Monday, January 26, 2015

Driving While Distracted.

I have opined on several instances that I do not think we need to have a separate law for each type of distracted driving.  We jut need one law that states we should pay attention while we are driving.  I may have to change my opinion a little after reading this article.

Man Cited in Georgia for Eating Cheeseburger While Driving

A man says he was cited by police outside Atlanta for eating a cheeseburger while driving.
Madison Turner, who's from Alabama, tells Atlanta station WSB-TV ( he ordered a double quarter-pounder with cheese from a McDonald's in the Marietta area shortly before he was pulled over last week.
Turner says the officer told him he saw him eating the cheeseburger for two miles, telling the man "You can't just go down the road eating a hamburger."
The ticket, issued under Georgia's distracted driving law, states in the comments section that the offense is "eating while driving."
Turner is to appear in court Feb. 3.
Cobb County police spokesman Mike Bowman declined comment. In an email to The Associated Press early Tuesday, Bowman said the department will decline any interviews about the case.

It may be clear now that our law enforcement officers may need a little more clarity in what is distracted driving and what is not.  

I love the line, "You just cant go down the road eating a hamburger"  especially since it was a cheeseburger.  What about a sandwich or a hotdog?  

Monday, January 19, 2015

Driving While License Revoked. The Snowball Affect

Most of the cases I see for Driving While License Revoked are a result of the driver simply not taking care of an old ticket.  In a good number of cases, it is not that the driver does not want to take care of the ticket, they simply cannot afford to do so.  There is talk the the NC Legislature will be looking into this issue in the new session.  Below is a very informative article by Shea Denning at the NC School of Government addressing the issue.

The 2015 North Carolina General Assembly convened earlier today, with new members sliding into place just as the first ice storm of the winter left the area. And while most folks’ attention will (as usual) be focused on the state budget, I’ll be watching over the next few months for legislation related to motor vehicle crimes. I’m particularly curious to see whether the General Assembly shows any interest in interrupting the cycle of driver’s license revocation, an issue that lately has attracted national attention.
A spiral of bad consequences. NPR recently reported on how states’ practices of revoking driver’s licenses when a driver fails to pay a fine levied for a traffic offense “mostly affect[] the poor and creat[e] a spiral of bad consequences.”
While that conclusion may be unremarkable to those who regularly appear in our state’s district courts and to those who’ve had their licenses revoked for this reason, the NPR story is notable for its national perspective. It recounts, for example, the efforts of a retired municipal court judge in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to remedy the problem. Judge Jim Gramling helped establish the Center for Driver’s License Recovery and Employability in his state. Volunteer lawyers at the center work to help clients become re-licensed. This sounds a lot like the Driver’s License Restoration Project, the brain-child of Orange County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman and a joint venture of the law schools at UNC and NCCU, which trained law students and recruited volunteer attorneys to assist clients in ending license revocations.
But Judge Gramling doesn’t plan to simply work within the existing system. He wants to change it. Thus, he told NPR that he plans to lobby the Wisconsin legislature to repeal the law imposing a two-year period of license revocation for failure to pay a traffic ticket.
A burden on limited resources. The NPR story also cited the conclusions of a 2013 report from a working group of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.  After reviewing an analysis of data collected from drivers license agencies in eight geographically and demographically diverse states, the group recommended that driver’s license revocation be eliminated as a penalty for violations that do not relate to highway safety, such as the failure to pay child support and the theft of motor fuel. The report noted nearly 40 percent of revocations result from actions unrelated to highway safety, and that drivers suspended for traffic safety related reasons are three times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers suspended for what it termed “social non-conformance reasons.” The authors recommended that limited resources be focused on dangerous drivers, and stated that the elimination of suspensions unrelated to highway safety would “significantly reduce the burden on departments of motor vehicles (DMV’s), law enforcement, the courts and society.”
Are FTC revocations related to highway safety? Significantly, the failure to pay a fine for a motor vehicle offense was categorized among the data the AAMV studied as a violation that was related to highway safety. Thus, without further analysis of the relative risks of such drivers, the report cannot be cited as fully supportive of the elimination of revocations for failure to pay motor vehicle fines. Nevertheless, one can easily conceive of an argument that drivers revoked for failure to pay a fine are revoked for reasons that relate more to social non-conformance, and perhaps poverty, than highway safety.
The ugly truth.  People whose licenses are revoked drive anyway.  The AAMV report estimated that three-fourths of revoked drivers continue to drive, and cited that statistic as indication that “driver license suspension is no longer the solution to force compliance.”
The revocation loop.  North Carolina’s revocation for failure to pay a motor vehicle fine, unlike Wisconsin’s, lasts only until the person pays the fine. But a seemingly endless revocation loop can begin for a defendant who drives during that period of revocation.  A person convicted of driving while license revoked during a period of revocation has his or her license revoked for an additional year for the first offense, two years for the second offense, and permanently for the third or subsequent offense.  G.S. 20-20.1 created a limited driving privilege designed to extract a driver from the revocation loop, but—perhaps because of the lengthy compliance period required— the provision hasn’t provided large-scale relief.
Will this year be different? Legislation proposed in past years to repeal the additional period of revocation for these types of driving while license revoked offenses has stalled in committee.  See S 585 (2013 Session); H 615 (2013 Session). Stay tuned to see if similar proposals arise and gain any more traction this session.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Distracted Driving, Driving with Pets

I must confess, I am a Big Dog guy.  My family is on our second yellow lab.  I do not like little dogs and hate it when people: Put their little dogs in strollers; carry them into restaurants and try to convince the owner they are service dogs; and mostly, when they drive with them on their laps.

Below is a great article on how driving with pets is not only distracting, but also very dangerous.  It applies to both big and little dogs.

7 Surprising Dangers of Driving with Pets

What do your dog, your cell phone, and a hamburger have in common?
Answer: They are all potentially lethal distractions when driving.
You’re a busy mom. Ferrying kids about. Dashing off to work. Not to mention finding the time to shop and walk the dog. Mind you, it helps that the dog is a good boy. He hops in the passenger seat like an angel and sits looking out the window. Your furry copilot. Do you buckle him up? No. It's only a short trip.
And you're not alone. According to a survey by, out of a hundred people questioned, over 80% do not buckle up and use a doggy seat belt (or other method of restraint) while traveling with their canine companions.
"So what?" you ask. Unrestrained pets are a significant cause of accidents, and they are likely to suffer serious harm themselves and cause injury to other passengers. 

Not convinced why you should buckle your pet? Here are some reasons why it may be in your best interest to invest in proper restraints:

#1: Canine Cruise Missile
Do you know that an adult Cocker Spaniel in a 35 mph crash is propelled forward with the force of one-and-a-half charging horses? That's going to hurt both him and you when he hits you on the back of the head. Not only that, he could also impact the windshield and sustain serious injuries. A small Labrador in that same collision travels forward with a force equivalent to an Angus bull – dangerous for him and for you.
#2: Driving Distraction
The statistics are frightening. Annual reports from the AAA consistently show "driver distraction" is responsible for around 6,000 fatalities each year. These are potentially preventable vehicle collisions caused by the driver being distracted for as little as two seconds. That's right – those two seconds of wandering attention actually double your chances of being in a crash. The AAA also reports that 31% of drivers admit to being distracted by a pet in the car. Indeed, 24% admitted using a hand to physically restrain their dog while they braked.
Of course, a distraction doesn't have to be major to be dangerous. It could be a cute look, the dog throwing up, or your furry friend climbing onto your lap for a cuddle. The point is that when traveling you need to know your pet is safely restrained in the back, so you can concentrate 100% on the road.
#3: Airbag Danger
Unfortunately, if you think your pet is safe because you hold him securely on your lap – think again. In the event of a collision, your pet is in a precarious position. If the vehicle's airbag deploys, the force of the inflation can kill the dog. Much like the manufacturer's advice that children should not travel in the front because airbag deployment would harm them, the same goes for pets.
#4: Runaway Dog
You crash. The dog is unharmed, but still there are problems. Why?
One scenario is that your faithful friend sees his owner is hurt and tries to protect him. This can mean guarding you and becoming aggressive when strangers approach, which is not so great when they are paramedics who are trying to rescue you.
Another unfortunate outcome is that the dog runs off in a panic, only to cross into the opposite lane and be fatally struck by an oncoming vehicle. I've treated dogs for this myself, including a Labrador who had a leg amputated as a result of injuries sustained in the secondary incident. It's safest for everyone if the dog is restrained.
#5: Legal Issues
The law varies from state to state. Hawaii was the first state to outlaw dogs sitting on laps in the front, and breaking this law invokes a fine. In many states, the police have discretionary power to fine the driver of a car containing an unrestrained pet (especially in the front) under careless driving legislation. However, the law is not necessarily a guide to best practice. Even if your state does not have such a law yet, it's still in your best interest to keep your dog out of your lap while driving.
#6: Lapdog Liability
You're in a fender bender and the dog escapes with a broken leg but is otherwise OK. You're not too worried because your auto insurance collision coverage will pay for his veterinary treatment – right? Wrong!
The majority of car insurance policies do not cover the costs of treatment should your pet be injured in a crash. A minority of companies may offer a low level of protection, but this is unlikely to meet the full bill if your pet is seriously injured. In short, if you travel with a pet, you should consider taking out a separate pet insurance policy for those unforeseen incidents.
#7: Proper Pet Protocol
Enough of the unpleasant truths. What can you do to ensure you don't become part of a canine tragedy? 
  • Dog Seat Belt: Fit your dog with a seat belt harness. These are comfortable to wear and won't distress your pet, but could save his life. Look for crash-test approved equipment that has been proved safe in high-speed collision situations.
  • Backseat is Best: Always have your dog ride in the back. That way those large brown eyes are less likely to make you look away from the road, and he's safe from airbag deployment.
  • Collar and Tag: Make sure your dog is easily identifiable when on a journey, just in case something happens and he runs off.
  • Chow Down: If going on a long journey, feed your pet three or four hours beforehand to decrease the likelihood of him getting nauseated and causing a distraction.
Your pet is well-behaved and you are rightfully proud of him. The trouble is, that isn't enough to keep you safe on the road. We all want the best for our pets and to keep them safe and well. So when traveling by car, there's no escaping the logic that this means buckling your pet up in the back on every trip.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Wake County Traffic Tickets

The most resent outgoing DA in Wake County as his final act wrote a letter to the News and Observer about the lack of resources in the DAs office to prosecute DWI cases.  His letter is below:

In one of my last acts as the district attorney of Wake County, I write to commend you for your Dec. 31 editorial “ DWI crackdown” bringing attention to federal grant money given to the Raleigh Police Department for DWI enforcement.
The editorial correctly states that there were over 1,000 more RPD impaired-driving arrests in an 11-month period of 2014 than there were the year before. While the dramatic increase in DWI arrests is alarming from a societal standpoint, these additional enforcement resources are certainly welcomed to address such a serious threat to public safety.
However, the editorial missed an opportunity to make readers aware of other important facts. The Cary Police Department, the Garner Police Department and the Wake County Sheriff’s Office also receive federal grant money for DWI enforcement.
It is a conservative estimate that Wake County will have 2,500 more DWI arrests in 2014 than 2013. If so, for the first time Wake County will go well past 7,000 total DWI arrests in a year.
DWIs are among the most complex, time-consuming cases in the court system. One DWI trial can easily take one to two hours to try before a judge in District Court and two days before a jury in Superior Court. It is not uncommon for there to be 25 to 50 DWIs set in a three-hour term of court.
Your editorial mentioned that impaired drivers should suffer certain consequences. This does not happen unless the impaired driver is convicted.
The problem that arises with these grants is that the court system doesn’t receive any additional prosecutors, judges, clerks or magistrates to make sure these cases are handled in the just manner the public rightfully expects. The leaders in the Wake County court system have been responsive by opening a second DWI courtroom to deal with these issues.
Unfortunately, reorganizing already stretched resources is not enough. Federal, state and county officials need to supply the Wake County courts with more prosecutors, judges and clerks to deal with this significant increase in DWI cases. Without that help, I predict that a year from now, you will write an editorial wondering why DWI cases in Wake County are getting older and conviction rates are dropping.
It has been a great honor and privilege to serve as the Wake County district attorney, and I look forward to working on solutions to these problems as a judge.
Ned Mangum

I believe before we start giving the DAs office more financial resources, we need to hold them accountable for what we are giving them now.  There is a group of ADAs who believe they run their own kingdom in their courtrooms and can do anything they want regardless of the impact on the system.  A perfect example of this is my experience in courtroom 204 yesterday.  My client was involved in an accident and was charged with an unsafe movement.  These cases are typically dismissed with a letter from the insurance carrier stating that they have paid for the property damages to the other vehicle.  I came to court with such a letter.  However, the ADA would not accept the letter because hit was printed on the back of a piece of scratch paper.  I typically do this to save paper.  As a result, the case was continued to another date in February.  

So what is the result of this continuance for something as petty as the type of paper the letter was printed on?  According to a retired judge in Wake County, the court system is impacted financially in the amount of $50 each time a case is continued.  In addition, the docket on the next court date will be at least one case larger as a result of failing to dispose of this case when it could have been done so.  Maybe this is why the DAs office cannot handle all of the DWIs.  They are wasting their time and resources worrying about things such as the color of paper.

Read more here: