Saturday, February 12, 2011

New point violations - cell phones and texting

Just read that cell phone violations will now count for 2 points on a NY driving record. The recent texting law also carries 2 points.

Also, there is a new law this year requiring cars to "move over" when passing an emergency vehicle on the side of the road. Read more at the Utica Observer Dispatch.

You can also read about the cell phone points change on the Times Union. Please note that I disagree with so many things in the article I actually sent an e-mail to the reporter. Here were my comments:

1. Cell phones on the road are not a "deadly epidemic". Traffic deaths are down dramatically over the years: USA Today.

Considering that 20 years ago cell phones were almost non-existent and now are everywhere, the idea that they're a deadly epidemic should mean a lot more deaths, not less.

2. Points are not an incentive to drivers before they get the ticket. Most have no idea what the points are until after. The point system is also idiotic. Example:

Points for going 76 in a 65: 4 points
Points for running a red light: 3 points

Most people would agree that running a red light is more dangerous than going 76 in a 65.

3. Repeat offenders will still get reductions on cell phone tickets. I represent many drivers, some with clean records and others with horrendous records. Sometimes the record doesn't matter at all, and sometimes the clean record means a better deal, but I get reductions on almost every case, probably 99% or more.

4. Following on that, this line is utter nonsense:
"After a driver pleads down once ... the driver stands little chance of avoiding the points for a second offense."

If you plead a cell phone ticket down to a parking ticket, the parking ticket doesn't show up on a driving record. So neither the prosecutor not the judge will know about it. Even if it happened in the same court, they still probably wouldn't notice.

5. A cell phone ticket should not increase insurance premiums if it's the only thing on your record. Insurance Law § 2335 sets the rules on what tickets can raise rates. It could raise rates if you had something else on your record, but that gets complicated to explain.

6. You get your license suspended if you get 11 points in 18 months, but if you take defensive driving that knocks off 4 points (but only for that specific purpose). So it's rare to see a suspension for less than 15 points (you get notice of the suspension before it kicks in, so you can usually take the class in time). You can also get revoked if you get three speeding convictions (or two work-zone speeding convictions) in 18 months. Revoked is worse than suspended in a couple ways.


Works2late said...

Warren - I have a couple of comments that are relevant here regarding scientific study as it relates to the courts and legislature. As someone with a scientific background, it is frustrating how science is used when it comes to advocacy and polemics.

First, regarding your point #1 - correlation does not equal causation. In trying to make your point, it would be better to relate the total number of accidents to the ubiquity of cell phones. But, cars are dramatically safer now than they were 20-30-40 years ago before cell phones were around.

My second point relates to the very validity of the studies in use to justify the legislation to begin with. There was a recent paper published about how scientific studies are published and systematic problems with studies that contravene basic common sense. This was a specific response to a paper that was published and rescinded in the social sciences with a basically absurd premise (The case of Psi). The key phrase in the abstract is "We argue that in order to convince a skeptical audience of a controversial claim, one needs to conduct strictly confirmatory studies and analyze the results with statistical tests that are conservative rather than liberal".

Those two points work in opposition to what I think is a legal system that misuses, ignores, and abuses scientific evidence, but it may benefit you in your practice to read it ... but, what's good for the goose is good for the gander, right?

Why Psychologists Must Change the Way They Analyze Their Data: The Case of Psi

Unknown said...

I agree that correlation does not equal causation. But here we have the government causation claimed in the face of evidence that is the opposite of correlation.

On this issue the book Superfreakonomics asserts that the major cause of lower traffic fatalities boils down largely to increased seatbelt use.

On the other point, I don't think the legal system misuses scientific evidence any more than government, media, business or other interests.

Works2late said...

Business is the only one of those with a vested interest to get it right ... The others I'll grant you. The courts are galling ... On the one hand, they are one area of society that are intimately coupled with logic and reason, yet they must be accessible to common people via the jury. With things like anti-vaccine hysteria, it is typical for an unscrupulous lawyer and an unscrupulous researcher to be at the center of the mess, often with an assistance from the media. The real problem is that most people can't judge what is credible science or not within the context of a trial, and that is easily exploited. Those that can judge whether something is credible or not would need the kind of information that is excluded to jurors.

When I hear a media story about some new study that could be the center of a lawsuit, it happens all to often that they interview a lawyer to tell the audience what the science is, perhaps followed up by a professional witness.

Unknown said...

I'm not as cynical about "unscrupulous" lawyers and researchers in the legal system, nor do I think juries are completely foolish.

Nevertheless, I have long supported meaningful tort reform. I have my own approach to it that no one else talks about, probably because it would really work and doesn't support any of the vested interests.