The legality of flashing your lights to warn other drivers of upcoming speed traps is a hotly contested topic.
It’s a common sight on the road. You’re driving along when you notice an oncoming car flashing their lights at you as they pass. You know that this means that there are police up ahead and you react by slowing down to avoid a speeding ticket. Is this legal? Based on recent court rulings, it appears that this type of communication is allowed.
A man in Florida who was recently ticketed for this behaviour decided to sue the County Sheriff’s Office for violating his civil rights. The judge ruled that the driver was exercising his right to free speech when he flashed his lights to warn another driver of an upcoming speed trap. The judge further stated that this type of communication is protected by the First Amendment and the driver was therefore acting legally. The man won his case and the County police are now being told that they should not issue tickets to drivers for flashing their lights in this manner.
It’s an interesting question. Regarding this case, Judge Alan Dickey stated, “If the goal of the traffic law is to promote safety and not to raise revenue, then why wouldn’t we want everyone who sees a law enforcement officer with a radar gun in his hand, blinking his lights to slow down all those other cars?”. In other words, Judge Dickey feels that the result of this activity will be to slow drivers down, and that will result in safer driving. Therefore, he feels that the outcome is positive.
However, not everyone agrees with this sentiment. Rich Roberts, a spokesman for the International Union of Police Associations, thinks that flashing your headlights interferes with laws that are designed to make driving safe. “Warning oncoming traffic that there are law enforcement officers ahead allows a speeder to slow down until he passes the officers – and then he starts speeding again,” Roberts said.
In the past, drivers in New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee have challenged similar tickets that they have received for warning other motorists by honking their horn or flashing their headlights, and the courts have similarly determined that this activity is protected under the First Amendment.
Currently, it appears that police officers are no longer issuing tickets for flashing headlights to warn other drivers of speed traps, but the future legality of this activity is uncertain.
So many drivers ignore the importance of a seat belt – therefore often ignore the
seatbelt laws that are in effect in every state of the United States. Seat belt laws are
there to keep you safe, and without a great history of fatalities and injuries on roadways
that are related to the failure to put on a seatbelt, these laws would not exist.
Often times, drivers are under the false assumption that officers will not pull them over
just for their seatbelt being off – therefore, as long as they aren’t doing anything else
wrong, they feel they are safe from a ticket. This is a big myth that is completely wrong.
Officers will stop you just for not having your safety belt on, regardless of your speed or
any other factors. You could be driving up to par and with all other laws in regards, but if
you aren’t strapped in, you are committing a crime and will be stopped and ticketed.
A seat belt ticket may seem like no big deal, but the more you receive tickets, the more
money is coming out of your pocket and the more your driver record is affected. Why
even risk a perfect driving record for the failure to wear a seatbelt.
Statistics show that you are at a 20 times higher risk of injury or death just by not
wearing your seat belt when you get in your vehicle. Whether the driver or passenger
in the front or the back, the seatbelt is very important as it gives you the safety that you
need in the event of an accident. Without your seatbelt, there are several scenarios that
can occur, including:
Ejection from the vehicle
Impact with the windshield
Impact with other objects in the vehicle
Unconsciousness which impairs your ability to react
At the same time, you are responsible for those who are in the vehicle with you.
Whether a friend who is an adult or a family member who is a minor, their failure to wear
a seatbelt is reflected on you as you get the ticket and the fine and when it comes to
children, you can get a great deal of fines together. In fact, you can get several different
tickets if you have a minor in the vehicle who is improperly restrained by a safety belt,
as you are the responsible party and put them at a great risk by driving while they are
not in a seat belt.
Imagine: It’s a rather common day and you’re running around town, knocking errands off your to-do list when all of a sudden, you see an array of bright, flashing lights as you stroll through one of the same intersections you drive through every day.
You think to yourself, “I don’t think we were expecting a lightening storm!” and then you realize that you probably set off the flashes at a red light camera. Paranoid, you go online to do some research about how long it takes for them to send you a ticket, and how much it’s going to cost you.
You wait and wait and about a week later, you get a fancy $500 notice in the mail with several pictures of you with the surprised “flash” face as you made your way into the intersection, only milliseconds after it had turned red. How can this be? You were sure you didn’t run that light!
Sound familiar? If you drive in one of the 70+ cities in California that operate red light camera systems, it’s very likely that you have experienced a similar situation, or know someone who has. Red light cameras bring millions of dollars in every year to the cities and camera companies. There are many different conspiracy theories on them, but we’ve got the inside scoop on exactly how they’re run, and how you can avoid the headache of a ticket.
A Brief History
The first red light camera systems began as early as the 1960’s and are said to have been introduced into the United States by the 1980’s. Currently, red light camera systems are run in 25 states across the US. Fines generated by citations differ from state to state, but are as high as $500 in California. Supporters of the systems uphold that the cameras are designed to reduce the number of accidents at selected intersections, but some studies contradict that claim. Opponents argue that the systems are run as a revenue generator and have little to no affect on accident reduction. It’s an on-going debate as to whether red light cameras violate constitutional laws protecting the public.
How They Work
If you haven’t already figured out, red light cameras are designed to capture photos of red light runners. More specifically, they’re installed at specified intersections to capture red light runners turning right without stopping completely (or making illegal right hand turns), turning left on red, or going straight through the intersection on a red. The cameras are placed on the corners of the intersection and are activated by induction loop sensors embedded under the road which create a magnetic field around the entrance to the intersection. When a vehicle enters the magnetic field at a speed in which it detects that you will run the light, it causes the camera systems to activate and begin recording the incident. Pictures are taken of the vehicle entering and leaving the intersection, and of the driver’s face and the vehicle’s license plate.
The photos are gathered by the police department and are then reviewed by an officer. If the officer determines that the driver did apparently commit a violation, they will send the ticket to the owner on the vehicle’s registration and file it with the courthouse to follow up. In California, the police department must issue the ticket within 15 days of the date of violation. The California court system allows defendants to contest the alleged violation in a court trial or trial by written declaration (trial by mail).
Many argue that the officer who issues the ticket and testifies in court to a disputed case is not the proper person to present the photographic evidence, since he or she is not an expert in the camera systems.
The company that owns and operates the cameras contracts with the city to operate a ticket-based red light camera program. In California, cities are bound by a vast multitude of rules and regulations when operating a red light camera program.
For example, when installing a new red light camera at an intersection, the program must follow a 30 day warning period at that intersection before issuing actual citations to violators. The city must also make proper public announcements when installing cameras at new approaches and intersections. The law requires for there to be proper signs placed at each intersection’s approach, even if the intersection has a camera at only one approach, or for the city to have proper signs at each city entrance, indicating the use of red light camera systems within the city.
If the city is not in full compliance with each regulation, their red light camera program might be deemed illegal by the judge, as has been in the case of many cities, such as Napa in 2011 when the judge deemed that the “cost neutrality” clause in the cities’ contract with the camera company was unconstitutional.
How to Avoid Them
Undoubtedly, the best way to avoid a red light camera ticket is to come to a complete stop before the limit line before the light turns red.
It’s very common for drivers who are making a right on red (which is legal in California, unless otherwise noted) to slow down, look, and turn if no one else is coming.
California vehicle code 21453(a) stats that a driver “shall stop at a marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then before entering the intersection.” Red light cameras are designed to capture drivers who turn right without completely stopping before the limit line.
A huge percentage of red light tickets that are issued are for this violation, and cost as much as if the driver blew straight through the light.
Opponents use this information to support their claim that red light cameras are simply revenue generators, arguing that making a right on red without stopping completely is not as dangerous as blowing straight through the light. Legislators in the past have tried to pass laws that separate the two incidences into two separate violations, with right on reds being less expensive than runners driving straight through the light. As it stands, the two incidences result in the same fine, and the same violation.
If You Get a Ticket
Although California’s red light camera ticket fines are debatably expensive, the California court system does make it fairly easy to contest a ticket through a trial by written declaration. This option allows drivers to contest their case through the mail, and gives drivers who are found guilty a second option to fight it in court through a trial de novo.
Many people who have received red light camera tickets have decided to contest their ticket, not because they didn’t think they ran the light, but because they simply couldn’t afford the high fines and insurance hikes from the potential point placed on their record.
Many feel that the cameras are unconstitutional and violate their rights as citizens with being recorded on camera. Until the vast majority of lawmakers and government authorities can agree that this is the case, red light camera systems will continue to be a multi-million dollar revenue source for cities.
Sara Schoonover is Vice President of Ticket Kick a California company that helps drivers get red light camera tickets and other traffic tickets dismissed by helping drivers through the trial by written declaration process. The company, which formally launched in 2010 after providing similar services since 2006, is the leading company in this space and growing rapidly.
September 21, 2011
Got a traffic ticket? Thinking about just paying it and taking traffic school? Think again. In July, California Assembly Bill 2499 went into affect, changing the scene in the courtroom of who may be able to attend traffic school to keep their driving record clean. Lets start with the basics, and go into how this new law can affect you as a driver.
What is traffic school?
Traffic school is a government regulated program designed to teach people how to become safer drivers. When you get a traffic ticket, the court might make a deal with you: take a traffic school course and they’ll keep a point off of your record. The point system is a way for the DMV and insurance companies to determine how risky you are on the road. Three points in 3 years on your record could mean suspension of your driver’s license, and insurance hikes of 20% or more, not to mention unhappy letters from the DMV.
What is the new law all about?
Before AB 2499 went into effect, the judges were allowed to grant traffic school to just about anyone at their discretion. The new law prohibits judges to approve traffic school unless the driver meets specific eligibility requirements outlined in the law as follows: Only non commercial drivers who have not previously attended traffic school in the last 18 months may be allowed to attend. Once you take traffic school, you will not be granted it again if you get another ticket within 18 months. Period.
This rule goes for drivers who get more than one ticket in more than one county or courthouse. The California court system now has a more solid way of communicating with each-other on who has or hasn’t attended. You simply cannot fall through the cracks of the court anymore. Fighting it may seem more appealing now.
The term “clean driving record” no longer applies with traffic school
It used to be that when you attended traffic school, you obtained a ticket dismissal on your driving record as if it never existed. Now, a violation will still appear on your record as “confidential,” but not as a point. The only way to actually keep your record clean if you get a ticket is to try to fight it and have it completely dismissed within the court’s records.
A comparison analysis of what a ticket could cost you
Lets look at a few options you have when you get a traffic ticket and what could be the related costs in terms of traffic school:
Plead guilty, pay the fine, accept the point.
California imparts some of the highest fines associated with traffic tickets. The average speeding ticket fines in California can be anywhere from $250-$400. The all-too popular redlight cameratickets cost about $500. Then there’s the insurance rates. One insurance company said that they automatically raise rates 20% if they see two tickets within three years or for a suspension due to any unresolved tickets. That’s hundreds of dollars more per year in insurance hikes. Yikes!
Plead guilty, pay the fine, attend traffic school.
If you choose to request traffic school and are approved, you’d be looking at paying your ticket fine, paying the court’s traffic school fee (generally another $60), and then paying the actual traffic school. You’d be saving money in any future insurance hikes but you’d be looking at initially forking out close to $1,000 depending on your violation, and using up your traffic school option for the next year and a half.
Plead not guilty, fight the ticket
The California court system makes it fairly easy to contest a traffic ticket through a trial by written declaration (trial by mail). If you fight your ticket and win, not only do you save on the ticket fines, but you eliminate the need to attend traffic school therefore saving those related costs. If you fight your ticket and lose, you’re back to square one and can then resort to traffic school.
Some estimates say that over 16 million traffic tickets are given out in California every year. Many people still choose the route of paying their ticket and attending traffic school. For many, it may seem like the easiest way, but now with stricter restrictions on traffic school eligibility, and with the high ticket fines that most people simply cannot afford in today’s economy, many are re-thinking pleading guilty and actually trying to beat traffic tickets.
Sara Schoonover is Vice President of of Ticket Kick, a California company that helps drivers get red light cameratickets and other traffic tickets dismissed by helping drivers through the trial by written declaration process. The company, which formally launched in 2010 after providing similar services since 2006, is the leading company in this space and growing rapidly.
Saving gas is one of the most sought after practices that exist today, but not many people can tell you how to really get the most for the money you spend in gas. A lot of people will blame their vehicles for loss of gas too fast or low MPG’s, but in many cases it is actually the fault of the driver more so than anything else. So, how can you make sure that $20 gets you where you are planning to go efficiently?
Take Your Time
You don’t have to drive like your grandmother who is scared to approach other drivers, but you should be taking a bit of time when driving, as mashing down the gas can suck every drop out of the gas tank before you get halfway there. So many people forget that patience is a virtue, and proceed to rush everywhere they go, often looking at the gas hand wondering why it is going much quicker than it should. However, if you take your time driving and follow a speed that is less gas heavy, you can be sure that you will save a great deal more gas.
Maintain Your Vehicle
Maintaining your vehicle is not only wise, it is necessary to keep your vehicle’s MPG’s higher. If you aren’t changing the oil, checking the other fluids, maintaining proper tire tread and balance, and performing other maintenance tasks, you will find that your vehicle burns through gas much quicker. In most cases, the higher consumption of gas can be attributed to some sort of issue with the vehicle that could have been caught with simple maintenance and prevented from causing great costs to you.
Keep a More Economic Vehicle
Driving those big engine vehicles just doesn’t work with gas anymore and can be a definite way to watch your pockets slim down for gas. Getting an economical vehicle today is a must if you want to save the most gas – even if you just have a small vehicle for big runs and keep the vehicle you really want for fun. It is the practice of today and most drivers are finding out how important it is to give in and get a vehicle that can achieve more MPG’s much easier.
Keeping your eye on the fuel is only natural these days as gas reaches $5 and more in some states. As people are seeking a way to cut down their gas prices, there are several steps that can be taken to ensure the vehicle you do have is burning gas more efficiently, and the vehicle that you are looking for is able to offer the MPG’s that you want. After all, why should you be spending all your hard earned money from work trying to pay for gas to get to work, when you could easily put some of that money aside and still keep the trip you always have? Short of getting on a bike or trusting your feet for the trip, getting ahold of wiser gas saving tips is necessary.
The main part of getting your driver’s license is the studying and practice, as when it comes time to be licensed, a road exam is required. The road exam is not only important, but can be quite a challenge for the first time, bringing forth great anxiety and a lot of things to think about.
If you are approaching your road exam appointment and want to be sure that you know what to do to pass, make sure you follow these simple tips that can make all the difference for you as a new driver.
- Take practice time seriously. Even though you have your learner’s permit and the privilege to drive supervised, it doesn’t mean that you should neglect this time as the perfect opportunity to get the practice you need for your driver’s test behind the wheel.
- Study your driver’s manual. This publication is perhaps one of the most important to new drivers, and tells you everything you need to know about driving, road signs, signals, and your rights and responsibility as a driver.
- Make sure you listen to instruction. The testing instructor will provide you with the instructions for completing the road exam. This will include various moves and more. If you want to pass your road exam, it is best that you are paying good attention as you are being scored as you go.
- Pay attention to all signs and signals. While the instructor is providing you with direction for the test, you are still expected to know the signs and signals intended for you, while following them. The instructor will pay attention to how well you can do this, grading you the entire time.
- Follow the speed limit regardless of signage. It is your responsibility to also follow the speed limit, regardless of whether or not there is posting. Your driver’s manual will provide the basic rules for speed limits in different types of areas.
- Provide enough room between yourself and other drivers. There is no tailgating allowed, as it is a ticketing offense. If you are doing your road exam, however, you want to garner a bit more room between drivers in front of you, which should be between 3 and 4 car lengths.
- Calm down. The worst thing you could do is be anxious while taking your road exam, as it causes you to be more prone to accidents and mistakes. If you are taking your test, take some time to calm down and get more acquainted with the process in order to be sure that nerves don’t defeat you in the end.
Your driver’s test is quite important; therefore you want to take the time to make sure that you are ready, prepared, and able to complete your exam as successfully as possible. Remember that you should drive just like you would if you were licensed, as every move you make counts as you take your test, even the braking of the car and how hard you push them.
Did you know that there is a lot more out there for drivers than just information about driving? In fact, there is a great world out there full of gadgets for drivers, with costs that don’t really peak that high. There are those that can range under $200, even offering the great benefits that are found from gadgets costing much more. Obviously, it’s your taste and preference that is going to mandate the cost, but there are great options out there to ensure your driving is as pleasurable and safe as possible.
- GPS Systems: There are great products out there to ensure you can find your way no matter where you are. While the difference in cost usually depicts the difference in quality, there are great offers that you can find for prices starting around $100. These devices can be continually updated to include the locations that are inserted to the area you are driving, detailing your driving steps from point A to point B.
- Bluetooth Kits: There are some GPS systems that offer a Bluetooth kit or you could purchase one separately to help you communicate through your mobile phone in a much safer manner. The Bluetooth kit allows hands-free phone use so you don’t have to risk a ticket in some states or the dangers that come along with less attentive driving.
- DVD Players/TV’s: Everyone wants to have a bit of entertainment while they are driving, especially passengers. While most states restrict the use of televisions in vehicles within the front area, passengers are able to watch televisions, which are offered from various manufacturers especially for vehicles. Getting a DVD player is just as simple, with installation often offered with purchase.
- Satellite Radio: While the regular band radio offered through your antenna can bring forth great local stations, there are thousands of stations out there over satellite, which could offer more superior listening while you drive. Satellite radio is surprisingly inexpensive, with subscriptions that start at $9.99. Many new cars are even equipped with the necessary component, while you can purchase the right radio for as little as $80.
Gadgets can help you ride better, more comfortably, and much easier, with many other types of devices and equipment that can be used for safety or driving measures, such as pet safety belts and more. Make sure that you look online to find the best on these and many other devices made just for drivers today.
Driving is such great fun for many people, but also as much as a responsibility as a job would be. Not only are you responsible for yourself, but for keeping those within and outside of your vehicle safe as well. Just one bad move could put yourself and many others in danger – dangers that should be avoided properly. Driving safely is a practice you should always pay close attention to, as your safety and that of all those in your vehicle and those driving around you depends on your better judgment and wiser decisions.
1. Always drive defensively as it is for your better safety and that of drivers as well. Driving defensively means driving aware and alert at all times, ready for the mistakes of other drivers and the unexpected to occur.
2. Wear your safety belt and ensure that all passengers in your vehicle are buckled in and restrained safely and properly. This belt is to protect you from further injuries if you are ever involved in an accident, and has proven itself to save many lives.
3. Take your time, as it is better to get to your destination a little later than intended than never at all. If you are speeding, not only do you risk high fines and traffic violations that can add points to your license, but you also risk your safety, as speeding is a quick way to end up in some sort of collision. You lose your judgment time when you are rushing, and can make the wrong moves on the road.
4. Be a courteous driver towards other drivers, never trying to push them out of your way. Even if you are tired of driving behind the slowest driver on the road, you must remember that it is better to be behind a slow driver than impacted with their vehicle. Not only will you be late anyway, but you will risk not making it home or to work at all. Let drivers around you if they are trying to get around, and try not to be demanding on the road.
5. Be aware of your surroundings and reduce distractions as much as possible. If you are on the cell phone, texting your best pal, playing the newest handheld game, watching television, or putting on makeup, you aren’t able to clearly see what is going on around you and can not only end up in an accident, but also risk hitting pedestrians that may be in the roadway.
These tips and many others can be great for helping you stay safe behind the wheel, and can even be good advice for those you may be riding with if you aren’t behind the wheel. You should always strive to drive as safely as possible, while maintaining an appropriate alertness on the roads to know what is coming your way at all times. If you are ever tired behind the wheel, don’t hesitate to pull over and get some rest before continuing your trip further.
As soon as you receive your license, you take on great responsibilities as a driver, and must be able to properly abide by all laws and rules of the road. However, there are a lot of drivers out there today that can pass their driving exams and get their license, but still don’t know the rules of the road that they are traveling, which can be different from one state to another.
So, are you sure what rules pertain to you as a driver in your state, or are you driving without the knowledge that is key to your safety and legal driving? There are several resources from your state that can offer the information that will help you follow the rules precisely, but if you don’t know what they are, how are you supposed to find them.
Every state offers its drivers the handbooks and manuals needed to understand driving in that state and the rules involved. With all states, the information contained in these manuals and the method by which you can retrieve these manuals can be much different, which is why it is always a good idea to contact the local DMV to see where and how you can get your manuals and handbooks for your state.
In many cases these days, these handbooks and manuals are offered online, but can also be obtained by mail or in-person, with every state DMV office stocked full with these manuals in order to have the necessary information to provide for drivers, which comes in handy for studying for your written exams and even understanding driving better once you do receive your license. In most states, a separate CDL driver’s handbook and motorcycle operator’s handbook is offered as well.
Every state has a vehicle code, which is like the bible when it comes to driver’s safety and traffic laws. Every traffic law that pertains to vehicle operation, use, and ownership is contained within these publications, which are also offered by the DMV in your state. These publications can also be found online for most states today, which helps you obtain the information you need most much easier.
Getting the vehicle code is never going to be a requirement, but can yield such great information to help you better navigate the roadways in your state with the knowledge needed of the laws and rules you must follow as you sit behind the wheel.
If you use these resources, you are sure to be aware of what you must do as a driver, how you must take driving in the state and what can happen if you don’t follow the rules detailed. The rules of every state’s drivers are much different, which is something that you should remember as you go to new states driving in their highways and streets. Even if you are new or a visitor to the state and aren’t aware that you are breaking the rules, law enforcement finds it to be your responsibility and penalizes you and your driving record accordingly.
How many times have you driven on the roads, only to be almost sideswiped by another driver, or only to have a driver abruptly stop in front of you without any warning? There are other situations as well that you can encounter in which you are doing your part to stay safe on the road, but another driver inevitably puts you in danger. Can these drivers be arrested for their poor manners or driving habits? In most cases, these drivers are just bad drivers, and in some cases officers will cite their poor choices, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t supposed to do your part to stay as safe as possible.
A million times there are drivers out there that practice poor driving skills, and it isn’t always the poor driver who suffers the consequence. Many, many traffic accidents are actually caused not by the driver involved but by poor choices of surrounding drivers, which can even lead to injury or death – which is never any good.
In these cases, a driver may have made an erratic turn, stopped abruptly, followed too closely, or even slipped into the lane beside another driver without paying much attention. There are even those cases where a poor driver will cut off another driver, make a turn without a signal, or commit some other traffic atrocity that you really weren’t prepared for.
When these things happen, the best you can do is prepare yourself and drive defensively, which means paying attention to the drivers around you so you can remain safe. Not all times are you the driver at fault for accidents you are involved in, which is one reason that defensive driving is taught and so actively promoted. If you drive defensively, you are more prepared for poor choices of other drivers, therefore, more able to respond within the time that you are given to do so.
Not all drivers are good drivers, and paying attention to the drivers around you can really be a life saver. Just think of the passengers that are in your vehicle when you are driving and it is no problem to take extra care to make sure you are aware of the poor judgment of drivers that may encounter your space. If you ever find that a poor or reckless driver is around you on the roadways, don’t try to be pushy, just let them go their own way – even if it means pulling to a shoulder until the driver has passed you by.