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Archive for the ‘Roadway Safety’ Category

Washington bucks national trend: gun deaths here outnumber traffic fatalities

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Awhile back, Bloomberg published a startling story that revealed the likelihood deaths by firearms in America would soon outnumber traffic fatalities

After doing some digging today, I figured out that Washington state has already turned that corner. In fact, it did so in 2008 (see below). Traffic fatalities numbered 454 in the state in 2011, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Deaths caused by firearms were higher, at 619 — 492 of which were suicides — according to the state’s Department of Health.

I would credit this trend in part to the state’s nation-leading seat belt use (98 percent). The average for the country is just 84 percent. As for gun deaths, I’ll leave that discussion for now but feel free to make your voice heard below.

Here are the rest of the stats for Washington:

Gun deaths                   Traffic fatalities

2006                619                                  633

2007                544                                  571

2008                583                                  521

2009                618                                   492

2010                 607                                  460

2011                 619                                  454

 


Trooper tackles left-lane ‘camping’ head on

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Raise your hand if you’ve found yourself in this situation: cruising down the highway, you come upon a car camping out in the left lane, the driver seemingly oblivious to his responsibility to move into the right lane of traffic.

I think we’ve all been there, staring at the bumper of a clueless motorist (And maybe some of us can admit that we, too, have forgotten to get over).

But here’s the bottom line: left lane camping is illegal.

Troopers do pull over motorists for hanging out in the left lane. They’re often met with this answer: “I didn’t realize it was against the law.”

The state law is quite clear. RCW 46.61.100, section 4 states “It is a traffic infraction to drive continuously in the left lane of a multilane roadway when it impedes the flow of other traffic.”

Here’s the rules, the state patrol said in a press release:

Washington State’s Keep Right Law requires all vehicles stay to the right except to pass and the left lane is used primarily as a passing lane when there are two or more lanes moving in the same direction.  All vehicles towing trailers or vehicles over 10,000 pounds are prohibited from using the left lane when there are three or more lanes moving in the same direction.

“We understand it can be frustrating for drivers when you have other motorists camped out in the left lane,” said WSP Captain Ron Rupke, District 5 commander.  “But this also doesn’t mean motorists can drive in an aggressive manner or use the left lane to speed.”

Slower moving vehicles traveling in the left lane create unsafe conditions which can include:
•  Causing other drivers to make dangerous passes on the right side.
•  Frustration with the left lane drivers leading to aggressive driving.
•  Slower response time for emergency vehicles responding to collisions or calls for service.

Allowing faster moving traffic to pass is always the best choice.  Frustrated drivers that travel in an aggressive manner often choose to weave in and out of cars that travel “too slow” by their standards.  Remember that if a driver chooses to exceed the speed limit in the left lane it is much easier for troopers to stop them for the violation if the slower moving vehicles are not in the left lane.

The law for left lane travel (RCW 46.61.100 – Keep right except for passing) states it is a traffic infraction to drive continuously in the left lane of a multilane roadway when it impedes the flow of other traffic.  The left lane does not include high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes.  The fine for failure to keep right except for passing is $124.

When there are three or more lanes moving in the same direction, additional restrictions are placed upon all vehicles towing trailers or vehicles over 10,000 pounds.  These vehicles are prohibited from using the left lane except to prepare for a left turn at an intersection or exit ramp.  These restrictions do not apply to a vehicle using an HOV lane.  The HOV lane is not considered the left-hand lane of a roadway.  The fine for illegal use of the left lane is $124.

On certain stretches of interstate freeways and state highways, speed limits are posted for passenger cars and trucks.  The word “trucks” on signs giving notice to maximum speed limits means vehicles over 10,000 pounds and all vehicles in combination.  This restriction applies to all vehicles towing a trailer regardless of the size of vehicle or trailer (RCW 46.61.410).  Fines for speeding are based on miles per hour over the posted speed limit.


Trooper: Motorcyclist goes ‘miles’ on highway with dog riding ‘rodeo’

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

A Washington state trooper publicly admonished the risky recent actions of a motorcyclist who’d plopped his dog on the back of his bike and rode “miles down” Highway 3.

Trooper Russ Winger took to Twitter to post the worrying photo. “Trooper stopped this duo in Kitsap Co Monday. Dog just standing on seat after miles on freeway,” he wrote.

You can see the photo here. The dog is standing up on the seat behind his driver, riding perpendicularly — and precariously — above the road.

Evidently, someone inquired whether having the dog ride shotgun was such a good idea. Long story short: no. Winger also injected a little humor into the situation.

“And since you asked, this is not safe or legal,” Winger wrote in a followup tweet. “Obviously not the dogs first rodeo-cuz he’s got style. Ticket ? Yes. Dog-verbal warning.”


Live tweet: Kitsap County’s cops on Super Bowl Sunday

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. A day for football. And, for a good number of fans around the Kitsap peninsula, it’s a day of drinking.

Unfortunately, while most enjoy the day peacefully with family and friends, Super Bowl Sunday is also typically a busy day for law enforcement.

The Kitsap Sun will take the opportunity to witness the law enforcement stress levels first hand Sunday night. I’ll head out with deputies from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office starting at 6 p.m.

This page will have live updates via Twitter of what we see along the way. Please feel free to ask me questions through Twitter and I’ll respond whenever I can.


Anyone taken a bottle to their windshield on Highway 3?

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Russell, a man from the other side of Puget Sound, wrote me recently with a scary story. 

He was driving on Highway 3 Saturday night. “I was going under the Loxie Eagans overpass somebody threw an object from the overpass hitting my windshield,” he said.

It didn’t shatter his windshield but it cracked badly. Russell was pretty shaken up by it.

“I know they were aiming for my car and I’m sure I wasn’t the first and I wont be the last,” he wrote me. “This person is going to kill somebody if they’re not stopped.”

Wisely, he reported it to the Washington State Patrol. No arrests have been made, however.

Has anyone had something like this happen to them?


Bremerton police’s DUI numbers continue to soar

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

There was a time when Bremerton’s police officers would often hand over a motorist suspected of drunken driving to a Washington state trooper. 

No more.

Since organizing a traffic division about five years ago and beginning an increased traffic and DUI emphasis inside city limits, the numbers have soared. In 2005, there were 107 DUI cases in Bremerton Municipal Court; in 2010 there were 276, according to numbers I obtained from the city this past week.

There have already been 249 cases in 2011, through Oct. 3.

An emphasis patrol conducted by the department’s graveyard shift — known as “Third Watch” — netted 15 arrests in three nights between Sept. 29 and Oct. 1. I asked Billy Renfro, one of the two third watch sergeants, a series of questions about how it went and what it accomplished.

JF: How well did the emphasis go?

BR: Both (fellow third watch sergeant Rich Cronk) and I thought it went outstandingly … we were handling area calls in addition to the DUIs.  I was really impressed with the entire shift as a whole.  The officers that were not directly involved with arresting DUIs were covering calls and assisting with transports to the jail.

JF: How did officers strategize to seek out additional DUIs?

BR: I don’t know that we had a specific strategy, other than ‘Let’s go out and make traffic stops’ …The DUIs will follow.  It was a city wide emphasis, although I think a majority of the stops occurred  on the east side of town.

JF: How many officers participated?

BR: Each night we ran 5 to 7 officers and we had a reserve officer on one of the nights, which really helped with the transports.

JF: How does this kind of proactive patrolling benefit the city’s residents and public safety as a whole?

BR: The benefits to the safety of the commuting public is something that I don’t think we can ever really measure.  I am absolutely convinced that the officers of Third Watch have saved lives and prevented damage to property with every DUI driver that is arrested.  And this is something that the Watch eagerly pursues.  It’s not something that Rich and I have to come in and force them to do.

In closing, I’m extremely proud of the efforts put forth by the entire shift, but specifically impressed with (Master Police Officer Matt) Thuring, Traffic Officer (Don) Rogers, Officer (“Duke”) Roessel, Officer (Steve) Polonsky, and Officer (Steven) Forbragd.


Family, friends mourn Baby Enzo’s death one year after crash

Friday, October 7th, 2011

The crash that killed 6-month-old Enzo Williams was one year ago Thursday. Williams was riding in the back of a stopped car on Highway 303 when the car was rear-ended by a driver who pleaded guilty recently and was sentenced to prison for vehicular homicide.

Family and friends who set up a Facebook page marked the anniversary there. In their own words:

“Today marks one year since the accident that killed baby Enzo… so much has changed… the man responsible for the accident is behind bars, Kate has matured like you wouldn’t believe, our family has grown closer, and we have another little boy on the way (Kate’s) who I am sure will help close the hole left in our hearts with Enzo’s passing. GOD IS FAITHFUL AND GOOD – ALL THE TIME! TRUST in Him through your difficult circumstances! The following verse has been the overall theme to our lives for the last year: Psalm 66:12 “We went through fire and flood, but you brought us to a place of great abundance.”"

See the page for yourself here.


Flashing your headlights: a first amendment right? (Part 2)

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Blogger’s Note: When a Florida man flashed his headlights to warn oncoming motorists of an upcoming speed trap, he was pulled over and ticketed. He’s taken the fight to court, where he’s filed a class-action lawsuit alleging his free speech rights were violated.

I’ve sought the perspective of two locals — Bremerton defense attorney Stan Glisson and Port Orchard top cop Al Townsend — to give us their take on this unusual but intriguing case. Here is Townsend’s commentary. Glisson’s essay appeared FridayBe sure to read up on the case first

JF: “A Florida man is suing for violation of his first amendment rights because he passed a speed trap and then flashed his headlights — and got ticketed for it. In Washington, would this type of thing be grounds for a ticket? Why or why not?”

AT: “It would NOT … The legal answer is state law forbids people from shining their high beam lights at other drivers in the range of 300 to 500 feet. So it would be uncommon in my mind for someone driving around after dark to get stopped if they are driving with their high beams on because they could be impacting the vision of oncoming cars.

Now, I suppose technically, if you are flashing your high beams at another car then you are driving with your high beams on and could be subject to that law.  But … we would not stop a  car for doing that as it relates to notifying other drivers of a radar zone or even when other drivers try to get the attention of a driver who is cruising down the road with his high beams on (to get his attention to shut them off).

In fact … if more people would do that when they see cops running radar, more people would slow down and accomplish our goal.

If one of my cops did the Florida thing and stopped a car for flashing his headlights at another car that was warning him of a radar set, he’d be on the carpet in my office … I can guarantee you it would only happen once.”

Al Townsend is police chief in the city of Port Orchard. Aside from his administrative duties, he is known as one of the few top cops who regularly patrols the streets with the line officers.


Flashing your headlights: a first amendment right? (Part 1)

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Blogger’s Note: When a Florida man flashed his headlights to warn oncoming motorists of an upcoming speed trap, he was pulled over and ticketed. He’s taken the fight to court, where he’s filed a class-action lawsuit alleging his free speech rights were violated.

I’ve sought the perspective of two locals — Bremerton defense attorney Stan Glisson and Port Orchard top cop Al Townsend — to give us their take on this unusual but intriguing case. Glisson’s essay will run today while Townsend’s commentary will appear here Saturday. Be sure to read up on the case first

A car passes a hazard on a roadway; maybe a downed tree, maybe an animal in the road, maybe a police speed trap. The driver flashes their headlights as they approach oncoming traffic, to warn them of the peril ahead. The practice has existed as long as I have been driving, usually to warn of a parked police officer running their radar.

It is no surprise that some police officers disapprove of the practice. But in Florida, that disapproval commonly went one step further to ticketing the drivers for flashing their headlights. Police alleged basically that the headlight flashing is a distraction to others, but the perception is that the citations were issued as retribution for disrupting their speed trap.

One Florida man who saw a speed trap and flashed his lights as a warning at other drivers got such a ticket. He is now suing the state, arguing that flashing headlights is a form of communication, a type of ‘speech’ protected by our first amendment. Interestingly, since the lawsuit, Florida police have been instructed to discontinue the practice of issuing such tickets.

Protected speech takes as many forms as we have imagination. It’s one thing to tell a friend you saw a speed trap. It’s another to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. But free speech contains almost everything in between.

The idea of free speech is not always easy to swallow. It is completely fair to think that speeders should get caught and cited, and anyone trying to warn them is obstructing good police work. But if we believe in free speech in this country, it means protecting all speech. The most important speech to protect is the unpopular; it needs protection the most. We are free to talk to each other about what the government is doing, whether war strategy, economic policy, or police activity. The right to speak out against the government was arguably the most important right to our founding fathers, hence its prominent position in the Bill of Rights. The freedom we enjoy to speak our minds has to extend to warnings about speed traps, to literature, to profanity, and yes, on occasion to pasties on baristas.

Where the Florida law suit will end up is anyone’s guess. It speaks volumes that the police have stopped issuing these tickets. If you see a speed trap and want to warn other drivers, flash those lights. If you don’t want to, that’s fine too. We have to respect your decision about what you choose to say or not to say and every idea, popular or not, must be allowed to be heard. As Atticus Finch said, the one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience. So do as your conscience tells you. As for me, I’ll keep flashing my lights.

Stan Glisson is an attorney in Bremerton with the firm Glisson, Witt and Altman. Their firm mainly handles DUI and misdemeanor defense, as well as felony defense and civil cases. Glisson earned his law degree at the University of Washington, has worked as a Kitsap County deputy prosecutor, and as a Kitsap and Snohomish defense attorney before entering private practice.


DUI numbers up following ‘Drive Hammered, Get Nailed’ campaign

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Fifty-nine motorists got busted for DUI between Aug. 19 and Sept. 5, when cops were out en masse thanks to federal grant money

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission funded the extra patrols during those dog days of summer because typically, that’s when the most alcohol fueled deaths on Washington’s highways occur. Around the state, officers wrote a total of 1,824 DUI citations.

From the Commission:

“In Kitsap County, the Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Port Orchard and Poulsbo Police Departments, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington State Patrol participated in the extra DUI patrols, with the support of the Kitsap County Target Zero Task Force. The extra patrols were funded by a grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

More than 40 percent of the DUI traffic deaths occur in Washington during the summer months. That is why these extra patrols are so important and are helping to make a difference. According to preliminary 2010 data, the number of DUI traffic deaths decreased by 16.5 percent compared to the previous five year average.”

 


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