Archive for April, 2013

California Falling Short in Preventing DUI Accidents

Every state is permitted to make its own laws on drunk driving. However, the federal government has certain requirements for states to make sure they are doing enough to keep the roads safe from intoxicated drivers. If a state fails to meet the minimum federal requirements, it can find itself having some of its federal highway funds diverted. The money from the federal government, which is normally appropriated for road construction and maintenance, can be diverted to be used only for drunk driving programs and enforcement if the state falls short with its DUI laws. 

Our Irvine, CA car accident attorneys know that California is currently not in compliance with the federal requirements. As USA Today reports, California stands to have $70.5 million diverted into DUI programs. Of course, having extra money to prevent drunk driving is not necessarily a bad thing. However, USA Today reports that many states are upset by the federal government’s changes to the DUI requirements and by the funding restrictions being imposed as a result of tougher federal standards.

Federal Requirements for DUI Laws

In prior years, a law called the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) set the rules for what laws the states had to have in place in order to be in compliance with federal requirements and to receive their highway funds unrestricted. TEA-21 requirements mandated that states have:

  • A law setting .08 as the legal limit.
  • An open container law forbidding any open containers of alcohol to be in the passenger compartment of a car being driven, even if the container belonged to a passenger or was in an unlocked glove compartment.
  • Laws imposing more stringent penalties on repeat violators of drunk driving laws. The penalties must include a license suspension of at least a year as well as immobilization or impounding of the vehicle of the drunk driver. States also needed to assess the need for treatment, require treatment if necessary, and impose minimum periods of either community service and/or imprisonment depending on whether the offense was a second, third or subsequent offense.

If states complied with these and other TEA-21 mandates, they could receive their federal highway funds to use for road construction and maintenance. If they didn’t, then there were restrictions and a portion of the federal money was limited to being used for DUI programs and efforts. In June 2012, however, the federal government updated TEA-21, passing the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century law. This is now known as MAP-21 and it imposed some additional requirements and standards on states for complying with federal DUI mandates.

California, and many other states, are not living up to the new requirements or the stricter enforcement requirements under the MAP-21 rules. Many states had laws that were acceptable before but which are no longer considered adequate under the new requirements.

Because California doesn’t have sufficient DUI laws, we will now have over $70 million diverted that could have been used to fix failing infrastructure. California should strongly consider making necessary changes to impose stricter DUI laws both to reclaim its highway money for construction and to help to keep residents of the state safer from drunk drivers.

If you’ve been injured, or you lost a loved one, contact the Law Offices of Daniel C. Carlton at (949) 757-0707, or visit 19700 Fairchild, Suite 280, Irvine, CA 92612.

Apr 2013

Distracted Driver Crackdown Coming to California

Our Orange County, CA car accident attorneys know that distracted driving is incredibly dangerous and that distracted drivers are responsible for around a million car crashes each year in the United States. Thousands of lives could be saved if drivers simply paid attention to the road. 

Unfortunately, despite the known dangers, many people choose to engage in the behavior anyway. Now, however, NBC Southern California has announced that law enforcement plans to increase enforcement efforts.

Distracted Driving Crackdown Planned

According to NBC Southern California, hundreds of police agencies throughout the state will be launching an effort to enforce state restrictions on cell phone use and texting. The police are launching their enforcement initiative on the five-year anniversary of the state’s distracted driving laws.

Law enforcement will be working to stop distracted driving by ticketing drivers who are using their mobile phones while operating their vehicles. Police will be out in full force in a “blitz of California freeways” and those who are caught breaking California’s laws face fines. The campaign to issue more tickets also coincides with Distracted Driver Awareness Month.

California Laws on Distracted Driving

California currently has several laws in place that police will be enforcing as part of efforts to stop distracted drivers. The law mandates that drivers 18 and older can use their cell phone only if they have a hands-free device. Drivers ages 18 and under aren’t allowed to use any kind of wireless devices or handheld devices while they drive.

In 2012, police issued more than 40,000 tickets to drivers who were breaking these distracted driving laws. This is a 31 percent increase in the number of tickets as compared with 2009. During 2012, more than 21,000 of the tickets issued were for texting. With the stepped-up enforcement efforts, it is likely that many more drivers will be ticketed this year.

As police work on the roads to stop distracted driving, lawmakers are also working in the legislature to impose even harsher penalties on drivers who engage in the risky behavior of distracted driving. There are currently two bills making their way through the state legislature, which would raise the fines that a distracted driver must pay and which would suspend the driver’s license of repeat offenders.

A new product may also be coming to the market, referred to as the Dock-N-Lock system, which will make it impossible to start the car unless a mobile phone has been docked into the vehicle’s dashboard.

Staying Safe from Distracted Drivers

While the crackdown and tougher laws may help stop distracted drivers, there is currently a serious crisis that is going to be difficult to resolve. More than 3,300 people die annually as a direct result of distracted driving crashes, and those who drive while on a cell phone are 23 times as likely to get into a crash.

This needs to change, through both law enforcement and through a shift in the way that people view distracted driving. Until every driver makes a commitment not to drive while on a phone or texting, drivers continue to put themselves and other motorists at risk.

If you’ve been injured, or you lost a loved one, contact the Law Offices of Daniel C. Carlton at (949) 757-0707, or visit 19700 Fairchild, Suite 280, Irvine, CA 92612.