Woman's "I Don't Have my Glasses" Defense Fails in Pa Court

Diane Boerner was hit with the one-year license suspension by PennDOT for refusing blood-alcohol testing. In her appeal, Boerner claimed she never actually refused to give a blood sample. The police officer who pulled her over read her the implied consent warning stating that a refusal to submit to the test would trigger and automatic license suspension. That wasn't enough for Boerner, though. She insisted that she wanted to read the warning for herself. She didn't have her glasses, however, because they were in her car, which had been towed away. Boerner never gave the officer a "yes" or "no" answer, and didn't sign the consent form, so the officer logged her as having refused the testing. The state judges didn't buy Boerner's explanation. In an opinion by Judge Patricia A. McCullough, they concluded the officer's finding that Boerner had refused the testing was right on.

Ca. Bill Seeks to Push Courts to Handle Traffic Amnesty Cases Faster

Bill SB 881 comes in response to some courts taking too long to respond to amnesty applications. Gov. Jerry Brown has characterized the traffic court system as a “hellhole of desperation” for the poor. In California and other states, the courts use license suspensions as a way to pressure drivers to pay for tickets and related court fees, which can snowball into hundreds of dollars for minor infractions such as driving with a broken taillight or alone in a carpool lane. This recent article from an NPR affiliate details issues related to the proposed changes.

Self-Driving Cars Not Yet a Proven Way to Increase Safety

In a recent article from MIT's Technology Review, the author noted that while self-driving cars could provide “safer, more accessible driving” with “the potential to save tens of thousands of lives each year.”, for now, self-driving cars are only partially autonomous. That is, if the vehicle is unable to make a confident decision, it alerts the driver to take control of the wheel. If the driver is distracted and the autonomous system does not work properly, or if the human places too much confidence in the abilities of the driver aid and ignores the warnings and the road, things can go wrong. Brandon Schoettle, from the Transportation Research Institute University of Michigan warns that the current systems in place to alert drivers to take over the wheel may not be satisfactory. “It is critical that the hand-off between vehicle and driver be done properly and safely or the potential safety gains of such systems may be canceled out by the increased risk during this transition,” he says. “It is difficult to regain situational awareness when engaged in other activities in a vehicle, so if drivers are not given ample time to respond, or the system simply fails, then the fatality rate may not improve or may even worsen until these systems are perfected.”

New Data: Traffic Fatalities Rise Sharply in 2015

The nation lost 35,092 people in traffic crashes in 2015, ending a 5-decade trend of declining fatalities with a 7.2% increase in deaths from 2014. The final data released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed traffic deaths rising across nearly every segment of the population. The last single-year increase of this magnitude was in 1966, when fatalities rose 8.1% from the previous year. "Despite decades of safety improvements, far too many people are killed on our nation’s roads every year," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "Solving this problem will take teamwork, so we're issuing a call to action and asking researchers, safety experts, data scientists, and the public to analyze the fatality data and help find ways to prevent these tragedies.”

Issue Brief: Child Endangerment Statutes

In this edition of the Issue Brief series (brought to you by the Traffic Resource Center) we look at the three different ways in which 46 states have implemented statutes which provide for additional punishments for intoxicated drivers who are transporting children while they are driving under the influence.

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 Bluemer@judges.org or or 775-327-8269 for more information.

Drugged Driving Essentials. September 27-29, 2016. Reno, NV: Unlike alcohol-impaired driving, drugged driving has no bright line test for impairment. Drugged driving cases require a judge to utilize a variety of judicial tools to effectively adjudicate these cases. In addition to the ability to determine whether an individual may be under the influence of drugs, it is important to know how drugs affect the individual, and their ability to function. It is also imperative that a judge knows how to effectively craft sentences, which include treatment options, in order to provide a participant with the most beneficial mode of recovery. After this course, you should be able to: Describe the major classes of drugs, and discuss how they affect an individual’s driving ability, Describe what a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) does, and identify how to qualify a DRE as an expert witness, Give examples of effective sentencing techniques when dealing with an individual who is suffering from a drug abuse issue.

NCSC Traffic Resource Center

TheTraffic 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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