May, 2013

  • Issuance of Driver’s Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants

  • Missouri v. McNeely

  • The Future of Traffic Cases

  • What’s Happening in the States?

  • Study: Voice to Text Apps and Driving

  • Young Drivers Alcohol Related Traffic Fatalities

  • Analysis of West Virginia’s Graduated Driver Licensing Program

  • Countermeasures That Work

  • TIRF Releases Distracted Driving Report

Editor: Greg Hurley

Issuance of Driver’s Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants
Michael Csere, legislative fellow at Connecticut’s Office of Legislative Research issued a report on March 28, 2013 which, identifies states that issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.  He indicates, “There are currently four states with statutes or regulations that implicitly give undocumented immigrants access to driving privileges: Illinois, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington. All four states issue cards granting this privilege, but in Illinois and Utah these cards are not valid for identification purposes.”  The report also identifies states that previously issued driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants but have discontinued this practice.

Missouri v. McNeely
Judging Traffic has been following Missouri v. McNeely which was decided on April 17, 2013 with four separate opinions. The majority opinion was written by Sonia Sotomayor who was joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Antonin Scalia. The opinion held that the natural dissipation of alcohol in a suspected drunk driver's bloodstream does not by itself necessarily constitute exigency sufficient to justify a warrantless blood test.  The warrant should be the default position.  Since the opinion requires a case by case approach an officer may be better off getting a warrant rather than risk damaging the case.

The other four opinions included:

Kennedy:  “always dispensing with a warrant for a blood test when a driver is arrested for being under the influence of alcohol is inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., in an opinion joined by Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and Stephen G. Breyer, argued for a more-or-less flat constitutional rule that an officer must seek a warrant before having a DUI blood test made, if there is time, but not otherwise so exigency of time is acceptable.

Thomas dissented finding that there is never a need for a warrant due to the chemical breakdown of alcohol in the blood.

The Future of Traffic Cases
Will driverless cars lead to a reduction in traffic cases? An article in The Economist (April 20-26, 2013) discusses the driverless car and notes that:

Decades of road-safety legislation will have to be overturned before cars can roam the streets without a qualified and sober driver at the controls, and accidents involving driverless cars are bound to attract some lawsuits.

What’s Happening in the States?

In Baltimore about 6,000 tickets for speeding and running red lights will be voided due to a disagreement between the city and the contractor over money owed. This could mean a $300,000 loss in revenue for the city.

In Nevada there is concern by judges over a proposed bill that would use a $500 assessment on DUI cases to help fund the specialty courts.  SB224 would impose the fee on people arrested for first or second offense drunken driving. If a person is unable to pay, the bill allows a judge to substitute community service.

Bexar County is launching a new DWI court to focus on repeat offenders. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) supports this new initiative. One out of every five drivers arrested for DUI in San Antonio has been arrested at least one time before.  Repeat offenders are not the only problem as the blood alcohol levels of DUI offenders tend to be twice the legal limit (.15).

The Wyoming Supreme Court heard oral argument challenging the constitutionality of a 2011 state law authorizing telephonic approval for DUI testing. The officers were placed under oath over the phone and the telephonic “affidavit” was recorded.  The officers were then granted telephone warrants permitting them to draw blood in one case and perform a breath test in another. Attorneys for the motorists argued that the affidavits must be in writing and the results of the tests should have been suppressed.

Grants for DWI/DUI Courts
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), have released a grant for enhancing Drug Court  services, Coordination, and substance abuse treatment and recovery support services. The grant will provide resources to state, local, and tribal governments for nonviolent substance-abusing offenders.

For the purposes of this solicitation, the definition of “adult drug court” is a court program managed by a non-adversarial and multidisciplinary team that responds to the offenses and treatment needs of offenders who have a drug addiction. Eligible drug court models include Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)/Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Courts, Co-Occurring Drug and Mental Health Courts, and Veterans Courts that adhere to the Drug Court 10 key components Defining Drug Courts: The Key Components and serve substance-abusing adults in the respective problem-solving court, as long as the court meets all the elements required for drug courts, as described herein. Municipal Courts using the problem-solving model, in which substance abuse has been identified as the criterion for the individual being referred to the court, are eligible to apply for funding.

Deadline: Registration with is required prior to application submission. All applications are due by 11:59 PM EST on June 13, 2013.

Study: Voice to Text Apps and Driving
Christine Yager of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute released her study in April, 2013 titled, “ An Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Voice-to-Text Programs at Reducing Incidences of Distracted Driving.”  The study evaluated whether the use of voice to text apps were safer to utilize than traditional manual texting while driving.  The study notes that voice to text apps have become popular with some drivers and users tend to believe that they are safer than manual texting.  The study looked at driving performance of 43 subjects as they drove in a closed course.  The major findings of the study are:

Driver response times were significantly delayed no matter which texting method was used. In each case, drivers took about twice as long to react as they did when they weren’t texting. With slower reaction times, drivers are less able to take action in response to sudden roadway hazards, such as a swerving vehicle or a pedestrian in the street. The amount of time that drivers spent looking at the roadway ahead was significantly less when they were texting, no matter which texting method was used. For most tasks, manual texting required slightly less time than the voice-to-text method, but driver performance was roughly the same with both. Drivers felt less safe when they were texting, but felt safer when using a voice-to-text application than when texting manually, even though driving performance suffered equally with both methods.

The researcher noted, “Understanding the distracted driving issue is an evolving process, and this study is but one step in that process.  We believe it’s a useful step, and we’re eager to see what other studies may find.”  There is a companion study that will be released this summer.  It will include results of a survey of 3,000 drivers and information learned from focus groups.

Young Drivers Alcohol Related Traffic Fatalities
NHTSA published a fact sheet on young drivers in April, 2013 using 2011 data.  Young drivers are defined as driver’s aged 15-20 years old.  The publication has a number of interesting statistics which demonstrate that younger drivers as a group have a much higher risk of being involved in a traffic collision.  However, one very striking statistic is in 2011, 32 percent of the young drivers (15 to 20 years old) who were killed in crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher; 26 percent had a BAC of .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher. 

Analysis of West Virginia’s Graduated Driver Licensing Program
Alexandria M. Noble, et. al., of West Virginia University published a study titled, “Analysis of West Virginia’s Graduated Driver Licensing Program” in December of 2012.  The abstract states,

Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 15-20 years old in the United States. Top safety concerns involving teen drivers include; safety belt use, impaired driving, and distracted driving. Rules that address these safety concerns have been implemented into multifaceted graduated driver licensing (GDL) programs in the United States as well as in state legislation. There are a limited number of studies focusing on the perspective, knowledge and opinion of GDL policy. The effectiveness of the GDL program in West Virginia is being measured through the administration of surveys. The surveys have been designed to assess awareness among high school students, parents of high school students, and police officers. GDL limits teenage driver exposure to high risk situations but its potential to reduce fatalities is limited by people's willingness to comply with the laws and the enforcement of the program restrictions by parents and law enforcement officers. Using the insights provided by these surveys, ways to improve GDL policy and awareness to increase program effectiveness will be identified.

Countermeasures That Work
NHTSA released the seventh edition of “Countermeasures That Work: A Highway Safety Countermeasure Guide for State Highway Safety Offices” in April, 2013.  The guide is a basic reference to assist State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) in selecting effective, evidence-based countermeasures for traffic safety problem areas. These areas include: Alcohol-Impaired and Drugged Driving, Seat Belts and Child Restraints, Aggressive Driving and Speeding; Distracted and Drowsy Driving; Motorcycle Safety; Young Drivers, Older Drivers, Pedestrians, and Bicycles.  Each problem area contains a brief description of the problem with statistics and graphics to depict its severity. Additionally, each problem area then lists a number of programs that have been developed to combat the problem.  The programs are rated by their effectiveness, costs and time commitment. 

TIRF Releases Distracted Driving Report
The Traffic Injury Research Foundation has just released a research bulletin.  The press release states:

TIRF is pleased to announce the release of the research bulletin, Driver Distraction and Hands-Free Texting While Driving. Distracted driving has become a source of growing concern among governments, road safety researchers and the public in the past decade. In particular, texting while driving has been recognized as a significant source of distraction.

The research bulletin looks at the causes of distraction, the importance of the source of distraction, the risk of and prevalence associated with distracted driving, and the role hands-free texting plays in distracted driving. It makes the case that, based upon evidence to date about distraction, there is cause for concern and support for countermeasures directly focused on hands-free texting while driving, particularly in relation to young drivers.

Included in the bulletin is new research from surveys and studies released recently by leading research and road safety agencies, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAFTS) and TIRF.

TIRF would like to thank Advanced Drivers Education Products and Training, Inc. (ADEPT) for making this bulletin possible.

Click here to download a copy of the article.

For more information, please contact:

Sara Oglestone
Manager, Marketing and Communications
613-238-5235 ext. 304 (office)
1-877-238-5235 (toll-free)
1-613-238-5292 (fax)

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