Traffic fatalities fall in 2014, estimates show 2015 trending higher

On November 24, 2015 the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that overall traffic fatalities fell in 2014. However, an increase in estimated fatalities during the first six months of this year is said to reveal a need to reinvigorate the fight against deadly behavior on America's roads.

Arizona Supreme Court Rules in on Med. Marijuana in DUI Cases

While a medical marijuana user's card is not a get-out-of-jail-free card if you are charged with DUI, it can be used as a defense at trial, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in their November decision. In the case, two persons were convicted of DUI in Arizona municipal courts. The defendants were not allowed to use their medical marijuana cards as a defense, so they appealed, first to the Maricopa County Superior Court, and then the Arizona Court of Appeals, both of which affirmed the municipal court verdicts. In the most recent opinion, authored by Chief Justice Scott Bales, the court ruled that the marijuana card did not grant immunity. But, Bales wrote, "The patient may establish an affirmative defense to such a charge by showing that his or her use was authorized...". The defendant has to prove "by a preponderance of the evidence" that the metabolite was at a level that no longer caused impairment. And as the defendants said in their argument, "there is no commonly accepted threshold for identifying such concentrations."

Issue Brief: Distracted Driving in the Courts

In the most recent Issue Brief we look at distracted driving in the courts. The article looks at the many different ways courts see distracted driving issues play in cases. Readers might find it surprising to see the instances where the issue arises, and this Issue Brief identifies the relevant case law applicable to areas such as product liability, employment actions, third-party liability as well as traffic court.

New Crash Stats Published by NHTSA

In addition to the data reflecting low rates of fatalities in the link above, a recent more detailed summary of accumlated data on issues relevant to traffic safety was also published. It gives in-depth detail on the current state of traffic safety, as well as a state-by-state breakdown of fatalities and those deaths attributable to alcohol impairment.

Upcoming Courses at the National Judicial College

The following courses are offered by the NJC in Reno, Nevada in the coming months. A limited number of scholarships are available through generous funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Please contact Rebecca Bluemer at for more information.

Traffic Issues in the 21st Century. May 16-19. Reno, NV: This course is designed to provide judges with an overview of the impaired driving issue, and will provide insight into several pertinent areas, such as impairment detection methods, the pharmacological effects of drugs and alcohol on the human body, and effective sentencing methods. The arena of traffic-related legal matters is constantly evolving, and as such, it is necessary for traffic adjudicators to stay abreast of the newly emerging issues. Our Traffic Issues in the 21st Century course will delve into the most up-to-date, pertinent traffic topics that are appearing in our courts today. This years’ topics will include: the fundamentals of alcohol and drug testing; understanding addiction issues; marijuana legalization and related traffic issues; the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) information and demonstration; distracted driving issues; elder driver issues; self-represented litigants; and Commercial Driver’s License issues.

NCSC Traffic Resource Center

The Traffic Resource Center is a cooperative effort between the Department of Transportation and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to establish a resource for judges, court administrators, court clerks, and other court staff on issues related to traffic adjudication. It is an integrated clearinghouse of information as well as a training and technical assistance resource to improve court decision-making and processing of traffic cases involving impaired driving, drugged driving, distracted driving, and commercial driving. The purpose of the Traffic Resource Center website is to provide a useful, ready reference for judges new to the bench or recently assigned to traffic cases, who may need quick access to accurate and timely information until they can receive more formal, structured education.

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