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Underage DWI laws based on zero-tolerance policy

When people hear that someone in Texas has been charged with drunk driving, they may expect that the person was not in control of their vehicle and was driving with a blood alcohol concentration exceeding the standard legal limit of 0.08 percent. However, when people are found to be driving with alcohol in their systems and they are under the age of 21, they can face DWI charges with a BAC of 0.02 percent or even lower.

This is because of a special subset of drunk driving laws that prohibit underage DWI. Underage DWI laws use a zero-tolerance concept based on the fact that it is unlawful for people under 21 to buy or possess alcohol. While driving under the influence is always illegal, underage DWI laws do not require the driver to be actually influenced by alcohol, nor do they require that the driver operate his or her vehicle unsafely. A driver who is under 21 could face DWI charges after having as little as a glass of wine at dinner. Even driving with a small amount of alcohol in a person's system is against the law if that person is under 21, and the consequences can be severe and long-lasting.

Week targets truck brake safety violations

In Texas and across the country, truck braking violations can pose a severe danger to truck drivers and others on the road. When the brakes on large trucks and commercial vehicles are improperly maintained, it can become difficult or impossible for a driver to correctly stop their vehicle, especially in slippery conditions or emergency situations. The effects of a large, unstoppable truck can be catastrophic given the size and weight of the vehicles involved. This is one reason that the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance is conducting its annual Brake Safety Week between September 16 and 22.

In 2017, the CVSA had reduced the brake safety event to a one-day initiative, but after 14 percent of all trucks inspected were required to be taken off the roads due to brake maintenance violations, the event has returned to its week-long status. During the safety initiative, inspections of trucks on the roads will be ramped up. In general, these will be comprehensive Level I inspections, but truck inspectors will have a particular focus on brake components that could be poorly maintained.

How do you know if you are eligible for disability benefits?

When a Texas individual finds that he or she is no longer able to work because of a disabling medical condition, it can signal financial struggles for the entire family. If you are a person who is no longer able to work regularly or earn a sufficient income to support yourself, you may know there are legal options available that could allow you secure financial support.

Through a disability claim with the Social Security Administration, you may be able to obtain benefits through Social Security Disability Insurance. Simply having a serious medical condition is not enough to qualify for these benefits. It involves a complex application process, and the SSA has strict requirements for what qualifies as a disabling medical condition.

Program aims to reduce fatigue among truck drivers

Texas truckers who drive big rigs may be interested in results of a recent international Roadcheck day in Iowa. Motor Vehicle Enforcement Agency personnel performed a 37-step inspection on trucks and drivers at a weigh station on Interstate 380. The program's goal is to improve safety on the nation's highways.

The annual inspection program focused on how long drivers had been on the road this year. Truckers are only allowed to drive 14 hours before they must rest. Drivers who exceed these hours could be fined. Over the 2017 Roadcheck days, almost 33,000 drivers were found in violation of the hours-in-service rule; of these, 1,735 violators were in Iowa. Fatigued drivers, as well as those impaired by alcohol or drug use or illness, were involved in 157 fatal accidents in 2016, says the Federal Motor Carrier Association. Seventy of these accidents involved fatigued drivers or those who fell asleep at the wheel.

Fatal crashes involving large trucks increase in 2016

Texas motorists may be interested to learn that fatal accidents involving large trucks increased by 3 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to a report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. While the raw number went up, fatal crashes involving trucks stayed at the same rate when calculated on a per mile basis. The report, titled Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts, also showed that 73 percent of fatal incidents were started by an object, person, animal or other vehicle encroaching into the truck's lane.

Rural areas were the most common location for fatal truck crashes during the report's analysis period. More than one in four occurred on the nation's interstate highway system. In addition to accidents that resulted in fatalities, more than 100,000 large truck crashes caused injuries in 2016, a significantly higher rate than in 2015. The vast majority of these incidents occurred at daytime during a weekday.

Unsafe truck driving practices to be targeted

Texas motorists and truck drivers may be interested to learn that the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance's Operation Safe Driver Week is scheduled to take place between July 15 and July 21. During this week, law enforcement agencies around the country will be taking part in watching the nation's roads in order to spot commercial drivers and drivers of passenger vehicles using unsafe driving practices.

According to a study from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, driver behavior was a critical factor in about 93 percent of crashes involving passenger vehicles and 88 percent of crashes involving large trucks during the period reviewed. As such, the Operation Safe Driver Program will focus on spotting a variety of dangerous driving behaviors, which includes improper lane changes, distracted driving, speeding, following other vehicles too closely and failing to wear a seat belt.

Coalition announces goal to eliminate traffic deaths

With an ambitious goal of bringing traffic deaths down to zero by the year 2050, an organization called the Road to Zero Coalition is pressing a number of initiatives aimed at improving road safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2016, more than 34,000 died in motor vehicle accidents. Of those deaths, more than 4,700 involved large trucks.

One of the coalition's initiatives is bringing seat belt use to 100 percent. It is already at 90 percent, but half of the fatalities were not wearing seat belts. Another is shifting the culture away from speeding, distracted driving and driving under the influence and toward a focus on safety first. The coalition also aims to improve safety technology in vehicles.

Can you really know your BAC before you drive home?

You and your friends stopped for a happy hour on your way home from work. Now as you get behind the wheel of your car and fumble with the keys you start to wonder just how much you’ve had to drink. Are you legally able to drive? What is your BAC? Is there a way to tell?

Tech firm working to improve autonomous vehicle technology

Texas residents may have read media reports concerning a pedestrian in Arizona who was struck and killed by an SUV that was being used to test autonomous vehicle technology by the ride-sharing company Uber. The accident serves as a reminder that drivers should remain vigilant at all times even if their vehicles are equipped with the latest electronic safety systems, and a startup technology company is developing software designed to ensure that they do.

Boston-based Affectiva develops software that scrutinizes facial expressions and can be installed in the driver-facing cameras already fitted to vehicles with autonomous systems. This software monitors eye and head movements and can alert drivers who may have become distracted, and major auto manufacturers like BMW and Mercedes-Benz are reportedly interested in adding it to their vehicles.

Self-driving cars should not drive like humans, professor says

Texas motorists who are interested in the development of self-driving cars may have heard about a fatal accident involving a pedestrian on March 18. A professor in Arizona, where the accident occurred, says it happened because autonomous cars are being programmed to drive in the same way that humans do.

The Tempe police chief says the Uber vehicle was not at fault in the accident. Video of the incident shows the pedestrian stepping from a dark area into a part of the road where there was not a pedestrian crossing. However, the professor maintains that the problem was that the car was proceeding the way a human would by assuming that there were no obstacles in the path ahead despite being unable to confirm that visually. He says that autonomous vehicles should drive at a speed that would allow them to stop if an object comes into their range of vision.

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