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“Accidents” involving drivers w/ suspended licenses

This topic contains 32 replies, has 14 voices, and was last updated by  Mick 1 yr, 7 mos.

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Marko82

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May 3 2013 at 11:26am #

I just saw on the news the tragic report that a Shenango police officer was killed last night by a woman driving with a suspended license. Her friend was interviewed saying how it couldn’t possible be her friend & how she is such a good person. F**K THAT! – just like all the other drivers who maim or kill driving while their licenses are suspended. It’s bad enough that these tragedies keep occurring, but we know these people are bad drivers – bad enough to take away their licenses. So why are we not doing something more to stop this?

This affects all of us, drivers, cyclist and pedestrians.

http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-north/police-officer-killed-in-crash-during-chase-near-new-castle-686126/


rice rocket

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May 3 2013 at 11:44am #

I’m not sure what you want to discuss by posting here?

She’ll probably get a pretty hefty sentence (i.e. most her life in jail).

I don’t know what you want to do to “stop this” other than something Minority Report-like.


jonawebb

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May 3 2013 at 11:54am #

We don’t have to get all Minority Report. We could, for example, check driver’s licenses more frequently (i.e., at all) to see if the driver’s licenses are suspended. Or we could mark the license plates of vehicles driver’s with suspended licenses have access to somehow, so police would know who to check. Or we could make it a crime to give someone with a suspended license access to a car. Etc.


Mick

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May 3 2013 at 11:58am #

That’s sad for Officer McCarthy and his family. Also for the other officer that has a fractured hip – a life-changing injury.

I’m not sure how long the sentence will be – recently I read of a misdemeanor vehicular homicide charge. Not sure if it was in PA or not.

Typically, I think we should make driving with a suspended license in itself a jail-time crime -possibly even a felony, and a civil “take-the-car-away” offense.

In cases like this it might make a suspended license driver more likely to flee the police, but overall it still could save some lives.


edmonds59

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May 3 2013 at 12:03pm #

That’s awful. Maybe, hopefully, since it was an officer, this person does spend some serious time in jail.
If her license was suspended, why does she still have a plate??? It would make total sense to tie the two together. Second strike, impound the vehicle too. If someone else in the household needs the vehicle, too effing bad, shoulda thoughta that.
And, yeah, anyone who lets someone with a suspended license use a vehicle, penalties for them too.


Marko82

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May 3 2013 at 12:25pm #

My point is that this just keeps happening. James Price was killed on Penn Ave. by a driver on a suspended license, the guy in Frick Park hit while on the sidewalk last year, etc., etc.

We as a society KNOW these people should not be driving but they are.


Drewbacca

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May 3 2013 at 12:27pm #

We are too worried about privacy. Send out a letter to everyone on the block that such-and-such neighbor lost his/her license for whatever reason. Provide a toll free tip line to report a violation. No one wants to be a tattle, but no one wants their kid hit by a drunk who lost their right to drive either.

I do recognize it as a serious problem since it seems like most people with a suspended license continue to drive. To an extent I blame our car-culture and lack of alternatives.

Either way, no proposed solution to the problem will be a popular one. Like so many things wrong in this country… there are solutions, but no one wants to enact them (which, is sometimes a good thing too).


Mick

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May 3 2013 at 12:35pm #

@ Drewbacca Send out a letter to everyone on the block that such-and-such neighbor lost his/her license for whatever reason. Provide a toll free tip line to report a violation.

I like it. I’ve seen small town drunks scared of losing their licenses.


erok

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May 3 2013 at 12:44pm #

I saw this. the driver’s facebook page is all pictures of her drinking, at bars, and in a car. so frickin sad.


salty

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May 3 2013 at 9:28pm #

Yeah, that is terrible. Indeed this driver will probably get a hefty dose of punishment, but in general suspending someone’s license does seem essentially meaningless, it’s only a $200 fine if you get caught. It’s somewhat worse if it was suspended due to DUI, but I wonder how often they even enforce those penalties considering how many people you hear about who get busted for double-digit number of DUIs. Impounding the car or revoking the plates is probably a good start.


StuInMcCandless

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May 4 2013 at 6:01am #

Our society is all about punishment, as if there is more than a foggy correlation between punishment and deterrence. But we have little in the way of alternatives. It’s always “I gotta get there, and there’s the car, and who’s going to stop me?”

It also doesn’t help that half the population lives where there is no alternative to the car, and half of the rest do not know how to use what alternatives do exist.

I rather like the impoundment idea on the second infraction. Maybe the choice of forfeiture or jail time on the third.


dooftram

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May 4 2013 at 11:53am #

“On Saturday September 24, 2011 the Edgewood, Swissvale and Braddock Hills Police Departments conducted another sobriety checkpoint in the 1600 block of South Braddock Avenue. Several hundred vehicles passed through the checkpoint in a few hours.

The checkpoint was very successful, as eight arrests for driving under the influence were made. Officers also issued thirty-nine state traffic citations for violations ranging from driving under suspension to having an open alcoholic beverage in a vehicle. Over thirty vehicles were towed due to arrests or major vehicle code infractions, such as having no insurance or not being licensed to drive. Funding for the checkpoint was again made possible by the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office. ”

from – http://www.edgewood.pgh.pa.us/edgewoodpolice/news.htm

Why aren’t checkpoints like this more common?


jonawebb

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May 4 2013 at 4:46pm #

dooftram wrote:Why aren’t checkpoints like this more common?

Because too many drivers would be inconvenienced.


WillB

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May 4 2013 at 7:10pm #

jonawebb wrote:

dooftram wrote:Why aren’t checkpoints like this more common?

Because too many drivers would be inconvenienced.

Or because in a free society people would rather

jonawebb wrote:

dooftram wrote:Why aren’t checkpoints like this more common?

Because too many drivers would be inconvenienced.

Or maybe because in a free society people prefer not to be frequently subjected to random searches by the police.


Kordite

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May 6 2013 at 9:57am #

“Why aren’t checkpoints like this more common?

The sentence just before that one is probably the most telling:
“Funding for the checkpoint was again made possible by the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office. ”


jonawebb

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May 6 2013 at 10:12am #

BTW, checkpoints like this happen all the time in some other states. I was stopped like this in California. They’re checking for DUI, driving with a suspended license, etc. And I don’t see a civil rights violation so long as the police are stopping everybody (as opposed to stopping minorities). Driving is a privilege that comes with certain responsibilities, and it’s reasonable that police check those now and then.
California also takes other laws more seriously, like cross-walks. It would be interesting to investigate how they got like that, to see if we could do the same thing here.


Marko82

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May 6 2013 at 10:44am #

With respect to check points – I disagree with SCOTUS on their interpretation of the fourth amendment. However, I think a little mini-skills test would be a better approach. This could be as simple as a small slalom course set up in the roadway that would test the drivers’ ability to not knock over any cones. . Not only would it catch the impaired driver due to drugs or alcohol, but it could possibly catch drivers that shouldn’t be driving for other reasons (age, eyesight, ability to handle SUV, etc.) Require anyone who knocks over a cone to be DUI tested, and if not impaired they should have to attend a short drivers-ed class.

I think it gets at the root cause of the problem -can this person operate a vehicle safely- rather than just testing for alcohol. This still doesn’t do anything to prevent unlicensed drivers though.


Mick

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May 6 2013 at 11:19am #

We would all be better off if the police did a better job of enforcing the traffic laws.

If the authorities did even a perfunctory job of that on weekend nights, quite a few drunkards would be taken off the street with no 4th amendment problems. By a “perfunctory job” I mean a little more than once in a blue moon doing some large “focus on the south side” sweep.

No driver should ever be confident that they can drive 10 miles over the speed limit and fail to completely stop at any stop sign.

Ever.

But a driver should be reasonably certain that if they behave that way on thurday-friday-saturday night, they will stopped.

That would save lives. That isn’t some extreme measure and there are no – zero, none, nada – constitutional issues with it.

People are dying from the failure to enforce the laws. More weekends than not, someone in Allegheny county dies from the complete and pathetic failure of the authorities to enforce the traffic laws.

On other constituional issue that puzzles me: Most people seem totally willing to discard their fourth amendment protection from unreasonable search just to be able to 10 miles faster than the posted limit.

Factoid: The original challenge to the “drug traffic profile” stops in Florida wasn’t for racial issues. The profile was “someone driving a rental car at the speed limit late at night.” A Florida judge was adamant that, in his court, following the law was never a reasonable cause of suspicion.

But if you look at I 79 between Carnegie and Washington, PA, “following the law” is not just bizarre, it’s so unusual as to be unsafe.


Drewbacca

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May 6 2013 at 11:19am #

“Or maybe because in a free society people prefer not to be frequently subjected to random searches by the police.”

Free society, or anarchist? I have a right to ride my bicycle in a free society without fear of injury or intimidation by a motorist who is not driving in accordance with the law (as in, intoxicated).

This right is infringed upon when there is no check in place to prevent such an act. A driver enters into an agreement with the governing body when they drive their vehicle on a public road. This agreement includes not violating the speed limit, not driving while intoxicated, etc. Since driving is privilege and not a right, there is nothing constitutionally opposed to having these DUI checkpoints… it’s completely legal or they wouldn’t happen at all.

So, why do they not happen more often? I won’t speculate. But, I will say that the searches are not a violation to living in a free society… so your response fails to address the question.


WillB

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May 6 2013 at 12:45pm #

The case that upheld the legality of DUI checkpoints was decided 6-3 in the supreme court, so there are at least three high caliber legal minds who think that there is a constitutional problem with randomly detaining and searching people with no probable cause. I happen to agree with that assessment; just because driving is a licensed privilege doesn’t mean that everyone who gets behind the wheel should suddenly be subject to arbitrary police scrutiny (would it be okay if the cops pulled people over randomly and made them show their text message logs to prove that they haven’t been texting and driving?). And it’s not an anarchist position to suggest law-abiding citizens should be allowed to go about their lives without being stopped and searched or interrogated by the police; it’s actually a pretty fundamental underpinning of a free democratic society.

I much prefer the approach suggested by Mick, which is to pull over the people who are demonstrably breaking the law. That way we can reduce dangerous driving without adopting any features of a police state.


cburch

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May 6 2013 at 12:55pm #

mick’s approach also has the added benefit of pulling DWTs (driving while texting) off the road when they fail to look up in time to notice the temporary chicane.


Drewbacca

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May 6 2013 at 6:27pm #

I don’t see the two approaches as that different…
I understand the position against having a road “block.” But, in just about any case that I’ve ever personally experienced it is either publicized ahead of time that such a block will be in place or there is frequently alternative routes that can be taken before the point of no return is reached. Perhaps this isn’t always the case?

Assuming what I stated above, the sober and responsible person has both time, planning, and wits in order to avoid ever going through the roadblock and thus submitting to this sort of search (is a checkpoint a search? I think that is where the disagreement lies in regards to its constitutionality).

Thus, the check points work because most who go through it are either willing to accept the cost/benefit of an alternative route or too drunk to realize what is going on. Of course, what I’ve stated is full of assumptions (but assumptions that clarify my own personal opinion, none-the-less).

In regards to texting… I’ve been rear-ended by a texter and never involved in an automobile incident with an intoxicated persons. I was almost hit today by a woman fidgeting around with a cigarette while she was trying to maneuver her way through a busy parking lot. *head desk*


ericf

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May 7 2013 at 4:58am #

Mick wrote:People are dying from the failure to enforce the laws. More weekends than not, someone in Allegheny county dies from the complete and pathetic failure of the authorities to enforce the traffic laws.

Relying on enforcement to dictate responsible behavior doesn’t seem to change the fact that people continue to break laws.
A big part of safe driving and cycling is a skill set that can be learned. Current motor vehicle driver licensing is not in sync with the power and speed of modern vehicles, and no license is required to mix it up in traffic on a bicycle.


jonawebb

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May 7 2013 at 7:22am #

Maybe it’s because we see driving as so much a natural part of life that we think of police occasionally stopping people and checking licenses as an invasion of privacy. No one would think there is anything wrong with expecting pilots, for example, to be licensed for the aircraft they fly. And of course that has to be enforced. Without checkpoints, driving with a suspended license has no penalty unless you get stopped for something else.


Drewbacca

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May 7 2013 at 7:24am #

ericf wrote: Relying on enforcement to dictate responsible behavior doesn’t seem to change the fact that people continue to break laws.
A big part of safe driving and cycling is a skill set that can be learned. Current motor vehicle driver licensing is not in sync with the power and speed of modern vehicles, and no license is required to mix it up in traffic on a bicycle.

I hope you aren’t implying that enforcement is futile? Every time a law is broken there is likely a cost-benefit analysis taking place. Even if it is a subconscious thought, the odds of getting caught certainly make up part of the equation. Do you have a suggestion for an alternative method of encouraging responsible behavior? I think that increased enforcement of the rules would go a long way. I’m sure I could dig up studies that support such a position if necessary.

A license is in fact required to mix it up in traffic with a bicycle as well as pedestrians, school busses, emergency vehicles, etc. Not reading the manual is not an excuse. I’m not sure that I’m following what you meant by that? Are we talking actual experiential training or do you just think that there is too little info in the driving manual?


ericf

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May 7 2013 at 7:49am #

@Drewbacca,
I certainly don’t mean to imply that “enforcement is futile”. What I do mean is that no degree of enforcement will make a bad driver (or cyclist) into a good one. Look at the recent tragedy in Shenango. Laws were enforced to the point where the driver’s license was suspended, but she still drove. How many repeat DUI offenders are out there?

Training and practice can build the skills necessary to be a good driver / cyclist. Responsibility is another issue, but I feel that danger keeps people on their toes much more that the risk of enforcement.

Take traffic lights for example:
Do you stop because a cop might see you blow through the red light, or do you stop because you know that there is a multi-ton hunk of metal barrelling down the road in the opposite direction that isn’t going to stop?

What kind of license is required to ride a bicycle on the street? I am unclear on this.


Drewbacca

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May 7 2013 at 7:57am #

I was referring to the driver’s end of thing, not a license to ride a bicycle… we were just failing to understand one another. Common sense would dictate that a cyclist be familiar with traffic laws before riding on roads (aside from neighborhood streets where children ride). Heh.. common sense. yeah… *innocent whistle*

In regards to enforcement and red lights, it brings to mind those stupid red light cameras. I’ll have to dig around a bit if just for my own curiosity. I hate those stupid things but they should provide a lot of empirical data about driver behavior before and after when there is a thread of receiving a fine.

Also, just to clarify… I think that the threat of enforcement is often just as good as actual enforcement. Trying to determine how much enforcement is good enforcement and where it just becomes a waste of money is outside of my own knowledge. I hope that police departments have an economist through the city and look at these things… but who knows.


Marko82

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May 7 2013 at 8:28am #

Drewbacca wrote:I hope that police departments have an economist through the city and look at these things… but who knows.

I think he’s currently under indictment… (sorry, too easy a pun)

I also think that the fear of a fine is of little deterrence for some of these drivers. They are either so wealthy that the money doesn’t matter, or else so poor/in debt that a little more doesn’t matter; at least it seems that way for some stories in the news. The other issue is the lag time between infraction and punishment. My neighbor had his license suspended for a DUI, the suspension didn’t start until after his trial, etc., which means almost a year passed between infraction and consequences. I know we have the presumption of innocence thing going on, but if you are trying to change behavior you need the punishment/reward to be closer to the act.


ericf

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May 7 2013 at 8:52am #

@Drewbacca, I thought that might be the case. Your thoughts on enforcement probably hold true for the majority of drivers, which in itself is good.
I feel that driver’s training is not taken seriously enough. Some people are born with the skills to drive a car (or any vehicle for that matter), others learn through experiences similar to what @cburch posted in another thread about growing up on a farm. Most people do not have those innate skills, or the experience to develop them. At best, we get a few lessons from a professional, but in most cases it is just 6 months with a permit and then a license to drive. In my ideal world, there would be graduated classes , similar to a CDL, of drivers licenses based on vehicle weight, displacement, etc. In this scenario, inexperienced drivers would start with smaller, slower vehicles. With additional training and experience, then one could graduate to sports cars, SUV’s, pickups, etc.
I would also propose some kind of training /testing / licensing before a cyclist can ride unescorted in traffic.


Drewbacca

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May 7 2013 at 9:11am #

I could sign on to that! I learned to drive in a full size GMC van (eek!) and then downgraded to a tiny Toyota Tercel for my first car. I didn’t truly learn to drive until I started cycling again. ;)

I consider myself a good driver, but I still make no shortage of stupid mistakes on a regular basis. I think that auto-piloted cars are the thing to watch.

It comes back down to a culture dependent on the automobile, I think. There are times when I know I shouldn’t drive due to being tired or whatever and do so anyways… that is when the mistakes happen. The number of drivers with DUI related suspensions is a drop in the bucket compared to tired and otherwise distracted motorists. Given that, I’m more open to not pursuing enforcement (but I still like to consider what changes can be made).


edmonds59

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May 7 2013 at 9:23am #

ericf wrote:In my ideal world, there would be graduated classes , similar to a CDL, of drivers licenses based on vehicle weight, displacement, etc. In this scenario, inexperienced drivers would start with smaller, slower vehicles. With additional training and experience, then one could graduate to sports cars, SUV’s, pickups, etc.

Is your ideal world, perhaps, Europe?
It seems like, with all the nonsense that is being stuffed into vehicles these days, entertainment/navigation/bells/whistles it would be dead simple to have a card slot that you would have to insert a valid drivers license for the vehicle to run. Could be marketed as an additional anti-theft measure, option to program only approved licenses. No privacy issues, no stop and search, only your car knows. And BTW, if there’s a hit-n-run, whomever’s license is in there gets the win.


jonawebb

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May 7 2013 at 9:27am #

edmonds59 wrote:a card slot that you would have to insert a valid drivers license for the vehicle to run

I was thinking about that — but if a driver with a suspended license can “borrow” a car to drive (ex. Beau Fishinger, the guy who killed James Price, was apparently driving someone else’s car — the owner petitioned for it to be returned later, and I think it was) then they can also “borrow” a valid driver’s license, or steal one from somewhere. So, once again, unless the police are checking (I really don’t understand why people here are so opposed to this) suspending a license has no real effect until you get caught for something else.


Mick

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May 7 2013 at 10:01am #

I don’t see the need to stop people who are safely going about their business when there are so many easily detectable examples of reckless and illegal driving. I have issues with the police state vibe of it.

I just wish the police would stop ignoring speeding and other visible signs of excessive risk.

I suspect one reason police are OK with near-universal speeding, because it gives them an easy work around for the 4th amendment. If everyone is speeding they can stop anyone they want.

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