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.
Driving while distracted is the cause of many serious and often fatal accidents every year. However, this is still a common practice for many drivers which is resulting in more and more cities and states legislating a ban on this activity. There are many types of distractions that can cause danger, such as talking or texting on a cell phone, grooming, watching videos, or adjusting a cd player or radio.
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.
According to a survey done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than 50% of American drivers said driving feels less safe today than it did just give years ago. Why is this? Wouldn’t it seem that driving would be safer, given all of the new features in vehicles today to help the vehicles sustain crashes and the passengers avoid injuries?
Why Driving is Tricker Today
While going to the Department of Motor Vehicles might be challenging, being on the road seems to be more difficult. Drivers are reporting new worries about being on the road. After all, there are more distractions when driving today than there have been in the past.
Drivers have pointed out the following worries:
- Cell phones
- Aggressive drivers
- Increased traffic volumes
How to Stay Safe on the Road
- Know the local traffic laws
- Attend driving classes
- Do not talk on the phone or text while driving
- Maintain a proper speed
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.
Have you ever gotten a traffic ticket? If so, you have also likely received points on your driver’s license that often can stand in the way of lower insurance and better positions when it comes to employment. However, you don’t have to let these points always get in your way. While they may expire after some time, the time is usually between 3 and 7 years, which means that they follow you and torment you until they are gone.
Well, what if you don’t want these points on your license? What if that ticket is showing up and really ruining your options? Is there anything that you can do to ensure these points and tickets disappear? 4Safedrivers.com provides driving records online for a fee.
When it comes to removing tickets, defensive driving classes are the best option. If you don’t know what a defensive driving course is, well the name says it. It is a course that provides you with safety and traffic law information, the proper maneuvers on the roadways, and how to avoid accidents and tickets regardless of the situation. Defensive driving courses may be court mandated if you have accumulated a great deal of points or if the infraction you received warranted the need for these classes.
A key note, however, is that you must remember that not all tickets or points may be removed by taking defensive driving classes, as some infractions are too serious to be removed. DUI and DWI offenses in most states aren’t removed with these courses, and must remain on your driving record for the duration of your license or until they have expired, depending on your state. I also found this Blog very helpful for texas online Defensive driving
One of the main goals of the 4SafeDrivers.com blog is to spread important information about safe driving tactics and ways to make all of us safer drivers. A topic I want to touch upon today is teen drivers, we have all been a teenage driver at some point in our lives, and some of us have teen drivers of our own. We have all been there.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States is still car crashes. Obviously, driver inexperience and driving habits are the main cause, but when you add distractions, than can cause a recipe for disaster.
I will list the 1st 5 distractions in this blog, keep in mind that these distractions apply to all of us, and not just teenage drivers.
Let’s talk about some of these distractions, and please, don’t read this blog if you are driving, joke.
1) Chatting with friends-Young drivers who have young passengers in the car will often be much more distracted and take their eyes off the road when talking with their friends. Many states have passed laws restricting young drivers under a certain age from having young drivers in the vehicle. For more info on these laws, check them out by states on www.4DMV.com.
2) Cell Phones-This was not an issue for most of us 10 years ago, but it is a reality for most of us, including teenage drivers, today. It is hard for most of us to put off business or personal business, whether we are in the car or not. I personally will tell callers that I am on the road and will call them back if it is not something that is of up most importance. Having a bluetooth or headset helps, but conversing is the problem at hand. Save the conversation for when you aren’t behind the wheel.
3) Texting-This in my opinion is the number one danger facing ALL drivers today. When you text, you have to take your eyes off the road, period. Being in an engaging text conversation or an argument makes your focus even more on the conversation at hand than on the road in front of you. The car works best when both hands are on the steering wheel. If you must send a text, pull over and handle it. Most states are passing laws against texting, with stiff fines for those breaking the law.
4) Food-Quite simply, eating food and drinking your soda while you are driving is a distraction. I am shocked to see how often I see people driving down the highway, driving the car with their knees or elbow, while trying to shovel food into their mouth. Munching on a candy bar is one thing, trying to enjoy a 5 course meal at 70mph is another. Put the fork down and wait until you get home. No accident is worth a few calories.
5) Tunes-With CD players, steering wheel presets, radio, and the introduction of iPods, it is much easier to get the music you want to flow through your speakers. On the other hand, it is much more distracting. Try to use some preset playlists and preset buttons on your stereo. That split second that you look away to change a CD could mean an accident.
Obviously, it is impossible to avoid these 5 distractions. At the end of the day, use common sense, and if you have teenagers who drive, tell them about these distractions and find ways to help them avoid doing these things while they are driving.
Think gas is going to stop at $4 a gallon? THINK AGAIN! Is Wall Street speculation breaking your wallet?
On my 4SafeDrivers.com blog that I posted on April 13th, 2011, I broke down into 4 factors what I think is influencing the rising crude oil prices, these factors included but are NOT limited to: government rules and policies, supply and demand, wall street speculation, and other world events such as the economy, natural disasters, and war.
On the 1st installment of this blog, I discussed the 1st two factors, if you haven’t read it yet, check it out at http://www.4safedrivers.com/blog/archives/274, take in what I blogged on the topic, and follow up with this blog.
Of course, crude oil prices are effected by much more than just these 4 factors; in addition, we always make an attempt to stay politically neutral on touchy subjects such as this.
With all that jibber jabber out of the way, let’s get on to the good stuff and discuss wall street speculation and how the stock market both in the United States and abroad effect your fuel prices. I will touch on world events in the 3rd installment of this blog.
Because of the complexity of the stock market and wall street speculation, I will keep the topic and the correlation between wall street and rising crude and gas prices brief and to the point. Traders on wall street trade on the predicted future price, buying and trading shares of oil companies, land, etc. Prices of crude are priced by the barrel, when prices on “oil futures” start to rise above $100 a barrel, this is when you will start to see more of your income being pumped out of your wallet to fill up your vehicle. Traders will push these prices up; obviously, the higher the price, the more money that is to be made.
Crude Oil has a very low price elasticity or sensitivity, meaning that the demand for crude does not change much with the price. Gas is something that almost no one in the developed world can live without.
Speculation of oil futures is very well effected by the 4th topic that I will discuss in the next blog. How do world events such as the economy, natural disaster, and war effect crude and gas prices?