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Poor punished for not paying citation fees, court fines

For years, politicians in South Carolina who have promised citizens to not raise taxes have been forced to increase fines and court fees as a means of running the state. Unfortunately, many of these fines and court fees result in jail time and probation when they can't be paid. Many people believe that these policies end up hurting members of the lower class.

For example, a 38-year-old man was punished by the state of Tennessee in 1999 for habitual truancy at school by not being allowed to drive. When the then-teenager drove anyway, he received two citations and more than $1,000 in fines. He couldn't pay and ended up serving time in prison. After prison, he was forced to pay a monthly visitation fee to a probation officer. Because he can't afford the fees, he has chosen not to drive, which makes working at a job difficult.

The Fourth of July is America's deadliest drunk driving holiday

South Carolina residents who plan to celebrate the upcoming Independence Day holiday by visiting friends or family members should drive with extreme caution. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration makes data about deadly car accidents available to researchers through its Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and the figures reveal that more fatal drunk driving crashes take place on the Fourth of July than on any other federal holiday.

Accidents involving drunk drivers claimed 1,192 lives during Fourth of July festivities between 2010 and 2017, which is 87 more deaths than the number killed over the Memorial Day weekend. The FARS data also suggests that the chances of being struck by a drunk driver are 57% higher on Independence Day than they are on other summer days. Labor Day and New Year's Day are the third and fourth most fatal holidays for drunk driving accidents.

Few federal cases actually go to trial

In fiscal year 2018, there were roughly 80,000 defendants from South Carolina and other states who were charged with federal crimes. Of those defendants, only 2% decided to take their cases to trial, and another 8% had their cases dismissed according to the Pew Research Center. That means that in 90% of cases, defendants chose to plead guilty instead of taking their cases to trial. Of those who chose to go to trial, only 320 were acquitted by a judge or a jury.

Defendants were more likely to get a better outcome in their cases if they opted for a bench trial. A bench trial allows a judge to decide a defendant's fate as opposed to a jury of his or her peers. The number of federal cases that are going to trial are decreasing while the volume of federal cases has increased since 1998.

Parking lots can be home to unexpected dangers

When people park in a South Carolina lot, they may not expect to leave with an injury. However, parking lots can be surprisingly dangerous places, especially if they are poorly maintained by the property owner. Businesses have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for their employees, guests and customers. This includes working to make sure that the lot is safe. There are a number of issues that can affect people in parking lots; every year, there are over 50,000 car crashes that take place there. In addition, slip-and-fall accidents, criminal attacks and other incidents can also pose serious concerns.

In general, safer parking lots are those that are designed to prevent unnecessary accidents. It should be clear which way traffic should proceed in the lot, with signage or arrows pointing vehicles in the right direction. Many of the parking lot accidents happen because traffic is moving inconsistently or in different directions in the same space. In addition, parking lots should be sufficiently lighted. Business owners can sometimes be held accountable for outside criminal attacks if they failed to provide a safe, well-lighted space. Areas with a lack of lighting can become attractive for criminal activity.

Breahtalyzer may give false positive for drivers on keto diet

When a South Carolina driver is accused of drunk driving, the authorities may use a breathalyzer device to determine his or her blood alcohol concentration. However, these devices are not always accurate, potentially leading to a false positive that could result in a person being unnecessarily arrested and charged.

One attorney located in Houston, Texas, had a strange case where a driver who was charged with a DUI after taking a breathalyzer test was found not to be over the limit at all. It turns out that the driver was on the keto diet, which may have led the breathalyzer to give a false positive. The keto diet causes the liver to break down fat to turn into fuel instead of carbohydrates, creating acetone as a by-product in the body. Some of this acetone is released through the breath as isopropyl alcohol, which may be read as ethanol alcohol by breathalyzers.

Trampoline park goers more likely to suffer fracture than at home

Trampoline parks are becoming a popular attraction in South Carolina, as elsewhere in the U.S., but experts don't know how safe they really are. In January 2019, the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons published the results of a study comparing the rate of severe injuries, mainly dislocations and fractures, at trampoline parks and on home trampolines.

Researchers analyzed 439 patients with trampoline-related injuries. In general, 66% were injured on home trampolines and 34% at trampoline parks. However, this included all injuries in general. When considering severe injuries, 55% were incurred at trampoline parks compared to 44% at home. Among children, the fracture rate was 59% for the parks and 47% for home trampolines; among adults, the rates were 45% and 17%, respectively.

Do you have to wear a motorcycle helmet in South Carolina?

Motorcycle helmet laws are a controversial topic among bikers. Some believe the laws are protective, whereas others believe they infringe on personal rights. There is no federal law on the matter. Each state sets its own regulations concerning helmet use.

With many motorcycle rallies happening in South Carolina, it is important you become familiar with the state's laws on motorcycle helmets before you visit.

Study reveals worrying distracted driving trends

A recently released study from an auto insurance company reveals that motorists in South Carolina and around the country who routinely use their cellphones while driving are quick to criticize others for doing the same thing. The study, which was conducted by a research firm in Virginia on behalf of Root Insurance, discovered that American drivers use their smartphones while behind the wheel for approximately 13 minutes each day. However, 89% of the motorists polled claimed that they would give an Uber or Lyft driver a poor rating for behaving in the same way.

Prior research into the problem of distracted driving suggests that this cognitive dissonance is largely the product of the inflated view that most drivers have of their skills. When asked to compare their driving abilities to Uber or Lyft operators, 90% told researchers that they were safer and more talented drivers. This could explain why almost 40% of the motorists polled said that they continue to use their phones even when they notice a police car.

The Weather Channel sued over fatal storm chaser crash

South Carolina readers might be interested to learn that The Weather Channel is being sued by the family of a man who was killed during a high-speed tornado chase involving the stars of the TV show "Storm Wranglers." The accident was livestreamed by the pair, who were also killed in the crash.

According to authorities, celebrity storm chasers Kelley Williamson and Randy Yarnall were pursuing a tornado near Spur, Texas, on March 28, 2017, when they allegedly drove through a stop sign and smashed into a vehicle driven by a 25-year-old storm watcher spotter employed by the National Weather Service. The spotter, Williamson and Yarnall were all killed in the collision.

State lawmakers tackle distracted driving

The most severe penalty a driver can face in South Carolina for texting behind the wheel is a $25 fine. An epidemic of cellphone use by motorists and a worrying rise in distracted driving accidents have prompted many lawmakers in Columbia to back a bill that would sharply increase this penalty and introduce the new law of driving while under the influence of an electronic device. That bill was read on Jan. 8 and is now being scrutinized by a House committee, but lawmakers in Nevada are taking a different approach.

The penalties for distracted driving are only applied when motorists are caught, but, unlike drunk driving, distraction leaves no obvious clues for police officers. Nevada lawmakers are considering addressing this law enforcement impediment by issuing peace officers with innovative new devices. Textalyzers plug into cellphones and reveal how the devices were used during the previous few minutes.

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