Apps To Help Avoid Distracted Driving

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Distracted driving is dangerous. No need to say much more on that. Unfortunately, plenty of us still do it. Perhaps it’s a false belief that an accident won’t “happen to me” or some insatiable need to stay informed or connected. Regardless, there’s clearly too much of it on our roads. According to the Texting Awareness Foundation, about 6,000 deaths and half a million injuries are caused by distracted drivers every year. Taking your eyes of the road for a split second endangers both your life and the lives of anyone else on the road.

To contribute to the fight against distracted driving, a number of applications for all the major phone operating systems have been created to help discourage drivers from texting or otherwise give the driving less than their full attention.

Those who send text messages while driving are 23 times more likely to experience a crash. As we start the new year, here are some apps which may help you to avoid becoming a statistic.

1. AT&T DriveMode
By limiting the extra features on your phone, DriveMode automatically sends pre-set replies to incoming texts to let people know you are driving. Once the app is selected, all calls, texts and emails are silenced, and the app blocks you from reading or typing anything. It does offer leniency, however, giving you the option to receive and make calls with up to five people, plus 911, and allows you to access your music playlist.

2. DriveSafe.ly
Instead of completely blocking your incoming messages, DriveSafe.ly actually reads your text messages, calls or emails aloud. By reading to you, the app eliminates that urge to grab your phone and take your eyes off the road for a split second. Best of all, it automatically responds to recipients for you (with a pre-set response) or allows you to respond by voice, totally hands-free.

3. Textecution
For those who really don’t want to mess around, Textecution uses GPS to determine speed at which your car is moving. If you are traveling more than 10 mph, the application will disable texting, so you cannot receive or respond to texts. You will be able to unlock messages when going less than 10 mph. Lets say you were a passenger, though, or on a train; the app allows you to ask for permission from the admin, who will be able to override the settings.

4. DriveScribe
It’s about time we were rewarded for safe driving. DriveScribe’s app measures and evaluates your driving performance by giving you points, based on how well you stay within the speed limit and obey traffic signals. Users can redeem points for gift cards and discounts at certain stores. If you are interested in your driving patterns as well, the app tracks distance driven, average speed, maps of routes driven and descriptions of your violations (if any).

5. Text-STAR
Part auto-text responder, part digital personal assistant, Text-STAR aims to get you where you need to go without any distractions. Able to sense motion, the app disables texting when you drive 10 mph or more. It also allows you to schedule auto reply texts in advance, if you plan to be busy at a later time, whether you are driving or doing something else.

Original list of apps can be found here: http://mashable.com/2012/12/17/texting-driving-apps/

Submitted by Scott Feifer

No More Suffolk County Fees On Dismissed Tickets

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Motorists in Suffolk County will no longer pay a $50 administrative fee (SCTPVA Traffic Ticket Fees) if they’re found not guilty of traffic infractions.

The county legislature unanimously approved a bill that bars the new Traffic & Parking Violations Agency from charging the fee in the majority of cases that are dismissed — an issue that had become a sore spot with many residents and lawmakers.

Since Suffolk opened its own traffic agency (the SCTPVA) in April, it has been a particularly profitable court.  It has handled more than 50,000 cases and collected more than $10 million in fines.
Nearly $500,000 (5%) of the total came from fees on dismissed tickets.

After complaints from the public and county lawmakers, County Executive Steve Bellone backed the decision to end these fees and said he would issue refunds to the thousands of drivers who have already paid the fees after dismissals.  Fee refunds for 2013 could approach $400,000.

Unfortunately, the bill passed Tuesday also increases the fee for motorists found guilty to $55 as a way of recouping lost revenue.

Fees for dismissed tickets…additional fees on guilty tickets to make up for “lost revenue”…  As long as traffic enforcement is about safety on the roads, right?

Submitted by Scott Feifer

Traffic Violation Enforcement: Further Evidence It’s More About Money

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

The newly opened Suffolk County Traffic and Parking Violations Bureau (SCTPVA) currently charges an administrative fee on all tickets. While this isn’t necessarily unusual for a court, the SCTPVA is charging a fee even if a motorist is found “not guilty” of a charge and the traffic ticket case is dismissed.

As one motorist whose ticket was dismissed asked, “Why do I have to pay anything? Why do I have to pay their court costs? Why do I have to pay any of that?”

Drivers have voiced complaints about this policy to some local elected officials and some agree that this policy is a problem. “Traffic violations should be about safety, not about revenue generation,” said Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer (D-Centerport.)

The county will claim that this is compensation necessary for the time and expense of prosecuting traffic violation charges. However, when you consider that just a few months ago Suffolk County opened this new SCTPVA to keep local control over revenue from fines (it previously went to Albany when tickets were handled by the NYS DMV TVB), one would have to question whether this was just a way to squeeze a little more revenue out of the court.

Drivers want Suffolk lawmakers to end the practice of charging motorists who challenge the moving violations issued against them. Following a hearing, some Suffolk lawmakers agreed to introduce a bill to exempt most dismissed tickets from the administrative fee.

Submitted by Scott Feifer

Manhattan South TVB Address Change (as of Nov. 12, 2013)

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

The Manhattan South TVB will move to a new office as of Nov. 12, 2013.

Currently at 19 Rector Street, the TVB office will move to a new location in the same neighborhood.  The last day at the old address of 19 Rector St will be on Friday, Nov. 8th.

The new court address:

2 Washington Street
New York, NY 10004.


View Larger Map

The Manhattan South TVB office (as well as the Manhattan North office) handles traffic tickets (moving violations) issued within Manhattan. The TVB is famous (infamous??) for the lack of plea bargaining or negotiation on simple traffic tickets. Every case at the TVB either is guilty as charged or dismissed in it’s entirety after a hearing.

Scott Feifer

Liability For Texting While Driving Even If Not Driving

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

The battle to educate people on the dangers of distracted driving and the steadily increasing penalties for those convicted of texting while driving have been well documented. Not quite as well documented is the potential liability of the “remote” individual on the other end of the text.

On Tuesday, the NJ Appeals Court ruled that “a remote texter can be held liable to third parties for injuries caused when the distracted driver has an accident.” In other words, if you’re texting with a person while they are driving, and that person injures another or damages property, you could be help responsible for those injuries and damages.

The particular case in question involved a 2009 accident where teenager Kyle Best drove his car into a motorcycle and injuring the man and woman rider to the extent that both lost a leg. Mr. Best was found to be texting at the time of the accident.

At the time of the accident, Mr. Best was texting with 17 year old Shannon Colonna. In examining Ms. Colonna’s potential liability, the court set forth that “we hold that the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting, but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted.”

Ultimately in this case, there was insufficient proof that Ms. Colonna knew Mr. Best was driving at the time of the texting. Nevertheless, NJ sets an interesting precedent going forward–engage in texting with someone you know to be driving and risk liability as if you were actually driving the car yourself.

Submitted by Scott Feifer

Choosing A NY Traffic Lawyer

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

If you’ve come to the general conclusion that hiring a traffic ticket attorney is the right decision for you, then you’re likely in the process of choosing a NY traffic lawyer.  How can you determine which attorney in particular is the right attorney for your case?

In most situations, there will be multiple options. There will be plenty of attorneys willing to take your case and likely more than one traffic attorney who is capable of doing a good job.  In fact, there are more and more popping up every day claiming to be able to help with your speeding ticket, etc.

So what should make one traffic attorney ultimately stand out from the rest?  Some things to consider:

  • Fee.  Of course any viable attorney must charge a fee you can afford and is in line with the potential penalties you are facing.
  • Experience.  Experience with the particular type of case and in your particular court/county/area.
  • Your first contact.  Was the law office prompt to the phone and friendly when you called?  If you left an inquiry via a voice message or email submission, were you contacted quickly?  Communications problems with the firm when you’re a potential client may be a warning sign before becoming an actual client.
  • Your initial consultation.  Who gave your consultation?  Speak with an attorney?  Paralegal?  Administrative Assistant?  Was the information you were given clear and concise?  Seem honest and willing to discuss downsides and risks?  Were all your questions answered?
  • Attorney’s reputation.  Were you referred by a friend or someone else you know?  Did you just find the attorney online via a search?  What do the general comments that you may find online say about the NY traffic ticket lawyer you are considering?  How long have they been in business?
Look how handsome I am and how sincere I am when I guarantee (kind of) that you will win (kind of).

Look how handsome I am and how sincere I am when I guarantee (kind of) that you will win (kind of).

With plenty to consider, here are some things not to get too caught up in, or possibly even run away from, when choosing  your traffic ticket lawyer:

  • Online reviews.  The certainly have some merit, but there are also too many questions to put too much stock in it.  I once had a client tell me he was using the online reviews as the primary way to compare three traffic attorneys he was considering.  That’s a little much.  Yelp is infamous for “filtering” reviews and has been accused more than once of applying their filters in favor of their paying advertisers.  Google reviews appear and disappear.  I’ve read a million stories about that, mostly because it happened to us when we moved offices within NYC and simply updated our address.  Businesses often have the ability to remove or challenge bad reviews.  Sometimes bad reviews are just angry people venting moreso than a fair shot at the attorney.  The point is, consider online reviews with a grain of salt.
  • “Success” rates and statistics.  Different courts and procedures, different violations charged, different driving records and judges and goals based on a client’s job or personal situation… Many different ways a traffic attorney can be successful.  Moreover, every case is different.  How can I tell you how your case “looks”or what your chances of success are before I’ve spoken a single word with the prosecutor, reviewed any evidence offered by the officer or have any idea which judge has been assigned to your case?   Your attorney should be able to help you ascertain what your primary goal is and how realistic “success” will be, what factors may affect your chances of success and which of these factors are and are not within our control  I understand that people like numbers because they are easy to compare, but don’t get so caught up because one attorney throws the number 72% at you and the other comes in at 69%.  It’s apples and oranges.
  • Guarantees.  These shouldn’t just be given less weight.  They should be avoided altogether.  In New York, traffic ticket lawyers cannot charge contingency fees–where the fee varies based on the result of the case–on traffic violations.  A money back guarantee  (only pay if you achieve a certain result) is a fee based on the result of the case and therefore not permitted according to New York State Bar Association rules .  Moreover, I can just about guarantee you that their “guarantee” is for some result that any attorney will be able to attain in 99% of traffic violation cases.  These traffic attorneys wouldn’t offer to do the work unless they expected the result they “guarantee” in order to get themselves paid.  I just find the money back guarantee to be somewhat devious and in general I’d be more skeptical about how honest these attorneys were in their consultation.   I feel attorneys offering “guarantees” should be avoided.

In many ways choosing your traffic ticket attorney in NY is similar to choosing any other service provider, from contractor to tutor for your child to landscaper.  When choosing any service provider, it’s probably wise to do a quick review of what you are looking for and what will or will not impress you during your initial conversation.  Having a basic plan in your head, and idea with regard to what you consider important, should help you get the most out of your consultation and ultimately help you in choosing a NY traffic lawyer who’s best for your job.

Submitted by Scott Feifer

I’ve Lost (Can’t Find) My New York Traffic Ticket

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

What should you do if you’ve lost your NY traffic ticket, can’t find it and know that a deadline of some sort to respond or show in court is approaching or has past?  It depends on where the ticket was issued and what information you may have available concerning the charge.

 NYC / TVB Traffic Tickets

If your traffic ticket was issued in Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island or another Traffic Violations Bureau jurisdiction, then you’ll have an easier time following up on it and staying timely.

If you’ve been charged with a moving violation in NYC at the TVB, and you know your ticket number, you can check the status online here:  http://www.dmv.ny.gov/PleadandPay/default.html.  If you don’t know your ticket number, you can still try the website using a “dummy” number that matches TVB format (try 4211111111).  Sometimes the dummy number will get you a “we didn’t find that, but you do have these tickets…” type of message.  If the dummy number trick doesn’t work and/or you are just having a hard time locating it online, you can always visit any of the TVB offices and one of the clerks on the information line can potentially help you find what you are looking for.

If you’ve been charged with a vehicle and traffic law misdemeanor in NYC such as Aggravated Unlicensed Operation (driving while suspended or revoked) or Reckless Driving, then you can try to find your case information here:  https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/webcrim_attorney/Login (login as a public user).   If not (not all cases will be on Webcrims), there are a finite number of criminal courts in each borough and worst case scenario you can pay a visit to the court(s) in the borough where the summons was issued to track it down and make sure the matter is handled.

Nassau County / Westchester County / All Upstate, Local Court Traffic Tickets

If you’ve been issued a traffic ticket in a local village, town or county jurisdiction, and you know which court the ticket was answerable to, you can just call the court directly.  The court clerk can update you on the status of the case and what you need to do to proceed or get everything back on track if deadlines have already passed.  The clerk can help whether you know your ticket number or not.

If you don’t know which court is handling your case, it’s a little trickier.  The problem is there are many courts in each county and you would literally need to call each court individually.  Perhaps you remember it happened near or around a certain town or certain exit on a highway and, using a court directory and map, you can narrow it down and put together a list of two or three courts to contact.  If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor, it’s the same and you’ll need to contact the court directly.

If you are unable to figure out which local court your case is in, you’ll unfortunately have no choice but to wait.  There’s a procedure that should eventually provide you with the information you need.  Once the court in questions deems you “late” on some deadline to answer or appear in court, they will notify the DMV.  The DMV will in turn send you a notification that you’ll need to respond to so and so court by a certain date or risk suspension.  This is your opportunity to respond and get things back on track with your case prior to a suspension.  It’s not foolproof (people move, have old addresses on a license, miss a letter in the mail, etc) but you at least have a shot of avoiding a suspension even if you have completely lost your ticket and have no idea where it was issued.

Lost

In summary, in NYC it’s a little easier to narrow things down.  There are fewer courts and an online system that can also be used.  Outside the city and the TVB, it’s a little trickier but there’s still hope.  If you’re in this position and trying to figure it all out, we can sometimes help too if you want to give us a call.

By Scott Feifer

 

How Can A NY Traffic Lawyer Help With Your Traffic Ticket?

Monday, July 8th, 2013

NY traffic ticket attorneys.  Can a traffic lawyer help with a traffic violation in NYC and/or in a local town or village justice court?

I can say with 100% certainty that good traffic lawyers can help with every single moving violation issued in New York State.  Every single one.

My goal on a consultation is to provide a complete and quick analysis of your particular situation. After literally thousands and thousands of consultations about various moving violations in NY, I think I can help people walk through the most important considerations and leave them in a position to decide how to proceed.

This is how we can help anyone who is dealing with a moving violation.  Complete, concise and honest assessment of their particular situation.  Whether you have no idea what to do or are just looking for some confirmation of what you already think you know, we can always, at very least, help you decide how to deal with the traffic ticket.   Even if we tell you there is nothing we can do to help with your particular case, I’d like to think we’ve at least “helped” to the extent that you have a better handle on your situation and confirmation that you won’t need to add the expense of legal representation.

Typical considerations on a good traffic ticket consultation for a NY traffic ticket should include:

1.  What are the potential penalties?

  • Fines and surcharges.  Can vary greatly based on one’s driving record and the particular traffic violation in question.
  • Points.  Points are a concern because they are a measuring stick used by the DMV.  Point accumulation lets DMV know when they should assess you ($300+) and when they should suspend you (11 points, with exceptions).
  • Assessments.  At six points, the driver responsibility penalty is $300.  It’s $75 per point after six.  Points are calculated based on how many are accumulated in any 18 month period.
  • Insurance.  No two situations are the same when you consider all the factors involved (driving record, age, residence, type of car, particular policy and company, etc).  Generally, convictions for traffic tickets just aren’t good for one’s insurance.  In NY, any driver with multiple convictions of any type or severity, or even just a single ticket of moderate severity, may have legitimate concerns about insurance increases.
  • Suspension or revocation.  These penalties could be mandatory or discretionary (up to the particular judge).
  • Employment.  Many depend on their license to get to work and for others (CDL holders  to pizza delivery people) their license and privilege to drive is their work.
  • Personal.  Do you depend on your license to drive kids to and from activities?  For medical care for yourself of someone else?

2.  How do these potential penalties potentially affect you?

These penalties will vary from person to person.  Many depend on the particular violation, prior driving history and what the person does for a living.  Every situation is different.

3.  What can be done to avoid or minimize these potential penalties?  Is negotiation a possibility?  Should or must I proceed to trial to avoid the penalties?  Is there some other option?

4(a).  What are the chances I can avoid these penalties on my own?  Is it a routine letter to be written or class to be completed or is a full trial necessary?  There are some things unrepresented motorist can very easily do on their own.

4(b).  What will the cost be to me to represent myself?  Do you need to miss work to attend court?  How far do you live from the court?  Even an “easy” self-representation situation may have an overhead that doesn’t make it worth it.

5(a).  What are the chances a traffic attorney can avoid these penalties?  Are these chances of success different from the self-represented motorist’s?

5(b).  What will the traffic lawyer cost?

Once the consultation touches on all these, you should be in a position to make a decision.  May not be a slam dunk decision to proceed one way or the other, but you’re at least armed with all the information you’ll need to make informed choices with respect to your traffic ticket.

By Scott Feifer

NY Cell Phone Law 5 points As Of June 2013

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

New NY cell phone law now adds 5 points to your NY license as of June 2013.  New York simply does not want drivers distracted by the use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices while driving and the penalties if convicted of this offense keep getting more severe.

Summary of the law on texting, portable electronic devices and cell phone usewhile driving in NYS – VTL Sec. 1225-c and 1225-d.

Drivers are not permitted to use portable, hand-help mobile cell phones while operating a vehicle.  This is a New York State law and applies to using a cell phone while driving in Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau County and everywhere else in the state.  If an officer observes you using a cell phone while operating a vehicle,  you run a serious risk of getting issued a cell phone ticket.  Same for texting and portable electronic devices in general.  Distracted driving is a big issue and officers are actively looking for these violations.  You simply cannot drive and operate a cell phone or portable electronic device while your vehicle is in motion, or at all if you are a Commercial Driver (see below for the distinction as of October 28, 2013).  The exception is to call or contact 911 or legitimate medical, fire or police personell about an actual in progress emergency.  You must be on the phone with the emergency personell and be able to document the call and the emergency if you plan to use this defense in court.

Cell Phone Ticket Points.  The history of points added to your license from a cell phone violation and texting/other portable electronic device violations is as follows:

  • If you cell phone ticket was issued prior to February 16, 2011, there are no points added to your license if convicted.
  • For cell phone tickets issued between February 16, 2011 and October 4, 2011, a conviction for the violation adds two points to your license.
  • For cell phone tickets issued between October 5, 2011 and May 31, 2013, a conviction for the violation adds three points to your license.
  • For cell phone tickets issued on or after June 1, 2013, a conviction for the violation adds five points to your license.

Cell Phone Ticket Fines

Effective July 26, 2013, fines for texting or using a cell phone while driving will increase as follows:

  • For a first offense, $50 to $150.
  • For a second offense committed within 18 months, $50 to $200.
  • For a third or subsequent offense committed within 18 months, $50 to $400.

Tickets issued to Commercial Drivers for using a cell phone, texting or other portable electronic device.

On October 28, 2013, a few changes/additions to the law are set to kick in regarding commercial drivers (CDL holders) driving commercial vehicles.  The most notable in my opinion is that drivers of commercial vehicles are singled out and prohibited from using their cell phone or texting while their vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic or a signal or other delay.  They must pull over to a portion of the road designated for non-moving traffic.  Non commercial drivers can in theory operate a phone or device while stopped at a light or in traffic.

_________

Bottom line?  Again, officers are looking to issue these tickets.  Not every officer is going to be that concerned or necessarily knowledgable concerning the date new laws kick in or the minor differences regarding certain aspects of the law, commercial driver vs non commercial drivers, etc.  If an officer sees you in a vehicle and looking down, holding or otherwise playing around with a phone, other communication device , ipod or other type of entertainment device, you risk getting a ticket.  Do NOT rely on the exact facts (and an “easy win” as clients like to say) always coming out in court.  Do not rely on “proof” such as cell phone bills.  There is never any certainty that the bill provided in court is indeed the bill for the phone in question and, even if there is, not every act (reading email, texting, listening to voice messages) shows on a bill.

The BEST defense, and clearly the safest way to drive and avoid a now five point and increasingly costly ticket for talking on your phone while driving is to simply not touch your device once you get in the car.

 

Talking, texting, scrambling eggs...none are safe while driving

Talking, texting, scrambling eggs…none are safe while driving

By Scott Feifer

Fighting a New York Speeding Ticket

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Looking to fight a New York speeding ticket issued in Brooklyn or Queens or Westchester or any of the small towns or villages throughout the state?  Considering the consequences of speeding in NY, in most cases you probably should be looking to contest your ticket.

First, consider where you got it. Is it a NYC speeding ticket answerable to the Traffic Violations Bureau or a local court speeding ticket outside the city answerable to a village, town or county court?

If it’s one of the local courts, you’ll probably want to enter a plea of not guilty and then pursue a plea bargain with the prosecutor for that particular court. Given the option to settle/negotiate (plea bargain) before fight (trial), it’s certainly worth pursuing the settlement first. With our clients, the vast majority of speeding tickets in NY local courts are successfully settled and clients walk away with a fine and either nothing or much less on their license than the original charge would have brought.

If it’s a speeding ticket in NYC at the TVB, then there is no negotiation option. At the TVB, every speeding ticket that is challenged will proceed to a trial. The outcome will either be all (win, case dismissed, no points, no fine, like it never happened) or nothing (lose, guilty as charged). In some instances a judge has the discretion to amend the charge down by a couple of mph if it will result in fewer points, but this is an exception to the all or nothing rule that your lawyer can discuss with you if it is applicable to your particular case.

So how do we beat a speeding ticket? The goal is to find flaws in the officer’s testimony. We want to be able to ask the judge to dismiss the speeding ticket based on an error or omission or contradiction or some problem with the issuing officer’s testimony that can be presented to the judge as a potentially successful motion to dismiss.

Some examples…

An officer fails to mention the specific date he was trained to use the particular radar or laser used as the basis of the speeding ticket in question.

An officer fails to mention that he excluded opposite direction traffic from the zone monitored by his radar when he set up at the location in question. Failure to exclude such traffic means it’s possible a vehicle moving in the opposite direction was the one tagged by the radar.

An officer testifies that he is on the east side of a southbound highway monitoring traffic. However, when we ask to look at the notes he took at the time of the incident, it shows him in a different position on a diagram he drew.

An officer testifies that he really doesn’t independently remember the incident but that he is relying on the notes he took during the car stop to recall and refresh his recollection. However, counsel notices that he offered some testimony NOT contained in these notes that he admits he’s relying on. The veracity of this “outside his notes” testimony is now in doubt.

We get lucky and the officer’s kid spilled orange juice all over his notes that morning and he now can’t recall what happened. Hey–lucky counts too.

The moral of this story is that, whether you did or did not actually commit the speeding violation, there is hope. There’s always something you can try to do to minimize or eliminate the damage caused by a NY speeding ticket answerable to any of the courts throughout New York State.

Submitted by Scott Feifer

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  • A suspension at 11 points is not always mandatory. Some judges have discretion to waive a points-based suspension.