Monday, January 25, 2016

Driving on Snow and Ice

With this weekends snow and ice on the eastern seaboard, I though it might be a good idea to review advise on driving while on snow and ice from AAA

Severe weather can be both frightening and dangerous for automobile travel. Motorists should know the safety rules for dealing with winter road emergencies. AAA reminds motorists to be cautious while driving in adverse weather. For more information on winter driving, the association offers the How to Go on Ice and Snow brochure, available through most AAA offices. Contact your local AAA club for more information.
AAA recommends the following winter driving tips:
  • Avoid driving while you’re fatigued. Getting the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather tasks reduces driving risks.
  • Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
  • Never mix radial tires with other tire types.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
  • If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
  • Always look and steer where you want to go.
  • Use your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle.
Tips for long-distance winter trips:
  • Watch weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
  • Always make sure your vehicle is in peak operating condition by having it inspected by a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility.
  • Keep at least half a tank of gasoline in your vehicle at all times.
  • Pack a cellular telephone with your local AAA’s telephone number, plus blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.
  • If you become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
  • Don’t over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
  • Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
  • If possible run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.
Tips for driving in the snow:
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

License Revocations

Image result for license revocation

Great old article by Shea Denning at the NC School of Government on Limited Driving Privileges.  One problem I see is that you cannot just choose to not drive for a year. You must have the interlock in your car for a year before you can get your license reinstated.

She wrote here about several types of driver’s license revocations that can result from a person being charged with and convicted of impaired driving under G.S. 20-138.1 as well as about a driver’s ability to obtain a limited driving privilege to mitigate the effects of the revocation that occurs upon conviction. The earlier post omitted any discussion of additional licensure consequences and limited privilege restrictions that are specific to a defendant convicted of impaired driving based upon a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more, ramifications that I will explore in this post.
As is the case for any person convicted of impaired driving in violation of G.S. 20-138.1, a person so convicted based on an alcohol concentration of 0.15 is subject to a license revocation of at least one year. G.S. 20-17(a)(2); G.S. 20-19(c1). The revocation period is longer if the person has one or more qualifying prior convictions. G.S. 20-19(d), (e1). Such a person may, if he or she is otherwise eligible for a limited driving privilege under G.S. 20-179.3, obtain such a privilege authorizing limited driving during the period of revocation. If, however, evidence that the person had an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more was presented at trial or sentencing, the limited privilege must contain additional restrictions that reflect the person’s status as a “high-risk driver.” G.S. 20-179.3(c1).
Limited Driving Privilege Requirements for High-Risk Drivers
A limited privilege issued to a high-risk driver must:
(1) not become effective until at least 45 days after the final conviction under G.S. 20-138.1;
(2) restrict the driver to operating only a designated motor vehicle;
(3) require that the designated motor vehicle be equipped with functioning ignition interlock system of a type approved by the Commissioner of NC DMV, which is set to prohibit driving with an alcohol concentration greater than 0.00;
(4) require that the driver personally activate the ignition interlock system before driving the motor vehicle; and
(5) restrict the applicant to driving only to and from the applicant’s place of employment, the place the applicant is enrolled in school, any court ordered treatment or substance abuse education, and any ignition interlock service facility.
G.S. 20-179.3(c1);(g5). AOC-CR-341 is the form for such privileges.
For purposes of determining whether the person qualifies as a high-risk driver, G.S. 20-179.3(c1) provides that the results of a chemical analysis presented at trial or sentencing are sufficient to prove a person’s alcohol concentration, are conclusive, and are not subject to modification by any party, with or without approval of the court.
Exception for Employer-Owned Motor Vehicles
The ignition interlock restrictions for a limited driving privilege that are set forth as requirements (2), (3), and (4) above do not apply to a motor vehicle that is owned by the driver’s employer and that the driver operates solely for work-related purposes if the owner of the vehicle files with the court a written document authorizing the driver to drive the motor vehicle for work-related purposes under the authority of the limited driving privilege. G.S. 20-179.3(g4). This exception to ignition interlock requirements is unique to the limited privilege; there is no such exception to ignition interlock requirements that apply after the period of revocation ends and a person’s license is restored. G.S. 20-17.8.
License Restoration
A limited driving privilege issued pursuant to G.S. 20-179.3 is effective only during the period of revocation imposed pursuant to G.S. 20-17(a)(2). At the conclusion of the revocation period, a person may apply to NC DMV to have his or her license restored. See G.S. 20-7(i1) (imposing $100 restoration fee for person revoked under G.S. 20-17(a)(2)); G.S. 20-17.6 (imposing requirements for restoration of license following conviction of driving while impaired); G.S. 20-17.8 (imposing ignition interlock requirements upon restoration). If NC DMV receives an affidavit pursuant to G.S. 20-16.2(c1) stating that the driver had an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more, the person’s license may be restored (after a period of revocation following conviction of impaired driving under G.S. 20-138.1) only with an ignition interlock restriction providing that:
(1) the driver may operate only a vehicle that is equipped with a functioning ignition interlock system of a type approved by the Commissioner of NC DMV;
(2) the driver must personally activate the ignition interlock system before driving the vehicle; and
(3) the driver may not drive with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more. (An alcohol concentration restriction of 0.00 is required if the driver also was convicted, based on the same circumstances, of (i) driving while impaired in a commercial vehicle; (ii) driving while less than 21 after consuming alcohol or drugs; (iii) death by vehicle or serious injury by vehicle; or (iv) manslaughter or negligent homicide resulting from the operation of a vehicle when the offense involved impaired driving.)
G.S. 20-17.8(b). An alcohol concentration restriction of 0.04 combined with an ignition interlock restriction is noted on a person’s license as restriction 20. An alcohol concentration restriction of 0.00 combined with an ignition interlock restriction is noted on a person’s license as restriction 22.
These requirements are in effect for (1) one year from the date of restoration if the original revocation period was one year; (2) three years from the date of restoration if the original revocation period was four years; or (3) seven years from the date of restoration if the original revocation was a permanent revocation. G.S. 20-17.8(c). If the person was eligible for and received a limited driving privilege under G.S. 20-179.3, with the ignition interlock requirement contained in G.S. 20-179.3(g5), the period of time for which the limited driving privilege was held must be applied toward the requirements of G.S. 20-179.3(c). Thus, a high-risk driver subject to a one-year revocation who was issued a limited driving privilege on the forty-sixth day after the revocation is required to maintain ignition interlock for only forty-five additional days post-restoration.
A person subject to the ignition interlock requirement as a condition of license restoration must equip all the vehicles he or she owns with ignition interlock. G.S. 20-17.8(c1). NC DMV may grant an exception to the requirement that all vehicles be so equipped for vehicles that are relied upon by another member of the person’s family for transportation and are not in the possession of the affected driver. Id. So, for example, if a driver owns a motor vehicle that is driven by and in the possession of the driver’s son or daughter who is attending college and lives outside the family home, the college student’s motor vehicle does not have to be equipped with ignition interlock.
Approved Ignition Interlock Providers
As noted earlier, to satisfy the requirements for both limited driving privilege and license restoration purposes, the ignition interlock system installed must be of a type approved by the Commissioner of NC DMV. NC DMV issued in February 2011 new ignition interlock program standards and procedures. A kerfuffle ensued upon their adoption between NC DMV and the longstanding and exclusive provider of ignition interlock services, Monitech, Inc., which was not initially certified under these standards. Two lawsuits filed by Monitech were settled a few months ago pursuant to an agreement that allows Monitech to continue serving as an ignition interlock provider for existing customers and permits Monitech to accept new customers until July 31, 2012, a date by which NC DMV will have completed its review of the company’s new certification application. See Craig Jarvis, Morrisville ignition-lock company Monitech settles with DMV, News and Observer, March 22, 2012. Smart Start Inc. is the only company currently certified under the new standards.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Motorist and Bicycle Laws

Image result for passing bicycles

Great article on the new laws on sharing the road with bicycles.

Thanks to Shea Denning from the School of Government.

Cycling is big on the street where I live. A bike shop recently opened nearby and cyclists frequently head out for Sunday afternoon group rides. Sometimes there’s a theme. A few months ago, the cyclists were all wearing tweed and tartan and many of the bikes were adorned with flowers. I find it both entertaining and uplifting to watch these folks ride.
I’m a bit less sanguine about the cyclists I encounter crossing Jordan Lake on Farrington Road at 5:30 p.m. on a weekday. That’s a busy, narrow road with no bike lane. During that time of day, when everyone is heading home from work, there often is little opportunity to pass a cyclist who isn’t traveling the speed limit.
And I’m downright hostile to cyclists who use the right hand edge of a single lane to pass a queue of motor vehicles stopped a stop light to claim a position in front.
My admittedly schizophrenic reaction to sharing the road with cyclists illustrates some of the difficulties faced by the working group charged with assisting the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) in formulating statutory changes to better ensure the safety of bicyclists and motorists on the state’s roadways. Perhaps, then, it was predictable that NCDOT’s recommendations would be a mixed bag, generating both cheers and jeers from the cycling community.
NCDOT’s report recommends several statutory changes, including the following:
Amendments to the no passing law in G.S. 20-150. NCDOT recommends that G.S. 20-150 be amended to permit motorists to pass cyclists who have not signaled for a left turn so long as the motorist provides a minimum of four feet of clearance between his motor vehicle and the bicycle or completely enters the left lane. The proposed amendment would allow motorists to pass cyclists even if the roadway was marked with a double-yellow line, indicating that the area was one in which it was unlawful to pass other motor vehicles. NCDOT’s report notes that it establishes no passing zones with the size and speed capabilities of motor vehicles in mind rather than in consideration of the smaller size and slower speeds of cyclists. This proposal appears to be relatively non-controversial. It was endorsed by both NCDOT and the working group convened to consider the issues, which included cycling enthusiasts, law enforcement officers, and representatives from the agriculture and trucking industries.
Enactment of a law permitting cyclists to ride no more than two abreast. Existing laws do not clearly authorize cyclists to ride two abreast, but, given that motorcycles are authorized to ride two abreast, this type of riding by cyclists is generally accepted. The practice of some cycling groups of spreading out to ride more than two abreast, however, is controversial in addition to lacking any statutory authorization. NCDOT (but not the working group) recommends that the legislature enact a statute approving the operation of bicycles no more than two abreast in a single marked travel lane, except when overtaking another bicyclist. A reporter explained yesterday on WUNC’s The State of Things that some cyclists think this change will unnecessarily impede cycling groups from expeditiously crossing intersections. If the cyclists can fan out across the lane and cross as a group, then the group can proceed through the intersection more quickly.
Enactment of a law requiring cyclists to ride in the right half of the right most travel lane. G.S. 20-146(b) requires any vehicle proceeding at less than the speed limit to be driven in the right-hand lane available for thru traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the highway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn. The “or” seems to render the second clause inapplicable to cyclists riding in the right lane of a road divided into lanes, regardless of whether they are passing another vehicle or preparing for a left turn. NCDOT (but not the working group) recommends that cyclists riding single file or independently ride on the right half of the right-most travel lane. NCDOT advises that this recommendation could be “folded into education materials as a best practice” or “considered as a statutory amendment.” The agency recommends the following statutory language:
Where a cyclist is riding independently or single abreast, the cyclist shall ride in the right half of the right most travel lane with exceptions described in § 20-146 or except when the cyclist is travelling within 15 miles per hour of the posted speed limit.
Some cycling advocates object to this recommendation. They argue that riding on the right puts them out of view and out of mind of the motorist. It subjects them to a potential “right hook,” the cycling term for what occurs when a motorist turns to the right without regard for the cyclist traveling on her right.
NCDOT traffic engineer Kevin Lacy attempted to explain the rationale for the recommendation in an interview that in yesterday’s The State of Things, saying:
“[W]e drive for what we expect. . . . [I]f you never see a  . . . cyclist on the roadway . . . especially in these rural areas . . . driver expectation . . . is a tremendous benefit. So if I know that the cyclists are supposed to be over here in most cases if they’re going straight then that gives me a little more room as a motorist and . . . I shouldn’t be as surprised if they’re on that half of the road.”
Everyone agrees that more education is needed. The working group and NCDOT agree on several best practices for cyclists and motorists. They also agree that that the legislature should appropriate resources to allow NCDOT to incorporate these practices into education materials, training programs, and outreach to the cycling and motoring public. Granted I’m old (just ask my kids), but I didn’t learn much about cyclists when I went through driver’s education. And it was only in the process of studying up on these proposed legislative changes that I learned what a sharrow was, why my city has rectangular green pavement markings at certain intersections (to remind motorists to be on the lookout for cyclists who may move into the main travel lane) and why some roads may contain bike lanes only on uphill sections of the street.