The rules are surrounding how to calculate points from New York traffic tickets are complicated. However, for those with Taxi & Limousine Licenses, a whole different set of rules exist making the calculations even more difficult. With that said, as you will read below, some of the rules of the Taxi & Limousine Commission (“TLC”) are more favorable to the driver than those imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) on a regular license.
I’ve written for years about the dangers of distracting driving and advocating for strong laws to address this problem. However, I recently read about a case that, in my opinion, takes the matter too far. An Alabama man was stopped and ticketed in Marietta, Ga., for driving while eating a McDonald’s double quarter pounder with cheese. The “culprit”, Madison Turner, is fighting the traffic ticket. He denied driving unsafely and said the officer explained that “he observed me eating a burger for two miles.”
Under Georgia law, motorists must “exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle *** and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle.” The law is vague but many believe that it has not previously been applied to eating.
Almost all states consider talking on cellphones or texting distracted driving including New York. New York’s cellphone and texting laws, however, are only applicable to using cellphones or “electronic devices” while driving. They do not apply to any other activity. New York State has a broader law that prohibits reckless driving (VTL 1212) but that law is not applicable per se to munching motorists. New York City has a “dangerous driving” regulation but that law is only violated if a driver operates a “vehicle in a manner that will endanger any person or property”, again not likely applicable to someone safely driving while biting and chewing.
While one could argue that eating and drinking are distracting activities, you could argue that talking or listening to a radio are distracting activities too. So even for this hard core advocate against distracted driving, I think that Mr. Turner deserves a break today. What do you think?
A recent Insurane.com report indicates that homeowners are better drivers than renters. The website found that drivers who own their home file fewer insurance claims than than renter counterparts. Data from over 700,000 drivers was analyzed. The study also concluded that drivers 18 to 24 who lived with their parents filed the most insurance claims (even more so that renters) and that drivers between 65 and 99 filed the least number of claims.
It is surmised that homeowners generally have higher net worths and/or more stability than renters leading to the difference in claims between the two groups. Insurance companies must know that homeowners pose less risk as they charge this group less than renters.
In 2009, a man was illegally stopped near Dobson, N.C. because one of his brake lights was out. The owner consented to a search of the car and the police officer found a bag containing cocaine. The hitch, however, is that, under North Carolina law, it is only illegal to drive a car when both brake lights are inoperable making the initial stop illegal.
The Supreme Court was recently asked to decide whether the police officer’s stop constituted and illegal search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Surprisingly, the high court held (8-1) that the stop was reasonable despite the police officer’s mistake. The Court explained that his mistake was “reasonable”. In other words, a police officer CAN stop a car based on a mistaken understanding of the law as long has his or her mistake is reasonable.
The is a dangerous precedent because it allows police officers to stop and detain motorists even though they have not violated the law. Even worse, it also opens the door for police officers to feign ignorance of the vehicle and traffic law as a ruse to justify a stop.
A motorist who violates the law cannot use his or her ignorance of it as an excuse in traffic court so it seems pretty unfair for a police officer to be able to do so. What do you think?
In a recent decision, Acting Bronx Supreme Court Justice Miriam Best ruled in People v. Serrano that the Traffic Violations Bureau is not a court for purposes of the attachment of double jeopardy. In Serrano, the defendant was found guilty by default of un-licensed operation under VTL 509(1), a violation. He was simultaneously charged with criminal un-licensed operation (i.e., driving when one knows or should know that he or she is suspended) in criminal Court.
Serrano argued that he could not also be charged in criminal court because the Traffic Violations Bureau determination already determined the issue and that the criminal proceeding was therefore duplicative. In ruling against him, Judge Best explained that the Traffic Violations Bureau is not a “court” for purposes of double jeopardy. Judge Best pointed to the different level of proof in a TVB court (clear in convincing evidence versus guilty beyond a reasonable doubt) as well as the fact at the TVB courts are unable to mete out jail sentences. Therefore, the Court ruled that Serrano could still be charged criminally despite the TVB determination.
In fairness to Serrano, the VTL 509 charge should have been made part of his criminal case (i.e., not a separate case at the TVB). In fact, if Serrano had been found guilty of VTL 509 at a non-Traffic Violations Bureau court, then he might have won this motion.
Effective Saturday, November 8, 2014, the penalties and fines for tickets for illegally using a cell phone and texting-while-driving will increase. The new law increases the maximum fines for texting and talking while driving. The maximum fine for a first offense will increase from $150 to $200. For a second offense — committed within 18 months of the previous offense — fines will increase from $200 to $250. A third violation or subsequent violations committed within 18 months will increase from $400 to $450.
For young drivers under 21 with junior licenses, a first conviction for texting or talking while driving will now result in a 120-day license or permit suspension. Young drivers will also face a one-year license or permit revocation for a second violation within six months of their license’s or permit’s restoration.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has been consistently pushing for laws to punish this dangerous behavior raising the penalty for such an offense from 0 to 5 points. Drivers who receive 11 points within an 18-month period can be suspended. Cuomo said, “Driving habits are developed early, and we are sending a message that texting while driving is unsafe, unacceptable and downright dangerous. There have been far too many avoidable tragedies due to texting while driving, and with these new penalties, we are seeking to change the behavior of young drivers now, and make New York’s roadways safer for all.”
The number of texting tickets jumped 83% between 2012 and 2013, to nearly 56,000. As of July, 2014, 19,291 tickets were issued to drivers outside of New York City for texting while driving, compared to 23,808 tickets for all of last year.
Question: When there are no speed signs posted on a New York City street or stretch of roadway, how fast can you drive? If you answered 30 mph, you’d be right until November 7th. On that date, the un-posted speed limit will be lowered to 25 mph. (This new un-posted limit, of course, does not apply to NYC highways which have a default speed of 50 mph).
The lower speed limit is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign to make the streets safer, and is expected to reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities. Meanwhile, motorists can expect routine enforcement of the new limit resulting in numerous speeding tickets. Speeding tickets are nettlesome because they can adversely affect your insurance rates, lead to a Driver Assessment Responsibility Fee and even suspension.
Given the new law, we thought it would be helpful to provide a chart of how points are assessed for speeding violations:
1-10 mph over: 3 points
11-20 mph over: 4 points
21-30 mph over: 6 points
31-40 mph over*: 8 points
41+ mph over*: 11 points
With the new law taking affect shortly, it is a good time to remember to be vigilant in monitoring your speed, the signage and road conditions. Drive safe!!
Author Note: Effective December 16, 2014, this program has been repeated in Nassau County. Any speed camera tickets issued before this date still must be paid.
Nassau County recently launched its speed cameras program. In total, 56 speed cameras will be installed by October, one in each of Nassau’s school districts. Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano predicts that the cameras will generate an estimated $25+ million each year.
By law, the cameras can only operate during public school hours between 6:00 am and 7:00 pm. Each violation of 10 mph or more over the posted speed limit will carry a $50 fine, and there will be a $25 penalty for failure to pay (meaning a grace is given to speeders between 1 and 9 mph over the limit).
Below is a list of 33 of the 56 speed camera locations in Nassau County:
- St. Christopher School 15 Pershing Blvd., Baldwin
- Merrick Avenue Middle School 1870 Merrick Ave., Merrick
- Charles Campagne School 651Plainview Rd., Bethpage
- East Meadow High School 101 Carman Ave., East Meadow
- Dutch Broadway School 1880 Dutch Broadway, Elmont
- John Street Elementary School 560 Nassau Blvd., Franklin Square
- Woodmere Middle School 1170 Peninsula Blvd., Hewlett
- Our Lady of Mercy School 520 South Oyster Bay Rd., Hicksville
- Island Trees Middle School 45 Wantagh Ave. S., Levittown
- Cantiague Elementary School 678 Cantiague Rock Rd., Jericho
- Gen. Douglas Macarthur High School 3369 Old Jerusalem Rd., Levittown
- Lido Elementary School 237 Lido Blvd., Lido Beach
- Shelter Rock Elementary School 27 Shelter Rock Rd., North Hills
- Unqua Elementary School 350 Unqua Rd., East Massapequa
- Chatterton School 108 Merrick Ave., Merrick
- New Hyde Park Road School 300 New Hyde Park Rd., New Hyde Park
- Camp Avenue School 1712 Merrick Ave., North Merrick
- Schwarting Elementary School 1 Flower Rd., North Massapequa
- Parkway School 300 Manetto Hill Rd., Plainview
- Centrennial Avenue School 140 West Centennial Ace., Roosevelt
- Harbor Hill School 3 Glen Cove Rd., Greenvale
- Seaford High School 1575 Seamans Neck Rd., Seaford
- Baylis Elementary School 580 Woodbury Rd., Plainview
- West Hempstead High School 400 Nassau Blvd., West Hempstead
- St. Brigid/Our Lady of Hope School 101 Maple Ave., Westbury
- Garden City High School 170 Rockaway Ave., Garden City
- William A. Shine Great Neck South High School 341 Lakeville Rd., Great Neck
- Lynbrook Noth Middle School 529 Merrick Rd., Lynbrook
- Malverne Sr. High School 75 Ocean Ave., Malverne
- Newbridge Road School 1601 Newbridge., Bellmore
- St. Peter of Alcantara School 1327 Port Washington Blvd., Port Washington
- Turtle Hook Middle School 975 Jerusalem Ave., Uniondale
- North Shore Middle School 505 Glen Cove Ave., Glenwood Landing
While no one likes receiving a red light camera ticket, there is one good thing about them. In New York, they carry one of the lowest fines in the county … $50.00. Compare this figure to other states in the chart below.
The other goods news is that they carry 0 points and do not affect your insurance rates.
With that said, disobeying a red light is a very dangerous violation. Motorists depend on other drivers to obey lights so that they can enter intersections without fear of being T-boned. So whenever you approaching a changing light, err on the side of caution for everyone’s sake.
We recently had a Florida resident that completed the New York defensive driving course. He had a point problem in New York and, therefore, wanted to ensure that he received the appropriate credit for the class (i.e., that he received 4 points off his NY record).
Our law office contacted the course provider who advised it will notify DMV only if the person has a New York Motorist ID number. The trick is that, for an out-of-state motorist to have a New York Motorist ID number, he or she must first be convicted of, at least, one moving violation. Upon conviction to a first offense, NY’s DMV then assigns the number. Once a number is assigned/obtained, then you need to contact the course provider and provide that number. The provider, in turn, can then make sure NY DMV afford the appropriate credit to the out-of-state driver.
If you have a difficult DMV question, feel free to contact us or post it on this blog. Since 1991, we have handled thousands of vehicle and traffic law cases and have encountered all types of unique situations.