Friday, 10 February 2017

Common offenses

I've been reading quite a bit about restorative justice, traffic offenses and how the UK and Dutch police operate, and I'd like to come up with some ideas for North America in particular but they can apply anywhere really.

A lot of people claim that automatic cameras used for traffic offenses are cash cows first. For some situations that might be true, but in a well designed road system that should not happen. Fines should be based on income proportionality. It should also issue tickets to the actual driver, not the owner of the vehicle. It should tack on demerits and community service to the offender, and potentially be able to catch suspendable offenses and offenses worthy of traffic education if they are unlikely to be cash cows. Road design must also be attempting to deal with the problem as much as possible without cameras, a speed limit appropriate for the type of road, like a 130 limit on a rural freeway and in a 30 km/h zone, a road that looks like it should be that slow, ideally bricks, a narrow roadway, speed bumps, etc. Speed limits on rural highways and high speed roads should also be based on average speed over something like 1-2 km not one point. Traffic lights should be visible from a long distance or if it must have a blind curve, use advance warning signals, non signal control options like roundabouts should be used if possible, and at times of low traffic, the signals should if possible go to flash mode. 

In the US especially these days, but also to be fair some other places in the world, racism among police is an enormous issue. 600 unarmed people shot by US police? Really Americans? This is what your "Sworn to protect and serve" officers have come down to? I have some disputes with the BLM protests in some areas, you can have separate marches for victims of gay people after Orlando and unarmed black people shot by cops, but they did come up with a website full of some quite useful ideas on having a police system that is very accountable. Link here https://www.joincampaignzero.org/. I like them. Norwegian police don't carry guns on their belts. I think that you could adopt similar techniques, possibly even in gunland crazytown America (sorry, I know there are pacifists in the US, but come on, hundreds of shootings since Sandy Hook and still nothing?), and even I feel less safe when police officers in my own city carry pistols. 

Proper road design in general prevents a lot of traffic offenses from happening. Yield signs combined with good physical design makes yielding correctly easy and without the need of fully stopping to be safe. There's no reason to fully stop 100% of the time at most stop signs, they should all be really well reviewed. Only when you really cannot have anything else should a stop sign be used. Bike lane intrusion wouldn't happen so often if most of the time where bike lanes are used, there were cycle tracks instead, ideally with a physical verge not just a stepped track. 

Drunk and drugged driving is something I talked about before, but it's especially important now given the opioid epidemic. Opioids by their nature are CNS depressants just like alcohol is, but they tend to be rather more strong per gram. Many are legally prescribed these and forget that they don't just make you feel less pain, they also slow you down. YOU CANNOT DRIVE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF OPIOIDS EITHER! Benzodazapines as well do this, I even have a legal prescription for a benzodazapine called lorazepam, also called ativan. Benzos are also depressants and will impair your driving for a significant amount of time after you take it. Cannabis legalization is getting more and more popular, rightly so in my opinion, and more people are using it, thankfully mostly in reasonably safe ways, but a lot of people are discussing the effects of driving while stoned. It still causes acute impairment (I am thinking delta nine tetrahydrocannabinol, I don't know whether these effects also apply to the non psychoactive version called CBD or cannabidol), doubling your risk of a crash, roughly the same as .05% BAC of alcohol, and a lot of people might smoke and drink at the same time which causes much more impairment than either will alone. Have someone else drive for you who is sober, and while I wouldn't arrest you for cycling drunk or stoned, you also should not do that, and can lead to significant risks like hitting a bollard which is not nice. 

I like a model similar to what we have in Canada. I'd put it at .05% to .10% BAC (and equal impairment levels for other drugs) to be given a civil suspension like we have today, 3 day suspension 3 day vehicle impoundment, and more time on each for repeat offenses, plus a traffic class and community service for something like 6 hours. If you get caught a second time around, you must install a breathalyzer in the car. If you go over .10%, then you get the breathalyzer installed automatically when you get the license back, even for the first offense. I don't know of any breath based analysis systems for similar drugs or something like a quick reacting saliva tests that is expendable, but if there is one, one of those should also be installed if you are caught with other drug impairments. Above .10% you'd also get more criminal like penalties, like probation and perhaps an e tag with a ban on going to the bar and have limits on how much alcohol or other drugs you can buy in any say 2 week period. I don't believe in prison anymore, and so of course something else must be done, but these are measures I believe would be effective. 

If you look at the way we get around though, it should be fairly obvious why people do drink and drive in the first place. It's hard to get around in other ways, especially if your designated driver happened to leave for some other reason before you. Having an urban design plan that had public transport, cycling and walking connections to your home in good order and where the pubs and bars are reasonably close to the homes, then you would be much less likely to think of driving drunk in the first place, or coffeeshops or whatever other impairing drug consumption sites there are in your community like supervised injection sites. The drink cycling rate in many Dutch cities is very high (and I should point out that it's mainly tourists actually who regularly use marijuana, I mostly heard English with non Dutch accents being spoken from outside the coffeeshops I cycled past in Amsterdam), but it's a lot less drink driving. To even get out of the parking spot in Amsterdam is tricky if you are drunk, it's not going to be easy to get all the way home, and it's just maybe a kilometre away, why risk a whole car when you can walk?

As for hallucinogens, a lot of people thankfully are aware that you mustn't drive while hallucinating for obvious reasons. But LSD only causes hallucinations above a certain point, a common tripping dose is 100 micrograms (also called ug). A trend these days is to take sub tripping doses for relaxation purposes among other purposes. I don't think that this is especially useful unless you can be absolutely certain of how pure and concentrated the drug you get is, but because this causes no visual effects, the question is whether you can drive (or cycle or walk well) on it? I am not certain about this given that people react differently to different drugs, heck even 600 mg of caffeine in the morning (yeah, that was not a good day for a lot of coca cola) one day didn't affect me at all when others would react very differently, but given that LSD is also a bit of a depressant and anxiolytic, I suggest caution. There is always a principle in law that says that if you are unsafe to drive, even if you are below the normal legal limit as defined by blood alcohol content or THC per millilitre of blood content or whatever, then you can still be charged with a DUI. Given how it's impossible to truly know by looking at it how much LSD is in a tab or juice or whatever and how different people respond differently, the best test is a field sobriety test in my opinion. Can you recite prime numbers backwards from 100, can you stand on one leg effectively, do you follow another person's eyes, etc.

Stimulants are similar. They don't have any properties I'm aware of that will automatically entail impairment like being unable to see, but they can for some people and especially the higher the dose, cause anger and aggression, jitteriness and being unable to sit still. Again, field sobriety is probably your best bet, especially knowing how impure cocaine and methamphetamine often are (this doesn't apply for adderall or caffeine, but they have the same aggression, jitteriness, etc properties). This also goes for 3,4 metheylenedioxy N methamphetamine, molly/ecstasy, although given that it's often cut with other drugs, apply the same reasoning to other stimulants. Jitteriness, inability to sit still, especially in higher doses, and overdoses are concerns that you should keep in mind when getting home. And I also should point out that a lot of people who use cocaine are also drunk at the same time, (and this also happens to go for caffeine as well). Stimulants do NOT counter the effects of drunkeness on your ability to drive. In fact, cocaine and alcohol combined form cocaethylene, which impairs you even more. Not a good combination with a steering wheel in your hand, even a bicycle handlebar is not something you should do either. 

Phone use while driving is quite common, hundreds of thousands of tickets, even though the risk rate is something like 23 times the normal risk rate, equal to over .20% BAC. Similar penalties for drink driving are appropriate, and being required to install an app to prevent it from happening again can be invented and installed like breathalyzers. Should be quite effective once the technology can be nailed down and being seen as dangerous as drunk driving. 

Also, the penalties are often less important than getting caught for it. It's why even though the US kills people who murder, they have a lot higher rate than Norway, and same with other offenses for that matter. It's why automatic cameras, when used correctly, are so much more effective than even high penalties. Having auto cameras to deal with common offenses, breathalyzers and phone apps for dealing with drunk driving and distracted driving respectively and strong police enforcement, ideally not one having to deal with so many repeat offenders in the criminal justice system nor a drug war to enforce, is going to do more for us than things like doubling fines. 

2 comments:

  1. Nice article.
    Well articulated thoughts
    Thanks for sharing

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  2. I do not like these Dutch Martin Nugter... Imagine designing their society for cyclists and pedestrians. Complete idiots .... Helmets are the way to go.... Who wants a bunch of laid back carefree happy cycling walking people around. What we need is more police and more cars.... Luckily we live in freedom loving Canada where Harper is making us more of a car loving, overpoliced, bomb other countries in violation of International law, helmet wearing patriotic Canadians.... AnD his new bill C-51 once enacted will allow our secret police to get rid of sarcastic environmentalists who suggest we need to look at the Dutch Model. I will feel safe and Happy especially once they arrest Bruce Treokand me :p

    A weekend getaway in Niagara Falls

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