Teen Driving Curfews Could Cut Crime, But At What Cost?

Male teen laughing and driving car with two other laughing passengers

Research out of the University of Texas at Dallas say that teen driving curfews can not only curb car crashes, but they could also reduce juvenile crime. That said, should be really we limiting individual freedoms in order potentially reduce crime?

Before we delve into the ethics of the curfew, let’s take a look at the data. For their study, researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas analyzed national FBI data from 1995 to 2011 involving teenage drivers and drivers with an imposed curfew. According to researchers, arrests of teens fell between 4 and 6 percent in states that placed a driving curfew on new and inexperienced drivers. In the strictest states, arrests were down between 5 and 8 percent.

Other findings from the study include:

  • The largest declines in arrests were in states that had graduated license programs (GDLs) in place the longest.
  • The biggest drops in arrests were from crimes like murder or manslaughter (11 percent), larceny (5 percent) and aggravated assault (4 percent).

Researchers say GDL programs and driving restrictions have been shown to reduce the risk of a crash, but this was the first study to examine how these restrictions affect youth crime.

“Being able to drive or having friends who can drive is the difference between going out and staying home on a Saturday night,” said study author Monica Deza, an assistant professor of economics. “It seemed intuitive to us that having a curfew on driving hours affected the probability that teenagers would get themselves into trouble.”

Researchers stopped short of saying the study proves a cause-and-effect link, rather, they just noted that there was an association between teen driving curfews and reduced juvenile crime rates.

Balancing Restrictions and Freedoms

Everyone knows that getting your license is seen as one of the biggest steps towards adulthood a teen can make, but each state handles the provisional license differently. Some states don’t let new drivers hit the road after midnight or before 5 a.m., while other states restrict cell phone privileges while in the car.

The issue arises when we take the association at face value and jump to the notion that there should be a widespread driving curfew to reduce teen crime. While that may be true, there would also be a reduction in crime if we had a mandatory curfew that required all adults to be home by 9 p.m. We can’t use the guise of safety as a blanket rule to inhibit personal freedoms. Ben Franklin said so himself when he wrote “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

We can go back and forth arguing whether or not driving at night is an “essential liberty,” but it speaks to the larger idea that we can’t just restrict personal freedoms in order to feel a little safer. Some checks and balances certainly need to be put in place for new drivers, but I’m not certain a nationwide curfew is the optimal route.

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Robot, Do You Know Why I Stopped You?

Why Police Might Pull Over Self Driving Cars

We may not be too many years away from the point where self-driving cars become a regular presence out on the roads. Such a shift in the type of vehicles being used would likely bring many big changes along with it. Among these changes are changes when it comes to traffic tickets.

A large portion of the typical traffic tickets currently issued are tickets for types of driving conduct (like speeding). Self-driving cars, by taking human drivers out of the equation, might take a lot of these typical reasons for police issuing traffic tickets off of the table. So, the advent of self-driving cars could perhaps bring about a big drop in many typical types of traffic tickets.

However, self-driving cars are unlikely to mean the end of traffic tickets.

For one, self-driving cars, at least in the near-term, will likely have some sort of override feature. So, traditional types of traffic tickets could still be issued for alleged traffic violations committed by human drivers when they were in an override mode and in control of the normally self-driving vehicle.

Also, not all traffic tickets are for driving conduct. For example, tickets are sometimes issued for things such as vehicle equipment problems or failing to wear a seatbelt. Many of these non-driving-conduct traffic tickets would likely remain possibilities after cars turn autonomous.

Self-driving cars could perhaps even lead to their being some new types of equipment-related traffic tickets. If self-driving cars become commonplace, it seems likely that there would be various regulations and rules put in place regarding what kinds of autonomous equipment such cars are to have and the maintenance of such equipment. One wonders if violations of such rules/requirements could become ticketable offenses.

So, while self-driving cars could end up bringing about some big changes when it comes to traffic tickets, traffic tickets are unlikely to completely disappear anytime soon as things individuals could potentially end up facing.

Experienced traffic ticket attorneys can help individuals who have been issued traffic tickets, whether for driving or non-driving conduct, with understanding what options they might have regarding fighting their ticket.

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DUI and DWI True or False

“If I am pulled over and an officer asks me to take field sobriety tests (FST’s), I have to comply”

False. Failure of FST’s is a strong piece of evidence for the government. Many people cannot pass these tests, even when having nothing to drink at all. When you take these tests you are, in most circumstances, simply giving the officer evidence that will later be used against you. Much like your right to remain silent, use your right to refuse FST’s!

“If I am asked to blow into a breathalyzer after being pulled over and arrested, I have to blow or I’ll lose my license for a year automatically”

False. Although the officer will tell you this, he or she is required by the Missouri “Implied Consent Law” to tell you this. The reality is that there are ways to fight the suspension that a good attorney can utilize. When you have consumed even a little bit of alcohol, you are in the grey area for blowing over .08% BAC. However, in many counties including Greene, officers will now seek warrants to draw your blood if you refuse.  If the blood draw comes back above .08%, that would potentially add another license suspension.  This suspension would be for 90 days rather than for one year, but your attorney would still have to fight the one year refusal suspension as well.

“If I blow high enough on a breathalyzer I have to go to jail”

This can be both true and false, depending on the circumstances. Under State law, if you blow over .15% BAC, you must do two days of “shock time” in the jail in order to keep the conviction off of your record. If the BAC is .20% the mandatory “shock time” goes up to five days. This mandatory jail time is only required in State court, however, not municipal court. It is also only required if you try to keep the conviction off of your record with what is called a “suspended imposition of sentence”. All of this is contingent of course on you pleading guilty to the offense or being found guilty after a trial. If you choose to have a trial and are successful, none of this applies.

“If I blow under .08% BAC, I can’t be arrested or prosecuted”

False. Even if you bow under .08% BAC you can still be arrested and prosecuted for DWI. All the statute in Missouri says is that “a person commits the crime of ‘driving while intoxicated’ if he operates a motor vehicle in an intoxicated or drugged condition.” RSMO. Section 577.010 (2012). Therefore, if the prosecuting attorney believes he or she can prove that a person is “under the influence of alcohol” based on other evidence than the BAC, he or she can and will push forward with the prosecution regardless of the BAC under .08%. The prosecutor can also try to use “drug recognition” to prove that someone is impaired on a substance other than alcohol.

“If I’m in my driveway I can’t get a DWI”

False. If you are observed operating a motor vehicle anywhere, even in your own garage, you can get a DWI if the officer believes he or she has probable cause. Operation has been broadly defined by case law and can even include a person being behind the wheel of a vehicle that is turned off , as long as the keys are in the ignition and the engine is capable of running. Be careful! Even if you are trying to sleep it off, keep the keys in your pocket.

“There are different ways I can lose my license in a DWI case other than just being convicted of the DWI”

True. Besides just the criminal side of the case, which carries the possibility of a point suspension, there is also an administrative side of the case dealing specifically with your driving privilege and is against the Department of Revenue (DOR). There are multitude of different types of suspensions and lengths of suspensions. It is important that you consult an experienced and highly trained DWI attorney for all of your various details as it is a complicated process. You do not want to fight the Department of Revenue on your own. This is especially true if you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or if you have prior alcohol offenses.