Tag Archives: South Florida

Driving in the Rain in Florida – Don’t Panic

wrRain is just a part of South Florida living. If it weren’t for the volume of the precipitation that we get, this area would not be as lush and beautiful as it is, and it wouldn’t draw the thousands of transplant residents and tourists that it does. Unfortunately, it seems to create panic in a lot of our drivers.

We have all seen this happen. One minute traffic seems to be humming along just fine, then four fat raindrops fall and brake lights start lighting up like Christmas decorations in Times Square. We get A LOT of rain here. Whether its hurricane season or just another of the thunderstorms which seem to occur daily, the chances of you having to drive in wet weather are great. In fact, it happens so frequently that some of us barely even notice these storms anymore.

It is no coincidence that there are so many traffic accidents during or just after a rainstorm. Invariably one of two things happen. Either many drivers have a knee-jerk reaction and start slamming on their brakes, while many others fail to adjust their driving habits to the conditions that exist at the time. The latter of the two reactions can result in the issuance of the notorious “driving too fast for conditions” traffic ticket.

Oh, this is a tricky little ticket. I say that because no matter the circumstances, if you have an accident anywhere in the country, whether due to rain, snow, sun glare, potholes, whatever, you can receive a traffic citation for “driving too fast for conditions.” Isn’t that convenient? It is tantamount to the law saying there is no valid reason for having a traffic accident – you must have just been speeding. This paves the way for a cop to write you an arbitrary traffic citation using very little rule of measure other than his own discretion.

According to Florida GS 316.183, “No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.” There’s that word again that you so often he me hear me quote when I am making reference to Florida traffic laws – prudent.

Ah, prudent. The use of such language in our Florida traffic law statutes makes the interpretation of those laws rather vague and open to individual interpretation. It also makes it easy for cops to find reasons to issue traffic tickets. In some cases, however, it is helpful to a good traffic ticket attorney who can often find loopholes in the validity of your traffic ticket. After all, standards such as “reasonable” and “prudent” are subjective to all parties involved.

You should still seriously consider how you react when it starts raining. Try not to endanger yourself or others by reacting suddenly. Always try to give those around you plenty of warning that you are going to slow down. Slamming on your brakes in a panic only increases the odds of being in a traffic accident.

For those of you who take the approach to a sudden rain storm of “Just continue to drive as usual,” consider modifying your current driving habits so they are better suited to the South Florida weather. Think about the various factors that occur which exist only when it is raining. This includes those drivers that do overreact and also the reduced traction that occurs when there is water on the road. The former results in other drivers not being able to anticipate the actions of someone who gets a little freaked out while driving in the rain – which often leads to car accidents. The latter issue is complicated by not only the loss of traction, but also oil from previous vehicles being lifted off the road surface by the rain. This just makes the break in traction even that much more dangerous.

When it comes to our exciting yet scary tropical storms that we get, there are variables that need to be considered. The volume of rain can be highly unpredictable – those four fat rain drops I mentioned early can evolve into a steady rain one minute and a torrential downpour the next which can obfuscate your view. When you factor in the rolling in of dark clouds suddenly that add to reduced visibility, elderly drivers, teenagers, and the inexperienced tourists who are unsure how to react to our unique weather patterns, and those drivers who just don’t know what to do in bad weather, then our roads and highways take on the semblance of a billiards table.

It can become a trying experience for those of us who are used to Florida’s erratic weather as we play dodgeball on the highways trying to keep away from those drivers who are freaking out or otherwise reacting inappropriately to the conditions. Fortunately for those of us who are accustomed to such hairy driving conditions, there are those who immediately hit their emergency flashers which is the same thing as the driver yelling out the window, “I am a lousy driver who doesn’t know how to drive in poor weather so keep AWAY from me.” No problem, buddy. Quit taking up two lanes, and I will gladly pass you so you are no longer a threat to my well-being.

Obviously, much of what I say here is tongue-in-cheek because I am a huge proponent of safe driving; however, when your fear response is so great that it puts others at extreme risk, please just pull over and allow others to proceed safely. There is nothing so urgent that you need to risk your welfare or that of anyone else. Besides, with the weather in Florida, the likelihood of this storm lasting for an extended period is quite small. Stopping for a soda or bottled water will probably give the storm adequate time to move out of the area. There is no need to point fingers because these drivers know who they are.

Traffic Congestion Impacts Economic Growth

reeSouth Florida is notorious for its traffic congestion, as anyone who has ever visited here has experienced first-hand. This is a stone-cold fact for those of us who live here and who have to slog through a morass of motor vehicles everyday while insufflating the collective miasma of noxious fumes they create. That is just a part of the South Florida lifestyle that many of us have become used to dealing with, right? (Not that it makes it an enjoyable part of life.)

More than just simple congestion, gridlock – generally referring to a vehicle or vehicles that get stuck in a traffic intersection as a result of stationary surrounding traffic – is a chronic problem in many South Florida cities. It is, therefore, a situation we all have surely found ourselves in at one time or another in our driving careers. In South Florida, however, it seems to have taken on an expanded meaning.

The term is often used conversationally to imply the hindrance of progress of any type; however, over the last few years, many cities in our fair region seem to be suffering from a form of economic gridlock, changing our traditional understanding of the term. Stay with me here because this may sound terribly contradictory, but sometimes prosperity ends up stifling economic growth. As strange as that may sound, that seems to be what is occurring here – economic gridlock which stems from the very literal gridlock that comes from the inundation of traffic.

Based upon a recent survey conducted by the Miami Herald, the last three or four years have seen tremendous expansion in Florida. Obviously population growth and a continued influx of people moving to the area are two major factors for this expansion. However, another significant cause of this expansion is the inevitable, if somewhat slow-moving, recovery from our most recent recession.

It is unquestionably part of the economic cycle of a recession or depression that there will eventually be an uptick in the economy. When this occurs, the job market rebounds, unemployment falls, lay-offs cease, and spending increases. As such, we frequently find that traffic increases substantially. After all, more people are commuting to work and are more willing to spend money on things that seem frivolous during times of financial stress.

Much of the data gleaned by the survey showed that this explosion of traffic that has occurred in just a few short years and is closely aligned with the prosperity of the area. Unfortunately, it also draws a parallel between the economic boom that has occurred since the last recession and a reduction of financial growth among many urban businesses.

Think about what the downtown areas of most major Florida cities have to offer. Nightclubs, hotels, art centers, world-class shopping – these are all industries that draw people to metropolitan areas not just from miles around, but even from other regions or states. It’s fun, exciting, and where all the action seems to be occurring. You know – bright lights, big city and all of that – but the problems come in when the population exceeds the metro area’s ability to accommodate the masses; especially when those masses usually arrive in cars.

Any trip to “downtown” usually takes quite a bit of planning, especially as far as time management goes. Many of us may like the excitement that awaits us, but the headache of getting there can be off-putting. Now, most of you may be thinking about the challenges that parking downtown present, but there is much more to consider than just limited parking or poor parking choices.

With an ever-expanding attempt to keep up with demand, there are very few city centers that are not undergoing construction as the infrastructure scrambles to not just keep up with demand, but to, in fact, catch up with it. This widening of roads, construction of adequate parking lots or garages, installation of traffic lights, et cetera are all projects that frequently take a long time to plan and implement. This becomes problematic when demand due to growth exceeds the time to complete these projects.

The resulting disparity leads to a lot of frustration; consequently, sometimes drivers decide that it is just not worth the hassle to drive downtown, struggle to find a place to park, ensure they have the correct funds for parking, and navigate around construction projects just to catch the 10 percent off sale at ‘Bob’s Boot Barn’. When you factor in that housing is much more difficult to find and much less affordable the closer you get to metro areas, a long commute to these downtown businesses becomes even less attractive.

According to the Herald’s survey, many employers feel that extended commute times for employees that result from overwhelming traffic also have a significant influence on the health of their businesses. Well-qualified employees may be hesitant to commute from suburban areas to work in downtown, or if they do so, employers must be able to offer incentives to entice better qualified employees. These incentives may include benefits or salaries which the business may not be able to afford, or at the very least, cut deeply into the profits, therefore the financial health, of the company.

Heavy traffic can also often be the cause of habitual lateness on the part of employees, according to the survey. The average commute time in many major South Florida cities has increased to just over 30 minutes which is five minutes longer than the national average. You may be thinking, “Well, that’s only five more minutes,” but keep in mind that is ten minutes a day and equals nearly an hour a week that is added to the drive time of South Florida drivers.

This makes it easy to understand the frustration of so many drivers, leading them to make poor driving decisions that result in traffic tickets, especially speeding tickets. Ask any police officer what excuse he hears most when he pulls over a driver who was speeding, and he will invariably tell you that the driver stated he or she was running late for work.

A Few Reasons Why I Like My Job

juWay back when, when people started tooling around in those crazy “horseless carriages,” it quickly became apparent that some measure of control needed to be implemented for the betterment, not to mention the safety, of society. This led to the implementation of laws that were specifically designed to address driving and the hazards that it can present. Although this system was intended to be based upon the general idea that those accused are innocent until proven guilty, that is not always the case when it comes to traffic law.

Subsequent changes in the laws that govern driving have occurred since those early days and have regrettably led to frequent abuses of power among various law enforcement agencies. These abuses can run the gamut from an unwarranted traffic stop to being bullied by officers simply because they carry a gun and a badge. Even if a driver only commits a slight infraction of the law, often police officers will pull them over and look for other issues for which they can issue traffic citations or even elicit arrests. Sometimes this happens if there is just the perception of an infraction.

From the moment of contact by police officers, most drivers feel intimidated. This is not surprising when you consider the scenario. You are sitting in your car by the side of the road, and there is an authority figure with a gun looming over you. For many people, being in this subordinate situation subliminally harkens back to primal instinct, inducing a fear response because sitting while someone is standing over you makes one feel vulnerable under the best of circumstances. Then there is the aspect of other drivers slowing down and staring as they pass by. When this happens, let’s face it, it is just embarrassing. You know every other driver is thinking, “Better him than me.”

Then there is the standard question that ALL cops ask you – “Do you know why I stopped you?” Okay, anything you may say at this point could be problematic. As anyone who has watched cop shows on television knows, the things you say can and will be used against you. If you say, “I am really sorry, Officer. I didn’t realize how fast I was going,” bam! – you are unwittingly confessing to breaking the law. This is true if you respond to any infraction you think you may have made, not just speeding. Not only have you admitted guilt, but you may get cited for something other than why the officer pulled you over.

Because of the power they wield and the legal deck already being stacked against you, the worst thing you can do at this point in the traffic stop is to question the cop or become argumentative. Your best option is to be polite and be brief. Never offer up too much information. Doing so will not only result in him finding as many infractions as possible to write you up for, but it will also make you more memorable for him when the time comes to go to court. You can be assured that if you are obnoxious during the traffic stop, he will be taking notes regarding your comments that he will use when you have to face him in court.

Things will not likely be any more favorable for you when you have to face the judge or hearing officer. That is unless you have a good traffic ticket attorney there to defend you, of course. Judges and hearing officers often deal with people of ill-repute all day long. It is just the nature of the legal system. It is, therefore, critical that you ensure that you stand apart from the type of people who judges see over and over again. This is just one major reason why it is imperative that you don’t approach the situation with a chip on your shoulder. Those involved in the legal system deal with far too many people who lack the appropriate respect that is warranted when one appears in court.

You also want to dress appropriately for court. Just like a poor attitude, poor clothing choices can devastate a case if the way you present yourself gives the judge the perception that you are a person of negative character. You are not likely to be taken very seriously if you show up to court with exposed cleavage or your pants hanging down so low as to reveal your boxers.

Don’t forget that judges and cops do this all day, every day. Unfortunately, when you are in a position where you have to deal with criminals, liars, and manipulators on a daily basis, it is easy to become jaded. You can start to assume the worst in people before knowing all the facts of a case. This is another major reason why it is almost always in your best interest to hire a traffic ticket attorney. We work with most of the judges in South Florida, and consequently have established a strong working relationship with them. Doing our research, maintaining a professional demeanor in the courtroom, and being well-versed in traffic law affords us an edge in getting your traffic ticket dismissed or reduced.