March, 2013

  • Maryland Bill Addresses Scientific Validity of DRE Testimony

  • Best Practices Guide to Reducing Suspended Drivers

  • Liberty without Capacity: Why States Should Ban Adolescent Driving

  • What’s Happening in the states

  • U.S. Supreme Court Rules on a Dog Sniff Case

  • Do Rail Systems Reduce Vehicular Crashes?

Editor: Greg Hurley

Maryland Bill Addresses Scientific Validity of DRE Testimony
Maryland State Senator Getty introduced Maryland Senate Bill 959 on the testimony of drug recognition experts. The bill is cross filed as House Bill 765. There is a hearing at 1:00 p.m. on March 21, 2013 in the Maryland Senate on the bill. The bill establishes “that a police officer who is certified as a drug recognition expert may be qualified to testify under specified circumstances; establishing that the opinion of a specified police officer as to specified matters concerning drugs and controlled dangerous substances may be admissible at trial; establishing that a specified drug evaluation and classification protocol is deemed to be generally accepted within the scientific community and based on generally accepted scientific principles; etc.” The bills' fiscal and policy note states,“The bill deems the drug evaluation and classification protocol used by a DRE as generally accepted within the scientific community and based on generally accepted scientific principles.”

Best Practices Guide to Reducing Suspended Drivers
The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) recently released a report titled Best Practices Guide to Reducing Suspended Drivers. The report is based on work done by AAMVA’s Suspended and Revoked Driver Working Group. The Working Group determined that 39% of people operating motor vehicles on a suspended driver’s license had the license suspended for non driving related issues. These “social non-conformance reasons” can be things as unconnected to driving as failure to pay library fines or failure to renew pet vaccinations. The report also noted that 75% of people with a suspended or revoked driver’s license will continue to drive.

The report advocates that states repeal laws that suspend or revoke driver’s licenses for non-driving related reasons. The reason for this is that people driving on a suspended or revoked license for driving related reasons are “three times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers suspended for social non-conformance reasons.” When police arrest a person for driving on a suspended license that was suspended for a non-driving reason, their time and attention is diverted from focusing on driving behavior that does pose a risk to the public. Additionally, these cases as they work their way thru the criminal justice system, utilize court, prosecution and defense resources that could better be used to deal with other criminal behaviors.

This is a very interesting report and whether you agree with the underlying concept or not, it is worth taking a look at it. The report comes on a DVD with video segments explaining the results. The NCSC library has 2 copies which can be borrowed by contacting Greg Hurley at

Liberty without Capacity: Why States Should Ban Adolescent Driving
Professor Vivian E. Hamilton of the William & Mary Law School released her paper titled, “Liberty without Capacity: Why States Should Ban Adolescent Driving” on February 24, 2013.  The paper uses statistical evidence to make a compelling argument that teen driving should be eliminated.  The abstract for the paper states;

Car crashes kill more teens each year than any other cause; and of the crashes in which they are involved, teens are overwhelmingly at fault. Teens crash at rates far higher than those of older drivers, and the younger the teen driver, the higher the risk — 16-year-old drivers have crash rates 250% higher than those of 18-year-olds. Driving experience does not explain the difference; younger beginners crash at rates higher than those of older beginners. Instead, younger teens’ increased crash risk results primarily from immature regulatory competence. In other words, the capacities required for driving competence are still immature in adolescence, developing only with time, and age.

Driving is thus arguably the greatest public health threat facing U.S. teens. Still, the United States remains the earliest-licensing nation in the developed world, and U.S. teens have a greater risk of being killed or injured in a car crash than do their foreign counterparts.

Neither legal academics working in public health law nor those working in adolescent rights have focused attention on adolescent licensure. This article draws from principles of social ecology to explain the many aspects of this public health issue. It interrelates and analyzes research from the social and developmental sciences and accounts for the basic ends of the liberal state, the interests of immature citizens, political challenges, and constitutional boundaries to derive and make a sustained argument for the most effectual legal reforms to which this analysis inexorably points.

What’s Happening in the States
According to the February 2013 Stateline traffic deaths are down.  “Traffic fatalities on America’s roads dropped to 32,367 in 2011, 1.9 percent fewer than in 2010 and the lowest number since 1949.”

Stateline also focused on red light cameras. “This year, lawmakers in 22 states have filed more than 100 bills dealing with traffic cameras, says Anne Teigen, a senior policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures.”

Red-light cameras are explicitly allowed in 21 states, plus the District of Columbia, but are banned in nine states. The rest of the states have not weighed in either way, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association

NCSL interactive website  on State Traffic Safety Legislation provides more information on these bills and other traffic legislation.

A California attorney was disbarred following a conviction of vehicular homicide while intoxicated on the grounds of moral turpitude.

New York
A Staten Island traffic judge with the highest conviction rate is ordered to complete anger management counseling according to the Staten Island Advance.

The Virginia Lawyers Weekly blog discusses a case where the backseat driver was charged with DUI.  The article also mentions the 2003 Court of Appeals case affirming a passengers conviction of DUI.

Grants for DUI courts
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) is accepting applications for fiscal year (FY) 2013 Grants to Expand Substance Abuse Treatment in Adult, Juvenile, and Family Drug Courts. Applications are due by April 19, 2013.

U.S. Supreme Court Rules on a Dog Sniff Case
The U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in Florida v. Harris on February 19, 2013.  Officer Wheetley conducted a routine traffic stop on defendant Harris.  Harris appeared nervous to the officer so the officer requested a consent search.  Harris refused.  Officer Wheetlty had his narcotics dog named Aldo sniff the exterior of the car.  Aldo alerted on the driver’s door handle.  Wheetley concluded he had probable cause to search and ultimately located ingredients for manufacturing methamphetamine.  Aldo was not trained to detect the substances located.  While Harris was on bail, Wheetly stopped him again and Aldo alerted a second time.  During this second search, nothing was located.

Harris moved to suppress the search in the trial court as a violation of the Fourth Amendment.  Officer Wheetly provided testimony as to Aldo’s training and certification as a narcotics dog.  Officer Wheetly did not provide statistical information regarding Aldo’s performance in the field.  The trial court found that Officer Wheetly had probable cause to conduct the search.  Harris entered a conditional plea allowing him to challenge this ruling on appeal.  The Florida Supreme Court ruled that there was not probable cause and established an evidentiary checklist to assess a drug-detection dog’s reliability.  The checklist would require the State to introduce comprehensive docu­mentation of the dog’s prior hits and misses in the field.

In an opinion written by Justice Kagan, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that Officer Wheetly did have probable cause to search the vehicle.  The court stated that all that is required for probable cause is the kind of “fair probability” on which “reasonable and prudent [people] act.” Illinois v. Gates, 462 U. S. 213, 235.  Additionally, the court noted that the totality of the circumstances approach to analyzing the evidence is correct and the rejected the Florida Supreme Court’s evidentiary checklist.  The court further reasoned that Aldo’s training and certifications provided amble evidence of reliability, therefore probable cause should have been found on that basis.

Do Rail Systems Reduce Vehicular Crashes?
Simon Luechinger of the University of Lausanne, et al., published a paper titled “Does Supporting Passenger Railways Reduce Road Traffic Externalities?  The paper considers a number of possible benefits from developing more comprehensive regional rail systems, to include what the authors describe as a reduction of “the number of severe road traffic accidents.”  This is an interesting article that is worth taking the time to read.  The abstract states:

Many governments subsidize regional rail service as an alternative to road traffic. This paper assesses whether increases in service frequency reduce road traffic externalities. We exploit differences in service frequency growth by procurement mode following a railway reform in Germany to address endogeneity of service growth. Increases in service frequency reduce the number of severe road traffic accidents, carbon monoxide, nitrogen monoxide, nitrogen dioxide pollution and infant mortality. Placebo regressions with sulfur dioxide and ozone yield no effect. Service frequency growth between 1994 and 2004 improves environmental quality by an amount that is worth approximately 28-40 % of total subsidies. An analysis of household behavior shows that the effects of railway services on outcome variables are driven by substitution from road to rail.

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