Law Office of Lynne A. Papazian
Vehicle and Traffic Violations, Family Law, and more in Albany, Rensselear, Schenectady and surrounding counties

Albany Legal Issues Blog

Some New York school buses may get cameras

A city councilman in New York has put forth a proposal that school buses be equipped with cameras to catch drivers who do not stop for the buses. The drivers could then be ticketed and fined in the same way as those who are photographed speeding in school zones.

The cameras would capture what happens when a school bus is stopped. The stop arm devices let drivers know that children are leaving or getting on the bus. While the arm is extended, drivers are supposed to stop so that children can move safely between the bus and the sidewalk. However, reports suggest that roughly 50,000 drivers a year in the state do not stop. Fines for failing to stop can climb as high as $250.

Types of speed limits and ticket defenses

Generally speaking, there are three different kinds of speed limits around the country. They can be broken down into basic, presumed, and absolute speed limits. The premise of a ticket based on a violation of a basic speed limit is that a New York driver was traveling at an unsafe speed for the conditions. Often, law enforcement will argue that the posted speed limit on the road is higher than the real limit for safe driving based on weather or road conditions. Rain, snow, or wind could make it more dangerous to drive and reduce the limit in the officer's opinion from 60 mph to 50 mph.

A ticket based on a presumed speed limit can work in the opposite direction. A person who gets a ticket for driving 40 mph in a 30 mph zone might argue that he or she was driving safely given the travel conditions. It may be possible to argue that other traffic was traveling 40 mph, for example, and that it would be more dangerous to drive under the posted limit.

Traffic tickets hit poor drivers the hardest

All drivers in New York and around the country hate getting traffic tickets. However, the financial impact of traffic citations hits low-income drivers the hardest, according to research.

For the study, an economic researcher at Princeton University analyzed the financial burden that traffic tickets placed on Florida drivers. He did this by examining the affected drivers' individual credit report data and payroll information. He found that 4.5 million Florida drivers were issued traffic tickets between 2011 and 2015. He also found that more tickets were issued in low-income areas than in higher-income areas and that the impact of those tickets was greater to drivers living in low-income communities.

Speed camera program in NYC could double in size

The governor of New York is planning to increase the number of cameras by New York City schools in order to catch more drivers speeding. In a statement to the press, the governor stated that there was 'indisputable proof" of the effectiveness of speed cameras, so it was the responsibility of state officials to increase the size of the program. As of 2018, the city used 140 cameras to catch drivers speeding near school zones.

If the governor's plan goes through, the number of school zones that have speed cameras would increase to 290. During the summer of 2018, the program's growth lapsed due to politics in the state legislature, but the new bill would allow more cameras, stop signs and red lights to be installed unabated. Many state politicians believe that the lives of children have been put in danger by not implementing cameras at every school zone.

Woman accused of speeding, driving with suspended license

One New York woman accused of speeding in a school zone is also accused of driving with a suspended license at the time. Yorktown police said that the 29-year-old woman was pulled over on Dec. 20, 2018, and accused of driving over 15 mph, the posted speed limit in the school zone. The Peekskill woman was identified via a state learner's permit that she had in her possession. However, when looking further into her identity, police say that they learned that her driver's license was suspended. Reportedly, her license was suspended twice, once for failing to pay a driver's responsibility assessment and once for driving while impaired.

The woman was arrested and taken to the local police department. She is now facing a number of charges, including speeding in a school zone and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, both of which are traffic violations. She is also accused of aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle in the third degree, a misdemeanor charge. After her arrest, she was released later that day on her own recognizance. She was ordered to reappear in the Justice Court in Yorktown on Jan. 22, 2019.

Targeting motorcyclists for traffic stops

The presence of motorcycle-only checkpoints throughout the country are generally thought to date back to a 2006 incident in New York when an officer was killed pursuing a motorcyclist. The next year, police set up roadblocks targeted at motorcyclists, and many were ticketed. Other states then followed suit. However, on Dec. 11, the U.S. Senate passed a nonbinding resolution opposing the practice.

Restricting profiling based on vehicle type is done on a state-by-state basis, and Washington, Virginia and Maryland have passed laws doing so. The precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court is that if the police officer can justify the traffic stop after the fact, it does not matter what the motivation was.

Speeding ticket fines

Many drivers in New York will be issued a citation for speeding at some point during their lives. A motorist who is cited for speeding will usually be ordered to pay a fine. The fine amount could vary based on the offender's driving history, how fast they were going and if there were any aggravating factors such as speeding through a construction zone.

Many courts have a tiered schedule of fines based on how fast the driver was going. Some courts assess a base fine for speeding and additional penalties based on how many miles per hour over the speed limit the driver was going. Drivers who were clocked at very high speeds may face additional charges for reckless driving.

The importance of staying calm during traffic stops

Motorcyclists can be pulled over for a variety of reasons such as speeding or wearing an illegal helmet. When a police officer is pulling up behind a rider with lights and sirens blaring, it is important to know how to respond. Ideally, a motorcyclist will pull over as far as possible and turn off his or her motorcycle. This is true whether the traffic stop occurs in New York or in any other state.

While an individual may feel compelled to take off his or her helmet, that may not be a smart idea. This is because a helmet could be used as a weapon. Instead, it may best to simply flip the visor to let the officer see the rider's eyes. It is also a good idea for someone stopped by the police to keep his or her hands visible at all times.

Police targeting reckless garbage truck drivers

While certain cities in the State of New York have a reputation as being not-so-friendly for pedestrians, not all drivers are reckless when it comes to adhering to traffic laws. At the same time, safely getting around on foot in places like New York City is sometimes challenging, especially when some garbage truck drivers may not be paying attention to traffic laws as much as they should be. This is why the NYPD is cracking down on garage truck drivers by stepping up efforts to spot violations and issue tickets when necessary.

Officials say traffic violations involving garage trucks are a fairly regular occurrence. Common issues include speeding, reversing down one-way streets, and running red lights. Specifically, the focus of the crackdown is on the private carting industry, which primarily consists of vehicles that pick up commercial garbage, construction debris, and similar materials. There are approximately 7,000 such vehicles on the road in New York City.

Traffic enforcement differs throughout New York state

Drivers who get traffic tickets in New York may face large fines as well as an increase to their insurance rates. While drivers can take steps to comply with traffic laws, where they drive may also play a role in whether they are ticketed. For example, Erie County gave out 50,000 speeding tickets in 2017 while Broome County wrote 12,256 in the same year.

Broome County is also among the counties that gives out the lowest amount of tickets per miles driven. Overall, it issued .92 tickets per 1,000 miles driven, and there was a total of 13 million miles driven in that county. The rate of tickets issued was seventh-lowest in the state. To reduce the risk of getting a traffic ticket, it is important for drivers to obey the speed limit and other posted signs. Individuals may be ticketed even if they are speeding in an effort to keep up with traffic.

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