Automobile (Encyclopedia of Science)
No invention in modern times has had as much of an impact on human life as the invention of the automobile. It has become an important influence on the history, economy, and social life of much of the world. In fact, the rapid growth of the United States in the twentieth century can be directly related to the automobile.
Automobiles reach into every aspect of society, from the design of our cities to such personal uses as vacation travel, dining, and shopping. Mass-production techniques, first developed for the automobile, have been adapted for use in nearly every industry. Meanwhile, dozens of industries depend, directly or indirectly, on the automobile. These industries include producers of steel and other metals, plastics, rubber, glass, fabrics, petroleum products, and electronic components.
Structure of the automobile
Hundreds of individual parts make up the essential components of the modern automobile. Much like the human body, these parts are arranged into several systems, each with a different function. Each system is necessary for making the automobile run, keeping it safe, and reducing noise and pollution.
The major systems of an automobile are the engine, fuel system, exhaust system, cooling system, lubrication system, electrical system, transmission, and the chassis. The chassis includes the wheels and...
(The entire section is 1970 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Automobiles (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
No invention has so transformed the landscape of the United States as the automobile, and no other country has so thoroughly adopted the automobile as its favorite means of transportation. Automobiles are used both for pleasure and for commerce and are typically the most valuable type of PERSONAL PROPERTY owned by U.S. citizens. Because autos are expensive to acquire and maintain, heavily taxed, favorite targets of thieves, a major cause of air and noise POLLUTION, and capable of causing tremendous personal injuries and property damage, the body of law surrounding them is quite large. Automobile law covers the four general phases in the life cycle of an automobile: its manufacture, sale, operation, and disposal.
Brief History of the Automobile
The first automobile powered by an internal combustion engine was invented and designed in Germany during the 1880s. In 1903, Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company and started an era of U.S. leadership in auto production that lasted for most of the twentieth century. In 1908, Ford introduced the highly popular Model T, which by 1913 was being manufactured through assembly line techniques. Innovations by Ford, General Motors, and other manufacturers near Detroit, Michigan, made that city the manufacturing center for the...
(The entire section is 8318 words.)
Automobile (How Products are Made)
In 1908 Henry Ford began production of the Model T automobile. Based on his original Model A design first manufactured in 1903, the Model T took five years to develop. Its creation inaugurated what we know today as the mass production assembly line. This revolutionary idea was based on the concept of simply assembling interchangeable component parts. Prior to this time, coaches and buggies had been hand-built in small numbers by specialized craftspeople who rarely duplicated any particular unit. Ford's innovative design reduced the number of parts needed as well as the number of skilled fitters who had always formed the bulk of the assembly operation, giving Ford a tremendous advantage over his competition.
Ford's first venture into automobile assembly with the Model A involved setting up assembly stands on which the whole vehicle was built, usually by a single assembler who fit an entire section of the car together in one place. This person performed the same activity over and over at his stationary assembly stand. To provide for more efficiency, Ford had parts delivered as needed to each work station. In this way each assembly fitter took about 8.5 hours to complete his assembly task. By the time the Model T was being developed Ford had decided to use multiple assembly stands with assemblers moving from stand to stand, each performing a specific function. This process reduced the assembly time for each fitter from 8.5 hours to a mere 2.5 minutes by rendering each worker completely familiar with a specific task.
Ford soon recognized that walking from stand to stand wasted time and created jam-ups in the production process as faster workers overtook slower ones. In Detroit in 1913, he solved this problem by introducing the first moving assembly line, a conveyor that moved the vehicle past a stationary assembler. By eliminating the need for workers to move between stations, Ford cut the assembly task for each worker from 2.5 minutes to just under 2 minutes; the moving assembly conveyor could now pace the stationary worker. The first conveyor line consisted of metal strips to which the vehicle's wheels were attached. The metal strips were attached to a belt that rolled the length of the factory and then, beneath the floor, returned to the beginning area. This reduction in the amount of human effort required to assemble an automobile caught the attention of automobile assemblers throughout the world. Ford's mass production drove the automobile industry for nearly five decades and was eventually adopted by almost every other industrial manufacturer. Although technological advancements have enabled many improvements to modern day automobile assembly operations, the basic concept of stationary workers installing parts on a vehicle as it passes their work stations has not changed drastically over the years.
Although the bulk of an automobile is virgin steel, petroleum-based products (plastics and vinyls) have come to represent an increasingly large percentage of automotive components. The light-weight materials derived from petroleum have helped to lighten some models by as much as thirty percent. As the price of fossil fuels continues to rise, the preference for lighter, more fuel efficient vehicles will become more pronounced.
Introducing a new model of automobile generally takes three to five years from inception to assembly. Ideas for new models are developed to respond to unmet pubic needs and preferences. Trying to predict what the public will want to drive in five years is no small feat, yet automobile companies have successfully designed automobiles that fit public tastes. With the help of computer-aided design equipment, designers develop basic concept drawings that help them visualize the proposed vehicle's appearance. Based on this simulation, they then construct clay models that can be studied by styling experts familiar with what the public is likely to accept. Aerodynamic engineers also review the models, studying air-flow parameters and doing feasibility studies on crash tests. Only after all models have been reviewed and accepted are tool designers permitted to begin building the tools that will manufacture the component parts of the new model.
The Manufacturing Process
- 1 The automobile assembly plant represents only the final phase in the process of manufacturing an automobile, for it is here that the components supplied by more than 4,000 outside suppliers, including company-owned parts suppliers, are brought together for assembly, usually by truck or railroad. Those parts that will be used in the chassis are delivered to one area, while those that will comprise the body are unloaded at another.
- 2 The typical car or truck is constructed from the ground up (and out). The frame forms the base on which the body rests and from which all subsequent assembly components follow. The frame is placed on the assembly line and clamped to the conveyer to prevent shifting as it moves down the line. From here the automobile frame moves to component assembly areas where complete front and rear suspensions, gas tanks, rear axles and drive shafts, gear boxes, steering box components, wheel drums, and braking systems are sequentially installed.
- 3 An off-line operation at this stage of production mates the vehicle's engine with its transmission. Workers use robotic arms to install these heavy components inside the engine compartment of the frame. After the engine and transmission are installed, a
- 4 Generally, the floor pan is the largest body component to which a multitude of panels and braces will subsequently be either welded or bolted. As it moves down the assembly line, held in place by clamping fixtures, the shell of the vehicle is built. First, the left and right quarter panels are robotically disengaged from pre-staged shipping containers and placed onto the floor pan, where they are stabilized with positioning fixtures and welded.
- 5 The front and rear door pillars, roof, and body side panels are assembled in the same fashion. The shell of the automobile assembled in this section of the process lends itself to the use of robots because articulating arms can easily introduce various component braces and panels to the floor pan and perform a high number of weld operations in a time frame and with a degree of accuracy no human workers could ever approach. Robots can pick and load 200-pound (90.8 kilograms) roof panels and place them precisely in the proper weld position with tolerance variations held to within .001 of an inch. Moreover, robots can also tolerate the
Image Pop-UpThe body is built up on a separate assembly line from the chassis. Robots once again perform most of the welding on the various panels, but human workers are necessary to bolt the parts together. During welding, component pieces are held securely in a jig while welding operations are performed. Once the body shell is complete, it is attached to an overhead conveyor for the painting process. The multi-step painting process entails inspection, cleaning, undercoat (electrostatically applied) dipping, drying, topcoat spraying, and baking.
- 6 As the body moves from the isolated weld area of the assembly line, subsequent body components including fully assembled doors, deck lids, hood panel, fenders, trunk lid, and bumper reinforcements are installed. Although robots help workers place these components onto the body shell, the workers provide the proper fit for most of the bolt-on functional parts using pneumatically assisted tools.
- 7 Prior to painting, the body must pass through a rigorous inspection process, the body in white operation. The shell of the vehicle passes through a brightly lit white room where it is fully wiped down by visual inspectors using cloths soaked in hi-light oil. Under the lights, this oil allows inspectors to see any defects in the sheet metal body panels. Dings, dents, and any other defects are repaired right on the line by skilled body repairmen. After the shell has been fully inspected and repaired, the assembly conveyor carries it through a cleaning station where it is immersed and cleaned of all residual oil, dirt, and contaminants.
- 8 As the shell exits the cleaning station it goes through a drying booth and then through an undercoat dipn electrostatically charged bath of undercoat paint (called the E-coat) that covers every nook and cranny of the body shell, both inside and out, with primer. This coat acts as a substrate surface to which the top coat of colored paint adheres.
- 9 After the E-coat bath, the shell is again dried in a booth as it proceeds on to the final paint operation. In most automobile assembly plants today, vehicle bodies are spray-painted by robots that have been programmed to apply the exact amounts of paint to just the right areas for just the right length of time. Considerable research and programming has gone into the dynamics of robotic painting in order to ensure the fine "wet" finishes we have come to expect. Our robotic painters have come a long way since Ford's first Model Ts, which were painted by hand with a brush.
- 10 Once the shell has been fully covered 1 V with a base coat of color paint and a clear top coat, the conveyor transfers the bodies through baking ovens where the paint is cured at temperatures exceeding 275 degrees Fahrenheit (135 degrees Celsius).
Image Pop-UpThe body and chassis assemblies are mated near the end of the production process. Robotic arms lift the body shell onto the chassis frame, where human workers then bolt the two together. After final components are installed, the vehicle is driven off the assembly line to a quality checkpoint.
- 11 The painted shell proceeds through the interior assembly area where workers assemble all of the instrumentation and wiring systems, dash panels, interior lights, seats, door and trim panels, headliners, radios, speakers, all glass except the automobile windshield, steering column and wheel, body weatherstrips, vinyl tops, brake and gas pedals, carpeting, and front and rear bumper fascias.
- 12 Next, robots equipped with suction cups remove the windshield from a shipping container, apply a bead of urethane sealer to the perimeter of the glass, and then place it into the body windshield frame. Robots also pick seats and trim panels and transport them to the vehicle for the ease and efficiency of the assembly operator. After passing through this section the shell is given a water test to ensure the proper fit of door panels, glass, and weatherstripping. It is now ready to mate with the chassis.
- 13 The chassis assembly conveyor and the body shell conveyor meet at this stage of production. As the chassis passes the body conveyor the shell is robotically lifted from its conveyor fixtures and placed onto the car frame. Assembly workers, some at ground level and some in work pits beneath the conveyor, bolt the car body to the frame. Once the mating takes place the automobile proceeds down the line to receive final trim components, battery, tires, anti-freeze, and gasoline.
- 14 The vehicle can now be started. From here it is driven to a checkpoint off the line, where its engine is audited, its lights and horn checked, its tires balanced, and its charging system examined. Any defects discovered at this stage require that the car be taken to a central repair area, usually located near the end of the line. A crew of skilled trouble-shooters at this stage analyze and repair all problems. When the vehicle passes final audit it is given a price label and driven to a staging lot where it will await shipment to its destination.
All of the components that go into the automobile are produced at other sites. This means the thousands of component pieces that comprise the car must be manufactured, tested, packaged, and shipped to the assembly plants, often on the same day they will be used. This requires no small amount of planning. To accomplish it, most automobile manufacturers require outside parts vendors to subject their component parts to rigorous testing and inspection audits similar to those used by the assembly plants. In this way the assembly plants can anticipate that the products arriving at their receiving docks are Statistical Process Control (SPC) approved and free from defects.
Once the component parts of the automobile begin to be assembled at the automotive factory, production control specialists can follow the progress of each embryonic automobile by means of its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), assigned at the start of the production line. In many of the more advanced assembly plants a small radio frequency transponder is attached to the chassis and floor pan. This sending unit carries the VIN information and monitors its progress along the assembly process. Knowing what operations the vehicle has been through, where it is going, and when it should arrive at the next assembly station gives production management personnel the ability to electronically control the manufacturing sequence. Throughout the assembly process quality audit stations keep track of vital information concerning the integrity of various functional components of the vehicle.
This idea comes from a change in quality control ideology over the years. Formerly, quality control was seen as a final inspection process that sought to discover defects only after the vehicle was built. In contrast, today quality is seen as a process built right into the design of the vehicle as well as the assembly process. In this way assembly operators can stop the conveyor if workers find a defect. Corrections can then be made, or supplies checked to determine whether an entire batch of components is bad. Vehicle recalls are costly and manufacturers do everything possible to ensure the integrity of their product before it is shipped to the customer. After the vehicle is assembled a validation process is conducted at the end of the assembly line to verify quality audits from the various inspection points throughout the assembly process. This final audit tests for properly fitting panels; dynamics; squeaks and rattles; functioning electrical components; and engine, chassis, and wheel alignment. In many assembly plants vehicles are periodically pulled from the audit line and given full functional tests. All efforts today are put forth to ensure that quality and reliability are built into the assembled product.
The development of the electric automobile will owe more to innovative solar and aeronautical engineering and advanced satellite and radar technology than to traditional automotive design and construction. The electric car has no engine, exhaust system, transmission, muffler, radiator, or spark plugs. It will require neither tune-ups norruly revolutionaryasoline. Instead, its power will come from alternating current (AC) electric motors with a brushless design capable of spinning up to 20,000 revolutions/minute. Batteries to power these motors will come from high performance cells capable of generating more than 100 kilowatts of power. And, unlike the lead-acid batteries of the past and present, future batteries will be environmentally safe and recyclable. Integral to the braking system of the vehicle will be a power inverter that converts direct current electricity back into the battery pack system once the accelerator is let off, thus acting as a generator to the battery system even as the car is driven long into the future.
The growth of automobile use and the increasing resistance to road building have made our highway systems both congested and obsolete. But new electronic vehicle technologies that permit cars to navigate around the congestion and even drive themselves may soon become possible. Turning over the operation of our automobiles to computers would mean they would gather information from the roadway about congestion and find the fastest route to their instructed destination, thus making better use of limited highway space. The advent of the electric car will come because of a rare convergence of circumstance and ability. Growing intolerance for pollution combined with extraordinary technological advancements will change the global transportation paradigm that will carry us into the twenty-first century.
Where To Learn More
Abernathy, William. The Productivity Dilemma: Roadblock to Innovation in the Automobile Industry. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978.
Gear Design, Manufacturing & Inspection Manual. Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Inc., 1990.
Hounshell, David. From the American System to Mass Production. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.
Lamming, Richard. Beyond Partnership: Strategies for Innovation & Lean Supply. Prentice Hall, 1993.
Making the Car. Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association of the United States, 1987.
Mortimer, J., ed. Advanced Manufacturing in the Automotive Industry. Springer-Verlag New York, Inc., 1987.
Mortimer, John. Advanced Manufacturing in the Automotive Industry. Air Science Co., 1986.
Nevins, Allen and Frank E. Hill. Ford: The Times, The Man, The Company. Scribners, 1954.
Seiffert, Ulrich. Automobile Technology of the Future. Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc., 1991.
Sloan, Alfred P. My Years with General Motors. Doubleday, 1963.
"The Secrets of the Production Line," The Economist. October 17, 1992, p. S5.
Accident Liability (Encyclopedia of Everyday Law)
All fifty states and the District of Columbia provide "drivers' licenses" for their residents, permitting them to operate motor vehicles upon public roads. Once individuals have been licensed by a state, they are presumed qualified and competent to operate a motor vehicle for the period of time covered by the license. By far, the vast majority of automobile accidents are caused by persons well qualified to drive under state criteria but who are careless and/or reckless in their operation of motor vehicles at the time of an accident. Moreover, a high number of accidents are the result of intentional misconduct, such as alcohol consumption or excessive speeding.
Concept of Fault or Liability
The determination of fault in an automobile accident may or may not establish the person or party liable for payment of the damages or injuries. This fact is wholly the result of legislative LOBBYING over the years by automobile liability insurance carriers, who have devised and promoted various alternative strategies to the COMMON LAW concept that persons at fault pay for the damages. Under such legislative schemes, common law recovery for damages has been totally or partially abolished. In its place is a STATUTORY reapportionment of liability for payment of damages. This arrangement does not mean that there is a statutory re-defining of actual "fault" PER SE. It simply means that many states have reapportioned the liability for fault, at least for purposes of automobile accident liability insurance. In all states, persons who fail to maintain liability insurance and who cause accidents may be personally sued, and their assets seized to satisfy any judgment against them.
In its purest form, "fault" for causing an accident is either created by STATUTE or defined by common law. Common law recognizes four basic levels of fault: NEGLIGENCE, recklessness or wanton conduct, intentional misconduct, and strict liability (irrespective of fault).
Negligence generally means careless or inadvertent conduct that results in harm or damage. It is a recurring factor in an aggregate majority of automobile accidents. It encompasses both active and passive forms of fault. That is to say, failing or omitting to do something (e.g., yielding a right-of-way) may result in liability just as much as actively doing something wrong (e.g., running a red light). Reckless or wanton conduct generally refers to a willful disregard for whether harm may result and/or a disregard for the safety and welfare of others. Strict liability may be imposed, even in the absence of fault, for accidents involving certain defective products or extra hazardous activities (such as the transporting of explosive chemicals).
Under common law, individuals who have caused an automobile accident have committed a "tort," a private wrong against another, not founded in "contract," and generally not constituting a crime. Those who have committed torts are referred to as "tortfeasors" under the law. Many automobile insurance policies continue to use the word "tortfeasor" to refer to people who are at least partly "at fault" or responsible for an accident.
There is rarely a question of fault when the TORTFEASOR has engaged in intentional or reckless misconduct, such as drunk driving. But when it comes to something less than intentional misconduct, e.g., general negligence, establishing fault for an automobile accident becomes more complex. Moreover, it is often the case that more than one driver or person is negligent and/or has played a role (even inadvertently) in the resulting accident. When there are multiple tortfeasors involved in an accident, state law dictates who must pay for both damage to property and injuries to the occupants of vehicles.
Motor Vehicle Statutory Violations
Every state has passed multiple laws which dictate the manner in which drivers must operate their vehicles upon public roads. Many of these statutes are actually codified versions of the common law, while others are the result of legislative initiative.
The important point to remember is that a violation of any of these statutes generally creates a presumption of negligence as a matter of law. Thus, "fault" in an accident may be established merely by citing a statute that has been violated. A tortfeasor who is presumed to have caused an accident by virtue of a statutory violation must bear the burden, in any legal dispute, of proving that he or she was not negligent, or (in the alternative) that his or her negligence was not a proximate cause in the accident. The simplest way to apply the concept of proximate cause to an automobile accident is to ask whether it would be true that, "but for" the violation, the accident would not have occurred.
Automobile Accident Liability Insurance
The federal McCarran-Ferguson Act, 15 USC 1011, contains the basic provisions which give states the power to regulate the insurance industry. This power particularly applies to in the automobile insurance industry, where there is very little federal interest, excepting matters involving interstate commerce in general.
State law dictates not only what form of negligence law applies to automobile accidents but also what form of liability insurance individuals must maintain in order to lawfully operate a motor vehicle. The liability insurance that they purchase generally parallels the form of negligence law found in their particular state.
In general, liability for accidents can be affected by any of the following:
Contributory Negligence Standards
Contributory Negligence: A minority of states have maintained the common law defense of contributory negligence. Its significance to automobile accident liability is that individuals cannot sue another for injuries or damages if they also contributed to the accident by his or their own negligence. For example, if they are making a left-hand turn in their vehicle and are struck by an oncoming vehicle that is traveling 10 mph over the speed limit, they cannot sue the motorist for damages if they failed to have their turn signal on and the speeding motorist did not know that they were going to turn in front of them. Under such a theory, their own negligence contributed to the accident, and, therefore, bars their right to recover from the other motorist. This situation is referred to as "pure contributory negligence." Some states have maintained a version referred to as "modified contributory negligence" in which individuals may file suit against another tortfeasor only if their own negligence contributed to the accident by less than 50 percent.
Comparative Negligence Standards
Comparative Negligence: In states that utilize comparative negligence theories, individuals may sue another motorist whether or not their own negligence played any role in the accident. However, recovery for damages will be reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to them. This situation is often referred to as "apportionment of fault" or "allocation of fault." For example, in the above example, assume that the turning driver sues the speeding motorist for $100,000 in damages. At trial, a jury will be asked to determine what percentage of the accident was caused by the speeding and what percentage of the accident was caused by the turning driver's failure to operate the turn signal. Assume further that the jury finds that the turning driver's own negligence contributed to the accident by 30 percent and the negligence of the other motorist contributed to the accident by 70 percent. If the jury agrees that damages are worth $100,000 the turning driver would only be able to recover $70,000 in damages (or $100,000 reduced by 30 percent caused by that driver's own negligence). If, conversely, the negligence was found to have contributed 70 percent to the accident, the driver could only recover $30,000 for the 30 percent fault for which the other tortfeasor was responsible. Again, this is true in states that apply a "pure" theory of comparative negligence. Other states have modified comparative negligence principles to permit a lawsuit only if a person is were less than 50 percent negligent.
No-Fault Liability Systems
No-Fault Systems: In states that have statutorily established a "no-fault" system of liability for negligence, each person's own insurance company pays for his or her injury or damage, regardless of who is at fault. No-fault insurance liability coverage does not apportion damages or fault. However, it usually does not cover damage to the automobile, and separate collision coverage is needed. In states with NO FAULT systems, individuals may file suit only if certain threshold injuries have occurred or damages exceed insurance coverages.
Components of an Automobile Insurance Policy
Depending on the state, automobile liability insurance policy may contain some or all of the following:
- Bodily Injury Liability: The insurer will pay damages when other persons are injured or killed in an accident for which the insured are at fault.
- PERSONAL INJURY Protection (PIP): The insurer will pay for the insured's injuries and other related damages to the insured and to passengers.
- Property Damage Liability: The insurer will pay damages when the property of other persons has been harmed or destroyed by the insured's vehicle and the insured is at fault.
- Collision Coverage: The insurer will pay for damages to the insured's own vehicle, when the insured is at fault. If the insured's vehicle is financed, the loaner may require the insured to maintain collision coverage on the vehicle.
- Comprehensive Coverage: The insurer will pay for damages to the insured's automobile caused by fire, theft, VANDALISM, acts of God, riots, and certain other perils. If the insured's vehicle is financed, the loaner may require the insured to maintain comprehensive coverage on the vehicle.
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Coverage: The insurer will pay for injury or death to the insured and the insured's passengers if caused by an uninsured or underinsured tortfeasor or a hit-and-run motorist. In some states, the insurer will also pay for damage to the insured's vehicle. An uninsured at-fault tortfeasor may be sued and his or her personal assets attached to satisfy any judgment.
When Accidents Occur
The following points may assist individuals in the event that they are involved in a motor vehicle accident:
In a Rental or Leased Vehicle
In a Rental or Leased Vehicle: In most states, individuals' own insurance policy will protect them for any automobile that they are driving. There is no need to purchase additional insurance from the automobile rental or leasing company unless they wish to increase their coverage, e.g., add collision coverage.
When a Pedestrian or Bicyclist is Hit
When a Pedestrian or Bicyclist is Hit: In some states, there is a presumption of fault if drivers strike a pedestrian or bicyclist, for want of care and defensive driving on the driver's part. However, the presumption can be overturned by EVIDENCE of fault or statutory violation on the part of the bicyclist or pedestrian, e.g., bicycling at night without a headlight, jaywalking, etc. In no-fault states, injured pedestrians are often covered by their own automobile policies, even though they were pedestrians at the time, and even if the driver was were at fault.
When an Animal is Hit
When an Animal is Hit: When a domesticated animal is injured and/or damage occurs to the driver, there may be a presumption of fault on the part of the animal's owner for allowing the animal to run at large. If the accident was caused by driver negligence, the animal owner may file suit against the driver. Most states limit damages to the value of the animal or its medical care, and do not permit non-economic damages such as emotional damages associated with the loss of a pet. However, this is a rapidly developing area of law. Injury or damage to the driver's vehicle caused by collision with wild animals (e.g., deer) is generally covered without assignment of fault. The driver should render assistance to the animal only if the driver will not further endanger himself or other motorists.
In One Vehicle Accidents
In One Vehicle Accidents: The insurance policy will generally cover injuries and damages, but the driver may still be found "at fault," which could affect the driver's insurance premiums.
In Another State or Country
In Another State or Country: Generally, the laws of the state in which the accident occurs will govern the allocation of fault and liability.
When One Causes Accident
When One Causes an Accident: Individuals should never leave the scene of the accident. They should avoid statements of apology or admissions of fault: there may be other factors involved that they are not aware of. They need to render assistance to any injured persons, but not to attempt to move them. They should not move their vehicle unless the accident is minor. They should attempt to secure the names and telephone numbers of witnesses, even though they believe they are at fault. They must always be truthful to their insurance company. Misrepresentations may result in cancellation of a policy for insurance and expose them to even more liability. Some states require that a police officer always be called to the scene; other states require police involvement only in circumstances of declared injury. Generally, a police officer cannot issue a CITATION if he or she did not witness the accident, unless it is clear that the accident could only have been caused by one driver. Notwithstanding, others drivers may have contributed to the accident, even if they did not receive citations.
When One is Injured in an Accident
When One is Injured in an Accident: People should never assume that they are not injured. They should remain in the vehicle and take a few moments to assess their physical condition and the situation. Some injuries, such as spinal vertebral displacements (e.g., narrowing of intervertebral disc spaces) do not manifest immediately. If you they are physically able, they should attempt to secure contact information of witnesses. If they are taken to a medical facility, their personal health care insurance provider may originally be billed, or the medical facility may request contact information for their automobile insurance provider. (Each state has its own law regarding the "priority" of insurers responsible for payment.) Individuals should remember that if they do not have either healthcare or automobile insurance, they are still entitled to emergency medical treatment until their condition is stabilized. This entitlement stands is true regardless of their ability to pay, and regardless of who caused the accident.
Vicarious Liability and Negligent Entrustment
In most states, individuals may be liable for accidents caused by other persons who are driving their vehicle, with their direct or implied permission. In many states, both the owner and the driver of a vehicle may be named in a lawsuit under a theory of "vicarious liability." Even in the absence of "owner's liability" statutes, the common law theory of "negligent entrustment" of their vehicle to another person may result in liability exposure.
Likewise, under general negligence theories of vicarious liability and "respondeat superior" ("let the master answer"), employers may be liable (in addition to their employees) for accidents caused by their employees while operating company vehicles. Such vicarious liability is generally limited to automobile accidents caused during the course of employment and does not apply if the employee was using the vehicle beyond the scope of his or her authority.
In a roundabout way, the law permits two other circumstances for vicarious or remote liability. One involves an accident caused by a defective vehicle, in which a "product liability" lawsuit against the manufacturer may result in payment of damages. In the other, several state laws permit suits against state highway officers and departments in connection with the negligent construction or repair of highways, streets, bridges, and overpasses, that may have proximately caused an accident.
Selected State Laws
ALABAMA: See Title 32 of the Alabama Code of 1975, (Motor Vehicles and Traffic), Chapter 7, Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act. Available at http://www.legislature.state.al.us/CodeofAlabama/1975/coato... .
ALASKA: See Title 28 (Motor Vehicles) of the Alaska Statute, Chapter 28.20, "Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act." Available at http://www.legis.state.ak.us/folhome.htm.
ARIZONA: See Title 28 (Transportation) of the Arizona Revised Statutes, Chapter 9, (Vehicle Insurance and Financial Responsibility). Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
ARKANSAS: See Title 23 (PUBLIC UTILITIES and Regulated Industries), Subtitle 3 (Insurance), Chapter 89 (CASUALTY Insurance), Subchapter 2 (Automobile Liability Insurance Generally) of the Arizona Revised Statutes, Chapter 9, "Vehicle Insurance and Financial Responsibility." Also see Title 27 (Transportation), Subtitle 2 (Motor Vehicle Registration and Licensing), Chapter 19, "Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act," and Chapter 22, Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance. Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
CALIFORNIA: See California Insurance Code and California Vehicle Code, Division 7 (Financial Responsibility Laws), Chapter 3 (Proof of Financial Responsibility) Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
COLORADO: See Title 10, Chapter 40701 et seq., "Colorado Auto Accident Preparations Act," and Title 42, Chapter 7, "Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Act." Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
CONNECTICUT: See Title 38a (Insurance), Chapter 700, (Property and Casualty Insurance). Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
DELAWARE: See Title 21 (Motor Vehicles), part II (Registration, Titles, and Licenses), Chapter 21 (Registration of Vehicles), Subchapter 1, Section 2118. Also see Chapter 29, Motor Vehicle Safety-Responsibility. Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: See DC Code, Title 35 (Insurance), Chapter 21 (Compulsory/No-Fault Motor Vehicle Insurance) and Title 40 (Motor Vehicles and Traffic), Chapter 4 (Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility). Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
FLORIDA: See Florida Statutes Annotated, Title 37 (Insurance), Part 11 (Motor Vehicle and Casualty Insurance), and Title 23 (Motor Vehicles), Chapter 324 (Financial Responsibility) Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
GEORGIA: See Georgia Code, Section 40-9-1, "Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act." Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
HAWAII: See Title 17 (Motor and Other Vehicles), Chapter 287, "Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act." Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
IDAHO: See Titles 49 (Motor Vehicles), Chapter 12 (Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility), Section 12-1229 (Required Motor Vehicle Insurance) Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
ILLINOIS: See Chapter 625 (Vehicles), 625 ILCS5/ (Illinois Vehicle Code), Chapter 7 (Illinois Safety and Family Financial Responsibility Law, Article II (Security Following Accident). Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
INDIANA: See Title 7 (Motor Vehicles), Article 25 (Financial Responsibility), Chapter 4 (Financial Responsibility). Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
IOWA: See Iowa Code, Chapter 321A (Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility) Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
KANSAS: See Kansas Statutes, Title 40 (Insurance), Article 31, "Kansas Automobile Injury Reparations Act." Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
KENTUCKY: See KRS Title XXV (Business and Financial Institutions) Chapter 304, Subtitle 39 (Motor Vehicle Reparations Act). Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
LOUISIANA: See Louisiana Statutes Title 32, Sections 861 and 900. Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
MAINE: See Title 29A (Motor Vehicles), Ch. 13 (Financial Responsibility and Insurance), Subchapter II (General Financial Responsibility) Section 1605. Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
MARYLAND: See Statute Sections under Insurance (19-509) and Transportation (17-103). Available at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/ars.htm#Listing.
MICHIGAN: See Chapter 500 (Insurance Code of 1956), Act 218, and MCL Chapter 31 (Motor Vehicle Personal and Property Protection). Available at http://michiganlegislature.org/law/ChapterIndex.asp.
MINNESOTA: See Minnesota Statutes Annotated, Chapter 65B (Automobile Insurance). Available at http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/stats/.
MISSISSIPPI: See Title 63 (Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulations), Chapter 15 (Motor Vehicle Safety-Responsibility. Available at http://www.lexislawpublishing.com/sdCGI-IN/om_isapi.dll?cli... .
MISSOURI: See Missouri Revised Statutes, Title XIX (Motor Vehicles, Watercraft and Aviation),Chapter 303 (Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility). Available at .
MONTANA: See Montana Code, Title 16 (Motor Vehicles), Chapter 6 (Responsibility of Vehicle Users and Owners), Part 1 (Financial Responsibility), Section 61-6-103, et seq. Available at .
NEBRASKA: See Chapter 60 (Motor Vehicles), Section 501 et seq. (Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act). Available at
NEVADA: See Chapter 485 (Motor Vehicles: Insurance and Financial Responsibility Act). Available at http://www.leg.state.nv.us/NRS/SEARCH/NRSQuery.htm.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: See Title 21 (Motor Vehicles), Chapter 264 (Accidents and Financial Responsibility), Section 264.16 et seq. Available at .
NEW JERSEY: See Title 39 (Motor Vehicle and Traffic Regulation), Section 39:6A-1 (Maintenance of Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Coverage. Available at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/
NEW MEXICO: See Chapter 66 (Motor Vehicles), Article 5, Part 3 (Financial Responsibility), Mandatory Financial Responsibility Act, Section 66-5-201 to 239.
NEW YORK: See New York State Consolidated Laws, Chapter 28 (Insurance Law), Article 51 (Comprehensive Motor Vehicle Insurance Reparations). Available at http://www.findlaw.com/11statgov/ny/mycl.html.
NORTH CAROLINA: See Chapters 20 (Insurance) of the North Carolina General Statutes, Article 9A (Motor Vehicle Safety an Financial Responsibility Act of 1953), Section 20-279.1 et seq. Available at .
NORTH DAKOTA: See Title 26.1 (Insurance), Chapter 26.1-41 (Auto Accidents Reparations Act). Available at http://www.state.nd.us/lr/index.htm.
OHIO: See Title 29 (Insurance), Chapter 3937 (Casualty Insurance, Motor Vehicle Insurance), Section 3937.18 et seq; also Title 45 (Motor Vehicles-Aeronautics-Watercraft), Chapter 4509 (Financial Responsibility), Section 4509.20. Available at .
OKLAHOMA: See Section 47-7-101 et seq. Available at http://oklegal.onenet.net/statutes.basic.html.
OREGON: See Title 56 (Insurance), Chapters 731-752, including 742 (Insurance Policies Generally). Title 59 (Oregon Vehicle Code), Chapter 806 contains the Financial Responsibility Act. Available at http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/.
PENNSYLVANIA: See Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated, Title 67 (Transportation), Part I (Department of Transportation), Subpart A (Vehicle Code Provisions), Article XIII (Administration and Enforcement), Chapter 219 (Proof of Financial Responsibility); Chapter 221 (Obligations of Insurers and Vehicle Owners); and Chapter 223 (Self-Insurance). Available at http://www.pacode.com/cgi-bin/pacode/ssecure/infosearch.pl
RHODE ISLAND: See Title 31 (Motor and Other Vehicles), Chapter 31-30 and 31-31 (Safety Responsibility Administration), and Chapter 31-47 (Motor Vehicle Reparations Act). Available at .
SOUTH CAROLINA: See Title 56 (Motor Vehicles), Chapter 9 (Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Act), Section 56-9-19 et seq. Available at .
SOUTH DAKOTA: See Title 58 (Insurance), Chapter 23 (Liability Insurance), and Title 32 (Motor Vehicles), Chapter 32-35 (Financial Responsibility of Vehicle Owners and Operators). Available at .
TENNESSEE: See Tennessee Code, Title 56 (Insurance), Chapter 7 (Policies and Policyholders), Part 11 (General Provisions-Automobile Insurance) and Part 12 (Underinsured Motor Vehicle Coverage). Available at http://www.lixislawpublishing.com/sdCGIBIN/om_isapi.dll?cli... .
TEXAS: See Insurance Code, Chapter 5, Part I, Subchapter A, Article 5.06-3 (Personal Injury Protection Coverage); Transportation Code, Title 7 (Vehicles and Traffic), Subtitle D (Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility), Chapter 601 (Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act), Subchapter C (Financial Responsibility). Available at http://www.findlaw.com/11statgove/tx/txst.html
UTAH: See Title 41A (Motor Vehicles), Chapter 12a (Financial Responsibility of Motor Vehicle Owners and Operators Act). Available at
VERMONT: See Title 23 (Motor Vehicles), Chapter 11 (Financial Responsibility and Insurance), Subchapter V (Insurance Against Uninsured, Underinsured or Unknown Motorists). Available at .
VIRGINIA: See Title 38.2 (Insurance), Chapter 22 (Liability Insurance Policies), Title 46.2 (Motor Vehicles), Chapter 3 (Licensure of Drivers), Article 15 (Proof of Financial Responsibility). Available at .
WASHINGTON: See RWC Title 46 (Motor Vehicles), Chapter 46.30 (Mandatory Liability Insurance). Available at http://search.leg.wa.gov/pub/textsearch/default.asp.
WEST VIRGINIA: See Chapter 17D (Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act)/. Available at .
WISCONSIN: See Chapter 632 (Insurance Contracts in Specific), Section 632.32 (Provisions of Motor Vehicle Insurance Policies) and Chapter 344 (Vehicles Financial Responsibility). Availability at .
WYOMING: See Title 31 (Motor Vehicles), Chapter 9 (Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility), Article 4 (Proof of Financial Responsibility). Available at http://legisweb.state.wy.us/titles/statutes.htm.
Guide to Consumer Law American Bar Association. Random House, 1997.
"Introduction to Automobile Accident Liability." Available at http://www.claimrep.com/autoLiabRP1.asp.
Law for Dummies. Ventura, John, IDG Books Worldwide, Inc., 1996.
"The 6 Parts of an Auto Insurance Policy." Available at .
"Websites for Motor Vehicle Laws of the 50 States." Available at .
"Who is Liable? Who Pays for Accident Injuries?" Available at http://www.thenewway.com/personal-injury-guide/who_liable_w... .
Buying A Car/Registration (Encyclopedia of Everyday Law)
Buying an automobile involves three essential components. First, there are the matters related to the vehicle itself, including product guarantees and warranties. Second, there are the matters relating to transferring ownership of the vehicle from the manufacturer or dealer to the buyer. Third, there are the matters required of the buyer to properly register and insure the vehicle before the buyer may operate it on a public road.
Before individuals purchase a vehicle, there are already several federal laws at work that govern the quality and safety of products available for their purchase. Most of these are found under Title 15 (Commerce and Trade) of the U. S. Code.
- The federal Automobile Information Disclosure Act, 15 USC 1231 et seq., requires automobile manufacturers and importers of new cars to affix a sticker on the window of each vehicle, called the "Monroney label." The label must list the base price of the vehicle, each option installed by the manufacturer and its suggested retail price, the transportation charge, and the car's fuel economy (in miles per gallon). Only the ultimate user (the buyer) can remove the label.
- For used vehicles, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has passed its Used Car Rule under 15 USC 41, which applies in all states except Maine and Wisconsin. (These states have adopted their own rules governing used car sales.) Under the Used Car Rule, dealers must prominently post buyer's guides on used vehicles that advises whether the vehicles comes with a WARRANTY and what type or are sold "as is." The buyer's guide must be given to the buyer if the buyer purchases a used vehicle, and it becomes part of the purchase contract, and its terms override any conflicting terms in the contract.
- The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, 15 USC 1381 et seq., has been broken down and re-codified over the years into many legal progeny. The following laws address such matters as motor vehicle or driver safety; minimum standards for motor vehicle emissions, fuel economy, bumper standards, or crash-worthiness; motor vehicle manufacturer recalls or advisories; manufacturer and dealer disclosures, etc.
- The Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Saving Act, 15 USC 1901 et seq., (much of which has been broken down into additional acts and laws, and recodified under Title 49, Transportation) contains numerous provisions for minimum quality and safety standards, disclosure, and reporting requirements.
- The federal Truth in Mileage Act of 1986, commonly referred to as the "Anti-Tampering Odometer Law," (PL 99-579) (49 CFR 580) criminalizes any act that falsifies actual odometer readings and mandates that each transferor of a motor vehicle furnish the transferee certain information concerning the vehicle's history.
- The Clean Air Act, 42 USC 7401 et seq., addresses minimum standards for exhaust emissions on motor vehicles.
- The Anti-Car Theft Act of 1992, 15 USC 2021 et seq., establishes, among other things, a national motor vehicle title information system to disrupt attempts to obtain legitimate vehicle ownership by auto thieves. It also provides for the inspection of exports for stolen vehicles.
The federal MAGNUSON-MOSS WARRANTY ACT, 42 USC 2301 et seq. (1984) is applicable to warranties for purchases of automobiles. Under the Act, any warranty accompanying a product must be designated as either "full" or "limited." Importantly, if a manufacturer has given a full or limited warranty on a new car, it cannot disclaim any implied warranties. However, some states have laws that effectively void any IMPLIED WARRANTY for buyer's guide used vehicles that are checked "As Is-No Warranty."
Implied warranties are exactly that: implied. They follow the sale of certain consumer goods automatically, without any express writing or document. The implied warranty of merchantability basically guarantees that the product is what it is stated to be and is adequate for the purpose for which it is purchased. Under the UNIFORM COMMERCIAL CODE (UCC), adopted in all 50 states, this implied warranty only applies to sellers in the business of selling the particular item and does not apply to incidental sales or cross-consumer sales.
However, the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purchase applies to all sellers, even nonprofessionals. Under this warranty, the seller is presumed to guarantee that the car sold (e.g., a restored race car), is fit for the particular purpose for which it is being sold.
Lemon Laws for New and Used Vehicles
All 50 states have enacted "lemon laws" to protect consumers from defective new automobiles. Some states have enacted separate LEMON LAWS to cover used vehicles. While their application and protections vary from state to state, they generally protect consumers from having to keep defective new vehicles. Lemon laws entitle buyers to a replacement new vehicle or a full refund if a dealer cannot fix a vehicle to conform with a warranty after three or four repair attempts made within six months to a year (state variations). Some state laws also entitle buyers to such a remedy if the new vehicle is out of commission for more than 30 non-consecutive days during the warranty period or a STATUTORY period, e.g., one year.
Right to Rescind Purchases
Contrary to general assumption, there is no federal law giving buyers the right to cancel their new car purchase within three days of sale. The often-cited Federal Trade Commission (FTC) "Cooling Off" law is only effective for door-to-door sales or sales made at other than the seller's place of business. However, many states have enacted their own versions of the FTC law, affording broader protections than what the federal law does. Prior to purchase, prospective buyers should check with their state's attorney general's office to see if automobile purchases are covered under state law.
The federal CONSUMER CREDIT PROTECTION ACT, 15 USC 1601 et seq., also referred to as the Truth in Lending Act, assures that consumers receive specific information regarding the terms, conditions, and final cost of financing. It also requires disclosure of other information that will contribute to a meaningful choice and decision to finance the purchase.
If buyers finance their purchase of vehicles, they most likely will execute a document known as a security agreement, which gives their CREDITOR a security interest in their vehicles. Under most state laws, if they seriously DEFAULT on car payments, their creditor may repossess their vehicle, sometimes without advance notice. Although they generally have a right to "cure" the default and redeem the vehicle, they normally have to pay the entire balance on the car, not just the payments in ARREARS. Most financing agreements contain "acceleration clauses" which permit the termination of the INSTALLMENT payments once default occurs. Some states have laws that permit creditors to reinstate the contract terms once buyers pay the amount in arrears.
If buyers do not redeem the vehicle, the creditor may keep their vehicles to satisfy the debt, even if the vehicles are worth more than the debt owed. This is referred to as "strict foreclosure." However, if buyers have paid at least 60 percent of the purchase price, they generally are entitled to any excess money recouped from the vehicle's sale above and beyond the balance owed. Buyers are also entitled to take part in the bidding at the sale.
Title Transfers and Liens
Under the UCC (Article 2), a new car contract which purports to transfer ownership to the purchaser must be in writing. It should include a description of the make and model of the vehicle, its full vehicle identification number (VIN), a statement as to whether the vehicle is new, used, a "demo," rental car, etc., the full price and any financing terms, a cancellation provision if certain conditions occur (such as the car not being delivered by a certain date), and a full statement of warranty terms.
Every transfer of title to a motor vehicle must include an odometer reading and statement of mileage from the transferor. For purposes of TAXATION, most states require an AFFIDAVIT of purchase price as well.
Importantly, if the purchased vehicles are being financed, state law will dictate the form of title transfer. Some states will allow title to transfer to the buyers even though they have not yet fully paid for the vehicle, but the creditor/lender will encumber the title with a LIEN. Other states permit the creditor/lender to keep title in its name until they pay for the vehicle in total, then transfer title to them. In those states, the buyers maintain an "equitable lien" on the vehicle while it is being paid for but do not have legal title to it until their final payment has been made.
Under the UCC, after executing a purchase document, but prior to the delivery of the vehicle, the risk of loss or damage to the vehicle is allocated to the seller if the seller is a merchant (car dealer). If the seller is not a merchant under the UCC, the risk passes to the buyer upon tender of delivery, i.e., when the seller actually attempts delivery or makes the car available for pickup under the contract.
Generally, title to a vehicle cannot be transferred if there is any existing lien listed. Creditors will automatically file the necessary paperwork (buyers should receive a copy) to remove their liens against the title to their vehicles once buyers have paid them creditors in full. However, if buyers attempt to sell their vehicles while a lien is still recorded, the burden is on them to contact the necessary parties to effect a removal of the lien.
State Registration Requirements
Registering a vehicle in the owner's name notifies the state of ownership of the vehicle, and provides the necessary documentation for the issuance of state license plates and tags to be affixed to the vehicle. Operating a motor vehicle that is not properly registered is usually an offense punishable by fine or IMPRISONMENT. Within most states, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or an office of the Secretary of State is the proper entity for registering vehicles.
The most common document requirements for registering a vehicle are the title and a certificate of automobile insurance coverage. Some states additionally require a copy of the contract or BILL OF SALE, or in the alternative, an affidavit containing averments of purchase price, description of the vehicle, and the VIN number, names of seller and buyer, date of purchase, and odometer reading.
The title owner of the vehicle is generally, but not always, the party to whom the vehicle is registered. Even in states where creditors retain titles in their names until the buyer pays off the auto loan, registration of the vehicle will nonetheless be in the buyer's name. This means that the buyer will pay the sales taxes, use taxes, licensing plate fees, and (usually) fees associated with the transferring of the vehicle to the buyer's name.
If the buyer has a lien against the title to the buyer's vehicle, the state will most likely require the buyer to maintain full coverage insurance on the car, including, especially, collision coverage. Doing so protects the interests of the lienholder, who could stand to lose both payment and the vehicle if the buyer is involved in an accident and does not have the vehicle insured. Registration may be denied if the vehicle fails to pass auto emissions or operational testing, or if any taxes are pending. Additionally, registration may be denied to persons whose driving licenses have been suspended or revoked.
State Lemon Laws
ALABAMA: See Article 8, Chapter 20A of the Alabama Code of 1975. Requires three repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
ALASKA: See Title 45, Chapter 45, Sections 300 to 360 of the Alaska Statutes. Requires three repair attempts or 30 business days out of service.
ARIZONA: See Sections 44.1261 to 1265 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. Requires four repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
ARKANSAS: See Title 4, Chapter 90, Sections 401 to 417 of Arkansas Statutes. Requires one repair attempt for defect that may cause death or serious injury or three repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
CALIFORNIA: See California Civil Code 1793.22, the Tauner CONSUMER PROTECTION Act. Requires two repair attempts for a defect which may cause death or serious injury or four repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
COLORADO: See Colorado Statutes 42-10-101 to 107. Requires four repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
CONNECTICUT: See Connecticut Statutes, Title 42, Chapter 743b for new vehicles, Chapter 743f for used vehicles. Requires two repair attempts if there is a serious safety hazard, otherwise four repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
DELAWARE: See Title 6, Subtitle II, Chapter 50, Sections 5001 to 5009. Requires four repair attempts or 30 business days out of service.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: See DC Code, Division VIII, Title 50, Subtitle II, Chapter 5. Requires four repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
FLORIDA: See Florida Statutes Annotated, Chapter 681. Requires three repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
GEORGIA: See Georgia Code, Section 10-1-780. Requires one attempt for a serious safety defect in braking or steering systems, otherwise three repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
HAWAII: See Hawaii Revised Statutes, Chapter 481i. Requires one repair for defects which may cause death or serious injury, otherwise three repair attempts or 30 business days out of service.
IDAHO: See Titles 48, Chapter 9, Sections 901-903. Requires four repair attempts or 30 business days out of service.
ILLINOIS: See Chapter 815, 815 ILCS, Section 815.380. Requires four repair attempts or 30 business days out of service.
INDIANA: See Indiana Code Section 24-5-13. Requires four repair attempts or 30 business days out of service.
IOWA: See Iowa Code, Chapter 322G, Sections 1 to 15. Requires one repair attempt for defects that may cause death or serious injury, otherwise three repair attempts plus a final attempt or 30 calendar days out of service.
KANSAS: See Kansas Statutes, Chapter 50-645 to 646. Requires four repair attempts or ten repair attempts for different defects, otherwise 30 calendar days out of service.
KENTUCKY: See KRS 367.840 to 846, also KRS 860 to 870. Requires four repair attempts or 30 days out of service.
LOUISIANA: See Louisiana Revised Statutes Title 51, Sections 1941 to 1948. Requires four repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
MAINE: See Title 10, Chapter 203A, Sections 1161 to 1169. Requires three repair attempts or 15 business days out of service.
MARYLAND: See Statutes under Commercial Law, 12-1504 and 14-501. Requires one unsuccessful repair for braking or steering system failures, otherwise four repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
MICHIGAN: See MCL 257.1401 et seq. Requires four repair attempts or 30 business days out of service.
MINNESOTA: See Minnesota Statutes Annotated, 325F.665 for new cars, 325F.662 for used ones. Requires one unsuccessful repair for braking or steering system failures, otherwise four repair attempts or 30 business days out of service.
MISSISSIPPI: See STATUTE Sectiosnns 63-17-151 to 165. Requires three repair attempts or 15 working days out of service.
MISSOURI: See Missouri Revised Statutes 407.560 to 579. Requires four repair attempts or 30 business days out of service.
MONTANA: See Montana Code, Title 61, Chapter, Part 5, Section 61-4-501. Requires four repair attempts or 30 business days out of service.
NEBRASKA: See Chapter 60 (Motor Vehicles), Sections 60-2701 to 2709. Requires four repair attempts or 40 business days out of service.
NEVADA: See Nevada Revised Statutes, 597.600 to 680. Requires four repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: See Title 31, Chapter 3570. Requires three repair attempts or 30 business days out of service.
NEW JERSEY: See Title 56, Sections 56-12-29 to 49. Requires three repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
NEW MEXICO: See Chapter 57, Article 16A. Requires four repair attempts or 30 business days out of service.
NEW YORK: See New York State General Business Laws (GBL), Section 198a for new vehicles, Section 198b for used vehicles. Requires four repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service. Substantial defects must be repaired within 20 days of receipt of notice from the consumer using certified mail.
NORTH CAROLINA: See Chapters 20 of the North Carolina General Statutes, Article 15A. Requires four repair attempts or 20 calendar days out of service.
NORTH DAKOTA: See Title 51 of the Century Code, Sections 51-07-16 to 22. Requires three repair attempts or 30 business days out of service.
OHIO: See ORC 1345.71 to 78. Requires one repair attempt for condition likely to cause death or injury, three repair attempts for same defect, eight total repair attempts, or 30 calendar days out of service.
OKLAHOMA: See Section 15-901 of the Oklahoma Statutes. Requires four repair attempts or 45 calendar days out of service.
OREGON: See ORS 646.315 to 75. Requires four repair attempts or 30 business days out of service.
PENNSYLVANIA: See Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated, Title 73, Chapter 28, Sections 1951 to 63. Requires three repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
RHODE ISLAND: See Rhode Island Code, Title 31 (Motor and Other Vehicles), Chapter 31-5.2. Requires four repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
SOUTH CAROLINA: See Title 56 (Motor Vehicles), Chapter 28, Section 56.28-10. Requires three repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
SOUTH DAKOTA: See Title 32, Chapter 32-6D.1 to 11. Requires four repair attempts plus a final attempt.
TENNESSEE: See Tennessee Code, Chapter 24, Sections 55-24-201. Requires four repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
TEXAS: See Motor Vehicle Commission Code, Article 4413(36) of Vernon's Texas Civil Statutes. Requires two repair attempts for serious defects, otherwise four repair attempts or 30 days out of service.
UTAH: See Utah Administrative Code, Rule R152-20. Requires four repair attempts or 30 business days out of service.
VERMONT: See Chapter 115, Sections 4170 to 4181. Requires three repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
VIRGINIA: See Title 59.1, Chapter 17.3, Sections 59.1- 207.9 to 207.16. Requires one repair for serious safety defect, otherwise three repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
WASHINGTON: See RCW Title 19, Chapter 118, Section 19.118.005. Requires two repair attempts for serious safety defect, otherwise four repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
WEST VIRGINIA: See West Virginia Code 46A-6A, Sections 1 to 9. Requires three repair attempts or 30 calendar days out of service.
WISCONSIN: See Chapter 218.015. Requires four repair attempts or 30 days out of service.
WYOMING: See Title 40, Chapter 17, Section 101. Requires three repair attempts or 30 business days out of service.
"Buying a New/Used Car FAQ," Nolo Online Law. Available at .
Guide to Consumer Law. American Bar Association. Random House, 1997.
Law for Dummies. Ventura, John,. IDG Books Worldwide, Inc., 1996.
"State by State Lemon Law Summaries." Autopedia. Available at .
The Automotive Consumer Action Program (AUTOCAP)
Driver's License (Encyclopedia of Everyday Law)
In the United States, driver licenses are issued by the individual states for their residents. Protecting the PUBLIC INTEREST is the primary purpose of driver's licenses. They are required for operating all types of motor vehicles. Driver licenses are also used as an important form of photo identification in the United States, particularly in many non-driving situations where proof of identity or age is required. As identification, they are useful for boarding airline flights, cashing checks, and showing proof of age for activities such as purchasing alcoholic beverages.
The first driver's licenses were issued in Paris in 1893. To obtain one of these licenses, the driver was required to know how to repair his own car as well as drive it. In the United States, vehicle registration began in 1901. Licensing drivers began in 1916, and by the mid-1920s there were age requirements and other restrictions on who could be licensed to operate an automobile.
This authority is delegated to the states, although from the earliest years there have been challenges to particular aspects of state licensing laws, as well as outright challenges to the states' rights to license vehicles and drivers. With respect to the latter issue, the U. S. Supreme Court noted in 1915 in the case of Hendrick v. Maryland that "The movement of motor vehicles over the highways is attended by constant and serious dangers to the public and is also abnormally destructive to the [high]ways themselves . . . .[A] state may rightfully prescribe uniform regulations necessary for public safety and order in respect to the operation upon its highways of all motor vehicleshose moving in interstate commerce as well as others . . . .This is but an exercise of the police power uniformly recognized as belonging to the states and essential to the preservation of the health, safety, and comfort of their citizens" 235 US 610.
Driver's licenses perform several vital functions. When they were first issued in the United States, driver's licenses were meant to verify that the holder had complied with the regulations associated with operating a motor vehicle. In addition to verifying compliance with state laws, driver's licenses have become an almost essential form of identification for individuals, law enforcement authorities, and others who require validation of identity. Later, photographs were added to aid in positive identification and to help reduce instances of FRAUD. Other measures to prevent COUNTERFEITING driver's licenses include using thumb print and hologram images on the license. Today, many states issues licenses with magnetic strips and bar codes to provide for the electronic recording of driver license information if a traffic CITATION is issued.
When individuals present themselves at a state's licensing facility as an applicants for a driver's licenses, there are several requirements they will be required to meet in order to obtain a valid driver's license. State statutes provide very specific information about the requirements for obtaining a driver's license. These requirements include:
- Residency requirements. For example, it is common for states to require individuals to apply for a driver's licenses within a certain time after moving to the state
- Production of identification documents (there is a preference for photo identification) and disclosure of the individuals' Social Security numbers
- Proof that the applicants meet the state's minimum age for possessing a driver's licenses
- Three tests: a written exam, a vision test, and a driving test
- If applicants are a foreign national, there may be additional requirements imposed by the state or by the INS
- Payment of the appropriate application fees
- Proof of insurance
- Production of any other valid licenses and instructions permits from other states or foreign countries
Besides providing proof of an individual's' permission to drive, a driver's licenses are an important form of identification. Before licenses are awarded by a state, applicants will be asked to provide adequate proof of identity. Some of the common forms of identification accepted in many licensing facilities are:
- A military identification card
- A United States PASSPORT
- A student driver permit
- A Social Security Card
- An identification card issued by a state
- An identification card issued by the U. S., a state, or an agency of either the U. S. or a state
- Immigration and Naturalization Service identification cards or forms
- The Alien Registration Card, I-151. Note that in some states, The Employment Authorization for Legalization Applicant's Card (I-688A and I-688B) may not be sufficient as an identification document.
In many states, individuals may present a combination of documents as proof of identity. These items may include:
- Birth certificate or registration cards. It is best to bring either the original or a CERTIFIED COPY
- The applicant's social security card
- A marriage certificate or DIVORCE DECREE. Again, original or certified copies will be best.
- The applicant's voter registration card
- A government-issued business or professional licenses (e.g. cosmetology license, law license)
- The applicant's vehicle registration and/or title
- The applicant's original or a certified copy of his school transcripts
If applicants present documents written in a language other than English, there may be a delay. Most licensing facilities make GOOD FAITH efforts to read and interpret these documents. Occasionally, they may need to FAX applicants' documents to another office for assistance. If an adequate translation cannot be obtained, they may be asked to provide an English translation along with the original document
States require applicants for drivers' licenses to be at least 16 years of age. In many states, if applicants are younger than 18, they must also provide a signed parental authorization form. This form states a person's relationship to the applicant for a license and gives permission for the person to acquire a driver's license.
Usually, states will require that the parental authorization form be notarized or signed in the presence of the proper authority at a licensing facility. Whenever individuals present themselves for a driver's EXAMINATION, they must provide proof of their identification and age. This can be done with an official document such as a birth certificate or passport.
When individuals apply for a driver's license, they are required to pay a fee based on the type of license for which they are applying and for any endorsement attached to the license. There are also fees assessed for license renewals and extensions. In most states, fees must be paid either in cash or by personal check. Few states accept credit cards or DEBIT cards for payment of licensing fees. License fees are fairly moderate, but they do vary from state to state. Individuals can check with their state's department of motor vehicles for a fee schedule for driver's licenses, endorsements, or permits.
As part of the driver's license application process, individuals will be required to take a written test. This exam tests their knowledge of the rules of the road and their ability to recognize and interpret road signs. Usually, they must successfully complete the written exam prior to scheduling the driving test.
Good eyesight is of utmost importance for the safe operation of motor vehicles. Therefore, as part of the driver's license application process, the department of motor vehicles in the state will administer a vision test. This is a brief test meant to evaluate the applicants' eyesight. The vision test evaluates three factors:
- Clarity of vision
- How far individuals can see to either side while looking straight ahead (peripheral vision)
- Depth and color perception
If individuals wear glasses or contact lenses, they will be asked to perform the exam with their corrective eyewear both on and off. The results of the test will determine whether there are restrictions placed on their driver's licenses (e.g. must wear corrective eyewear when operating a motor vehicle).
The final portion of a driver's license application procedure is the driving test. Applicants will be required to provide a safe vehicle for the test. They will also need to provide proof of automobile insurance prior to the driving test. An unlicensed applicant may not use a rental car for the driving test. The driving test may be waived if an applicant has a valid driver license from another state and meets all other applicable requirements. The driving test will be required of applicants with licenses from foreign countries, including Mexico and Canada.
The driving test is an opportunity to demonstrate that the applicants are a safe drivers. There will be no passengers other than an examining official local or state police officer or authorized department of motor vehicles personnelllowed on the drive test. The EXAMINER in the front seat will give the applicants driving directions. The directions should be given in a clear manner and with enough time to allow the applicants to take appropriate action. Applicants will never be asked to do anything unsafe or illegal.
The exact procedure for driving tests will vary somewhat from state to state, although several features of these tests are fairly consistent throughout the United States. Before the test applicants will be asked to use their arms to signal for a right turn, left turn, slow, or stop. Along with noting their driving skills in normal traffic the examiner will also ask them to perform certain maneuvers such as parking on a hill, parallel parking, entering traffic from a parked position, and backing out of a driveway or around a corner.
A few of the most common test items the examiner will observe are:
- Backing up
- Controlling the vehicle
- Driving in traffic
- Driving through blind or crowded intersections
- Judging distance
- Leaving the curb
- Obeying traffic signals and signs
- Respecting the rights of pedestrians and other drivers
- Starting the vehicle
When individuals obtain a driver's licenses they will be required to provide proof that they have purchased adequate automobile insurance. Among other things, automobile insurance helps pay for medical bills and car repairs if drivers are in an automobile accidents. Every state requires drivers to purchase some auto insurance, and they specify the minimum amounts required. Individuals can purchase insurance from any company they choose, but should they be stopped by the police or should they be involved in a traffic accidents, they will most likely be required to supply proof of current insurance in their automobile or on their persons. There are several kinds of automobile insurance, including the following:
- Liability. There are two principal aspects to liability insurance, bodily injury coverage and property damage coverage. Bodily injury liability insurance covers costs up to certain limits if drivers kill or injure someone else in an accident. In these cases the drivers' insurance company pays for expenses like legal fees (if the insured is sued), medical bills, and lost wages of the other person if the insured is are at-fault. Property damage liability insurance covers the costs associated with damage to someone else's car or other property if the insured damaged that property while driving. Both bodily injury and property damage liability insurance can be purchased in various amounts, but the state that licenses the individual to drive will set minimum amounts which that person must purchase.
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage. This type of insurance covers individuals for their bodily injury caused by a hit-and-run driver or from injuries caused by a driver who has no auto liability insurance.
- Collision insurance. This type of insurance coverage reimburses drivers for damage to their cars if the car collides with another object. To figure out how much an insurance company will pay to fix the insured's car, a claims ADJUSTER may look at the damage, or the insured may be asked to get estimates from body shops. If the insured's car is "totaled," the insured person gets what the car is worth (according to tables of vehicle values) at the time of the accident.
- Comprehensive insurance. Comprehensive insurance covers the cost of damage to the insured's car caused by most other causes such as fire, theft, hail, or other natural disasters. If the insured have a loan on the vehicle, the insured's lender may require the insured to carry this type of insurance.
The cost of automobile insurance varies according to a number of factors. For example, statistics show that drivers under the age of 25 are more likely to be involved in accidents; insurance companies charge them more for coverage. If drivers get a ticket for speeding or other traffic violation, their insurance costs may go up. Models of vehicles that are more dangerous to drive (e.g. convertibles) or cost more to repair if they're damaged will generally cost more to insure than safer cars or cars that cost less to repair. And if the insured lives in a city with greater chances that the car will be hit, stolen, or vandalized are higher the insurance costs will probably be higher as well.
There are some things individuals can do to help keep the cost of insurance down:
- Choose the vehicle carefully. Remember that some vehiclesike convertibles and sports carsost more to insure than others.
- Consider the age and condition of the vehicle. If the vehicle is an older model, it may not be cost-effective to pay for insurance that covers physical damage to the older car.
- Drive lawfully and defensively to avoid violations and accidents.
- Increase the DEDUCTIBLE and thus lower the premium, however realize that by doing so, it will cause the owner to pay more out of pocket each time they have a claim.
- Students who get good grades may enjoy lower rates. For example, some companies give discounts to students with a B average or better.
Kinds of Licenses
There are several kinds of driver's licenses. There are important distinctions among these types of licenses, as well as different requirements for obtaining them. The most common are:
- Instruction or learner's permit
- Commercial licenses
Instruction or Learner's Permit
In most states, individuals may apply for a driver instruction permitften called a "learner's permit"s early as the age of 15 on the condition that they are also enrolled in an approved traffic safety education course. Driving privileges under a learner's permit are restricted. The restrictions that apply to the learner's permit will vary from state to state. They may include restrictions on the age of the licensed driver accompanying the learner/driver, the hours in which the learner/driver may be able to drive, and even the types of highways that learners may drive on.
In some states, individuals may be able to apply for a learner's permit without being enrolled in a class, but they must take the written driving test to prove they are capable of understanding the fundamentals of driving and the rules of the road. Those with a learner's permit usually may drive a vehicle as long as a licensed driver is present in the vehicle at the time. There are additional requirements stating how long they must have a learner's permit before they may obtain a permanent license. Individuals can check with their state's department of transportation for the exact rules which will apply in their situation. As with a permanent driver's license, when they apply for a learner's permit, they will be required to supply proof of identification. Proof of age, documented parental consent, and other forms are also required, as well as a fee for the permit.
Since 1992 drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) have been required to have a commercial driver's license (CDL). The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issues rules and standards for testing and licensing CMV drivers. These standards permit states to issue CDLs to drivers only after the drivers passes knowledge and skills tests related to the type of vehicle to be operated. CDLs fall into several categories depending on the weight of the vehicle and/or load being pulled and depending on the number of passengers in the vehicle. These categories are:
- Class A: The vehicle weighs 26,001 or more pounds and the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds
- Class B: The vehicle weighs 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds
- Class C: Any vehicle or combination of vehicles that is either designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver or is marked as a carrier of hazardous materials
Drivers who operate CMVs will be required to pass additional tests to obtain any of the following endorsements on their CDL:
- T: Double/Triple Trailers
- P: Passenger
- N: Tank Vehicle
- H: Hazardous Materials
- X: Combination of Tank Vehicle and Hazardous Materials
A state will determine the appropriate license fee, the rules for license renewals, and the age, medical and other driver qualifications of its intrastate commercial drivers. Drivers with CDLs who cross state lines must meet the Federal driver qualifications (49 CFR 391). All CDLs contain the following information:
- Color photograph or digital image of the driver
- Notation of the "air brake" restriction, if issued
- The class(es) of vehicle that the driver is authorized to driver
- The issue date and the expiration date of the license
- The driver's date of birth, sex, and height
- The driver's full name, signature, and address
- The driver's state license number
- The endorsement(s) for which the driver has qualified
- The name of the issuing state
- The words "Commercial Driver's License" or "CDL"
States may issue learner's permits for training on public highways as long as learner's permit holders are required to be accompanied by someone with a valid CDL appropriate for that vehicle. These learner's permits must be issued for limited time periods.
If individuals are traveling to an English-speaking country, they may be able to get by with their U. S. driver's licenses. However, many other countries will ask that they also obtain an International Driver's Permit, which is a document that translates the information on the home driver's license into 11 different languages. More than 160 countries recognize the International Driver's Permit. If individuals plan to rent a car on their trip abroad, they will probably be asked to present one along with their valid state license. Some countries require special road permits, instead of tolls, to use on their major roads. They will fine those found driving without such a permit.
An International Driver's Permit must be issued in the home country. To obtain an International Driver's Permit, individuals will need to produce two passport photos and their valid state driver's licenses. Currently, an International Driver's Permit costs $10 for a one-year issue. Individuals must complete an application, which can be printed online or submitted by mail. Only two agencies in the United States are authorized to issue these licenses: the American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance. However, travelers should remember that an International Driver's Permit is not a license in and of itself, so drivers can not establish a separate driving record with one. If drivers get a traffic citation while driving with their international driver's permit, it will be reflected on their state licenses.
To apply for an international driving permit, individuals must:
- Be at least age 18
- Present two passport-size photographs
- Present their valid U. S. licenses
In most cases, U. S. auto insurance will not cover drivers abroad; however, their policy may apply when they drive to Mexico or Canada. Even if their U. S. policy is valid in one of these countries, it may not meet the minimum requirements in Canada or Mexico. Individuals may check with the embassy or consulate of the country they plan to visit for specific insurance requirements. Overseas car rental agencies usually offer auto insurance for an additional fee, but in some countries, the required coverage is minimal. If drivers rent a cars overseas, they ought to consider purchasing insurance coverage that is equivalent to the amount of automobile insurance coverage that they carry at home.
All states regulate the issuance of motorcycle permits and motorcycle endorsements. All states require that those wishing to operate motorcycles pass motorcycle knowledge and skill tests. These tests are separate from standard automobile driver license tests. Some states have mandatory motorcycle training in addition to the knowledge and skill tests. In most cases if individuals have successfully completed an approved motorcycle skills course, they may bring their completion cards to the vehicle licensing facility in their state (usually within a limited time) and if they pass the knowledge test, the skill test will be waived. As with other operator licenses, states assess a fee for issuing a motorcycle license, and individuals will also be required to provide proof that they are in compliance with the state's vehicular insurance laws.
The Motor Voter Law
The National Voter Registration Act (commonly referred to as "motor voter," or, "NVRA") took effect in 1995. The NVRA requires states to offer voter registration to citizens when they apply for drivers' licenses. This tie between driver's licensing agencies or facilities and voter registration is the source of the term "motor voter." When individuals obtain drivers' licenses, states can also assess needs and benefits for other assistance programs such as food stamps, MEDICAID, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and Women, Infants, and Children. The Act also imposes on states a requirement to designate additional offices for voter registration services.
Additional provisions of the law require states to accept a national mail-in voter registration form and to establish guidelines for maintaining the accuracy of voter registration rollsost notably prohibiting states from removing registrants from the rolls for not voting. Despite the mandatory provisions, states have some discretion in how they implement the act's provisions. The NVRA requires states to register voters in three specified ways in addition to any other procedures the state uses for voter registration:
- Simultaneous application for a driver's license and registration to vote
- Mail-in application for voter registration
- Application in person at designated government agencies
Election officials must send all applicants a notice informing them of their voter registration status.
Individuals can state on their driver's licenses their desire to donate their organs or bodily tissues upon their deaths. There is a brief questionnaire about organ donation that is part of the application for a driver's license. When individuals answer "yes" to the questions about organ and tissue donation on their license applications, then the department of motor vehicles will place a symbol (e.g. a red heart with a "Y" in the center) on the front of their licenses, permits, or ID cards. Individuals must also sign the back of the license and discuss their wish to donate their organs with their families. By indicating their wish to donate their organs, their names will most likely be entered in a computerized registry. For more information about organ and tissue donation, individuals can see "Organ Donation" in the Gale Encyclopedia of Everyday Law.
States use various methods to help enforce their traffic safety laws. All states use some variation of a point system as part of this effort. Depending on the state, individuals may begin with a certain number of points, have points deducted for traffic violations, or they may have points added for traffic violations. Points are assigned for only moving violations (violations that occur when the car is being driven); points are not assigned for parking, licensing, or other nonmoving violations. If a driver accumulates (or loses) a certain number of points within a prescribed amount of time, that driver's driving privileges may be suspended or revoked.
These point systems identify persistent or repeat violators. Several violations may indicate that a state should take action against the driver. Point systems may not be the only basis for suspending or revoking driver licenses. For example, several speeding violations in an 18-month period, or a single drunk driving violation, could result in the state's mandatory revocation of a license, regardless of the driver's number of points. While a CONVICTION is required for the points to go on a record, the conviction date is not used to determine the point total. Points are reduced by not having any further violations over a period of time. The point systems differ in important ways from state to state. People can contact their state's department of motor vehicles for more details.
License Suspension and Revocation
All licenses expire at some point, but there are ways to lose driving privileges before the license's expiration date. Early termination of the validity of a driver's license is known as suspension (where a license is temporarily rendered invalid), and revocation (where driving privileges granted by a license are fully terminated). In both cases, drivers would be are notified by the state and would have the right to a HEARING. Examples of driver license suspensions and revocations are:
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol and other drugs.: If a breath, blood, or urine test reveals individuals are driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or if individuals are convicted of DUI offenses, their licenses may be suspended or revoked.
- Failure to Appear: If individuals receive a traffic ticket and do not pay the fine on time or do not appear in court when required their licenses are subject to being suspended or revoked.
- Security Deposit: If individuals are in an accident and they do not have liability insurance, their driver licenses and their vehicle registration plates may be suspended.
- CHILD SUPPORT ARREARS: If individuals are in arrears in court ordered child support payments the state may suspend or revoke licenses.
- Truancy: Juveniles can lose their driver's licenses, or their issuance may be delayed for HABITUAL absence from school.
A driver's license suspension or revocation is usually handled as a separate action from any other court case in which individuals may be involved. A state does not automatically reinstate driving privileges if licenses were suspended or revoked. Individuals must follow reinstatement procedures to regain their driving privileges, even if the court case underlying the suspension or revocation was dismissed. Furthermore, all 50 states share license suspension and revocation information. If there is an active suspension or revocation in one state, no other state may issue a driver's license. Driving while suspended or revoked are serious criminal offenses. If individuals are apprehended driving a vehicle with a suspended or revoked license, they could pay hefty fines and even face a term of IMPRISONMENT.
A driver's license expires within a statutorily set number of years after the driver first acquires it. The longevity of a license varies somewhat from state to state, with either three or five years being the normal term of a license. In some states, individuals may be able to renew their licenses by mail, but usually they will be required to appear in person and pass a vision test. Additionally, they may be required to take other exams if licensing officials in their state determine that it is necessary. States assess fee for a license renewals. Individuals should watch out for penalties if they fail to meet deadlines to renew their licenses after they has expired.
"A Citizen's Guide to the National Voter Registration Act of 1993" League of Women Voters, 1994. Available at http://www.nmia.com/lwvabc/TOC.html.
"State and Local Government on the Net" Piper Resources, 2002. www.statelocalgov.net/index.cfm.
"State Statutes on the Internet: Motor Vehicles." Cornell University, 2002. Available at http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/state_statutes3.html#moto... ,. Cornell University, 2002.
The International Council on Alcohol, Drugs & Traffic Safety (ICADTS)
ICADTS Secretary, Mississippi State University
Mississippi State, MS 39762 USA
Phone: (601) 325-7959
Fax: (601) 325-7966
E-Mail: bwparke firstname.lastname@example.org
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
400 7th St. SW
Washington, DC 20590 USA
Phone: (888) 327-4236
U. S. Department of Transportation
400 7th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20590 USA
Phone: (202) 366-4000
Insurance (Encyclopedia of Everyday Law)
For anyone who has ever owned a car, auto insurance is something almost impossible to do without. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia now require automobile owners to carry some form of automobile insurance, and even if you are residents of one of the few states that does not require some sort of insurance policy on your car, it's a good idea probably if you to have insurance anyway.
Why? Because accidents do happen, they can be expensive, and auto insurance is often the only way for car owners to protect themselves from damages, liability, and possible a hefty court SETTLEMENT. As with anything else so ubiquitous, there are different types of auto insurance designed to suit different types of drivers and cars. Auto insurance requirements vary from state-to-state, with some states requiring more coverage than others. Some states also have NO FAULT laws in place, which require insurers to pay for certain accidents no matter who is at fault. Whatever the case, it is good to know some of the basics of auto insurance before deciding on buying a specific policy for your car.
Liability insurance is the most basic form of insurance. It pays if the insured is at fault in an accident. Generally speaking, it covers medical injuries and property damage to the other driver. It can also cover for pain and suffering and legal bills of the other driver as well. Owners are required to carry liability insurance in the vast majority of states. It is also required for rental cars and for drivers of third-party owned vehicles.
What Is Covered?
Liability insurance usually covers the named insured on the policy, the named insured's spouse and children, any blood relative of theirs by marriage, or ADOPTION, including foster children, and anyone driving the car with the insured's permission. It covers named vehicles in the policy, as well as added vehicles that the named insured replaces the original named vehicle with in the policy. Most of the time (though not always), it also covers non-named vehicles if the named insured was driving, and any additional non-named vehicle the named insured acquires during the policy period, providing the named insured informs the insurance company during a specified period.
Temporary vehicles that substitute for an insured vehicle that is out of service because of repairs or because it has been totaled are usually covered as well, though again, this is not always the case and an insured individuals should check their policies to determine the exact limits of their coverage.
Drivers who use a named vehicle without the named insured's permission are not covered by a liability policy, although the vehicle itself may be. Also rental cars that are not being used to replace a named vehicle being repaired may not be covered unless the named insured pays a special premium.
In the 47 states and the District of Columbia that require liability insurance, a minimum amount of coverage is also required. Even the states that do not require liability insurance insist that when liability insurance is purchased in the state, it needs to meet a minimum requirement.
These minimum requirements are usually represented by a series of three numbers. The first number represents the amount of money (in thousands) an insurance company is required to pay for bodily injury for one person injured in an accident. The second number represents the amount an insurance company is required to pay in total for all the injuries in an accident. The final number represents the amount the insurance company must pay for property damage in an accident.
For example, the liability requirements of the state of Alabama are usually represented as 20/40/10. Thus, insured drivers in Alabama are required to carry a minimum of $20,000 of medical coverage for a single person injured in an accident, $40,000 of medical coverage for all people injured in an accident, and $10,000 of coverage for property damage.
Insurance companies are not allowed to sell policies that are under the liability limits. In Alabama, a motorist could not buy $10,000 worth of coverage for a single person injured in an accident or $5,000 of coverage for property damage. Insurance policies must at least meet the minimum requirements, although they can offer more coverage than the requirements. States that do not mandate liability insurance also have liability minimumsnsurers cannot sell policies in those states below the minimums.
Not all states require medical liability insurance to be carried by drivers: - in Florida and New Jersey, only property damage liability is mandatory. California also allows lower minimums for eligible low-income drivers in the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan. In New York, drivers are required to carry a higher amount of liability insurance designed to cover injury from the accident which results in death.
States have different laws as to when proof of insurance must be presented. Some states oblige such proof to be offered when a car is registered, others ask for such proof only when drivers are charged with a traffic violation or have an accident on their records.
Collision and Comprehensive Coverage
Besides liability, drivers can get other coverage from auto insurance. Collision coverage insures drivers for the damage done to their own cars by an accident that was their fault. Collision insurance is the most expensive auto insurance coverage, and may come with a high DEDUCTIBLE.
Comprehensive coverage pays for damage to a driver's car that was caused by events other than a car accident. Weather damage, theft damage, and fire damage are just some of the events covered by comprehensive. Many policies even cover damages from hitting a deer. Comprehensive coverage is not as expensive as collision, but it is still more expensive than liability and usually comes with a deductible.
Determining Value of Car
With both collision and comprehensive, insurers will usually only cover the ACTUAL CASH VALUE (ACV) of the cost of the car. ACV is determined by taking the replacement cost of the vehiclehat it would cost to repair damage to the vehicle without deducting for depreciationnd subtracting the DEPRECIATION. So, if a car is bought for $10,000, and is 10 years old, the ACV of the car would be substantially less than $10,000.
Drivers willing to pay a higher premium can get insurance policies that will cover the replacement costs of the car. Depending on the age and condition of the vehicle, these kinds of policies may be worth it, although they are usually not recommended for older vehicles.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage provides coverage for the insured who is hit by a motorist who is uninsured or by a hit-and-run driver who remains unidentified. Since the injured party cannot get money for their injuries from the driver of the liable vehicle, uninsured motorist coverage picks up the bill. UM coverage is required in many states as part of a driver's liability coverage.
UM coverage pays for the driver or a relative who lives with the driver, or anyone else driving a named vehicle with a driver's permission, or anyone else riding with the driver in the named vehicle. UM coverage also covers the insured if they are passengers in someone else's car, although the passenger's UM insurance will not contribute until the driver's UM insurance is exhausted. For a hit-and-run, a driver is usually required to notify the police within 24-hours of the accident to receive the benefits of UM coverage.
Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage operates in a similar fashion. With UIM coverage, the liability policy of the driver at fault is not enough to cover the injuries of the other driver or passengers. UIM coverage pays out the difference for the non-liable driver.
Generally speaking, UM or UIM coverage pays for only medical injury to the driver and passengers of the hit car. For a higher premium, it can cover property damage to the automobile as well. UM and UIM coverage is reduced by amounts the driver receives from other insurance coverage such as personal medical insurance or worker's compensation.
No Fault Insurance
Since 1970, many states have passed a no-fault insurance law. This law requires drivers to buy insurance that covers their injuries in an auto accident no matter who is at fault. No-fault laws, which were first enacted in Canada in the 1940s and 1950s, are an attempt to rein in LITIGATION by making the determination of fault irrelevant, thus allowing drivers to get reimbursed for their injuries faster and without court cost and delay.
Most no-fault insurance provides for very limited coveragenly providing for medical bills and lost income, and sometimes vehicle damage, though that is often paid outside no-fault by utilizing liability insurance. No fault does not pay for medical bills higher than the insured PERSONAL INJURY Protection (PIP) limits. If medical bills are higher, the insured must file a liability claim against the driver at fault. Some states put no restriction on an injured party's right to sue under no-fault,; other states require the injured party to reach a certain threshold of injury, either monetary or physical, before the party can sue the other driver.
In addition, no-fault puts restriction on suing for pain-and-suffering damages. All states that have no-fault allow recovery for pain and suffering in the event of death; however, pain and suffering lawsuits may not be allowed for other injuries. Examples of injuries which no-fault states allow no or only limited recovery for pain and suffering include dismemberment, loss of bodily function, serious disfigurement, permanent injury or DISABILITY, serious fracture and temporary disability or loss of earning capacity.
Two states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, allow policy holders to determine if their no-fault insurance gives them the right to sue for pain and suffering expenses. If the drivers are willing to pay a higher premium, they have an expanded right to sue for pain and suffering.
State-By-State Insurance Requirements
The following is a list of state insurance liability requirements as of 2001, showing also whether the state is a no-fault state and whether uninsured motorist coverage is required. All liability minimums are in thousands of dollars, and the numbers are listed in the following order: coverage for injury per person, coverage for total injury, and coverage for property damage.
ALABAMA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 20/40/10
ALASKA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 50/100/25
ARIZONA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 15/30/10
ARKANSAS: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/25
CALIFORNIA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 15/30/5
COLORADO: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/15, no-fault state
CONNECTICUT: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 20/40/10
DELAWARE: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 15/30/5
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/10, uninsured motorist coverage required
FLORIDA: Liability insurance required for property damage only; liability minimums 10/20/10, no fault state
GEORGIA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/25
HAWAII: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 20/40/10, no fault state
IDAHO: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/15
ILLINOIS: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 20/40/15, uninsured motorist coverage required
INDIANA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/10
IOWA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 20/40/15
KANSAS: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/10, no fault state, uninsured motorist coverage required
KENTUCKY: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/10, no fault state
LOUISIANA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 10/20/10
MAINE: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 50/100/25, uninsured motorist coverage required
MARYLAND: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 20/40/15, uninsured motorist coverage required
MASSACHUSETTS: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 20/40/5, no fault state, uninsured motorist coverage required
MICHIGAN: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 20/40/10, no fault state
MINNESOTA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 30/60/10, no fault state, uninsured motorist coverage required
MISSISSIPPI: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 10/20/5
MISSOURI: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/10, uninsured motorist coverage required
MONTANA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/10
NEBRASKA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/10
NEVADA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 15/30/10
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Liability insurance not required; liability minimums 25/50/25, uninsured motorist coverage required
NEW JERSEY: Liability insurance required; drivers may choose standard or basic policy. For basic policy, minimums are 10/10/5 and only property damage is mandatory. For standard policy, minimums are 15/30/5 and all liability is mandatory. No fault state, uninsured motorist coverage required
NEW MEXICO: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/10
NEW YORK: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/10, liability must rise to 50/100/10 if injury results in death. No fault state, uninsured motorist coverage required
NORTH CAROLINA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 30/60/25
NORTH DAKOTA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/25, no fault state, uninsured motorist coverage required
OHIO: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 12.5/25/7.5
OKLAHOMA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 10/20/10
OREGON: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/10, uninsured motorist coverage required
PENNSYLVANIA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 15/30/5, no fault state
RHODE ISLAND: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/25, uninsured motorist coverage required
SOUTH CAROLINA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 15/30/10, uninsured motorist coverage required
SOUTH DAKOTA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/25, uninsured motorist coverage required
TENNESSEE: Liability insurance not required; liability minimums 25/50/10
TEXAS: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 20/40/15
UTAH: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/10, no fault state
VERMONT: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/10, uninsured motorist coverage required
VIRGINIA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/20, uninsured motorist coverage required
WASHINGTON: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/10, uninsured motorist coverage required
WEST VIRGINIA: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 20/40/10, uninsured motorist coverage required
WISCONSIN: Liability insurance not required; liability minimums 25/50/10, uninsured motorist coverage required
WYOMING: Liability insurance required; liability minimums 25/50/20
Digest of Motor Laws. Compiled by Butler, Charle A., and Kay Hamada, Editors., American Automobile Association, Heathrow, FL, 1996.
http://www.iii.org "Minimum Levels Of Required Auto Insurance," Insurance Information Institute, 2002.
http://www.nolo.com. "Auto Insurance FAQ's" Nolo Press, 2002.
West's Encyclopedia of American Law. West Publishing Company, St. Paul, 1998.
Insurance Information Institute
110 William Street
New York, NY 10038 USA
Phone: (212) 346-5500
Primary Contact: Gordon Stewart, President
National Association of Insurance Commissioners
2301 McGee St, Suite 800
Kansas City, MO 64108-2660 USA
Phone: (816) 842-3600
Primary Contact: Therese Vaughan, President
National Automobile Dealers Association
8400 Westpark Drive
McLean, VI 22102 USA
Phone: (800) 252-6232
Primary Contact: H. Carter Myers, Chairman
Leasing A Car (Encyclopedia of Everyday Law)
Twenty-five percent of all new cars moved off dealers' lots are leased. The contract that defines this relationship between the consumers and the owner of these vehicles is complicated, subject to regulation, and often the site of misunderstanding and FRAUDULENT activity. Leasing cars allows people to drive cars they believe they could not afford to buy. It appears to give people access to a better class of cars, while another party remains in charge of the car's mechanical problems. For many people, leasing a car feels like renting an apartment; it's a way to live without the responsibilities of personal ownership. For some people perhaps leasing is a good idea; it is certainly a good idea for the owners of leased vehicles who profit generally at a rate of about three times the list price of their vehicles.
A car LEASE is a contract between the party who owns the car (LESSOR) and the one who will use the car (leasee). A contract signed between these parties governs the terms, those conditions under which the car may be used and the obligation of each party. Consumers sign their lease agreements with automobile dealers. Shortly thereafter, the dealers sell the leased vehicles to a leasing company. The leasing company may be, in fact, the car dealer, or it may be a finance company subsidiary to a car manufacturer, or an independent leasing company. This leasing entity now owns the vehicles and is thus the lessor. Besides profiting from the sale of the car, the dealer enjoys financial incentives from the leasing company and manufacturer rebates.
The leasee acquires no equity in the vehicle. During the lease period, in fact, the leasee pays the leasing company for the car's DEPRECIATION, that is the difference between the list price of the car new and the value it has once it has been driven for the leased period. For this reason, consumers are better off leasing vehicles that hold their value.
Federal Consumer Laws and Regulations
The Consumer Leasing Act (CLA) covers car leases of at least four months in duration in which the total amount of money a leasee owes does not exceed $25,000 for a vehicle limited to personal use. In 1998, regulations governing this act, referred to as Regulation M, were established by the Federal Reserve Board. Regulation M can be found in the CODE OFFEDERAL REGULATIONS (CFR), Title 12, Part 213.4. The CFR is available in many law libraries and on the Internet. Leasing law specifies the disclosures which must be contained in the lease document. For example, dealers must reveal the monthly and total cost of the lease, additional fees, and potential mileage and early termination penalties. Enforcement of these disclosures is handled through the Federal Trade Commission.
Important Terms in Leasing Contracts and Negotiations
The lease contains terms which the consumer may not know but which are important to understand since they determine the nature of the contract the consumer is signing. The following are the important terms to know.
- Amortized Amounts: These consist of fees a lessor is required to collect, such as taxes and registration fees These expenses are paid off gradually as a part of each monthly payment. Expenses for insurance and maintenance, when provided by the dealer, are also amortized.
- Base Monthly Payment: This depreciation amount is the value the vehicle is calculated to lose each month, plus the amortized amounts and the interest leasees pay in financing charges over the lease term, divided by the number of months the vehicle is leased.
- Capitalized Cost: This is the total price of the car as agreed to by the lessor and the leasee over the life of the lease term, plus the registration fees, title fees, and taxes.
- Capitalized NET Cost: This is the amount the leasee will have paid for the car after all payments have been made. This is the same figure as the adjusted capitalized cost as it takes into account any DOWN PAYMENT made.
- Depreciation plus Amortized Amounts: The difference between the value of the car at the beginning of the lease and at the end of the lease is the car's depreciation. If the leasee does not exercise the option to purchase the vehicle, the lessor will charge the leasee a fee averaging between $250 and $400 to cover the expenses the lessor incurs in preparing the car for sale.
- Open-End Lease: When this lease is terminated, the leasee is liable for the difference between a lesser FAIR MARKET VALUE and a comparable residual value given to the value in the lease. The residual value will be considered unreasonable if it exceeds the fair MARKET VALUE by more than triple that amount.
- Close-End Lease: When this lease is terminated, the leasee is not responsible for paying the difference between the residual value given to the vehicle in the lease and a lesser fair market value.
- Lease Rate: This figure is that percentage of the monthly payment which is rental charge. Some dealers will disclose to a lessor what this amount is. As of 2002, no federal standard governs how this amount is calculated, and dealers are not required to disclose how they arrive at the amount. However, if a lease rate is used in an advertisement, there must also be a disclaimer that the lease rate may not be an accurate reflection of the total cost leasee will pay for their leases. This figure is frequently used to deceive customers into believing they are paying less interest in financing the lease than they actually are.
- Money Factor: This is a decimal number used to determine the proportion of the monthly payment that consists of a rental charge. This figure is similar to an interest charge and is not required to be disclosed under federal law.
- Reasonable Standard: The Consumer Leasing Act stipulates that penalties for early termination and late payments or ceasing to make payments must be reasonable according to the amount of harm actually experienced or anticipated by the lessor.
Disclosures Required Under CLA and Regulation M
When dealers and consumers discuss a potential lease, dealers are required by law to disclose certain factors. Disclosures include a description of the vehicle, the amount due at signing or delivery, the payment schedule, and other charges payable by the leasee. These charges need to be itemized. Dealers need to disclose the total dollar amount of the payments. Also the dealer needs to reveal the leasee's responsibility for compensating the owner for the car's depreciation. The payment calculation must disclose the following figures and explain how they were determined: gross capitalized cost, capitalized cost reduction, adjusted capitalized cost.
In addition, dealers need to explain the rules governing termination and the formula used in calculating the penalties. Leasees need to be warned that early termination may result in a PENALTY of several thousand dollars, the earlier the termination, the larger the penalty. Excessive wear and tear needs to be defined, along with all other possible additional fees. Liability, the right of the leasee to get an independent APPRAISAL of damage and the vehicle's end value need to be explained. Responsibility for insuring the vehicle and for maintaining it need to be explained. Purchase options need to be spelled out as well.
Consumers need to know Regulation M does not cover all elements involved in the lease design. For example, it does not make clear that the leasee has the right to a written explanation of termination fees. Nor does Regulation M govern the fact that TAXATION can change over time. Tax rates may change and thus affect the costs leasees incur.
Additional Disclosures Required under Certain State Laws
At least 20 states have chosen to adopt their own disclosure laws on car leases in order to provide more protection to consumers. These states are: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Some laws are inconsistent with the CLA or Regulation M. Where these inconsistencies exist, state law is superseded by federal law. Moreover, some state laws give greater protection to the consumer. These laws require additional notices, warnings, disclosures regarding gap insurance and manufacturer warranties. Also, some newly enacted state laws have caused consumers confusion which is contrary to the intention of state reform.
California has enacted extensive reforms of leasing law. For example, the $25,000 maximum limit stipulated by the CLA and Regulation M does not apply to cars leased in California. Second, leasees are free to terminate at any time. Termination penalties are calculated according to a specified formula that sets a ceiling on the amount. Moreover, notice must be given at least ten days in advance by mail that a vehicle turned in by a leasee will be sold by the lessor. This disclosure allows those who terminated early to obtain an independent appraisal of the vehicle's worth. If the appraisal gives a value higher regarding the residual value, the leasee will owe less in termination fees.
Fraud and Overcharging
In the 1990s, numerous instances of FRAUD occurred in car leasing transactions. ABC's Prime Time reported on an undercover investigation which puts car dealers under surveillance with hidden cameras. Half of the ten dealers surveyed attempted to cheat the undercover investigators. These dealers used various means, such as secretly raising the purchase price or capitalized cost of the vehicle or by quoting low-ball interest rates. In Florida, a probe by the state attorney general uncovered illegal business practices in 23.000 leases which overcharged leasees on an average of $1,450. The terms of the leasing contract are complicated, and fast talking dealers can all too easily mislead unsuspecting customers.
Common Leasing Scams
There are a number of ways dealers can illegally increase the leasing fees they obtain for their vehicles. For example, they can use an undisclosed acquisition fee, concealed in the net capitalized cost of the car. This fee typically averages $450. Consumers should ask if the fee has been included in the cost of the vehicle and if it can be waived. Another way is for dealers to quote the money factor as an interest rate. Customers can be easily confused because both of these figures are quoted in decimal form. For example, a dealer may tell the customer that the interest rate is 2.6 percent. The use of a money factor of.00260 will be mistaken for the interest rate. When this money factor is used, the actual interest rate is 6.24 percent. If the customer is able to distinguish between these two figures and voices an objection, the dealer may say he said 6.2 instead of 2.6 percent.
Dealers may also "forget" to enter the value of the trade-in into the lease terms. Customers need to carefully examine the figures of the lease to make sure the value of their trade-in is listed. Then too dealers can secretly increase the cost of the vehicle. Customers need to insist the residual, money factor, applicable fees, taxes, and dealer incentives are fully disclosed. Then the customers can calculate the lease payment themselves. Moreover, termination penalty wording may be vague enough to allow some dealers to charge more than the leasee was expecting to pay. Finally, many customers may not know that so-called LEMON LAWS pertain to leased vehicles as well, and dealers may not offer that information.
Should People Lease or Purchase?
Leasing may be a good choice under certain circumstances. For example, if consumers use a vehicle in easy-wear situations only and for only the distance specified in the lease mileage terms. Also, it may pay to lease a car if the monthly payments for the lease are lower than those for a car loan to purchase that car. To calculate how to compare car loan payments with lease payments, follow these steps:
- Determine through negotiation the lowest possible price so that it is no more than $200 over the dealer invoice
- Add SALES TAX and other up front costs applicable to purchasing and to leasing
- Add the relevant figures in each case to arrive at the gross purchase price and the capitalized cost for the lease
- Subtract from each of these figures the trade-in value if applicable
- Subtract from each of these figures the amount of the down payment. Ideally, 20 percent of the figure calculated in the immediately preceding step should be put down for a purchase and nothing should be put down for a lease. This calculation gives the customer the net purchase price for buying and leasing
- Next add the respective FINANCE CHARGE for leasing and purchasing. For a lease this amount will be listed as a rent charge. This will give the total cost in purchasing and leasing
- Finally, divide each figure by the number of payments required
After the comparative costs have been determined, customers need to remember that if they buy their cars, they will have a vehicle to sell the next time they enter the car market as consumers.
Buying and Leasing Cars on the Internet. Raisglid, Ron et. al. St. Martin's Press, 1998.
Car Buyers' and Car Leasers' Negotiating. Bible Bragg, W. James, Random House, 1999.
Car Shopping Made Easy: Buying or Leasing, New or Used: How to Get the Car You Most Want at the Price You Want to Pay. Edgerton, Jerry, Warner Books, 2001.
Complete Idiot's Guide to Buying or Leasing a Car. Nerad, Jack, Macmillan Spectra, 1996.
Don't Get Taken Away Every Time: The Insider's Guide to Buying or Leasing Your New Car or Truck. Sutton, Remar, Penguin Books, 1997.
How to Buy or Lease a Car Without Getting Ripped Off. Lyle, Pique, Adams Media Corp., 1999.
Insider's Guide to Buying and Leasing. Wesley, John, Delmar-Thompson Learning, 2002.
Keys to Leasing: A Consumer's Guide to Vehicle Leasing. Board of Governors Federal Reserve System, 1997.
Leasing Lessons for Smart Shoppers. Eskeldson, Mark, Technews Pub., 1997.
Smart Wheels, Hot Deals: A Layperson's Guide to Buying, Leasing, and Insuring the Best Car for the Least Money. Silver Lake Publishing, 2001.
The Unofficial Guide to Buying or Leasing a Car. Howell, Donna, Macmillan 1998.
American Council on Consumer Interests
240 Stanley Hall
Columbia, MO 65211 USA
Phone: (573) 882-3817
Phone: (573) 884-6571
Primary Contact: Carrie Paden
Association of Consumer Vehicle Lessors
Auto Leasing Hot Line Service
Phone: (800) 418-8450
Automotive Consumer Action Program
8400 Westpack Dr.
McLean, VA 22102 USA
Phone: (703) 821-7144
717 Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94103 USA
Phone: (415) 777-9635
Phone: (415) 777-5267
Primary Contact: Ken McEldowney, Director
Consumer Bankers Association
1000 Wilson Blvd.
Washington, DC 22209-3912 USA
Phone: (703) 276-1750
Phone: (703) 528-1290
Primary Contact: Joe Belew, President
Federal Trade Commission
6th and Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20580 USA
Phone: (877) 382-4357
Phone: (202) 326-3676
Primary Contact: Robert Pitofsky, Chair
National Vehicle Leasing Association
PO Box 281230
San Francisco, CA 94128 USA
Phone: (650) 548-9135
Phone: 650 548-9155
Primary Contact: Rodney J. Couts, Executive Director
Safety (Encyclopedia of Everyday Law)
Those who drive cars may not realize the amount of thought that goes into safety, both in terms of safety equipment in the vehicle and the requirements of safe driving. Safety is incorporated into the U.S. driving culture in many ways. From safety belts and air bags, to motorcycle helmet laws and driving while impaired laws, there is a delicate balance between the government's role of protecting the driving and pedestrian population through safety laws and regulations and the public's and the automobile industry's privacy interests.
For the most part, market forces determined how manufacturers addressed safety issues in their vehicles. There was a good deal of tension between obvious safety hazards and the public's unwillingness to pay for vehicle modifications or features that appeared to be "optional." But in the 1960s, a grass-roots level movement, led by Ralph Nader and others, sought to inform the public, auto manufacturers, and the government about the serious safety risks in vehicles.
The late 1960s saw the first regulatory measures to make cars safer. For example, the threat of a federal mandate for auto manufacturers to install anchors for front safety belts prompted the industry to install them "voluntarily" as standard equipment. In hearings in 1965, TESTIMONY from many physicians resulted in a recommendation that all cars sold in the state of New York would have by 1968 the seventeen safety features already required in federally owned vehicles. Around that time Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, and Washington also conducted hearings on automobile safety.
As of 2002, there are large federal agencies that oversee an enormous array of federal laws and regulations that are intended to safeguard American drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. These are supplemented by many additional laws and regulations in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories and possessions.
Child Passenger Safety
Traffic crashes are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories have child passenger safety laws on the books. These do much to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries from vehicle crashes. But the biggest problem with these laws remains the significant gaps and exemptions in coverage that diminish the protection that all children need in motor vehicles.
According to the September 1998 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, the best predictor of child occupant restraint use is adult safety belt use. In other words, an adult driver who is buckled up is far more likely to restrain a child passenger than one who is not buckled.
Proper Child Safety Seat Use
Perhaps the single most important rule about children in vehicles is that children should be seated in the back seat at all times.
The proper seating information for infants, birth to one year or up to twenty-two pounds is:
- If the car seat also converts to a carrier, the infant should face the rear
- Harness straps should be at or below the shoulders
- Infants should never be in the front seat, especially if the vehicle is equipped with passenger-side air bags
The proper seating information for toddlers, twenty-two to forty pounds is:
- If the car seat also converts to a carrier, the child should face forward
- Harness straps should be above shoulder level
- Toddlers should never be in the front seat, especially if the vehicle is equipped with passenger-side air bags
The proper seating information for preschool children, forty to eighty pounds is:
- They need a belt positioning booster seat
- They should face forward
- Their booster seat must be used with both lap and shoulder belts
- The lap belt should fit low and tight
There are child safety seat laws in every state plus the District of Columbia. Police and other law enforcement officers are allowed to issue a CITATION when they see a violation of these laws. There are some 18 states that have gaps in their child passenger restraint laws; in these states, some children are not covered by either a child safety seat law or a safety belt law. Additionally, in states where children are protected under the safety belt law as opposed to specific child safety seat laws, police may enforce the law only if a driver violates an additional law.
Safety belt laws do protect children. For example, the NHTSA found that when Louisiana upgraded its safety belt law from secondary to standard enforcement, compliance with child restraint rules rose from 45 percent to 82 percent without any other change in the state's child passenger safety law.
Booster Seat Safety
Automobile accidents are a leading cause of death and injury for American children. Approximately 500 of the nearly 19.5 million children in the five to nine year-old age group die in automobile accidents. About 100,000 more are injured in automobile crashes each year. Although the fatality rate has decreased for other age groups in the same time period, the fatality rate in automobile crashes for this age group has remained constant over the past twenty years. That is why this particular age group is sometimes known as "the forgotten child;" they have outgrown toddler-sized child safety seats but do not yet fit into adult safety belts properly. Despite this problem, neither government nor industry has made concerted efforts to address the safety needs of children ages five to nine.
Booster seats are one answer to this problem; they provide a proper safety belt fit. Booster seats lift children up off vehicle seats. This improves the fit of the adult safety belt on children. If used properly, boosters should also position the lap belt portion of the adult safety belt across the child's legs or pelvic area. An improper fit of an adult safety belt can expose a child to abdominal or neck injury because the lap belt rides up over the stomach and the shoulder belt cuts across the neck. When a child is restrained in an age-appropriate child safety seat, booster seat, or safety belt, his or her chance of being killed or seriously injured in a car crash is greatly reduced.
The facts about booster seat laws are sobering. For example, only seven states have booster seat laws: Arkansas, California, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Washington. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia require all children up to age 16 to be restrained in every seating position. The other states require child restraint systems for children up to ages two, three, or four, with a few more requiring the use of safety belts after the age of four. According to some estimates, as many as 630 additional children's lives would be saved and 182,000 serious injuries prevented every year if the states closed all the gaps in their child occupant protection laws and all childrenges birth to fifteen years oldere properly restrained.
Child Safety Law Exemptions
Several states have enacted laws which exempt children from passenger restraint laws in certain circumstances or under unique circumstances. These vary widely from state to state. The following is a list of some of the most common exemptions:
- Overcrowded vehicles. In nearly half of the states, children can ride unsecured if all safety belts are otherwise in use.
- "Attending to the personal needs of the child." This vague exemption may cover many activities.
- Medical waivers for children with special medical needs. These exemptions may disappear as advances in child restraint systems make it possible to accommodate children with most types of physical disabilities.
- Out-of-state vehicles, drivers, and children. Children in many states are frequently exempted if the vehicle or driver is from another state.
- Drivers who are not the vehicle owner or who are not related to the children being carried. Some states have laws that do not hold the driver responsible for unrestrained children.
Safety Belt Laws
It is clear from the statistics that lives are saved when drivers and passengers in vehicles use safety belts. This is especially true when safety belt use is reinforced by meaningful safety belt laws. According to NHTSA, as of 2002, approximately 61 percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed in traffic crashes were not wearing safety belts. This figure is down from 65 percent in 1998.
Standard Enforcement Information
Every state except New Hampshire has safety belt laws, but only 17 states and the District of Columbia have standard enforcement of their belt laws. Standard enforcement laws allow police officers to stop vehicles if the driver or front seat passenger is observed not wearing a safety belt; the law also applies to drivers who have not properly restrained a child. Secondary enforcement laws allow officers to issue a citation for failing to wear a safety belt only after stopping the vehicle for another traffic INFRACTION.
Some have raised concerns that standard enforcement laws could lead to police harassment of minorities. However, according to a 1999 NHTSA report, surveys in California and Louisiana conducted shortly after these states upgraded to standard enforcement found that neither Hispanics (California) nor African Americans (Louisiana) reported receiving a greater number of safety belt citations than the public as a whole.
Currently, seventeen states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have primary laws in effect. Another thirty-two states have secondary enforcement laws, and New Hampshire has no seat belt use law at all. Fines for not wearing a safety belt in the United States currently range from a low of $5 in Idaho to a high of $75 in Oregon. In twenty-seven states, the fine is just $20-25.
Highway Safety Grant Programs for Occupant Protection Activities
Congress passed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) in May of 1998. There are several programs in TEA-21 that make a direct impact on seat belt use and occupant protection. The three most important programs funded by the Act are:
- Section 157 Seat Belt Incentive Grant program. This program authorized half a billion dollars over five years to encourage states to increase seat belt use rates. States apply for grant money under this program and may use grant funds for any eligible Title 23 project (including approved construction projects). The TEA-21 Act also encourages innovative state-level projects that promote increased seat belt use rates and child passenger safety activities.
- Section 405 (a) Occupant Protection Incentive Grant program. This program deploys $83 million over five years to target specific occupant protection laws and programs. States can receive grants under this program if they demonstrate that they have enacted certain occupant protection laws and programs, such as primary safety belt use laws and special traffic enforcement programs.
- Section 2003 (b) program. This portion of the TEA-21 established a two-year program for year 2000 and 2001. In the program, states received grants if they implemented child passenger protection education and training activities.
Motorcycle helmets are proven to save the lives of motorcyclists, and they help prevent serious brain injuries. Twenty states and the District of Columbia require motorcycle drivers and their passengers to use helmets. Twenty-seven other states have laws that apply to some riders only, particularly those younger than 18. Colorado, Illinois, and Iowa have no motorcycle helmet requirements at all.
Helmet laws increase motorcycle helmet use, thus saving lives and reducing serious injuries. The NHTSA reports that in 2000 there were 2,862 motorcycle riders killed on U.S. roads and highways. This number represents a 15 percent increase from 1999. There were 58,000 motorcycle-related injuries in 2000, a 16 percent increase from 1999.
Speeding is a factor in nearly one-third of all FATAL crashes. Speeding entails exceeding the posted speed limit; it also means driving too fast for conditions (such as in fog, rain, or icy road conditions), regardless of the posted speed limit. Some 6.3 million vehicular crashes were reported in 2000.
When drivers speed, they cause the following:
- Reduction in the amount of available time needed to avoid a crash
- Increase the likelihood of a crash
- Increase the severity of a crash once it occurs
According to a report issued by the NHTSA in 2000, speed was a factor in 30 percent (12,628) of all traffic fatalities in 1999. It was second only to alcohol (39 percent) as a cause of fatal crashes.
Congress repealed the National Maximum Speed Limit in 1995. Accordingly, speeds increased on Interstate highways in the states that raised their speed limits. Twenty-four states raised their speed limits in late 1995 and in 1996. Twenty-nine states have currently raised speed limits to 70 MPH or higher on portions of their roads and highways.
Blood Alcohol Content
Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for Americans ages six through thirty-three. Alcohol-related crashes are a big part of this problem. But alcohol-related accidents account for an inordinately large percentage of all deaths in automobile crashes. In fact, every 33 minutes someone is killed in an alcohol-related crash.
Individuals absorb alcohol at different rates. The main reason is body weight, but a number of other factors affect blood alcohol content (BAC):
- Body type
- Rate of metabolism, medications taken
- The strength of the drinks
- Whether drinkers have eaten recently
Despite these factors, though, just one drink will degrade the physical and mental acuity of practically everyone. A person with a BAC in the range of.08 to.10 is considered legally intoxicated in every state. It takes just a few drinks to get there, even if drinkers do not "feel" the effects of the alcohol.
Intoxicated Drivers Repeat Offender Laws
State law uses four general methods to deal with the problem of repeated offenses by intoxicated drivers. These are:
- Addressing Alcohol Abuse: Some states require drivers with repeat violations to be assessed for their degrees of alcohol abuse; some also mandate appropriate treatment.
- Licensing Sanctions: Suspending or revoking licenses of repeat intoxicated drivers for a greater period of time than they for first offenders is the law in most states.
- Mandatory Sentencing: Some states have mandatory minimum sentences for repeat intoxicated drivers.
- Vehicle Sanctions: Some states impound or immobilize the vehicles of repeat intoxicated drivers. This can involve installing an ignition interlock system, or other device on their vehicles that prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver's blood alcohol concentration is above a certain amount.
Programs that concentrate on an individual's alcohol-related behavior have also experienced success. For example, Milwaukee's Intensive Supervision PROBATION (MISP) program reduced recidivism by more than 50 percent. The MISP program includes a component of behavior monitoring. It seems that a variety of measures are needed to address this issue and that states are providing an array of sanctions to the problem of repeat offenders of impaired driving laws.
Revoking or suspending a driver's license is now a common PENALTY for violations related to impaired driving. Despite these penalties, many offenders continue to drive. Too many drivers with a suspended license receive additional traffic citations or become involved in crashes during the periods when their licenses are suspended. As a way to ameliorate this problem, many states have enacted legislation that directly affects the offender's vehicle or license plates as a penalty for the impaired driving offense and/or for driving with a suspended license.
Driver licensing sanctions have proven to help reduce the problem of impaired driving. Non-criminal licensing sanctions have resulted in reductions in alcohol-related fatalities of between 6 and 9 percent. According to a NHTSA study, the following states have seen significant reductions in alcohol-related fatal crashes following their implementation of administrative license revocation procedures: Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Utah.
According to the NHTSA, these kinds of sanctions actually do prevent many repeat DWI offenders from driving. Those repeat offenders who continue to drive without a license tend to drive more infrequently or at least more carefully.
The NHTSA State Legislative Fact Sheet-Vehicle and License Plate Sanctions states that a variety of vehicle sanctions programs have been used successfully. For example, California's vehicle impoundment program substantially reduced subsequent offenses, convictions, and crashes for repeat offenders in the program. These penalties work by either separating repeat DUI/DWI offenders from their vehicles or by requiring them to be sober when they drive.
Section 164 of 23 U.S.C.
Section 164 of 23 U.S.C. required states to enact certain laws regarding repeat intoxicated drivers. These were to be in place by October 1, 2000. States without these laws forfeited part of their Federal highway construction funds. These monies were redirected to the state's highway safety program to be used for alcohol-impaired driving countermeasures, or for enforcement of anti-drunk driving laws. Alternatively, states could also elect to use the funds for its hazard elimination program.
To be in compliance with Section 164, a state's laws related to subsequent convictions for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of alcohol must require the following:
- Behavior ASSESSMENT: States must mandate assessment of repeat intoxicated drivers' degree of alcohol abuse and refer them to treatment when appropriate
- Driver's License Suspension: suspension must be for a minimum of one year
- Mandatory Minimum Sentence: These should be not less than five days of IMPRISONMENT or 30 days of community service for the second offense. For the third or subsequent offense, the sentence should not be less than 10 days of imprisonment or 60 days of community service.
- Vehicle Seizure: all vehicles of repeat intoxicated drivers must be impounded or immobilized for some period of time during the license suspension period
The STATUTE defines a repeat intoxicated driver as a driver convicted of driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of alcohol more than once in any five-year period. This means that states need to maintain records on driving convictions for DWI/DUI for a minimum of five years. Additionally, states must certify that they are in compliance with all the provisions of the statute. The following states and the District of Columbia met the requirements of Section 164 by the end of 2000: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.
"Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety." Available at http://www.saferoads.org/. Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, 2002.
"Buckle Up America." National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2002. Available at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/airbags/buckleplan/.
2001 Car and Vehicle Safety Data: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Documents and Reports U.S. Government, Progressive Management, 2001.
The Car Book: The Definitive Buyer's Guide to Car Safety, Fuel Economy, Maintenance, and Much More. Gillis, Jack, Clarence M. Ditlow, Amy B. Curran, HarperPerennial, 1998.
Drive to Survive! Rich, Curt, Motorbooks International, 1999.
Human Factors in Traffic Safety. Olson, Paul L. and Robert E. Dewar, eds. Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company, 2001.
"NHTSA State Legislative Fact Sheet-Administrative License Revocation." http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/outreach/stateleg/adminlice... . National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2001.
"NHTSA State Legislative Fact Sheet-Vehicle and License Plate Sanctions." http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/outreach/stateleg/veh_lic_s... . National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2001.
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
1440 New York Ave., NW, Suite 201
Washington, DC 20005 USA
Phone: (202) 638-5944
Fax: (202) 638-5943
Center for Auto Safety (CAS)
1825 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 330
Washington, DC 20009-5708 USA
Phone: (202) 328-7700
Kids 'N Cars
918 Glenn Avenue
Washington, MO 63090 USA
Fax: (636) 390-9412
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
P.O. Box 541688
Dallas, TX 75354-1688
USA Phone: (800) 438-6233
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
400 7th St., SW
Washington, DC 20590 USA
Phone: (202) 366-0699
Fax: (202) 366-7882
Seat Belt Usage (Encyclopedia of Everyday Law)
More than 90 percent of Americans age 16 and above drive a motor vehicle; of those, nearly 80 percent claim to wear their seat belts at all times while driving. These figures come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which also estimates that seat belts saved more than 135,000 lives between 1975 and 2001. While many people wear their seat belts because they recognize the safety factor, others wear them because failure to do so can result in a fine. Regardless of the reason one wears a seat belt, the fact is that since the 1950s they have been proven to save lives.
However, many people refuse to wear seat belts. They say that the belts are too uncomfortable, or they say they are only driving a short distance. They may also say that they simply forget. With the growing prevalence of state "primary laws," in which police officers are allowed to stop cars at random to perform seat-belt checks, people are clearly more careful when they know they may be facing a fine.
The first seat belts were not installed in cars by auto manufacturers. Early automobiles did not go particularly fast, and there were relatively few cars on the road. As the number of motor vehicles increased, so did the amount of danger. In the 1930s, a number of physicians, seeing the results of traffic accidents, lobbied car makers to create some sort of restraining device to keep people from being thrown from a car in an accident. Several doctors actually designed their own lap belts and installed them in their autos.
It was not until the 1950s that seat belts began to appear with some regularity. In 1954 the Sports Car Club of America began to require drivers to wear lap belts as they raced. Soon afterward such groups as the National Safety Council (NSC), American College of Surgeons, and International Association of Chiefs of Police issued their own recommendations for the manufacture and installation of seat belts. The Swedish auto manufacturer Volvo began marketing lap belt in 1956; that same year both Ford and Chrysler decided to offer lap belts as well. Seat belts were not required by law, though, in the United States until 1968.
Types of Seat Belts
The simple belt that was pulled across the lap (and that only came on the front seats) has long since been retired. That belt was known as two-point because of its simple A-to-B design. Today's seat belts are three-point; one strap goes across the lap while another goes over the shoulder and diagonally across the chest. In some automobiles, the two straps are connected and the occupant crosses it over the chest and the lap in one motion. In other cars, the occupant connects the lap belt while the shoulder belt slides into place automatically once the door is closed. A prototype for a four-point is being developed; it works more like a harness than a typical seat belt would.
Seat belts are made of lightweight but durable fabric that is designed to withstand impacts and hold the wearer in place. Of the roughly 40,000 automobile deaths that occur each year, safety experts say nearly half could have been prevented if a seat belt was being worn. In many cases, the person is killed as a result of being thrown from the vehicle upon crashing. In addition to being durable, seat belts are also designed to be much more comfortable than they were in the past. Most seat belts today employ a mechanism that allows the wearer to move fairly comfortably while driving; if the car comes to a sudden stop the belt locks and holds the wearer firmly in place.
There is no federal seat belt law; such laws are left to the individual states. The U. S. Department of Transportation, through NHTSA, offers grant programs to states; in 2002, 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico shared a $44.4 million grant (Maine and Wyoming declined to take any grant money). Safety and public awareness campaigns are also conducted by NHTSA. Probably the best known is the series of print and broadcast advertisements that feature Vince and Larry, the crash test dummies.
In 1998, Congress passed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which includes grant money for states to initiate new seat belt laws, traffic enforcement programs, and child passenger protection and training activities.
Every state except New Hampshire has a seat belt requirement for adults. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have seat belt laws that cover children. These laws require children under a certain age (usually 3 or 4) to be placed in a child restraint (a baby seat, a booster seat, etc.); buckling these children up with adult belts is not permitted by law.
New York is one of the most active proponents of seat belt regulation. It was the first state to try to pass seat belt legislation when in 1959 it tried to mandate seat belts in all new cars sold in the state. In 1985, New York made seat belt use mandatory for back seat passengers aged 10 or older; in 1987 it became the first state to require seat belts on large school buses.
Primary versus Secondary Laws
Primary seat belt laws are one of the most effective enforcement tools available. A primary law allows police to stop an automobile and ticket the driver for not wearing a seat belt. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have primary laws.
Secondary laws allow the police to ticket a driver who is not wearing a seat belt, but the police must have already stopped the driver for some other reason. A person who is speeding or who goes through a red light or whose tail light is out can be stopped and ticketed; a person who is obeying all the laws but is not wearing a seat belt will not be pulled over in a state with no primary law.
Proponents of primary legislation point out the safety factor. More people will wear seat belts if they know they run the risk of being pulled over and ticketed. If the driver of a car is wearing a seat belt, chances are his or her passengers are too. Moreover, according to information from the National Safety Council (NSC), adults who buckle up are more likely to make sure their children are properly buckled up. In fact, according to NSC, overall seat belt usage can be as much as 15 percent higher in states with primary laws.
Why People Ignore Seat Belts
Of the people who use seat belts, most say their reason for wearing them was to avoid injury. A study conducted in 1998 for NHTSA called the Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey (MVOSS) revealed that 97 percent of frequent seat belt users and 77 percent of occasional users wear their seat belts as a safety measure. Other reasons cited included wanting to set a good example, being with other people who are wearing seat belts, and force of habit. More than 80 percent of the respondents admitted they use them because doing so is required by law.
Regarding people who do not wear seat belts, some wear seat belts occasionally and others admit never wear seat belts. According to the MVOSS study, the primary reason occasional seat belt users fail to buckle up is that they are only driving short distances (56 percent). More than half said that they simply forget on occasion. For those who never wear a seat belt, the most commonly cited reason (65 percent) is that seat belts are uncomfortable. Other reasons people gave for not wearing their seat belts include the following:
- Being in a hurry and not having time to buckle up
- Light traffic on the roads when respondent drives
- Not wanting to get clothing wrinkled
- Resentment at being told what to do
- Knowing someone who died in a crash while wearing a seat belt
- Resentment at government interference in personal behavior
- Never having gotten used to seat belts
- The belief that with air bags, seat belts are redundant
Safety experts point out that many of these reasons are based on faulty logic. For example, light traffic may have nothing to do with having to make a sudden stop. Air bags, while a valuable safety precaution, are limited in how much they can do. Some overweight people claim that they cannot wear seat belts because the seat belts do not fit them. Some, but not all, auto manufacturers offer seat belt extenders to deal with this problem; others offer customized longer seat belts. The fact remains, however, that there are people who simply will not wear seat belts; they are more comfortable risking being ticketed or potential injury or death.
Seat Belts on School Buses
Smaller school buses are treated like passenger vehicles when it comes to seat belt requirements. Because of their small size they are more likely to eject passengers; as a result, they are equipped with seat belts as a matter of course. As for standard size school buses, the effectiveness of seat belts has been a source of debate for several years.
In 1992, five years after New York passed a law requiring seat belts on school buses, New Jersey passed a similar law. While New York's law makes use of the seat belts optional, New Jersey's law requires children to buckle up. In 1999, Florida, Louisiana, and California also enacted laws for what they called "improved occupant restraint systems" on large school buses, although they have not yet decided exactly what type of restraint they wish to require on their buses.
It may seem odd that in an atmosphere of increased emphasis on safety there would be any question about seat belts on large buses. Yet opponents, citing data from NHTSA, have said that seat belts on buses might do little to help children. Rather, they believe, the improved interior design of school buses (known as compartmentalization) is more effective. Since the 1970s, school bus seats have been mandated by law to be well-padded on both sides, with high backs and extra-sturdy anchoring, and no exposed rivets. The design of the modern school bus has been compared to that of an egg carton; the extra padding around the seats helps protect the passengers during sudden impacts and keeps them from being ejected from their seats. Moreover, say opponents of school bus seat belts, in the event of an accident, it would be much harder for someone to get children out of a bus if they are all wearing seat belts. This issue will not be resolved easily. What both sides can agree on, however, is that school buses are definitely safer today than they were in the early 1970s.
The bottom line for drivers and automobile passengers is that in almost all cases it is wiser to buckle up. From a safety perspective, the EVIDENCE clearly points to the value of seat belts in saving lives. From a legal perspective, failure to wear a seat belt can mean being ticketed. Just as there are people who continue to smoke, no doubt there will be people who continue to avoid wearing seat belts. By getting into the habit of wearing them, say the safety experts, travelers will become more comfortable with seat belts, both as drivers and as passengers.
Baby Seats, Safety Belts, and You. Breitenbach, Robert J., Janet B. Carnes, and Judy A. Hammond, U. S. Department of Transportation, 1995.
SAE Vehicle Occupant Restraint Systems and Components Standards Manual. Society of Automotive Engineers, 1995.
Standard Enforcement Saves Lives: The Case for Strong Seat Belt Laws. NHTSA, National Safety Council, 1999.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
P. O. Box 541689
Dallas, TX 75354 USA
Phone: (800) 438-6233 (GET-MADD)
Primary Contact: Millie I. Webb, President
National Association of Governors' Highway Safety Representatives (NAGHSR)
750 First Street NE, Suite 720
Washington, DC 20002 USA
Phone: (202) 789-0942
Primary Contact: Marsha M. Lembke, Chair
National Safety Council
1121 Spring Lake Drive
Itasca, IL 60143 USA
Phone: (630) 285-1121
Fax: (630) 285-1315
Primary Contact: Alan McMillan, President
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
490 L'Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC 20594 USA P
hone: (202) 314-6000
Primary Contact: Marion C. Blakey, Chairman
Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)
400 Commonwealth Drive
Warrendale, PA 15096 USA
Phone: (724) 776-5760
Primary Contact: S. M. Shahed, Ph.D., 2002 President
U. S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
400 Seventh Street SW
Washington, DC 20590 USA
Phone: (888) 327-4236 (Auto Safety Hotline)
Primary Contact: Jeffrey W. Runge, Administrator
Traffic Violations (Encyclopedia of Everyday Law)
Traffic violations followed the invention of the automobile: the first traffic ticket in the United States was allegedly given to a New York City cab driver on May 20, 1899, for going at the breakneck speed of 12 miles per hour. Since that time, countless citations have been issued for traffic violations across the country, and states have reaped untold billions of dollars of revenue from violators.
Traffic violations can be loosely defined as any acts that violates a state or municipalities traffic laws. Most laws are local, though the federal government does regulate some traffic aspects, and it can deny federal money in order to coerce states to pass particular traffic laws. Today, motorists can find themselves faced with dozens of traffic laws, depending on where they are driving. These traffic laws vary by state, city, highway, and region
Types of Traffic Violations
Traffic violations are generally divided into major and minor types of violations. The most minor type are parking violations, which are not counted against a driving record, though a person can be arrested for unpaid violations. Next are the minor driving violations, including speeding and other moving violations, which usually do not require a court appearance. Then there are more serious moving violations, such as reckless driving or leaving the scene of an accident. Finally there is drunk driving, also called Driving Under the Influence (DUI), which is a classification onto itself.
All but the most serious traffic violations are generally prosecuted as MISDEMEANOR charges; however, repeat offenses can be prosecuted at the level of felonies. As misdemeanor charges, most traffic violations require payment of a fine but no jail time. State laws do not allow a judge to impose a jail sentence for speeding or failure to stop at a signal. However, more serious traffic violations, such as drunk or reckless driving, can result in jail time at the judge's discretion.
The most common type of traffic violation is a speed limit violation. Speed limits are defined by state. In 1973, Congress implemented a 55-miles-per-hour speed limit in order to save on energy costs, but these were abolished in 1995. Since then, most states have implemented 65-mph maximum speed limits. There are two types of speed limits: fixed maximum, which make it unlawful to exceed the speed limit anywhere at any time, and prima facie, which allow drivers to prove in certain cases that exceeding the speed limit was not unsafe and, therefore, was lawful.
Another common type of traffic violation is a seat belt violation. Most states now require adults to wear seatbelts when they drive or sit in the front seat, and all states require children to be restrained using seat belts. New York was the first state to make seat belts mandatory, in 1984.
Effect of Traffic Violations
The effect of a traffic violation depends on the nature of the offense and on the record of the person receiving the traffic violation. Beyond the possibilities of fines and/or jail, other consequences of traffic violations can include traffic school, higher insurance premiums, and the suspension of driving privileges.
Fines for traffic violations depend on the violation. Typically, states will have standard fines for a specific group of moving violations, with the fines increasing with the seriousness of the violation. Some states will also increase the fine if violators have other violations on their record. Courts will occasionally reduce fines on violations while still recording the violation as part of the violator's record.
Virtually every state allows perpetrators of a traffic violation to attend some sort of traffic school in return for the violation being wiped off their records. Traffic school generally consists of a 6-8 hour class that describes the dangers of committing traffic violations. Different states have different procedures regarding their traffic schools. Some allow traffic schools in place of paying the fine; others require payment of the fine in addition to the traffic school cost of admission. Some allow traffic violators to go to traffic school once a year, whereas others require a longer waiting period between traffic school attendances. Also, the type of violation may affect whether the violator is allowed to go to traffic school: the more serious the violation, the less likely the violator will be allowed to go to traffic school to wipe it off their record.
Procedures for signing up for traffic school also differ from state to state: some states allow drivers to sign up with the school directly, others have them go through the clerk of court or judge in order to sign-up. Most states require drivers to go to a specific location for traffic school, although some, such as California, now offer an Internet option that allows a student to attend traffic school without leaving the comfort of home
Suspension of Driving Privileges
A traffic violation not wiped out by traffic school will count against the suspension of driving privileges. In most states, suspension of driving privileges is calculated using a point system: the more points drivers have, the more likely it is their driving privileges could be suspended. Some states calculate the number of violations drivers have in a straightforward manner; if drivers reach the requisite number of violations within a certain time frame, their privileges are automatically suspended. Age can also be a factor in determining when a driver's license is suspended. Minor drivers typically see their licenses suspended with fewer violations than adults.
All states entitle persons facing suspended licenses to receive a HEARING, typically in front of a hearing officer for that state's Department of Motor Vehicles. At that point, the person whose license is to be suspended may offer an explanation for why the violations in question occurred. The hearing officer usually has discretion in all but the most extreme cases (i.e. drunk driving) to reduce, defer the suspension, or cancel it entirely.
Beyond the suspension of driving privileges, traffic violators typically can face higher insurance. Insurance companies will raise insurance rates for HABITUAL violators of traffic law. In many cases insurance rates will go up for as little as two violations within a three-year period. Different insurance companies follow different procedures. It is up to the discretion of the insurance company whether to raise rates as a result of a traffic violation.
Among driving violations, drunk driving is usually considered a special case. Called by various names, including Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), drunk driving usually results in stronger fines and penalties than normal driving violations.
Drunk driving means that the persons driving have consumed enough alcohol to impair their driving abilities. This is usually determined either by a blood-alcohol test, some other sobriety test, or just the observations of the officer. The test is subjective: just because drivers do not feel drunk does not mean they cannot be arrested for drunk driving.
A blood alcohol test measures the amount of alcohol in a person's blood. This can be done directly, through drawing blood from the person, or it can be done with instruments measuring breath or urine. Some states allow a choice as to which test to take, others do not. If persons test above the level of INTOXICATION for their state (.08 to.10 percent, depending on the state), they are considered drunk and a prima facie case of drunk driving has been shown.
A blood alcohol test can be refused, but the consequences can be severe. In most states, refusal to take a blood alcohol test is prima facie EVIDENCE of drunk driving. In some states refusal to take the test can result in the automatic revocation of a license for a year.
Whether a driver is drunk can also be measured using a sobriety test, such as requiring the driver to walk a straight line, stand on one leg, or recite a group of letters or numbers. A driver failing any of these tests can usually be arrested for drunk driving, though often the police officer requests a blood alcohol test as a follow up. The officer can also base the arrest on simple observation of the driver's behavior, although a request for a blood alcohol test is a standard follow-up in these instances as well.
Currently 31 states require a level of.08 or above in order for drivers to be considered intoxicated. They are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia. The other states all require.10 or above in order for a driver to be considered intoxicated. Currently all states have zero tolerance laws that make it illegal for drivers under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of.02 or less.
Drunk Driving Laws and Penalties
Drunk driving has been considered a traffic violation since the turn of the century, but in recent years the penalties for drunk driving in most states have grown much harsher, as a result of the efforts of groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), founded in 1980. In every state at a minimum, convicted drunk drivers automatically lose their licenses for a certain amount of time. Some states require short jail terms for first time offenders, and most states require drunk-driving offenders to go through some sort of treatment program.
In addition to the general penalties for drunk driving, many states have specific laws dealing with aspects of drunk driving. The following are some of the various state laws dealing with drunk driving, along with a list of the states that have them:
- Anti-Plea Bargaining: A policy that prohibits plea-bargaining or reducing an alcohol-related offense to a non-alcohol related offense. Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wyoming
- Child Endangerment: Creates a separate offense or enhances existing DUI/DWI penalties for offenders who drive under the influence with a minor child in the vehicle. Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia West Virginia, Wisconsin
- Dram Shop: A law that makes liable establishments who sell alcohol to obviously intoxicated persons or minors who subsequently cause death or injury to third parties as a result of alcohol-related crashes. Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
- FELONY DUI: Makes drunk driving a felony offense based on the number of previous convictions. Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
- High Blood Alcohol Content Laws: Result in increased penalties for driving with blood alcohol concentration of.15 or higher at time of arrest. Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin
- Hospital Blood Alcohol Content Reporting: Authorizes hospital personnel to report blood alcohol test results of drivers involved in crashes to local law enforcement where the results are available as a result of treatment. Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont
- Increased Penalties for Blood Alcohol Content Refusal: Provides for increased penalties for refusing to take a blood alcohol content test, higher than failing the test would bring. Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Virginia, Washington.
- Mandatory Alcohol Assessment/Treatment: Law that mandates that convicted drunk driving offenders undergo an ASSESSMENT of alcohol abuse problems and participate in required treatment program. Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin Mandatory Jail, Second Offense: Makes a jail term mandatory for a second drunk driving offense. Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
- Sobriety Checkpoints: Allows law enforcement officials to establish checkpoints to stop vehicles and examine their drivers for intoxication. Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming
- Social Host: Imposes potential liability on social hosts as a result of their serving alcohol to obviously intoxicated persons or minors who subsequently are involved in crashes causing death or injury to third-parties. Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Digest of Motor Laws. Butler, Charles A. Editor and Kay Hamada, eds. Editor, American Automobile Association, Heathrow, FL, 1996.
"Stats and Resources," Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 2002
http://www.nolo.com"Cars & Tickets," Nolo Press, 2002
West's Encyclopedia of American Law. West Publishing Company, 1998.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
P.O. Box 541688
Dallas, TX 75354-1688 USA
Phone: (1-800) 438-6233
URL: URL: http://www.madd.org
Primary Contact: Millie Webb, President
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
400 Seventh Street, SW
Washington, DC, DC 20590 USA
Phone: (202) 366-9550
Primary Contact: Jeffrey Runge, Administrator
U. S. Department of Transportation
400 Seventh Street, SW
Washington, DC, DC 20590 USA
Phone: (202) 366-4000
Primary Contact: Norman Mineta, Secretary of Transportation