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Albany Legal Issues Blog

"Speed Week" aims to reduce speeding and distracted driving

A week-long law enforcement detail in New York known as Speed Week aims to target drivers who are driving under the influence, driving aggressively and driving while distracted. Prior Speed Week operations in the state have led to dozens of tickets being issued to drivers for a variety of offenses. State police estimate that speeding contributes to approximately 33 percent of fatal crashes in New York. Across the nation, fatal car accidents claim the lives of approximately 42,000 individuals each year, and vehicular accidents are the leading cause of death in children under 3 years old. Hundreds of thousands of additional individuals suffer injuries as a result of car accidents each year.

Speed Week aims to reduce the number of car crashes, fatalities and injuries by citing those who are violating traffic laws. During Speed Week, law enforcement officers will use both marked State Police vehicles and un-marked Concealed Identity Tracking Enforcement, or CITE, vehicles in order to target motorists who are speeding. Law enforcement officers hope that the use of CITE vehicles will allow troopers to more easily identify drivers who are using cellphones while driving, speeding or driving aggressively. The vehicles can blend in easily with traffic but are easily recognized as emergency vehicles once the police activate the emergency lighting system.

Speed cameras will once again monitor school zones

The mayor of New York City and the governor of New York have reached a deal allowing speed cameras to be reintroduced in school zones. The city council will also play a role in bringing them back. First, the governor will declare a public safety emergency, and this would authorize the city to gather the data necessary to make the system work. Next, the city council will approve legislation in an emergency session. Finally, the mayor will sign the legislation.

The process can be completed over potential objections from those in the state senate. On July 25, the state lost the authority to ticket drivers who were seen on camera breaking the law. According to the DOT, there were more than 132,000 drivers seen violating speed limit laws on camera in the two weeks after it expired. It is thought that the number of violations has increased since then.

The potential consequences of disregarding traffic laws

New York law requires that drivers exercise care while operating a motor vehicle. Most states also have laws that prohibit certain actions while driving. For instance, evading a police officer is considered to be an example of reckless driving. Driving at an excessive speed or failing to stop at a stop sign or red light are also considered to be reckless actions. Drivers who are charged with DUI could also face a separate reckless or careless driving charge.

Those who are convicted on such a charge could lose the right to drive for a predetermined amount of time. Individuals who have had their licenses suspended in the past could experience a license revocation after being convicted of a reckless driving charge. Not having the ability to drive could cause an interruption to a person's livelihood. Other penalties include spending time in jail and paying a fine. It may be difficult or impossible to obtain military clearances.

Making illegal U-turns

Getting a ticket in New York for making an illegal U-turn is not unusual. In fact, such traffic tickets are written fairly often. What exactly qualifies as a U-turn will depend on the jurisdiction in which the individual was driving, the specific driving conditions, the applicable statute and other factors.

Drivers should avoid making U-turns in areas in which there are signs that strictly advise against it. It is also not advisable to make U-turns in the middle of a street or intersection.

Keeping right can prevent car accidents

Many New York drivers are aware that slower drivers are supposed to stay in the right lane unless they are passing. If they do need to pass an even slower vehicle, the drivers are supposed to use the left lane only to get around the vehicle before moving back over. However, there are instances where a driver who is moving slower than the speed limit will hog the left lane, preventing traffic from moving.

In the state of New York, the left lane is for passing slower drivers only. Unless there are obstacles, such as items in the road, that prevent the right lane from being safe, all drivers are otherwise required to remain in the right lane. If there are faster vehicles, the slower vehicles must yield by passing back into the right lane.

Understanding New York's driver point system

Unlike certain other states, New York has a Driver Violation Point System. This gives the state's Department of Motor Transportation a way to identify high-risk drivers so that the appropriate action can be taken against them. Under this point system, certain common traffic violations have been assigned points. If a driver gets 11 or more points in an 18-month period, his or her driving privileges may be suspended.

Before the points are added to a driver's record, the person must be convicted of the applicable traffic violation. However, the point total is calculated based on the day the traffic violation was committed and not on the day that the person is convicted. The points that the driver received within the last 18 months are used to figure the point total. This means that violations that occurred more than 18 months ago will not contribute to the driver's point total.

High-speed chase of BMW in New York results in crash

According to law enforcement authorities with Nassau County, a 28-year-old man who the highway patrol attempted to pull over for speeding on the Long Island Expressway fled. The man reportedly missed his turn while he was fleeing and crashed into a veterinary clinic.

Officers report that the incident happened shortly before 1 a.m. while the man was speeding in his BMW in the westbound lanes of the expressway. While he was fleeing from the patrol officer, he got off the expressway at exit 37 but missed his turn when he turned onto Mineola Avenue, causing him to crash into the veterinary clinic.

Driver's license violations

As with every other state in the nation, it is illegal to drive in New York without a valid driver's license. However, there is a distinction made between driving a vehicle without having proof of a license and driving a vehicle with no valid license. Operating a vehicle with the knowledge that one's license is invalid in some way, such as being suspended, is a more serious offense.

There are different penalties a driver may suffer if they are operating with no license or fail to provide a license when pulled over by law enforcement. The driver may be issued a ticket, have their vehicle impounded or even sent to jail.

Traffic enforcement program aims to curb dangerous behavior

Until June 3, police in New York are taking part in the "Click It or Ticket" campaign aimed at getting motorists to use their seat belts. They will be joined by authorities in Vermont who will also be looking to make sure seat belts are worn in that state. In 2016, 57 percent of fatal car accident victims between the ages of 18 and 34 were not wearing their seat belts.

Overall, 90 percent of New York drivers wear their seat belts while 85 percent of drivers in Vermont buckle up. In New York, a person can be pulled over simply for not wearing a seat belt. On the other hand, this can only be cited as a secondary offense in Vermont. According to New York authorities, the "Click It or Ticket" campaign has saved hundreds of lives as well as prevented injuries. Police in both states will also be looking to enhance enforcement of speeding and distracted driving laws.

Strategies for fighting traffic tickets

For some drivers in New York, traffic tickets could be extremely expensive. Other drivers may walk away with points against their license, which could result in an increase in their insurance premiums or even a license suspension. However, there are some ways that drivers who have been ticketed can challenge the violation.

If the ticket involved the use of an officer's personal opinion, drivers could potentially challenge the judgement. For example, a driver could argue that a lane change was safe based on the traffic conditions and the weather at the time. If a driver received a speeding ticket, he or she may be able to argue that going faster than the speed was safe due to the speed of the other vehicles. Some drivers may also be able to challenge the traffic ticket by arguing that the ticketed driving was necessary to prevent an accident. For example, this defense could be used if the driver had to make a sudden lane change to prevent being hit by another car.

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