcement and regulation with new technological advances such as speed limiters and intelligent speed-adaptation technology.

SPEED-LIMITING TECH

The NTSB is looking for regulators to develop performance standards for such advanced speed-limiting technology targeted at heavy vehicles including trucks, buses, and motor coaches. They want regulators to require all newly manufactured heavy vehicles be equipped with such devices. NTSB also wants:

  • To collaborate with traffic safety stakeholders to develop and implement an ongoing program to increase public awareness of speeding as a national traffic safety issue.
  • To revise regulations to strengthen requirements for all speed engineering studies and remove the guidance that speed limits in speed zones be within 5 mph of the 85th percentile speed. The 85th percentile speed is the speed at or below where 85% of drivers will operate with open roads and favorable conditions.
  • To update speed-enforcement guidelines to reflect the latest automated speed-enforcement technologies and operating practices and promote these guidelines.

Research suggests speeding is a problem that’s worsening. In 2020, there were 11,258 fatalities in crashes in which at least one driver was speeding, according to the NHTSA. This simply underscores that speeding increases both the chances of being involved in a crash and the severity of crash injuries.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a DUI, Reckless Driving or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Traffic Deaths Increase

US traffic deaths way up; reckless driving blamed by feds

Excellent article from journalist of the Washington Post reports that U.S. traffic deaths jumped in 2022, hitting 20-year high.

More than 9,500 people were killed in traffic crashes in the first three months of this year, federal transportation officials said Wednesday — a figure that represents the deadliest start to a year on U.S. roads in two decades.

In seven states and the District, officials estimated crash deaths jumped at least 50 percent. Nationwide, deaths were up 7 percent compared with the same period last year.

The figures are preliminary estimates, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) did not release breakdowns of the causes of crashes. Officials say a surge in traffic fatalities that started in 2020 as the pandemic began has continued unabated.

“The overall numbers are still moving in the wrong direction . . . Now is the time for all states to double down on traffic safety.”  ~Steven Cliff, Administrator for NHTSA.

EXPLANATIONS FOR THE SURGE IN TRAFFIC FATALITIES

Experts have struggled to come up with an explanation for the spike in deaths but have pointed to less congestion amid changed driving patterns during the COVID-19 Pandemic, which they say have allowed more dangerous speeds. Officials say there’s also evidence of an uptick in Reckless Driving, DUI,   DUI or Driving Without a Seatbelt.

The early stages of the pandemic saw roads become emptier as people stayed home. However, drivers quickly returned to their vehicles, even as driving was no longer as dominated by morning and evening commutes. NHTSA reported that Americans drove more than 750 billion miles between January and March, an increase of more than 5 percent compared with 2021.

NHTSA reported 7,893 traffic deaths in the first three months of 2020, a period mostly before the onset of the pandemic. In 2021, the figure jumped to 8,935 deaths, then rose to 9,560 this year. The number of deaths this year was the highest in the first three months of a year since 2002. The first quarter is consistently the least deadly on U.S. roads.

SOLUTIONS FROM THE GOVERNMENT

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg earlier this year said the nation would work to eliminate crash deaths, pledging to adopt a “safe system” approach that would look as much at the design of roads and cars as the behavior of individual drivers. The effort is backed by billions in new safety funding from last year’s infrastructure law, including a $5 billion fund that will provide grants aimed at protecting bicyclists and pedestrians.

The infrastructure law included mandates for technology that could address some of the biggest causes of fatalities, such as calling for NHTSA to require breath monitoring devices for alcohol in new cars. Such a system is in testing, but a mandate is likely years away.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with Reckless Driving, DUI, or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Washington Traffic Fatalities Hit 20-Year High

US road deaths rise at record pace as risky driving persists - ABC News

Excellent artice by journalist Becca Robbins reports that Washington traffic fatalities hit a 20-year high in 2021. This comes as recent data from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission shows last year’s total traffic deaths was 633 people.

That rate outpaces 574 fatal crashes in 2020 and 538 in 2019, the agency’s data shows. Of those killed in 2021, 300 of them were drivers, 141 were pedestrians, 108 were passengers and 93 were motorcyclists.

Clark County also continued to see high rates of fatal crashes, with 36 people killed last year. In 2020, 40 people died locally in car crashes and 26 died in 2019, data from the commission shows. In the county, 13 drivers were killed in 2021, as well as 10 passengers, seven pedestrians and six motorcyclists.

The commission said in a news release that statewide data from the first quarter of this year shows 2022 is on track to surpass last year’s record rate.

It is promoting a “community-based” approach to curb the increase in fatal crashes and encourages people to talk about traffic safety with each other. The agency is beginning a summer ad campaign, which it says coincides with the time of year that sees an increase in crashes.

“The increase in deaths on our roads is tragic, but we all have the power to reverse the trend . . . Most of us use roads safely, and we can also influence the smaller number of people who engage in risky behavior. Take an extra step and help someone close to you be safe, too. It’s as simple as reminding them to buckle their seat belt or put their phone away when they drive.” ~Mark McKechnie, Director of External Relations, Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC)

Traffic deaths have spiked nationally, with nearly 43,000 people killed on U.S. roads last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The tally marked the highest number in 16 years.

The 10.5 percent jump over 2020 numbers was the largest percentage increase since the NHTSA began its fatality data collection system in 1975. Nearly 118 people died in U.S. traffic crashes every day last year, according to the agency’s figures.

WHY THE INCREASE IN TRAFFIS DEATHS?

The NHTSA has blamed reckless driving behavior for increases during the COVID-19 pandemic, citing behavioral research showing that speeding and traveling without a seat belt have increased. Before 2019, the number of fatalities had fallen for three straight years, The Associated Press reported.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has pledged help and released a national strategy earlier this year, aimed at reversing the trend, which he calls a crisis. He told AP in January his department over the next two years will provide federal guidance, as well as billions in grants under President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure law, to spur states and localities to lower speed limits and embrace safer road design, such as dedicated bike and bus lanes, better lighting and crosswalks. The strategy also urges the use of speed cameras, which the department says could provide more equitable enforcement than police traffic stops.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with Reckless Driving or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

2021: Deadly for Drivers

Excellent article by journalist David Kroman found that 2021 was the deadliest on Washington roads in 15 years.

Washington for the year saw 540 fatal crashes, which killed more than 600 people, according to data from the Washington State Department of Transportation. Not since 2006 have the numbers been that high. In 118 of the year’s fatal crashes, a bicyclist or pedestrian was killed. An additional 2,411 crashes in 2021 resulted in likely serious injury — also the most since 2006 and 16% more than in 2020.

Alcohol- and drug-influenced serious and fatal crashes remained high in 2021, sustaining a harrowing 25% jump from 2019 to 2020. Speed, too, continued to play an outsized role after climbing nearly 18% in 2020.

Kroman reports that in Seattle, 31 people were killed in car crashes in 2021, according to preliminary data from the Seattle Department of Transportation. That, too, is the most since 2006. Jim Curtain, project development director at SDOT, said 19 of those deaths were pedestrians, and nearly half involved hit-and-runs. The city has also seen a jump in impaired driving, Curtain said.

INTERPRETING THE DATA

Kroman reports that early in the pandemic, reports from state troopers suggested behavior behind the wheel had become more extreme. There was a rise of speed-related crashes and so-called “aggressive drivers.” As the roads emptied, drivers could more easily hit triple digits on their speedometers. Combined with a rise in alcohol and drug use, collisions that may have been moderate in 2019 became serious or deadly in 2020.

As traffic returns, 2021’s picture is less obvious. Speed and distraction are almost certainly at the trend’s core, said Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington. But there’s another, more nebulous cause that’s even more difficult to track.

“We have a pissed-off society . . . When you are in your big metal box of a car, you have an awful lot of ability to act out your frustrations both with accelerator and brake.” ~Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center

HOW WASHINGTON COMPARES

Washington’s 6% rise in serious and fatal crashes from 2019 to 2020 was close to average for the country that year, which saw a national 7% spike, according to the National Safety Council. Maine, Arkansas and Washington, D.C., experienced the sharpest jumps, each over 30%. Rhode Island saw a 24% increase.

My opinion? The stressors of 2020-21 — isolation, uncertainty, fear — remain. And with them comes an environment still conducive to risk, substance abuse and high speeds. Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a DUI, Reckless Driving or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Racial Disparities & Traffic Stops

Black and Latino drivers are searched based on less evidence and are more  likely to be arrested, Stanford researchers find - Los Angeles Times

Excellent article by Nick Bowman of MyNorthwest.com reports on a new study regarding racial disparities in traffic stops. Apparently, the study provides five years of data on traffic stops made by Washington State Patrol. Ultimately, it gives mixed results.

According to Bowman, the study comes courtesy of researchers at Washington State University. It analyzed over 3.4 million traffic stops, 47,000 calls for service, and 175,000 collisions between January of 2015 and December of 2019.

While it says that it found “no evidence for intentional, agency-level racial bias,” it also showed some disparities in racial demographics most likely to be pulled over, cited, and searched. Over the five-year period it pulled data from, 5.7% of all traffic stops involved a Black driver, despite that demographic making up roughly 4.4% of the state’s population.

The highest rate of racial disparities involving Black drivers was seen in Pierce County, comprising 12.7% of traffic stops despite making up 7.7% of the county’s population. That was followed by King County, where Black motorists — comprising 7% of the county’s population — made up 11.5% of traffic stops.

White drivers made up 74.4% of traffic stops statewide, while comprising 78.5% of Washington’s population. Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic drivers were stopped by troopers at lower rates compared to their population.

Disproportionate practices were seen among the racial groups most likely to be searched. While Native American, Hispanic, and Black drivers were more likely to be searched than white drivers, so-called “hit rates” — the rate at which searches turned up contraband — were lower among the former group compared to searches of the latter.

“Particularly for Black and Hispanic motorists, searches were less productive (10% difference in contraband found) which may indicate that probable cause standards are lower for searches of these groups,” the study notes.

In terms of traffic citations, “white motorists received the most, but their overall proportion of total citations fell over the five-year period.” Native American and Black drivers were found to be less likely to be cited compared to white drivers, while Asian/Pacific Island and Hispanic drivers were more likely to be cited.

Please review my Search and Seizure Legal Guide. And please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI or any other driving-related crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

 

Thanksgiving DUI Patrols

Hosting Thanksgiving? Grocery bill could have you counting your pennies |  WNCT

Thanksgiving Weekend DUI Patrols

The Washington State Patrol (WSP)  issued a press release stating that DUI emphasis patrols are now happening in Pullman as WSU students travel this Thanksgiving holiday.

According to the press release, troopers in Spokane, Whitman, Adams, Grant and Kittitas counties will be focusing on speeding to include driving too fast for conditions, distracted/impaired driving and other collision-causing violations during the emphasis. Motorists traveling to and from WSU will see an increased WSP presence on State Routes 26 & 195 as well as Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass.

“We encourage travelers to pay close attention to posted speed limits and to be prepared for changing road and weather/winter driving conditions,” said the press release. “You can find current road and weather conditions on all state highways by going to the website or mobile apps provided by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).”

Thanksgiving Day Holiday Period Estimate for 2021

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 515 people may die on U.S. roads this Thanksgiving holiday period. If this estimate holds true, Thanksgiving 2021 will experience the most deaths since 2007. Holidays are traditionally a time of travel for families across the United States. Many choose car travel, which has the highest fatality rate of any major form of transportation based on fatalities per passenger mile. Holidays are also often cause for celebrations involving alcohol consumption, a major contributing factor to motor-vehicle crashes. Because of the unprecedented impact COVID-19 is having on social activities, the uncertainty of this year’s estimate is increased. 

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

No More Traffic Heroes

Traffic Q&amp;A: What happens if I report an HOV violator? | Tacoma News Tribune

According to Kiro 7 News, after 37 years, the “764-HERO” program used to report carpool lane violators will end on Sept. 22.

The Washington State Department of Transportation began the program in 1984 to educate high-occupancy lane violators about the purpose, rules and benefits of the freeway lanes. The goal was to encourage travelers to call 1-877-764-HERO to help enforce HOV lane rules in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. It was expanded in 2010 to include Washington State Ferries waiting lanes.

After receiving reports from the phone number, WSDOT mails first-time violators educational materials. Second-time HOV lane violators are sent a letter from WSDOT, and third-time violators are sent a letter from the Washington State Patrol.

According to Kiro 7 News, the program is ended because most drivers are familiar with how HOV lanes and ferry lines work. The Washington State Patrol will continue to issue violations.

Over the next few months, crews will begin removing the “764-HERO” signs across King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. The signs will be gradually replaced with signs showing the fine for improperly using HOV lanes. Violators could be fined $186 for the first offense. Repeat offenders face up to $536. Increased fines also apply to motorists who have a mannequin, doll or dummy.

My opinion? An HOV ticket may not seem serious. The fine is usually fairly small and you may just be tempted to pay the infraction. However, HOV tickets are moving violations. Your insurance company could raise your rates as a result.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime to include Reckless Driving. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

WA: Bad State to Drive

New Jersey - We Live In The 8th Worst State To Drive In

Apparently, Washington is one of the nation’s worst states to drive in, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The study, by personal finance website WalletHub, found that Washington ranks as the third-worst state for drivers, thanks mainly to steep gas prices, high rates of car theft, poor overall road quality, traffic congestion and other factors.

The only states with a worse rating than Washington are California and Hawaii, the report found. The best state for drivers is Texas, followed by Indiana at No. 2 and North Carolina at No. 3, according to the analysis.

The study arrived at the rankings by comparing all 50 states across 31 key metrics, such as traffic congestion, gas prices, auto maintenance costs, car theft rate and number of days with precipitation.

Specifically, the analysis found that Washington has the third-highest gas prices in the nation, the eighth-worst roads and ninth-highest car theft rate.

The only categories in which Washington was rated above average were its overall safety ranking, the number of car dealerships per capita and the number of auto repair shops per capita. The study also found that traffic congestion costs U.S. drivers $88 billion per year and wastes 99 hours of their time.

It’s also heartening to officials with Washington State Patrol and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, which are among the agencies working toward Target Zero, a statewide effort to eliminate all fatal and serious injury traffic incidents by 2030. Critics of strict enforcement of speed limits charge that the link between speed and safety is exaggerated because of biases embedded in data collection and inaccuracies found in some police reporting on accidents.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a driving-related crime like Distracted Driving, Reckless Driving, Vehicular Assault, DUI or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.



Alexander F. Ransom

Attorney at Law
Criminal Defense Lawyer

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Suite #1420
Bellingham, WA 98225

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