by Ruby Bayan
The US economy depends largely on the efficient conveyance of goods and services to the population. This is why the country's highways and roadways are always well-maintained. But the efficiency of conveyance does not rely merely on the smoothness of the roadways -- it also relies heavily on the steady flow of traffic. Therefore, to ensure that obstructions and delays are minimized, aside from advocating the utmost safety of vehicle drivers and passengers, the USA enforces strict rules against traffic violations.
Speeding and Other Violations
According to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, speeding -- exceeding the posted speed limit or driving too fast for conditions -- is one of the most prevalent factors contributing to traffic crashes.
In order to facilitate the determination and enforcement of speed limits, the Federal Government vested the states with the authority to formulate their respective statutes on speeding. The states define their highway speed limits depending on the road and weather conditions, and on the population density of a specific area. They penalize offenders for speeding 1-10 miles above the limit, plus every additional mile thereafter, for speeding in school zones and construction areas, and for engaging in road racing.
A Summary of State Speed Laws is available online for reference.
Aside from speeding, motorists can get a traffic violation ticket (also called "citation" or "Information and Summons") for the following infractions:
- Driving on left side of road when not permitted
- Driving the wrong way on a one-way road
- Improper passing/overtaking
- Failure to use signal
- Failure to yield right of way
- Disregarding traffic signs and signals
- Failure to secure child passenger
- No seat belts
- No head or tail lights
License and Registration
- Parking in handicapped without permit
- Parking along fire lane or beside fire hydrant
- Parking Meter violation
Fines and Other Penalties
- Driving without license
- Driving with expired license
- Violation of license restriction codes
- Failure to report change of address
- No vehicle registration and title
- Fictitious vehicle registration
- No liability insurance
- No inspection certificate
- No license plates
Depending on the gravity and location of the traffic violation, and aggravated by habitual offense, alcohol, or injuries, state punishment includes fines, penalty points on the motorist's driving record, suspension of driver's license, attendance of a Defensive Driving Course, probation, or jail term.
All traffic violation tickets specify the penalty, usually a fine, and the date and time the offender is required to appear in a city court or bureau of motor vehicles for arraignment on the infraction. In most states, however, the offender can simply admit guilt by mailing the payment for the fine. If the offender wishes to contest the ticket, state procedures for appearances and trials are followed. Failure to appear in court leads to the issuance of a warrant for arrest and non-renewal of the driver's license. All drivers are, therefore, advised to be familiar with their state laws.
On top of the issuance of fines for specific traffic violations, each state has its own scale of "points" that are tagged on a motorist's driving record for every type of infraction. For example, a violator is given two points for driving with a busted tail light, four points for driving the wrong way on a one-way road, and six points for driving 25 miles over the speed limit.
A driver who accumulates more than 12 points in a two year period gets sent to a Defensive Driving Course which will deduct 4 points off the total. Drivers can voluntarily attend the course to shave points off their record but can only do so once every three years.
If the maximum points is reached a second time, the offender is put under probation or suspended license for as much as six months. And to discourage habitual offense, the history of points remains on a driver's record for a period of ten years.
Serious traffic convictions such as habitual offense, alcohol-related infractions, criminal recklessness, leaving the scene of an accident, and violations resulting in personal injury or death, are heavily penalized with as much as five to ten years suspension of driving privileges.
A Serious Matter
The USA is serious about enforcing traffic laws and regulations because lives are at stake -- the lives of motorists, passengers, and pedestrians. But on a larger scale, strict enforcement of traffic laws and regulations not only safeguards individual lives; it helps ensure that the US roadway system remains an efficient medium for the conveyance of goods and services across the nation. All responsible drivers in America contribute their share by driving safely.
[First published at New2USA.com]