New Illinois Driving Laws for January 1, 2017: Slow Down, Move Over, Or Go To Jail

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It’s the New Year and with it, new laws come to the roads of Illinois. Here’s what goes into effect on January 1st, 2017:

1. Slow down or move over for stopped vehicles. Previously, Scott’s Law required drivers who pass a stopped emergency vehicle to slow down or move over into another lane. This is for the safety of police, firefighters, or EMTs who can often be injured or even killed by cars on busy roadways. The 2017 revision to this law now says the same caution should be applied for any other car stopped on or along the roadside if their hazard lights are on. So if you see anyone with hazard light on, slow down and move over. It’s the law.

2. School/construction zones- do the speed limit or go to jail. While driving in a school or work zone, if you speed above the posted 25 MPH limit, you’ll face harsh penalties. Going 26-35 MPH is a Class B misdemeanor [which can carry up to a 6 month stint in jail] and above 35 MPH becomes a Class A misdemeanor which could see punishments which include fines and a year a of jail time.

3. Driving without insurance-fool me once. For those who have been convicted of driving without proper insurance once already, if it happens again in 1 year period, your vehicle will be impounded. No ifs,ands, or buts about it.

4. Stop trying to beat the railroad crossing gates. Yep, everybody wants to beat the train crossing. But now, in Illinois, if you ignore the crossing’s lights and try to outrace the mechanical crossing arms, you’ll see a $500.00 fine for your first offense and $1,000.00 for each offense after that.

Stay safe, Illinois.

New California Driving Laws For January 1st, 2017: Cellphones, Lane Splitting, & Car Seats!

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With the New Year come new California driving laws to pay attention to!

1. You can’t touch your cellphone while driving. Yep, for real. On Sunday, it will become illegal in California to hold your cellphone while operating a vehicle. Not just talking or texting, but having the phone in your hands will be a violation you can be written up for. The only exception is for genuine emergency calls. Otherwise, any permissible use of a phone while driving will be for single swipes or taps, and only if the phone is mounted to your vehicle in a spot which does not obscure driving view. Expect CHP officers to be on the lookout.

2. Lane-splitting is now legal and a defined practice. Motorcyclists have rode in between lanes for years now to move quickly through traffic but starting on January 1st, the law officially says they can. Lane-splitting allows for the motorcyclists to lane-split going a max of 15 MPH faster than the flow of traffic [they cannot go faster than 50 MPH while lane-splitting, so the general flow of traffic cannot be going faster than 35 MPH for lane-splitting to be allowed]. Generally the idea is to allow bikers to continue to move along in traffic since they are able to.

3. A child’s car seat must rear-facing until age 2. So previously in California, you had to have your child facing rear in a child-seat until they were 1 year old. AB53 has updated the law so that any child under 2 must be facing the rear of the vehicle. Child safety seats are required until a child is 8 years old. The exceptions are if a child is over 8 years old or 4 foot 9 inches tall at which point they may use the car’s own seat belt.

Be prepared , California! Be safe!

If you get a ticket and need help, check out I Drive Safely’s Online California Traffic School

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5 Driver Safety Tips For December Holiday Parties

Here are 5 tips to keep yourself or others safe from the perils of drunk driving during this season’s holiday parties.

5. In the right glass, Coca-Cola by itself happens to look just like Rum & Coke. We start with the obvious; nothing says you have to drink at parties. This rule is true pretty much the entire year so remember it well. You can fix yourself up a snazzy glass of mixer and no one will know you’re not boozing. I happen to enjoy a great pastime at parties; observing drunk people and their behavior objectively. You learn a lot.

4. Have a designated driver. Ah, the designated driver, patron saint of the party animal. I find in groups of friends, a system of “turn taking” often works best because it tends to put a bit more pressure on the designated to put-up-or-shut-up and not a take drink. If you were the designated on Halloween, it will make your friend take the Christmas Party sobriety oath more seriously. If it’s you who has to be the sober driver this go-round, well, hey wasn’t Halloween a lot of fun?

3. Uber, Lyft, Taxi. There’s really no excuse to drink and drive.

2. Feed your guests. Alcohol consumption on an empty stomach will make the drinks hit your guests that much harder. Have plenty of snacks and appetizers around. Get in touch with your inner Giada De Laurentiis and make some snowflake shaped spinach and goat cheese tartlets, or you know, have some chips and pretzels in bowls for everybody.

1. Your role: Party Host/Bartender. If it’s your party, you can control how much your guests put away by playing bartender. Rounds of cocktails tend to keep things a bit more even throughout the night. Some hosts will keep tallies on just how much their guests have had as well to keep track of things. Ultimately, as host the responsibility is on you to make sure drunk guests don’t get in their car.

Dangerous Drivers: The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree

We get a lot from our parents. Our names, our looks, sometimes even our political beliefs. What if our parents were more responsible for who we are than we realize? According to an article at The Telegraph, a French study conducted by the Vinci Autoroutes Foundation says we are the drivers our parents made us.

Think about that for a moment, the average person sends just shy of 38,000 hours driving in their lifetime. Your child will be sitting behind you, observing your driving behavior for a good chunk of their young lives. How you respond to on the road may dictate how your child will respond as a driver later in life. With most learned bad behavior, a parent will think of their child “monkey see, monkey do”. And it’s completely true, but we don’t take this into consideration with driving.

The study found 65% of those polled [993 drivers age 18-25] said that they were influenced by the driving behaviors of their parents. 75% of those polled who said they prone to road rage also admitted their parents were as well. 77% of speeders said they were second generation violators, throwing mom or dad under the bus. Parents weren’t mindful of pedestrians? Neither were those polled nearly ¾’s of the time anyway.

The parallels of traffic offenses between the generations continue to go on per the Telegraph article. Running red lights? Yeah, Dad was always trying to beat the traffic light. Drinking and driving? Uh-huh, mom did. Drowsy driving? Yep. We continue to see bad habits of the children originating with the parents most of the time in these scenarios.

And we should not be surprised.

Children are like sponges, soaking up what is around them. Aggression, erratic behavior, poor decision making, these are things we expose them to, highlighting our worst behavior as the norm. Parents have to remember that they are role models to their children and that includes in the car. Learned behavior can be the hardest to shake because it’s been instilled through repetition, consistently over time. That’s why what we expose our kids to should consistently be our best effort, even on the road.

3 Strikes and You’re Out [of a Driver’s License]! Washington DC Advancing Distracted Driving Legislation

The nation’s capital is barreling towards passing some of the strictest distracted driving laws in the country according to a new article at the Washington Post. The bill would lead to real time tracking of prior offenses by police. The full scope of this being a graduated violation system with escalating penalties for those caught committing repeated acts of distracted driving.

Currently, distracted driving laws in DC are fairly lax: a first offense of using your phone while driving is a $100 fine though the fine can be thrown out with proof of purchase of a hands-fee device. The new law would remove that option. It also sets escalating penalties for subsequent violations within 18 months of that first violation. A second offense would cost you $150, and a third, $200. The real penalty though comes with that third violation, as it would also include a 30 to 90 day suspension of your license. This represents the same sort of penalty you’d see with a reckless driving charge. It’s a very big deal in that regard.

While I don’t know that a graduated violation system will do the job, tougher penalties are needed to save lives. The main issue with this 18 month violation timeline is what is the likelihood violators would even be found repeatedly committing distracted driving in that time period? It seems like very tough penalties that would be unlikely to be enforceable with regards to repeat offenders. Unless of course DC is truly looking to distracted driving tickets as a revenue booster and having this be a top priority of police officers is the plan all along. Even if that is the goal, the DC Police Department would be years away from being able to track violators in a meaningful way as this graduated violation system requires. Even if the law is enacted in 2017, violation tracking wouldn’t be available until 2020 according to the same Washington Post article.

Distracted Driving continues to become a nationwide epidemic. As technology allows us to do more on our phones, we have to fight that urge to do more irresponsibly behind the wheel. The CDC estimates 1 in 5 crashes in 2013 were caused by distracted driving, causing some 3,000 deaths and over 400,000 injuries. DriverSafetyCenter.com believes greater public awareness as to the dangers of distracted driving in combination with technological advances from phone manufacturers which disable the bulk of a phone’s capabilities while driving [aside from hands free talking and GPS] would do far more to save lives than simple ticketing.

Seniors: How To Make Yourself and Your Vehicle CarFit!

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I want to start this article with a visual. It’s a cliché but it’s a visual. You’re driving down the road and a car is moving slow in front of you. You go to pass them and as you do, you sort of get a look at the driver. It’s a little old lady and the poof of the top of her hair is just about the only thing raised above the steering wheel. Like I said, it’s a cliché but I bet you’ve seen it. The truth is we all change as we get older. How we change as we age may also be affecting our experience as a driver.

Older drivers are in many ways safer drivers than their younger counterparts. However, unlike younger drivers, arthritis and other rigidity issues can come into play, particularly when it comes to blind spots for seniors. The same can be said of changes in your vision. Add to that an increasing fragility with age and the need for the optimum safety/comfort experience behind the wheel becomes that much more important.

With that in mind, AARP, AAA, and the American Occupational Therapists teamed up to create CarFit. What is CarFit? It’s an educational program designed to make sure your car gives you the safest and most comfortable experience possible. CarFit events are held locally in cities all over the country and you’ll likely be in and out in less than a half hour. At each event, drivers and their vehicles check into a 12 point inspection to help determine a proper fit in their car.

The 12 areas addressed during the CarFit program are:

  • Are you the only driver of vehicle?
  • Seat belt check
  • Steering wheel tilt, Position to Air Bag and Head Restraint
  • Distance between chest and steering wheel
  • Line-of-sight above steering wheel
  • Position to gas pedal
  • Position to brake pedal
  • Mirror adjustments
  • Neck mobility and blind spot check
  • Ignition key or system
  • Operation of vehicle controls
  • Review of checklist

CarFit hosts local events backed by volunteers in your community to help better adjust seniors to their cars and their cars to them. While many senior driver education programs exist out there, they tend to be geared towards general driving knowledge. CarFit is concerned with the personal experience you have in your own car. Even the slightest change that may come from attending one of their events is worth it if it improves how you feel and react in your vehicle.

Check CarFit out here.

Top 5 Halloween Safety Tips For Motorists

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Halloween should always be fun and carefree for children. For parents, it’s chaperoning the kids around and candy inspections. For the average motorist, it’s definitely a night of a lot of variables that requires you put your game face on. Here are some helpful hints to keep you and pedestrians safe during Halloween.

Scan from one side of the street to the other:  Watch what’s happening not only right ahead of you but to your right and left. You need to be aware of who could come darting across the street. Most costumes may be bright and noticeable but plenty of others could be dark cloaks and masks. You need to know who’s out there to be prepared for any sudden actions by trick-or-treaters.

Keep it under 25 MPH:  The speed limit in most residential areas is usually 25 MPH. Overall stopping distance at that speed is 85 feet, meaning from the moment you realize there’s someone/something in front of you, starting to apply brakes, to actually stopping you will travel 85 feet. You need that stopping time should anyone dart out in front of you. Don’t speed! Going 5 MPH under the limit is a good idea.

Be aware of “Big Kids” in the street: So Halloween is becoming more and more of a grownup holiday. You already know to be concerned about children who might not be paying attention but you also have to worry about adults. Halloween can be big night of drinking for adults. Drunk pedestrians don’t know what they’re doing and they don’t’ care. “They’re an adult” is not an excuse to assume they will cross the street safely. Yield the right of way to pedestrians and be prepared for sudden movements.

Drinking and Driving [watch out for it and don’t do it!]: You should assume there will be a higher percentage of drunk drivers on the road during Halloween [lousy deal but true].  Allow yourself plenty of following distance from cars in front of you and always wear your seat belt. If you plan to go to parties yourself where drinks will be served, do yourself a favor and take a cab or Uber. Stay safe!

Plan ahead: If Halloween is right before or right after a weekend but you should expect parties pretty much from the prior Friday night onward. Know that all of the above should be a concern early on and be ready for it.

 

Back to School Safety Tips to Keep You and Everyone Else Safe on the Road

School is back in session and that means more cars and buses on the roads early in the morning, making your commute even longer and more stressful. And if your commute is based on local roads as opposed to highways you may find yourself contending with crossing guards and kids shuffling across the street. With that in mind here are some driving safety tips to keep everyone safe.

School Bus Stops

When it comes to school bus stops, all states require that you stop for a school bus when it’s loading or unloading to let children safely cross the street to get to and from the bus. Most states want you as far back as 20-30 feet away from the bus when the lights are flashing red on either side of the road. To find your state’s law regarding school bus stops click here.

School Zones

Always be mindful of those yellow school zone signs. Whether they light up or just indicate a specific time frame, go the speed limit indicated on the sign. You never know if there is an officer waiting for speeders or if a child may run into the middle of the road.

Backing Up

Just because you may have a back up camera on your car does not mean it will always pick up that someone is behind you. Always check around you and your blind spots when reversing your car near where children may be. Follow that advice at home as well, as you may not see your own kids in the driveway. It happens way more than you’d think.

Pedestrians

Pedestrians often have a cavalier attitude when it comes crossing the street, often think they are invincible and expect you to stop. This is even truer of children. With children, consequences are learned and not assumed. They assume you will always stop for them. They assume your car will be able to stop in time if they dart in front of you. As a driver, you should know you can’t predict behavior but you can always be mindful of your own.

Teen Drivers

All year long there are new teen drivers on the road. They could very well be stuck in morning traffic right along with you. Be mindful of the experience level of others and be courteous. Remember new drivers are less used to stressful situations behind the wheel and may react differently. Teen drivers are more prone to take chances so remain cautious in school zones as well.

Plan ahead

Expect longer delays with school back in session so plan your route to avoid delays if possible and either leave a few minutes earlier than you normally would or if you have the luxury, leave after the kids are in school. A few minutes could make the difference between a short commute or sitting in traffic for an eternity! If you find yourself stuck on the road due to cars driving into schools and crossing guards stopping you regularly for pedestrians, do not get frustrated.  Most bosses understand traffic happens and as long as you’re smart enough to plan your route properly, it won’t be a regular occurrence.

Be safe!

No Apps Allowed! California Cracks Down Even More On Cell Phone Use While Driving

California’s laws regarding cell phone use when it comes to distracted driving continue to broaden. Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Monday September 26th AB-1785     [authored by Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward)]which increases the reach of existing legislation [SB-1613] in regards to just what you can do with your phone on the road. Previously state law banned drivers from talking or texting directly on the phone while driving. You had to go hands-free.

Under the new law, any activity on your cell phone [not hands-free] that is deemed interfering with driving itself will now be finable. This prohibits drivers from checking maps, adjusting playlists, checking social media, taking photos or live streaming on their phones unless a hands-free device is used. GPS apps are only allowed to be used if users mount their phone to their windshield like they would with a portable GPS device. The law would allow only for single swipe or tap use by the user, again if the device is mounted. The phone cannot block the driver’s view of the road. This law does not apply to already built-in devices that car manufacturers put in their vehicles.

If the law is violated, there is a base fee of $20 for the first offense and can go up to $50 for every additional offense plus penalties which can triple overall fine amounts.

The law still prohibits drivers from wearing headphones or any device that covers ears while driving. California lawmakers believe this will lessen distracted driving risks related to evolving technologies available in smart phones.

You can read more about AB-1785 here

Put That Latte Down! A New Eating/Drinking and [Distracted] Driving Law Could Change Life in New Jersey

Soon, the drive-through at Starbucks could be aiding and abetting you when it comes to breaking a new proposed distracted driving law in New Jersey, one that makes eating or drinking while driving illegal. This may sound outlandish and but it could very well become the law of the land in the Garden State. The law itself uses very broad language to put a stop to “any activity unrelated to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of the vehicle on a public road or highway.”

It means picking up McDonald’s and picking through your fries a bit on the way home would be illegal. Drinking your soda would be illegal. Paying too much attention to the radio dial would be illegal. Conversations with a passenger could be considered illegal if it distracts you. The problem is the law is so general in its writing that everything would be illegal. Everything equals distracted driving.

While we can admire some of the good intentions of this law, the wanting to protect people, it’s still overreaching. Eating and drinking while driving has been part of the culture for decades. You will not simply regulate this behavior out of existence. Obviously there is a difference between sipping a soda while driving and having the burger in one hand, the fries in the other and using the soda between your knees to steer while your focus changes from entrée to entrée. There are already reckless driving laws on the books to regulate this type of behavior because said behavior will cause obvious instances of reckless driving regardless.

The fines associated with this distracted driving law raise a red flag as well. A first offense is $400, with subsequent offenses ranging from $600-$800.00 plus points on your license and even a 90 day suspension. While I do think if you’re a serial offender, you deserve whatever happens to you, this does sort of ring of lawmakers finding revenue in bad behavior. To put this in perspective, the maximum fine for first time reckless driving charge in New Jersey is $200.00 [N.J.S.A. 39:4-96]. You could swerve all over the road and as long as you weren’t holding a cup of Starbucks, your fine would be half [reckless driving can also carry jail time, so don’t test this theory out]. Add to the fact that bad behavior is poorly defined and this law gives carte blanche authority to write tickets all day. Driving with an open container would suddenly apply to Dr. Pepper.

Ultimately, I would not support this legislation as is and hope New Jersey lawmakers do not, at least not in its current form. A measure of common sense needs to be added and the benefit of the doubt should to be given to drivers in terms of reasonable expectations. The dangers that exist from distracted driving are very real but something that can be eliminated by making people smarter drivers. Driver Education