New York leads the way in restricting and punishing drivers who illegally use cell phones. Indeed, it is a 5-point ticket in New York which is the same number of point assigned to the criminal charge of reckless driving. But do such laws work?
A NY Times article entitled “Cellphone Bans May Not Prevent Accidents” explores a recent study done by an economics graduate student from Texas A&M that concludes that such laws have little effect on accident rates. The study concedes that many drivers change their cellphone use when laws prohibiting using them while driving are enacted. However, it further states that this change in behavior does not necessarily translate into a reduction in accident rates. The study attempts to explain this ostensible anomaly by suggesting that some drivers who refuse to obey cell phone laws may be even more distracted because they use their phone while also trying to conceal its use. Alternatively, it suggests that some drivers illegally using cellphones may drive slower, thereby reducing the chance of an accident.
In my opinion, the study’s conclusion is flawed. Reducing the dangerous activity of distracted driving necessarily must reduce accidents. By definition, drivers who are not using a cell phone are safer than not, and (as the study admits) many people will follow the law. Perhaps, the study relied on faulty data regarding the extent of the problem. Or perhaps the study failed to analyze the precise causes of the included accidents. In any event, I am entirely skeptical of this study and, for the safety of us all, strongly believe that cell phone laws are necessary and beneficial.
More information about the driving history of motorists will soon be available to prosecutors. In particular, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this week that, in addition to convictions, prosecutors will now be able to see the original charges that were brought over the past 10 years as long as they entailed (1) point-bearing violations, (2) a drug- or alcohol-related offense, or (3) if the charges included aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
Prosecutors currently only have access to the conviction history (and therefore can only guess whether this conviction started out as a serious charge). Cuomo is taking this measure so that prosecutors have a basis to be less lenient when it comes to plea bargaining. This new information supposedly could provide data one whether a motorist is engaging in dangerous driving patterns.
“By giving prosecutors a more complete story of a person’s driving history, they can make informed decisions and help ensure that potentially dangerous drivers no longer fall through the cracks,” Cuomo said in a statement. According to the governor’s office, 129,628 charges for speeding violations were pleaded down to “parking on pavement” infractions in 2010.
The effect of this change is that it will now become harder to get any plea bargain for some clients and inferior plea offers will be made to yet others. We predict that prosecutors will revise their guidelines based, in part, on this new, additional information. For instance, we predict that, in some courts, a motorist with a prior speed reduced to a parking ticket within a given time period will not be offered a second similar offer.
Arguably, this change is unfair to motorists who’ve pled guilty to avoid the risk, expense and time involved with fighting a traffic ticket. Those who take a deal out of convenience (but have a valid defense) could be penalized in the future based on their newly-expanded record. In such instances, they could reasonably contend that they’re being penalized based on an unproven charge and despite their constitutional presumption of innocence.
What do you think?
I just watched a terrific TEDx talk given by Rory Sutherland. Sutherland convincingly contends that reality alone is not a good guide to human happiness, and that the importance of perception is often ignored by designers, planners, branders and other economists.
Case in point: He argues that red traffic lights leads to frustration and road rage because motorists do not know how long they have to wait. He points to a “countdown” red light deployed in South Korea that cut down the accident rates. The light has an outer circle that allows the motorist to know how much longer he or she has to wait. This, in turn, cuts down on angst and frustration (while, of course, not changing the amount of time that the motorist must wait). He pointed out that the reverse – a green light that has a countdown feature – encouraged speeding and bad driving, however.
Sutherland presented another traffic example to bolster his position. In Great Britain, they have an express toll lane for those willing to pay double to get through the toll quicker. The premise of the express lane is that people place different values on time and money. Although economically efficient, people generally hated it. Sutherland suggests that the objection to the two classes of tolls is eliminated if the extra money collected at the double toll was all given to charity. People’s mental willingness to pay completely changes with this one pivot. Now the economically efficient solution actually meets with public opinion.
Sutherland’s premises — that things are not what they are but rather what we think they are — provides a good lesson for traffic control planners as well as other life situations.
A non-New York license holder can take the New York Driver Safety Class to reduce points from their New York driving record.
New York’s Driver Safety Class is a 6-hour class that removes up to 4 points from a NY driver’s license and can save 10% off of his or her insurance rates. For an out-of-state motorist, New York affords a privilege to drive with that “foreign” license. That privilege can be lost for the same reasons that a New Yorker’s license might be suspended or revoked. New York, therefore, allows out-of-staters to take the same class to reduce their New York point total. Read More
The on-going freezing weather followed by thaws erodes the dirt beneath roadways weakening the asphalt above. Add vehicular traffic, and you now know how potholes form. Potholes account for 1/2 million insurance claims a year including such items as punctured and worn tires, damage to axles and shocks, bent wheel rims, and steering mis-alignment.
A British driver lost his license for one year and fined $1,000 for using his knees to steer his Volkswagen Golf. Richard Newton was caught driving 60 mph without using his hands. Newton even was seen passing other vehicles during this stretch. Newton was found guilty of dangerous driving despite his claim that he drives with his knees due to back pain.
The Suffolk County Traffic Violations & Parking Agency, opened as of April 2013, has been great for motorists. Motorists who plead not guilty to any Suffolk County speeding ticket or other moving violation can now negotiate plea bargains, a much better system rather than the “all or nothing” predecessor court.
On February 13, 2o13, I wrote a post discussing why wearing Google Glass and driving should be illegal. Citing a study showing that almost 20% of all car accidents involve distracted driving, I concluded that watching a tiny screen in your eyewear while driving a car would is extremely dangerous.
Well now a California woman is dealing with this exact issue. Cecilia Abadie was pulled over for speeding by a California Highway Patrol Officer and, when he saw that she was wearing a pair of Google Glasses, she was issued a second ticket for distracted driving. The ticket states “Driving with Monitor visible to Driver (Google Glass).”
In 2011, the Department of Transportation reported that there were 1.7 million rear-end accidents in the U.S. New technology is now here that will automatically stop or slow down a car that is bearing down on another vehicle or object. Read More