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If it Walks Like a Duck: NMA E-Newsletter #341

Posted on July 26th, 2015 in , , , , , , , | Comments Off on If it Walks Like a Duck: NMA E-Newsletter #341

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Summer is the time when communities across the country conduct their annual crosswalk sting operations in which undercover police officers walk out into busy intersections hoping they won’t get run over. The purpose is to ticket passing drivers who fail to yield to, or stop for, the “pedestrian” in the crosswalk.

Locally, the unlucky undercover officers are nicknamed ducks, and we have to wonder about the mindset of those who willingly put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of a $145 ticket. Do they believe the crosswalk markings have some magical power to keep them from getting hit? Incidentally, one officer was struck and injured while he was crossing a downtown street, although he was off-duty at the time. Even so, he continued on duck duty after the accident. Must be some pretty powerful mojo.

And this isn’t the only example of pedestrians attributing protective powers to the constructs of traffic safety. Take the orange flag phenomenon. Some busy intersections around here come equipped with a supply of bright orange construction flags that pedestrians wave to signal their intent to cross. Many simply grab the flag and charge into the street, expecting traffic to respond appropriately. We’ve seen many near misses, and the flag wavers invariably seem puzzled that they nearly got killed walking into the middle of a busy street.

We don’t mean to minimize the importance of pedestrian safety and the role driver awareness plays in it. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), pedestrians account for about 14 percent of all traffic fatalities nationwide, totaling 4,735 in 2013. NHTSA’s vast fatality database can reveal who is most likely to be hit, where they’re most likely to be hit, and even what hour of the day and what day of the week they’re most likely to be hit. The one thing it can’t tell us is why.

The Vision Zero types would have us believe that careless drivers cause most car/pedestrian accidents, but there’s a lot of research to suggest that pedestrian behavior is a primary factor in many traffic accidents. Here are a few examples.

A 2010 North Carolina study found that pedestrians were at fault in 59 percent of crashes, drivers in 32 percent and both in nine percent. The study concluded that pedestrians

… must apply greater caution when crossing streets, waiting to cross, and when walking along roads, as these are correlated with pedestrians being found at fault. The results suggest a need for campaigns focused on positively affecting pedestrian street-crossing behavior in combination with added jaywalking enforcement. … Intoxication is a concern and the results show that it is not only driver intoxication that is affecting safety, but also pedestrian intoxication.

A 2005 study analyzing car/pedestrian crashes in Baltimore noted that

… a large number of all crashes may be attributed to improper pedestrian behavior. Preusser et al (2002) found that in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore area 50% of pedestrians involved in pedestrian vehicular crashes are judged culpable in the crash. Some pedestrian crashes can be associated with risk-taking behavior such as alcohol consumption, mid-block crossing, and crossing under unsafe conditions such as low visibility or high vehicular volume.

And this from a 2000 Florida study that analyzed the causes of pedestrian accidents:

Some form of pedestrian behavior was the primary contributing factor in over three-fourths of the pedestrian crashes reviewed. Alcohol use, by either the pedestrian or driver, was determined as the primary factor in 45% of cases. Where alcohol use was determinable, 69% of pedestrians crossing not in crosswalks were under the influence.

We’re sensing a pattern here.

Undoubtedly motorists are responsible for many pedestrian accidents. But pedestrians must also assume responsibility for their own safety. Of course, the Vision Zero folks go nuts when they hear this. Streetsblog NYC erupted in anger after the New York City police commissioner stated that 66 percent of pedestrian injuries “are directly related to the actions of pedestrians,” and that police would begin targeting jaywalkers. They whined about punishing pedestrians, stating that the best way to promote pedestrian safety was to not hold pedestrians at fault at all. Seriously.

With this kind of attitude, it’s no wonder so many pedestrians are sitting, or walking, ducks.

The Clean Diesel Alternative: NMA E-Newsletter #340

Posted on July 19th, 2015 in , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Clean Diesel Alternative: NMA E-Newsletter #340

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With the advent of ever more stringent Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency requirements, many automakers are turning to clean diesel powered vehicles to improve fuel economy. If you’re in the market for a new car or truck, a diesel vehicle could save you money down the road. This is because diesel vehicles cost less to own and operate than comparable gas-powered vehicles, even though they cost more to buy up front.

That’s the primary finding of a recently released study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). Researchers compared the fuel efficiency of gas-powered vehicles with diesel versions of the same vehicle. They also analyzed the total cost of ownership (TCO) for each type of vehicle.

A sample of 28,239 vehicles sold at auction during 2012 and 2013 was analyzed. Auction pricing was used as a standardized gauge for resale value and to aid with depreciation calculations. For purposes of comparison, all dollar values were converted to 2013 dollars. Researchers tapped into a wide variety of data sources to determine the following costs for each vehicle:

  • Resale value
  • Depreciation
  • Fuel costs
  • Maintenance and repair costs
  • Insurance
  • Fees and taxes

They then calculated the TCO for each vehicle and sorted by vehicle type (passenger car, SUV, medium duty truck, etc.). The study found that diesel vehicles provide a positive return on investment at both the three-year mark and five-year mark, though the return depends on the model and type of vehicle. After three years, all the diesel vehicles studied, except the Volkswagen Golf, are estimated to have a lower TCO than their gasoline counterparts, with savings ranging from $949 to $7,319. This means that diesel buyers more than offset their initial higher purchase price within the first three years of ownership.

After five years, all the diesel vehicles, except the Volkswagen Golf and the Ford F-250, are estimated to have lower a TCO than their gasoline counterparts, with savings ranging from $1,102 to $19,505.

Depreciation and fuel costs are the primary factors leading to the savings in both the three- and five-year timeframes. The analysis shows that the gap in depreciation between the gas and diesel version of the same vehicle can either decrease or increase over time, depending on the vehicle. The study includes lots of comparative data for specific vehicle makes. If you have your eye on a specific model, check the study to see if yours is covered.

The study authors are careful to point out that the relative savings between vehicles will change as the market fluctuates. For example, rising diesel fuel prices relative to gasoline will decrease the diesel fuel cost advantage. And if carmakers pump enough diesel alternatives into the marketplace, resale values for diesel vehicles will fall, thus affecting TCO.

A couple other thoughts on diesel vehicles: Some drivers are concerned about the availability of diesel fuel. The Diesel Technology Forum estimates that 55 percent of gas stations now carry diesel fuel and provides these resources for tracking down a station near you.

Also, diesel vehicles require a little extra maintenance in the form of adding diesel exhaust fluid (DEF). DEF is required for emissions purposes and needs to be replenished routinely. It’s not a big deal in terms of cost or effort, but it is something to be aware of.

The UMTRI study also makes a point relevant to the debate over vehicle miles traveled (VMT) taxing schemes. VMT supporters argue that gas tax revenues are waning due to the increased numbers of hybrid and alternative vehicles on the road. But according to the UMTRI study, hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles constituted less than 3.5 percent of all passenger vehicle sales in 2014. This means that the total percentage of such vehicles on the road is even less and therefore not much of a factor in declining gas tax revenues. Check here to learn why VMT taxes are not an acceptable alternative for highway funding.

Red-Light Cameras Suffer another Crushing Blow: NMA E-Newsletter #339

Posted on July 12th, 2015 in , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

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News of another city dropping its red-light camera program
may not seem like a big deal these days. It is, however, when that city is in the proverbial belly of the red-light camera beast.

We’re talking about Tallahassee, the capital of Florida, home to dozens of camera company lobbyists and control center for a massive red-light camera network that has plagued drivers for years. Officials there recently announced they will not renew the city’s contract with camera vendor Xerox after it expires in August. According to a city spokesperson, the cameras have been so successful in reducing violations that they’re no longer financially viable. Nice try.

True, violations have plummeted, by 90 percent at some intersections, but the reason has nothing to do with the cameras. It’s because the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) mandated longer yellow-light times in 2013. This came after investigative reporter Noah Pransky with WTSP in Tampa Bay broke the story that FDOT had previously ordered cities to reduce yellow-light times.

Why would they do such a thing? Could it be that the state rakes off more than half of the camera revenue generated statewide, for a total of $50-$60 million annually? Thankfully, Pransky’s series of in-depth reports put an end to that. In Tallahassee, red-light cameras had generated $6.3 million through December 2013, with $3 million going to the state, $2.8 million to the vendor and less than $500,000 to the city’s general fund.

The impact of longer yellow-light times has rippled throughout the state. According to Pransky, more than a dozen Florida cities have shut down their red-light camera programs since the longer yellow-light times took effect, with another dozen slated to end in the next year or so. That represents about one-third of the nearly 80 cities that used cameras in 2013. (Check here for more on the impact of longer yellow-light times in Florida.)

In Tallahassee the decline in violations has been dramatic. Red-light violations dropped from 20,122 in 2011 to 8,097 in 2014, a decrease of nearly 60 percent. The same scenario has been playing out in cities throughout the state. And public officials have been spinning it the same way, stating that the cameras are working “too well,” and drivers are finally changing their scofflaw behavior. In this case, “too well” translates as “we had to stop rigging the game, and now the cameras are eating our lunch.”

We need to point out that many individuals have had an impact as well. Florida red-light camera activists Paul Henry and David Shaw have been fighting to remove red-light cameras from Tallahassee for more than a year. In that time they’ve collected and analyzed huge amounts of crash data, and made numerous presentations to city officials regarding the safety and financial issues surrounding red-light cameras. No doubt their efforts influenced the city’s decision to terminate the program.

It’s hard to imagine writing a newsletter like this just a few years ago. Florida was ground-zero for red-light camera abuses, and camera programs were spreading throughout the state at an alarming rate. Pro-camera forces seemed to have a stranglehold on policymakers at all levels. But the rules have changed, the revenue stream is drying up and the cameras are coming down.

Have the camera companies thrown in the towel? Not at all. Camera vendor ATS may have just saved its Hollywood, Florida, contract. City Commissioners had already unanimously voted not to renew the contract, but an 11th hour offer from ATS to renegotiate terms and to provide short-term financial incentives torpedoed the vote.

Will such maneuvering be enough to salvage Florida’s red-light camera business? We don’t think so. Not as long as the cameras remain a financial liability, and there are tenacious reporters and dedicated individuals looking out for the public interest.

NMA Pennsylvania Alert: Attend Anti-Driver Hearing Next Week

Posted on July 10th, 2015 in , , , , , , | No Comments »

The Pennsylvania Legislature really has it in for drivers, as evidenced by the agenda for an important hearing to be held next week. Here are the details:

Joint Committee Hearing – Senate and House Transportation Committees
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
North Office Building, Hearing Room 1, 9:30am-12:00pm
“Enhancing the Safety of Highway Workers, Drivers and Pedestrians”

Don’t let the title fool you. Issues to be discussed include:

  • Speed Cameras in Work Zones
  • Red-Light Camera Enforcement
  • School Bus Arm Cameras
  • Prohibition of Handheld Electronic Devices
  • Emerging Technologies to Control or Mitigate Distracted Driving
  • Radar/Lidar for Local Law Enforcement

Passage of any of these proposals would prove detrimental to your driving freedoms. We encourage you to attend this hearing and tell committee members what you think. For more background on many of these issues, check out this recent interview between radio host L.A. Tarone and NMA Life Member Jim Walker.

2015 Second Quarter Legislative Update: NMA E-Newsletter #338

Posted on July 5th, 2015 in , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

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The NMA continues to advocate for motorists’ rights at the national, state and local level. Legislatures across the country took up a broad range of motorists’ issues in the first quarter of 2015. Here’s a brief summary of the driving-related issues we addressed.


Supported Senate Bill 218 which would prevent the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority from operating bogus stop sign cameras on the lands it manages. The bill is currently in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee.

Opposed Assembly Bill 1287 which would allow increased photo enforcement capabilities on transit vehicles. The bill passed the full Assembly in is now in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.


As a supporting member of the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, the NMA worked with the alliance to oppose the expansion of interstate tolling under consideration by the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Interstate Highway System.

New York

Opposed Senate Bill 5688 which would allow the city of White Plains to operate red-light cameras. The bill passed the Legislature and now awaits Gov. Cuomo’s signature.


Supported House Bill 159 which would make it legal to display only one license plate on the rear of a vehicle. The bill has been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.


Opposed House Bill 950 as currently written, which would eliminate the sunset clause for Pennsylvania’s red-light camera program, allowing them to operate in perpetuity. The bill is currently in the House Rules Committee.

Opposed House Bill 1300 which would permit local police agencies to use radar and laser for speed enforcement. The bill has been referred to the House Transportation Committee.

Opposed Senate Bill 840 which would create a pilot program to use speed cameras in highway work zones—a pilot program that could eventually lead to the use of speed cameras throughout the state. The bill has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee.


Opposed Senate Bill 1128 which was portrayed as restricting ticket camera use, but in reality allowed the use of red-light cameras, as well as manned photo radar vans and speed cameras in school zones. The bill in its original form was essentially a complete ban on all camera-based enforcement throughout the state. The bill was signed by Gov. Haslam.

Thanks to the many NMA members who volunteered their time to send emails, write letters, make phone calls, and work with policymakers and media outlets on these important issues. If you’re not signed up to receive legislative alerts but would like to, use the “Choose Your NMA E-Subscriptions” link in the sidebar of this email.

A Refresher Course on Ticket-Fighting Part 2: NMA E-Newsletter #337

Posted on June 28th, 2015 in , , , , , | Comments Off on A Refresher Course on Ticket-Fighting Part 2: NMA E-Newsletter #337

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Here’s Part 2 of our Frequently Asked Questions on ticketing fighting. See Part 1 here.

Can a police officer issue me a ticket if he’s outside his own jurisdiction?

If the violation took place within his jurisdiction the answer is yes. If the violation took place outside his jurisdiction the answer is less clear. There may be interagency agreements that allow police to exercise their authority outside their jurisdictions. There may also be state laws that allow inter-jurisdictional enforcement actions. One point to remember, the officer that observed the violation and issued the citation is the only person that can testify against you. The likelihood that an out-of-area officer would appear to testify against you at your trial is somewhat remote.

What if I don’t believe I was going that fast?

It’s possible the radar or other speed measuring device was being operated improperly. Also, the officer may have mistaken your car for another or made some other error. The burden will be on you to prove the likelihood of that mistake.

But everyone was going over the speed limit. What if I was just pulled out of the crowd?

It may be true, but it is totally irrelevant now. Plead not guilty and go to court. In court, don’t complain that you were being victimized. The judge does not want to hear, nor does he have the time to listen to a claim that is nearly impossible to prove. If the officer shows up in court, cross-examine him by asking questions in such a way as to make it appear he had no idea which vehicle caused the reading on the radar/laser gun.

What if they only ticket people of my race?

Sometimes this has every appearance of being true, largely due to stops for trivial traffic laws like seat belt violations, playing the radio too loud, or having a blown out light bulb. If you believe the officer stopped you because of your race, we recommend making a complaint to the police department and/or city government. If it continues to happen after the complaint, consider a lawsuit.

If I don’t sign my ticket, does that mean it’s invalid?

No. Signing for your ticket, which isn’t required in all areas, merely means that you will pay the fine or plead not guilty and show up in court.

If I prove my speedometer was defective when I was stopped for speeding, will the court dismiss the ticket?

No. The court might consider it a mitigating circumstance, but it’s likely you will still be found guilty.

What if there was more than one officer involved in my stop?

First, the clocking officer must be able to confirm that the car being pulled over was the car he clocked. This confirmation should be made to the officer that does the stop. The officer that does the stop is responsible for identifying the driver to whom the ticket is issued. Both the officer that clocked the vehicle’s speed and the officer that issued the ticket must be at the driver’s trial. This also applies to situations involving the use of airplanes to clock vehicle speeds.

Can I write the court and tell them why I’m not guilty?

Some states allow a “trial by declaration”, which is, in a sense, a written explanation or defense you can send to the court. In general, we doubt the fairness or effectiveness of such a defense. There is very little incentive for the court to find the defendant “not guilty.” However, if it is your only option make the best of it. Know the law you are accused of violating, provide a clear description of the key events, and lay out your proofs and arguments as to why you are “not guilty.”

What will happen if I just ignore the ticket?

Ignoring a speeding ticket may result in a suspended license and/or a bench warrant being issued for your arrest. This is true even if you received the ticket outside of your home state. What about that “ex-traffic cop” that has a guaranteed system to get people out of any speeding ticket? No one can guarantee the outcome of your case and you should be skeptical of anyone claiming otherwise. Fighting a traffic ticket will involve some effort on your part, but the benefits are worth it.

When the officer was writing the ticket I admitted that I was speeding. Does that mean that can no longer fight the ticket?

It doesn’t mean you can’t fight it, but you did shoot yourself in the foot. The cop will have recorded that you admitted to speeding. However, you can still go to court and explain some special circumstance as to why you were exceeding the speed limit, or be very contrite and ask for a break, or stick with a not guilty plea, go to trial and hope the cop doesn’t show up allowing you to make a motion for dismissal.

I was asked by a court clerk if I was representing myself as “Pro Se” or appearing in court “Pro Se.” That simply means that I am not using legal representation and I am representing myself in court, right?

Yes, the term Pro se means you will be representing yourself.

You can find these and other FAQ’s in the NMA’s e-book “Fight That Ticket!” which is available as a free download for supporting NMA members and available to non-members for only $9.95.

NMA Pennsylvania Alert: Lawmakers Quietly Extending Red-Light Camera Program

Posted on June 26th, 2015 in , , , | Comments Off on NMA Pennsylvania Alert: Lawmakers Quietly Extending Red-Light Camera Program

Your state legislators are trying to put one over on you. They’ve added a provision to an existing bill that would eliminate the ending date for Pennsylvania’s red-light camera pilot program. That means the cameras could operate in perpetuity without any further action from lawmakers. It’s a sneaky trick and will make it that much harder to get rid of red-light cameras if it gets passed.

The bill in question is House Bill 950 and was originally intended to allow vehicles to proceed through signalized intersections that are inoperable or malfunctioning. The NMA has no issues with the original bill but the inclusion of the language to eliminate the sunset provisions for the red-light camera program are unacceptable and must be eliminated.

HB 950 is currently under consideration in the House. We encourage you to contact your House member and ask him or her not to vote for HB 950 as it is currently written.

NMA New York Alert: Keep Ticket Cameras out of White Plains

Posted on June 24th, 2015 in , , , | Comments Off on NMA New York Alert: Keep Ticket Cameras out of White Plains

The New York State Assembly has passed a bill to allow the city of White Plains to install and operate red-light cameras. Senate Bill 5688 now awaits Gov. Cuomo’s signature to become law.

There still time to stop it. We encourage you to contact the governor’s office immediately and tell him to veto this measure. Red-light cameras are about raising revenue on the backs of motorists, not about improving intersection safety. (Learn more here.) Cities across the country are abandoning red-light cameras as ineffective and unfair to motorists.

White Plains is following a trend of communities outside of New York City seeking to operate red-light cameras. Yonkers and Mount Vernon have already installed cameras, and more cities will follow if we don’t stop the momentum now.

You can send a message to Gov. Cuomo here, or call his office at 1-518-474-8390.

A Refresher Course on Ticket-Fighting Part 1: NMA E-Newsletter #336

Posted on June 21st, 2015 in , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Refresher Course on Ticket-Fighting Part 1: NMA E-Newsletter #336

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Helping NMA members fight traffic tickets is foundational to the NMA mission. Over the years we’ve collected lots of tips and suggestions for getting the best results in court. We recently came across this list of Frequently Asked Questions and thought it would provide a good refresher on some basic ticket-fighting principles. Look for Part 2 in an upcoming e-newsletter.  

Does the officer have to show me the radar/laser reading?
This is not required in most jurisdictions. Also, whether the officer allows you to see the speed reading has virtually no bearing on your case. Officers can lock in radar readings and leave them on to display to any hapless victim, even though it was not his or her vehicle that registered the displayed speed. 

Can radar clock the speed of one vehicle in a group of vehicles?
The radar operator is unable to determine which vehicle in a group of vehicles is responsible for the speed he sees on his radar gun display. 

Can the police send me a ticket in the mail, even though they didn’t stop me at the time of the alleged violation?
Yes, but the officer who observed the violation must attend your trial and testify that it was your car he observed violating the law and that you were the person operating that car. 

If my car was clocked from an airplane do the officer(s) in the plane have to attend my trial?
The officer that clocked your car and the officer that gave you the ticket must appear as witnesses against you. 

How often do radar guns and laser guns have to be formally re-calibrated and checked for accuracy?
This varies from state to state. Some states have very specific requirements and many states have no standards what-so-ever. It is not uncommon for enforcement agencies to produce calibration certificates for a radar gun, any radar gun, regardless of the radar gun that was actually used to issue the citation. 

Where do I send a Request for Discovery?
A Request for Discovery goes to the District Attorney/Prosecutor responsible for your case. 

Where do I send a Public Information Request or Freedom of Information Request?
These requests should be sent to the agency or office that holds the actual record you are seeking, most often the police department that issued you a ticket. 

What is a “Defense of Necessity?”
This is a legal defense where the defendant claims it was necessary to violate the law to prevent or avoid serious harm such as loss of life or personal injury. 

Can police officers operate speed traps while parking on private property?
Yes, but they must also vacate the property if asked to do so by the property owner. 

Will the court automatically dismiss the charges against me if the officer does not show up for my trial?
Not usually, you often have to make a motion to have the charges dismissed. Generally, a judge will grant your motion, but it is up to his/her discretion. 

Am I entitled to at least one continuance?
No, but most courts will grant at least one continuance without seriously exploring the reason. It should be noted that requesting a continuance can eliminate the right to a speedy trial, at least in those states that have a “speedy trial” statute. 

Do I have a right to a jury trial?
About half the states allow jury trials for traffic law violations. Most states allow jury trials for DUI defendants. However, the US Supreme Court has declared that the US Constitution’s clear mandate for granting jury trials, in the Sixth and Seventh Amendments, does not apply if the possible punishment is less than six months in prison. 

Will errors on the ticket result in the charges being dropped?
Courts will often excuse minor errors on a ticket. A misspelled name, incorrect address, or difference in opinion on whether your car is aqua or green in color will not result in a dismissed ticket. Conversely, a major error such as citing the wrong statute, radically misidentifying your vehicle or listing the wrong highway as the site of the violation should provide justification to dismiss the ticket. However, it may be advantageous to say nothing about the errors until your trial. Let the officer use the ticket to describe the violation, location, and identification of your vehicle (they all do). After he/she has sufficiently buried him/herself with perjured testimony, you can document the errors and any legitimate court will dismiss the charges.

You can find these and other FAQ’s in the NMA’s e-book “Fight That Ticket!” which is available as a free download for supporting NMA members and available to non-members for only $9.95.

NMA New York Alert: Sign Petition to Ban Photo Enforcement in NYC

Posted on June 18th, 2015 in , , , , | Comments Off on NMA New York Alert: Sign Petition to Ban Photo Enforcement in NYC

New York City has become one of the most oppressive places for drivers in the entire country. It’s no accident that officials blanketed the city with speed cameras and then shortly thereafter dropped the default speed limit to 25 mph, in the name of safety.

You CAN fight back against abusive photo enforcement, deliberately mis-engineered roads and overbearing traffic enforcement. Voice your opposition by signing this online petition, created by one of the NMA’s most active New York members. It only takes a second, and you will be making a powerful statement on behalf of all motorists throughout the city.

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