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Red light cameras save lives and prevent accidents

Drivers in South Carolina and around the country often react angrily when municipalities announce plans to install red light cameras despite clear evidence showing that the devices save lives. Many motorists believe red light cameras are used to generate revenue and not prevent accidents, and fierce opposition to the devices has led to them being removed in many parts of the country. In 2012, 533 cities and towns in the United States used red light cameras. That number has since fallen to 421.

This has road safety advocacy groups like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety worried. An IIHS study conducted in 2017 revealed that installing red light cameras reduces violations by approximately 40% and lowers deaths associated with red-light running by 21%. The nonprofit organizations says that towns and cities could encounter less resistance to red light camera schemes if they limit the devices to dangerous intersections, provide evidence showing that the cameras are improving safety and listen to feedback from the community.

Why Miranda rights are important

Many people in South Carolina know of their Miranda rights from watching television shows in which the famous warning is depicted at the scene of an arrest. However, people may be less certain about how these warnings carry over into real life and how it may affect their rights in a criminal case if the police fail to provide them with the appropriate warning. When police arrest someone on allegations of a crime, they must present the necessary warnings, which include telling the person that they have the right to remain silent, that their words could later be used against them in court, that they have the right to a lawyer and that a lawyer can be appointed for people who cannot afford to pay.

In other words, people who are arrested on criminal charges have a right to a lawyer and do not have to speak to the police, no matter what other techniques the police may use in order to convince people to confess or provide other information. These warnings were affirmed by a 1966 Supreme Court case that determined that people brought into custody by the police must be notified of their rights under the Fifth Amendment.

Car safety systems that actually lead to distracted driving

Systems that have been designed to make driving easier and safer may actually be putting drivers at risk. Touchscreens, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control can lull South Carolina drivers into letting their guard down, which can lead to serious accidents. The solution is not necessarily getting rid of these systems: It is teaching drivers how to use them properly.

A study that was released by the AAA Foundation revealed that individuals put too much trust in these systems and do not know how to use them correctly. However, when these technologies are used correctly, they do make the roads safer. This underscores the challenges faced by the auto industry as it continues its slow transition to self-driving cars.

All new cars may soon have alcohol detection systems

South Carolina residents may know about how some car safety devices can prevent distracted driving and even keep drunk drivers from starting their car. The benefits of alcohol detection tech are becoming so clear that a bill has been proposed to mandate such tech on all new vehicles by 2024.

The bill is called the Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone Act of 2019, and lawmakers believe that if the measures described in it are implemented, they could save 7,000 lives a year. Every day in the U.S., drunk driving crashes claim the lives of some 30 people, which comes to one person every 48 minutes.

Study shows drivers more likely to text behind the wheel

Drivers in South Carolina and across the U.S. aren't talking on their cellphones as much as they used to, according to a recent study. On the other hand, the research found that drivers are increasingly using their phones to text, send emails and browse the internet while behind the wheel.

The study, which was published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, observed the habits of drivers who were moving through or stopped at specific intersections in four Virginia towns. It found that drivers were 57% more likely to be witnessed holding or fiddling with their phones in 2018 than they were in 2014.

Distracted driving risks fought with technology

Every day, people in South Carolina face serious risks on the road due to distracted driving. According to the National Safety Council, nine people are killed across the country and 100 more injured on a daily basis. Technology has contributed to the threat of distraction behind the wheel with smartphones, tablets and other devices keeping drivers' attention away from the road. In addition, some built-in technologies have contributed to distracted driving, including touchscreens that allow drivers to control GPS and entertainment systems inside the vehicle.

While cellphones are the most well-known cause of severe car accidents caused by distracted driving, "rubbernecking" to look at nearby incidents on the road is another major concern. Crashes caused by drunk driving cause around $44 million in damages every year while distracted driving collisions cause $40 million in damages. There are a number of public service announcements and awareness campaigns dedicated to reducing the number of these crashes. Nevertheless, despite widespread knowledge that distracted driving is dangerous, people continue to do it. In one study, almost half of drivers admitted to reading or sending texts, and 60% admitted to using their phones in some other way while behind the wheel.

Unconscious bias can impact judges' rulings

Studies show that judges in South Carolina and across the U.S. are not always unbiased in the court room. This can lead to unfair rulings against certain defendants.

For example, a Massachusetts judge recently had a defense attorney held in contempt of court and arrested after she argued that he was wrong not to honor the prosecution's request to dismiss charges against a group of first-time offenders who were arrested while protesting a "straight pride" parade in Boston. The judge's decision not to drop the charges against the pro-LGBTQ defendants was contrary to long-standing precedent. However, when a defense attorney for one of the individuals tried to read into the record established case law proving that point, the judge ordered her to stop. When she refused, she was taken into custody.

Some drivers are more likely to run red lights

City planners do not usually erect traffic signals simply for the sake of doing so. On the contrary, these lights control the flow of traffic and keep motorists safe. While a recent AAA survey found that 43% of responders admitted to running a red light in the 30 days before the survey, most motorists recognize the importance of stopping when a traffic light turns red. 

Alarmingly, the number of fatal collisions at red lights is on an upward swing. Not all drivers have the same likelihood of disregarding traffic signals, though. Instead, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that most red-light runners share some common features. 

Reasons community service may be unfair

While community service has been used as a humane alternative for jail time for individuals who cannot afford to pay court fees, it seems that there are times when it is not as fair as some would imagine. South Carolina residents and visitors may be interested in learning about some findings from a recent report that included 5,000 individuals who were ordered by the court to work off fines between the years 2013 and 2014.

The report showed how court-ordered community service is having a negative impact on low-income communities, particularly in the Los Angeles area where the report was carried out. For one thing, it seems that the hours of work that the court orders do not always match the dollar value of the fines that are imposed on the offenders. For example, a traffic ticket usually incurs a fine of about $520. If a person cannot pay the fine and is ordered to do community service, he or she is typically ordered to work 51 hours.

Troubling statistics illustrate rising arrest rate

In Florida and across the country, an increasing number of Americans, especially young people, have been arrested. In fact, young people are much more likely to be arrested than they were in generations past. This comes despite the fact that violent crime has been dropping for decades. However, researchers note that while arrests may seem less necessary than in the past, police may be more likely to turn to arrests and criminal charges for relatively petty matters. Criminal arrests, charges and convictions can interfere with a person's ability to gain employment, education and housing for many years to come, so the increasing arrest rate is of concern to many.

According to a RAND Corporation research paper, people are more likely to be arrested before the age of 26. While only 6.4% of people born before 1949 have been arrested, 23% of those born between 1979 and 1988 can say the same. The majority of these arrests apparently do not involve violent crime or even property damage. It is not always clear what the charges are, but it is clear that the issues do not rise to the level of felony charges in many cases. For example, 28% of arrested men and 31% of arrested women are accused of "other misdemeanors," a catch-all category.

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