On this page you will find articles written by Cpl. Brad Snyder relating to traffic law and general law enforcement information. We hope you find this information helpful.
05 December 2012 // Proper Display of License Plates
License plates have been around almost as long as vehicles have been produced. The formats and styles have changed multiple times over the years, but the purpose has always been the same. License plates are a way of keeping up with vehicles in the state, and provide law enforcement with ownership information when needed for such things as accidents or crimes occur. The plates are required to be legible at all times.
Arkansas is a one plate issuing state, unlike Missouri which issues two. In the case of Arkansas, that single issued plate is required to be affixed to the rear of your vehicle. This includes motorcycles as well. An exception to this rule is if your vehicle is a truck with a capacity of one ton or greater. In this case, the plate may be affixed to the front or back. A common example of this would be a farm vehicle that is often used to pull large trailers or equipment. Affixing the plate to the front prevents it from being damaged while hooking up trailers on a regular basis.
According to statute number 27-14-716, every license plate shall, at all times, be securely fastened in a horizontal position to the vehicle for which it is issued so as to prevent the plate from swinging. The plate must be secured at least twelve inches from the ground, measured from the bottom of the plate. The plate must be in a place and position to be clearly visible and shall be maintained free from foreign materials and in a condition to be clearly legible. What this means is that you must keep your license plate clean and not covered up. If you live on a gravel road, I know how easy it is for the plate to get covered with dirt and mud. However, you must keep it clean so that it can be legible and so the reflective properties of the plate work correctly.
With that said, it makes sense that you may not place any type of cover over the plate that would obscure it from being seen. If the cover makes the plate more difficult to read or it reduces the reflective properties of the plate, that cover is prohibited. In other words, the once popular smoke colored plastic covers are illegal. If you have some type of covering on your plate currently, now would be a good time to take it off. Improper display of your plate is a citable offense, and could set you back $165 here in Greene County.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments. Also, check out our website at www.paragouldpolice.org and sign up for alerts to be sent to your email or phone via text message.
28 November 2012 // Holiday Safety Tips
It is official: The holiday season is here. Black Friday has come and gone, and Christmas decorations are flying up everywhere. There’s nothing like cold weather coupled with festive decorations and holiday music to get you in the spirit. However, we must be careful to protect ourselves from becoming a victim and causing our holiday spirit to catch the fast train to Grinchville.
The holiday season typically brings with it an increase in home and vehicle break ins. It is common knowledge that Christmas presents are being bought and stored for the big day. Would-be thieves are also aware that while people are out shopping, their vehicles may also contain packages that would be appealing. There are some quick and easy things you can do to protect your property from being taken.
First, if out shopping, make sure that any packages left in the vehicle are covered up and kept out of plain sight. Keep them in the trunk, or if in an SUV, covered up in the cargo area. Make sure to lock your car doors prior to walking off and heading into the store. It is common for thieves to go car to car checking for unlocked doors. They are not going to waste time on a locked car, especially if they can’t see anything inside (hence the reason for keeping your items out of plain sight). If you are shopping at night, try to park in a well-lit area whenever possible.
Regarding your home, ALWAYS make sure that your doors are locked when leaving or going to bed. Make a habit, as I do, of going door to door prior to going to bed and securing them. I also take the time to hit the lock buttons on my vehicle key fobs to double check that they are locked. Security lighting is always a good idea. For a small monthly fee, PLWC will install a security light on a nearby pole. Motion detecting lights are good for carports and doorways. Keep your blinds or curtains closed during times you are not home or in bed. This keeps thieves from taking an inventory of your belongings. Lastly, make sure that you document any serial numbers of electronics, firearms, etc. In the event that they are taken, that information is invaluable to us and our ability to get the property back to you when it is located.
Taking just a little time to be proactive will go a long way in protecting you from becoming a victim this holiday season. The “Grinch” will be out this holiday season, and hopefully with proper care and preparation, he won’t be stopping by your house this year to steal your Christmas.
Email me at email@example.com with any questions or comments. Also, visit our website at www.paragouldpolice.org for the latest news and information. Be sure to sign up for alerts that can be sent to you via email or text message.
12 November 2012 // Hunting in City Limits
Modern gun deer season opened up this past weekend, and hopefully those of you that hunt were able to “rack” up. My dad bagged a 10 point buck, so he was quite pleased with the weekend. Last week, I received a phone call with an intriguing question: What are the laws regarding hunting inside the city limits?
This is an easy, but not so easy, question to answer. To get the answer (or answers in this case), we must look at both city ordinance AND Arkansas Game and Fish codes. Regarding the city ordinance, Sec. 24-5, you may discharge a firearm inside the city limits during state and federal hunting seasons. Hunters must adhere to all state and federal hunting regulations, laws and guidelines. When hunting, rifles (rims or center fire) shall not be discharged within 1,500 feet (that’s 500 yards) of any dwelling place, business, or other location where people congregate, when such dwelling, business, or persons may be struck by a projectile.
According to Arkansas Game and Fish code 05.15, it is unlawful to hunt wildlife with a killing device within 150 yards of a residence or building devoted to human occupancy without written permission from the owner or occupant. An exception to the 150 yards applies if you are using archery tackle, which then becomes 50 yards. The written permission still applies.
Obviously, there’s a difference regarding distances between the city ordinance and the Game and Fish code. City ordinance states that 1,500 yards is the minimum distance for rifles only. No other guns or archery are mentioned. Game and Fish code is 150 yards, period (except for the archery tackle mentioned above). If using a rifle, a good rule of thumb would be to adhere to the city ordinance. If using any other type of firearm, following the Game and Fish code would be your best bet. With that said, there are very few locations in the city of Paragould where you could hunt and be 1,500 feet away from a residence or business. Using a rifle to hunt in the city limits would not typically be a good idea. Once bullets are fired from a gun, there’s no calling it back for a do over.
I hope that this has provided a little insight into hunting within the city limits. As I am not a wildlife officer, I recommend that if you have any questions regarding hunting regulations visit the Arkansas Game and Fish website at www.agfc.com or call 870-972-5438. Those guys are the professionals and can assist you with what you need. Remember also that if you are a hunter and were born on or after January 1, 1969 and are over 16 years of age, you must have completed a hunter’s education course and carry that card with you while hunting.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments. Also, be sure to check out our department website at www.paragouldpolice.org . You can sign up for alerts to be sent to you via email or text regarding a variety of topics, including news releases.
05 November 2012 // Police Imposters
For many, getting pulled over by a police officer is a stressful situation. For others (and you know who you are), it may be a relatively common occurrence that has become “normal”. However, when the person pulling you over is someone pretending to be a police officer, the stress immediately changes to fear.
As police officers, we have “powers” that most people don’t. We are able to detain you for violating a law, and we are able to take your freedom away when the situation dictates. That is a huge responsibility that I can assure you is not taken lightly by those of us that wear the badge. Unfortunately, there are non-police individuals out there that want those “powers” for a myriad of different reasons.
Recently, there have been two reports in Craighead County of someone posing as a police officer and attempting to stop women. Both incidents were during late night hours, and in both incidents the women were alone. The suspect vehicle in these incidents has been described as a white sedan, with the second woman indicating that the vehicle appeared to be a Ford Crown Victoria. The Crown Victoria has been the predominant choice for a police cruiser in our area for the last several years. In the first incident, a single blue strobe light was activated on the dash and the woman pulled over. There were no other emergency lights present.
Here are some tips to keep you and your family safe from police imposters:
If traveling alone, don’t pull over for someone who has a single light flashing in the dash. Drive to a well-populated, well-lit area before stopping (Convenience store, police station). Do not accelerate or speed.
- If in doubt, call 911 and advise the dispatcher of your location and what the situation is. Dispatch will be able to confirm if a legitimate officer is attempting to stop you.
- Keep your windows rolled up and your doors locked if you do have to stop (i.e. red light/stop sign).
- Always be aware of your surroundings and know where you are at all times. Imposters will typically wait for a more desolate location before attempting to stop you.
My hope is that you never have the need for the information in today’s column, but it’s always good to be ready just in case. All police officers in Paragould drive fully marked police cruisers and will be in uniform or will have a badge visible at all times. In certain instances, administration or our detectives may make a traffic stop and may be in plain clothes and in an unmarked vehicle. Their vehicles vary, but I can assure you that they all have more than just a single strobe light in the dash. Again, they’ll have a badge visible at all times.
If we can be of service, don’t hesitate to contact us at 870-236-7621 or email me at email@example.com with your questions or comments.
24 September 2012 // DARE
It seems as if fall is finally here. The nice, crisp mornings are a welcome change from the muggy mornings of summer. It’s time to break out the sweatshirts, hoodies, and marshmallows for bonfires. This is my favorite time of year for a number of reasons, one of which is the start of a new school year and getting to meet some new students while out at the schools teaching the D.A.R.E. program.
D.A.R.E. stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, and was started by Chief Darryl Gates of the Los Angeles Police Department in 1983. The Paragould Police Department began teaching the program in 1993, and it has been strong in our community from the start. Corporal Jack Hailey and I teach the program to approximately 600 students per year. We also teach an Arkansas law program called Smart Choices, Better Chances to 6th Grade students. This program was conceived by the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office many years ago, and continues to be supported and updated by each Attorney General that takes office. We see approximately 600 students per year in these classes as well, giving us a total of about 1200 kids a year. We teach students at Greene County Tech, Paragould School District, Crowley’s Ridge Academy, and St. Mary’s Catholic School.
The D.A.R.E. program’s curriculum has recently been updated, and consists of a 10 week program covering things such as bullying, peer pressure and health effects of alcohol and tobacco. The main emphasis of the program is to help students learn how to make decisions by breaking a problem down into four steps. Peer pressure is a driving force behind young people and poor decision making. We emphasize that it’s alright to tell our friends no, and we practice different ways that they can accomplish this. All of the students know that drugs, alcohol, and tobacco have negative effects on their bodies. It’s the decision making and peer pressure that get them into hot water. We do our best to help prepare them for the major decisions that they WILL be faced with. I tell every kid I teach that it’s not a matter of IF they are offered something bad for them, but a matter of WHEN. It’s going to happen, and they have to be prepared for it.
Parents, many of you may talk to your kids about drugs/alcohol and the fact that they’re bad. However, kids usually know this already. Concentrate on explaining the importance of making good decisions and how to make them. Your kids need to understand that saying no to their friends is alright, and sometimes needs to be done. Most importantly, remember to set a good example. I have to remind myself constantly that my kids are watching me and listening to me and my actions and behavior will dictate the individuals they will become. That’s a huge responsibility that we as parents cannot take lightly. With parents, school personnel, and the police working together, hopefully we may be able to steer our youth down the right path to healthy and successful life.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.
10 September 2012 // Curfew
I often get questioned by parents of teenagers about whether or not the city of Paragould has a curfew or not. We do in fact have a curfew for minors. I know that doesn’t bode well with the teenagers that may be reading this, but if it makes you feel better, nothing about the curfew has changed since I was under the age of 18. I had to abide by the same exact city ordinance that you do today.
The curfew comes into effect at different times, depending on the day of the week. From Sunday to Thursday, curfew is 11:00 pm. On Friday and Saturday nights, that curfew is extended by one hour to 12:00 am. If a minor is caught out after curfew, that minor could be subject to be taken into custody and transported to the police department. The minor’s parents would be called to respond to the station or the location in which the minor was located. This would be at the discretion of the police officer handling the situation. As a side note, per the city ordinance, it is unlawful for a parent or guardian to knowingly allow a minor to be out past curfew. This could also result in a citation.
With most laws or ordinances, there are some exceptions. If there is a legitimate emergency and the minor is en route to the hospital or something of that nature, then curfew does not apply. Also, if the minor is with a parent or guardian after the curfew hour, that too is admissible. For another example, if a minor is needed to run an errand for a parent, that minor must be in possession of a note from the parent or guardian giving consent to run said errand. The minor may be en route to work or coming home from work, but there shall be no stopping or detouring along the way.
As I stated before, curfew will not be popular among the young people, but the curfew is in place to essentially protect young people from getting into trouble. Teenagers don’t typically make the best decisions, and I can speak from experience. Been there, done that. As an officer who has worked the midnight shift many years of my career, I can assure you that there is nothing going on after the midnight hour that a minor needs to be involved with. Parents, make sure your kiddos are home at the appropriate time. Hopefully that’ll keep them safe, and keep a few less gray hairs from popping up on your head. To you teenagers, listen to your parents. We may be “dumb adults” in your eyes, but I can assure you that we know WAY more than you give us credit for. You’ll thank us later. Trust me.
Email me at email@example.com with questions or comments.
04 September 2012 // Prescription Drugs
I have been a law enforcement officer for right at 14 years now, with the last 7 years as a D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer. I can tell you from my work experience that drugs can ruin lives. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about methamphetamine, marijuana, or popping pills. Drugs destroy people. One of the biggest issues we have as a society right now is prescription drug abuse.
Once upon a time, it was not uncommon to arrest someone for driving while intoxicated. Furthermore, 99.9% of the time, it was alcohol that caused the intoxication. That is not the case anymore. Nowadays, we see very few DWI’s due to alcohol compared to what it used to be. We see more cases of driving after abusing prescription medications than anything. In fact, it is an almost daily issue. Unfortunately, several of these individuals are young people, ages 15-25.
The state of Arkansas has consistently ranked in the top ten states for the non-medical use of prescription pain relievers by twelve to fifteen year old individuals since states began tracking these numbers in 2002. This is not good. We have too many young people abusing prescription drugs, and we need to be taking greater care to prevent this.
One way of helping to prevent this epidemic from spreading is to dispose of any old or unused medications in a proper manner. This keeps medications from being taken by family members who are visiting your home (trust me, it happens more than you know), and properly disposing of the medicines prevents them from being flushed down the toilet and contaminating our water supply. The ultimate goal is to keep the medications from those who abuse them, especially young people, and a “bonus” is keeping our water supply clean for years to come.
I invite you to visit the police department lobby with your old and/or unused medications and check out our prescription drug drop-box that was graciously donated by the Rotary Club of Paragould. The lobby is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your convenience. Drop those old medications off to us and let us take care of getting them destroyed. Our department is taking part in the fifth National Drug Take Back Day on September 29th. Our department has participated in all five events, and has collected several hundred pounds of old medications that were sent to El Dorado and incinerated. Do your part in helping keep the drug abuse at bay and bring us your medications. Remember, after medicines are a year old, they are considered to be out of date and need to be destroyed. Round ‘em up and come see us.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments. Also remember to check out our department website at www.paragouldpolice.org for up-to-date information.
27 August 2012 // Traffic Tips
I was blessed beyond measure to be raised by parents who believe in being kind to others and helping people out when you can. In fact, I’m certain that this upbringing is what steered me into public service. I’ve always enjoyed helping people, and it makes me happiest when I’m able to do something for someone and it puts a smile on their face. I love being a Good Samaritan, as I’m sure most of you do as well. However (you knew this was coming), there is a time in particular when being that “do-gooder” causes more problems than it solves.
While I’ve written about this before, I feel it necessary to remind folks once again of the importance of not stopping in a traffic lane to let other motorists out of a side street or private drive. Last week I almost witnessed two accidents due to motorists in the outside lane stopping to let someone make a left turn from a side street. Motorists that were approaching the area in the inside lane could not see this vehicle turning left, nor could the motorist making the left see the traffic approaching in the inside lane. The result could have been disastrous. While preparing to type this column, two of my colleagues chimed in that they had each personally worked accidents just like this one within the last week. We see accidents just like these on a regular basis. The long and short of it is that these accidents can be prevented quite easily.
There are certain times of the day when I will not under any circumstances attempt to make a left turn out of a side street or driveway. For example, if it’s between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm during the week, I’m not going to be making a left turn out of anywhere. It’s just too risky to try and make it across three lanes of traffic with limited visibility. Instead of being in hurry and chancing having an accident, I’ll make a right turn and proceed to a location where I can turn around and head back the direction I need to go. On the other end of the spectrum, you will never see me stopping in my traffic lane to allow someone to make a left turn. I’ve pulled up and “blocked” numerous people from making a left turn. When I’m in my personal vehicle, I usually get some not so nice gestures. When I’m in my police car, folks will typically just give me a disgusted look. To them, I’m probably coming across as hateful, but in reality, I’m protecting them from possibly becoming involved in an accident.
When approaching a multi-lane roadway with the intent to make a left turn, evaluate the amount of traffic at that moment. If the traffic is very heavy at that time, consider making a right turn instead. That may add three or four minutes to your travel time, but your vehicle will be accident free and your family or friends in your vehicle will be injury free. If you are a potential Good Samaritan who feels the need to stop traffic in order to let someone out to make a left turn, remember that you may just be causing an accident and could potentially be held liable for your actions.
Email me at email@example.com with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out our department website at www.paragouldpolice.org .
24 August 2012 // School Zones
When writing my weekly columns, I sometimes feel as if I’m boring you by repeating myself from time to time. I honestly don’t mean to, however, sometimes certain things bear repeating. Issues such as speeding in a school zone, or reminders to always carry proof of insurance in your vehicle are very important. I want you to remember things like that. After all, it’s why I write this column. As I write this, I have just finished working in the school zones on the first day of school. For the most part, everyone drove sensibly, and we only had one school traffic related accident that I’m aware of. With the increase in traffic in school zones for the next nine months or so, I feel compelled to issue a couple more reminders so that we can have a safe school year.
I’ve written before regarding lane markings and what they meant. One area of concern that I have noticed involves the two westbound lanes on W. Court St. in front of the Paragould School District Administrative office. You will notice a solid white line that goes for several feet from the intersection of W. Court St. and Highway 49. The fact that the line is solid indicates that you may not cross it until it becomes a dotted line. I routinely witness vehicles traveling westbound on W. Court St and changing lanes as soon as they cross Hwy 49. This is against the law and dangerous to boot. Any vehicle merging onto W. Court St. from Hwy 49 has the right to enter the outside lane and proceed westbound. I have also witnessed motorists turning left from Hwy 49 onto W. Court St. to proceed westbound, and immediately cross the solid white line and into the outside lane so that they may turn into Paragould High School. This too is illegal. When turning onto a multi-lane roadway, you must turn into the lane closest to you. Keeping these things in mind will help keep yourself out of an accident and also keep you from getting a citation.
Another important thing to remember is cell phone use in school zones. At no time may you operate motor vehicle and talk on your handheld cell phone while in a school zone. We’ve all seen how school traffic both on and off campus is congested. Couple the congestion with students walking to school, walking on campus, etc., and it’s easy to see that the less distraction a driver has, the safer things will be. To go along with this topic, also remember that texting while driving is prohibited for everyone, all the time. Please respond to or send text messages before you leave or after you arrive at your destination. This will prevent a lot of accidents from occurring, and quite possibly prevent someone’s death or serious injury.
A new school year is upon us, and I hope that each of you will take the time to obey the law and not put yourself, other motorists, or our school children in harm’s way by driving irresponsibly. Our department is committed to enforcing the traffic laws in our city, especially in our school zones. I’m feeling a bit poetic this morning, so I’ll leave you with this: Drive right, and you won’t have to worry about a black and white. Don’t worry. I’ll not be quitting my day job just yet.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments. Check out our website at www.paragouldpolice.org for up-to-date information regarding the police department.
13 August 2012 // Help Yourself
I remember as a kid watching re-runs of popular TV shows from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. “Mr. Ed”, “The Munsters”, “The Addams Family”, and “Leave it to Beaver” were some of my favorites. I always wondered what my life would have been like had I been a kid in those decades. While I was a 70’s baby, I was too little to experience much in that decade. My growing up was done in the 80’s. I have many fond memories from my childhood, and while I’m proud of them, I’ll not bore you with details (you’re welcome). While the 80’s had their own issues, we are in a much different society these days.
Let’s take a look at “Leave it to Beaver” for a moment. The Cleavers were a middle class family, where Ward worked and June stayed home and took care of the home. Wally and “The Beav” were typical boys that found themselves in a predicament from time to time. I’m sure that doors into the house were left unlocked, keys were left in the car at night, and the boys could ride their bicycles anywhere in town they wanted without fear of something happening. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? In many towns in this very state, Paragould included, this was a common occurrence once upon a time. Everybody knew everybody, and practically everything was safe from being stolen or damaged. As the title of Bob Dylan’s third album so eloquently stated: “The Times They Are a-Changin’”.
We live in a society now in which we do not have the luxury of leaving our doors unlocked or our keys left in the ignition. Good,bad, or indifferent, that is where we are. As a society, we must adapt to our changing world and take better care in protecting ourselves from becoming a victim. We must be constantly aware of our surroundings and look at ways we can prevent becoming a target. Our job as police officers can simply be defined by the nostalgic motto “To Serve and To Protect”. I can assure you that we do the very best job we can with what we are legally allowed to do. It is not a secret that there are more residents of Paragould than there are police officers. Because of this, it is imperative that you, the citizen, take precautions to prevent becoming a victim of crime. Locking the doors to your home, locking your vehicle doors before going to bed, and having adequate lighting outside your residence are all ways to deter someone from entering your property and taking something that does not belong to them.
As I stated before, we do the very best job we can do, but we need your help in helping to prevent crime. Actually, you’ll be helping yourself MUCH more than you’ll be helping us. Don’t volunteer to be a victim. Protect your property by locking doors or removing property from plain sight. If we can be of assistance here at the police department regarding this or any other matter, be sure to call us at 870-236-7621 and let us know.
Email me at email@example.com with questions or comments. Also, visit our website at www.paragouldpolice.org for departmental information.
06 August 2012 // Railroad Crossings
As I was preparing to write this week’s column, I could not help but think about how impatient we have become as a society. Looking at our typical traffic violations, most can be traced back to being in a hurry and not wanting to take the time to obey the laws and do things the right way. Speeding, cutting through parking lots to avoid stop lights, running stop signs….well, you get the picture. As I have mentioned in numerous columns, serious injury or death can occur from failing to obey the law.
Disobeying a railroad crossing signal is no exception to the point I made earlier. While I can understand the frustration of sitting at a railroad crossing waiting for a train to clear, it is imperative that we obey the signals to prevent serious injury or death. Arkansas law 27-51-702 requires motorists to stop at crossings when the lights and/or gates are active, or when a human flagger indicates an approaching train. On crossings that have no lights or gates, there will be one of two types of signage posted. If you approach a crossing that is only displaying a cross buck (the “X” shaped sign), then you are only required to yield at that crossing. Do no misconstrue the fact that you are only required to yield as “I’ll floor it and cross the tracks quickly”. Approach the crossing cautiously and look down both directions of the track to ensure that it is clear before crossing. You may also see crossings in which there is a cross buck displayed with a stop sign attached to the pole underneath it. In this case, the stop sign trumps the cross buck, and you are required to come to a complete stop before proceeding. This applies to all crossings, even the one on Northend Ave near the Elder Manufacturing building, or the crossing near Monroe and Prestolite on Darling St. Even those two locations are very seldom used by the railroad, they are still active and therefore must be stopped at each time. Failing to stop at them will yield you a $165 citation.
When approaching a crossing equipped with lights and/or a gate, a very important thing to remember is that when the red lights activate, you are to immediately stop. It is just like a traffic light at an intersection. Failing to stop once those lights come on will result in a citation for disobeying a railroad crossing. Obviously if you are in the middle of the track when the lights turn on, stopping is not an option. It cannot be helped if the lights activate while in the process of crossing, so a citation would not be issued. Just make sure that if they activate as you are approaching, do not try to play beat the gate and speed across. The outcome will not be good. As a side note, crossing gates will sometimes deploy even when there is not a train around. Be it a signal error or whatever, it does happen. Motorists may not go around the gates unless a police officer or a railroad employee directs you to. This even applies if there are no trains within sight. We see this from time to time here in Paragould. Take a couple extra minutes and divert to another crossing or use the overpass.
We are a railroad city. In fact, we became a city specifically because of two railroad companies, J.W. Paramore’s Texas & Saint Louis Railway (later the Cotton Belt) and Jay Gould’s St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway (later Missouri Pacific). Both railways intersected here, and the owner’s names were merged to form the name “Paragould”. The railroad has been here since the 1882, and will not be going away anytime soon. For your safety, and the safety of the train crews, please obey the railroad signals. Taking a few extra minutes could mean all the difference in the world.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments, and be sure to check out our department website at www.paragouldpolice.org.
30 July 2012 // Following Too Closely
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can certainly tell that the highway department raised the speed limit on Hwy 49 South and on Hwy 412 West to 60 miles per hour. It seems as if the new has worn off, as folks are no longer happy with the 60 and would rather have 65 or 70. Those of us in law enforcement saw that coming. It’s a classic case of giving an inch, and taking a mile, or in this case, a few miles per hour. I’m sure that some of you have noticed the increased police presence and enforcement in those areas. Some of you may have even gotten one of our officer’s autographs already. It appears that everyone is in such a big hurry. While tooling around town this past weekend, I had several cars on my back bumper trying to “push” me along. I was driving the speed limit, and that was driving “them” crazy.
Following too close is a crime in Arkansas. The statute, 27-51-305, states that the driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway. Basically, the faster your speed, the farther back you need to be behind the vehicle in front of you. This is to obviously reduce traffic crashes and prevent injury or death. Plus, if you rear-end someone, we look at it as if you did not place the proper amount of distance between you and the other vehicle; therefore you were following too close. You should ALWAYS be far enough back to react in case something was to happen in front of you.
Let me break a little math out here for you. My math teacher wife will be so proud. We all know that if we are traveling 60 miles per hour, then that breaks down to a mile a minute. If we simplify that down even farther, we’ll travel a quarter of a mile in 15 seconds, or a little over 96 feet per second. That’s covering some distance folks. In order to come to a complete stop, that is also going to require covering some distance. Based on 60 miles per hour, in a vehicle with normally worn tires, it will require approximately 172 feet to go from 60 miles per hour to zero. This distance is the result of a formula that also uses a coefficient of friction between the tires and the road of .7 in the calculation. For extremely worn tires, look for that distance to be approximately 240 feet. As you can see, maintaining your vehicle tires can be as important as driving the speed limit and not following too close.
Do yourself and your fellow motorists a favor and quit tailgating. It’s not going to get you to your destination any faster, and may very well cost you a ticket for following too close and/or a deductible for the accident you could be involved in.
Email me at email@example.com with any questions or comments, and check out our department website at www.paragouldpolice.org for up-to-date information regarding the department.
July 23, 2012 // Traffic Light Cameras
Last week, I wrote my column regarding stop lights and why motorists should not run them. Obviously, we police officers are not the only ones seeing this troublesome behavior of folks not stopping at the traffic lights. In fact, some of you reading this may have been involved in an accident where you or someone else failed to stop at a traffic light or stop sign. The accidents happen quite frequently.
A comment was recently made that my red light column sounded like a precursor to red light cameras being installed to combat this problem. This is incorrect. In fact, Arkansas statute 27-52-111(b) specifically prohibits municipalities from utilizing cameras or other photo type devices for the enforcement of state laws or city ordinances. This statute does allow photo devices to be used in school zones or at railroad crossings, but an officer must be present AND must issue the citation at the time of the offense. Tickets issued from cameras are typically mailed to the registered owners of the vehicles in the other states that use the cameras. This cannot happen here in Arkansas.
Now that we have broached the subject of red light cameras and know that those are not legal to use, you may be wondering what those cameras are on top of the new traffic lights being installed are. Those are cameras, but they are used to detect traffic and let the computer know when to change the lights. If you’ll notice, you’ll not see the traditional “tar loops” in the traffic lanes where these cameras are installed. The loops were there to detect when a vehicle was in the lane, and they would send a signal to the computer to cycle the light.
Hopefully I have cleared up any misconception regarding traffic light cameras, or the use thereof. We do not have enforcement cameras, nor can we have until this law is changed or repealed. So, if you run a red light in the city and see a flash in your rearview mirror, rest assured that it’s not a camera flash. However, that flash could very well be some emergency lights telling you to pull over and stop. I hope you never have to find out.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments. Be sure to check out our website at www.paragouldpolice.org for up to date information regarding the police department.
July 09, 2012 // Move Over
If you frequently travel Hwy 49 from Paragould to Jonesboro, you have without a doubt noticed the increased police presence in the area. I had mentioned in a previous column that there would be increased patrols due to the higher speed limit, and that the enforcement would be more stringent. I personally have been in the area helping the traffic units, and have noticed a disturbing trend occurring. Motorists are not moving over to the inside lane for the officer who is conducting a traffic stop. The motorists are continuing to travel in the outside lane, right up against the officers. Not only can this lead to injury or death of an officer or even the stopped motorist, but it is also against the law.
According to Arkansas statute 27-51-310, motorists are required to move to the farthest lane away from the emergency vehicle while that vehicle is displaying blue, red, or amber and red lights. Obviously when I mention “farthest lane away”, I am not talking about oncoming traffic lanes, or the turning lane. If an officer has a vehicle stopped on the shoulder, it merely means that you vacate the outside lane (the lane closest to the shoulder) and move to the inside lane. If traffic is so congested that you cannot change lanes safely, you are permitted to slow down and proceed with extreme caution. When I say slow down, I’m not talking a five mile per hour change. Your speed should be drastically slower. In locations where you have the ability to see quite a distance down the highway in front of you, there should be no reason why you would be in the outside lane with an emergency vehicle present. The moment you see flashing lights on the side of a highway, immediately begin instituting a plan to safely change lanes prior to arriving at the emergency vehicle’s location. What should you do if this emergency vehicle is on a two-lane highway? Slow down and proceed with caution. If the oncoming traffic lane is clear, safely moving over and going around the emergency vehicle is permissible.
While this is a law with regards to emergency vehicles, common sense tells us that we should do this anytime there is something on the shoulder of the road. How many of you have ever had a flat tire on the side of the highway and had to change it right there? For those of you that say yes, how many of you would like for your car to rock every time a car drove by in the outside lane or, worse yet, have your legs ran over while positioning the car jack underneath the car in order to change that tire? Anytime I am driving my personal vehicle on a multi-lane highway and come across a disabled vehicle or even someone running on the shoulder, I always move over to give them room and peace of mind.
As a law enforcement officer, my job is dangerous enough as it is. The less I have to worry about with regards to my safety or the safety of others, the better off I am. To those of you that move over every time you see one of us with our lights flashing on the shoulder, I want to say thank you very much. We appreciate it (and so do our spouses and children) more than you know. If you are one of those that have not gotten into this habit yet, please do so. Not only could it save my life, or the life of one of my brothers or sisters in blue, but it will also save you from a costly citation.
Email me at email@example.com with any questions or comments. Don’t forget to check out our department website at www.paragouldpolice.org for the latest information and updates on what’s happening at the police department.
July 1, 2012 // It's HOT !!!!!
For those of you that have not noticed or have been under a rock for the last couple of weeks, here’s a news flash for you: It’s hot! I don’t enjoy this time of year as much as I do spring and fall. When I break into a sweat just looking outside, then I’m pretty miserable. Add a dark uniform, a bulletproof vest, and a few extra pounds of gear to the mix and actually being outside, and it gets way beyond miserable.
With this extreme heat and the extreme dry conditions, we are experiencing multiple issues that need attention. There have been multiple reports of cattle dying in Arkansas due to the heat. There have been numerous reports, here in Paragould included, of dogs being left in vehicles. Due to the elderly being more susceptible to the effects of extreme heat, there have been more instances of heat exhaustion/stroke and even death. Couple all of that with the wildfire threats and the possible outcomes those bring, it’s easy to see that the possibility of tragedy is among us.
Using a little common sense will go a long way in protecting yourself and your property or animals. Make sure you keep yourself and your animals hydrated with plenty of water. Dehydration leads to heat exhaustion/stroke, and can happen very quickly. If your dog enjoys a trip the grocery store so they can hang their head out the window, be sure to leave someone with them in the car so that it can remain running and the air conditioning blowing. If that is not possible, it’s probably best to leave them at home. Vehicles heat up very fast in the summer, and wearing that fur coat doesn’t help the matter any. Not only is that cruel to your dog, but it can also get you a citation for animal cruelty.
It has been well reported and repeated many times. We are under a burn ban at this time, which includes fireworks. I’m not going to beat a dead horse. Keep this in mind and avoid any type of open flame. Another point to keep in mind is regarding cigarette butts. Do not be thumping them out of your car window. Not only is that considered littering, but it’s also one of the leading causes of wildfires. Use your vehicle’s ashtray and keep those cigarettes in your vehicle until you can dispose of them properly. In the words of the famous Smokey the Bear, “Only you can prevent wildfires”.
Please exercise caution during these next few days, as it appears that the temps are going to remain high with little or no rain in the immediate future. In a related matter, Cpl. Jack Hailey and I would like to express our sincere gratitude to the two motorists who stopped and provided us with cold water and Gatorade while we were directing traffic on Friday afternoon. It was very much appreciated, and very much needed. I don’t recall when water and Gatorade tasted any better.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments. As always, I invite you to check out our department website at www.paragouldpolice.org for up-to-date information regarding police matters. We at the police department hope that each of you has a safe and happy 4th of July holiday.
June 25, 2012 // Dangerous Animals
Owning an animal is a big responsibility. They have to be watered, fed, taken care of when they are sick, and kept in a pen, in the home, or on a leash so that they may be protected from injury. Owning an animal that is deemed dangerous multiplies that responsibility greatly. City ordinance defines a dangerous animal as any mammal, amphibian, fish, reptile or fowl which is of a species which due to size, vicious nature or other characteristics would constitute a danger to human life, physical well-being, or property. The ordinance specifically mentions lion, tigers, and bears (oh, my!) among other more common animals such as snakes and pit bull dogs.
If the city’s animal control officer has documentation of a cat or dog attacking or biting another animal or a person without provocation, that cat or dog is automatically considered to be a dangerous animal at that point. Pit bull dogs, or dogs that have the appearance and characteristics of being predominately of the breeds of dogs related to pit bull dogs, fall into the dangerous animal category, whether they have bitten anyone or not, and require specific conditions to be met while owning one.
With regards to pit bulls, they are not allowed to go unconfined on the premises, and if the dog is unconfined, it must be on a leash no longer than four feet in length with someone at least 18 years of age in control of the leash at all times. The dog must also be muzzled while on the leash. At no time shall a pit bull or other dangerous animal be leashed to an inanimate object (tree, posts, buildings, etc).
With regards to housing dangerous animals, they must be securely confined indoors or in a securely enclosed locked pen or kennel, except when leashed and muzzled as I mentioned earlier. The pen or kennel must have secure sides and a secure top attached to the sides. All structures used to secure a dangerous animal must be locked with a key or combination lock when the animals are inside the structure. The structure must also have a secure bottom or floor attached to the sides, or the sides of the pen/kennel must be embedded in the ground no less than two feet. The structure must be in compliance with all zoning and building regulations within the city, and must be adequately lighted and ventilated to keep it in a clean and sanitary condition. If you keep a dangerous animal in the house, windows and doors must remain closed, as screen windows and screen doors cannot keep them from escaping.
Insurance is required of all pit bull or wolf-hybrid owners, or any animal owner that has been found guilty of violating the dangerous animal ordinance. Those possessing a pit bull / wolf-hybrid are required to obtain public liability insurance in a single incident minimum amount of $100,000 for bodily injury to or death of any person or persons. This insurance should also cover damage to property due to a pit bull / wolf-hybrid. Owners are required to present proof of insurance for said pit bull / wolf-hybrid at all times. Failure to provide proof of insurance is a violation of this ordinance.
Violation and conviction of this ordinance shall be punished by a fine of no less than $250 and no more than $500 for the first offense, no less than $500 nor more than $750 for the second occurrence, and $1,000 for the third or subsequent occurrences.
If you have any specific questions regarding the dangerous animal ordinance, feel free to stop by the police department for a copy of the ordinance. You may also contact the animal control officer at 870-239-7520.
June 18, 2012 // Fail to Yield
One day last week, when I was off-duty, I was sitting at the stoplight at the intersection of W. Kingshighway and Carroll Rd. I was going eastbound. My light turned green, however, I could not go anywhere because motorists turning left onto Carroll Rd kept turning. Is this a violation of the law?
The answer is yes. At intersections that have a left turn lane, those lanes have a protected left turn at designated times. This is indicated by the green arrow. Whenever this green arrow is present, the left turn lane traffic has the right of way. That green arrow will eventually cycle to a yellow arrow, which means that the protected left turn is about to be no more. Once the yellow arrow cycles, the light will typically be your normal green light (the round green light). At this point, all vehicles in the left turning lane must then yield the right of way to the oncoming traffic.
In the incident I mentioned from last week, the left turn lane for those turning onto Carroll Rd had been a green arrow. That’s why I was still stopped at a red light. Once that green arrow cycled through, it became just a regular green light, which was what I was seeing on the other side. However, motorists who felt that they did not want to sit through another stop light cycle continued to keep turning, preventing any of us headed eastbound on W. Kingshighway from going anywhere. This, ladies and gentlemen, is called failing to yield the right-of-way.
I have mentioned over and over about the need to obey the laws, whether we agree with them or not. The laws were made to help keep traffic issues to a minimum, and most of these laws in Arkansas have been around since the 1930’s or before. Even though they are old laws, they continue to do what they were intended to do. Please do your part in preventing traffic problems/crashes by obeying the laws and driving carefully.
As a side note, there are some speed limit changes going into effect this week on our major highways. The new limits will be 60 miles per hour in specific sections of Highways 49 and 412. For those of you that welcome this change and feel that you may now drive 70 miles per hour, I recommend that you not try that. Speed has always been, and will continue to be, a factor in most traffic accidents. I suspect that the enforcement of the speed limit will be more stringent in these areas by not only our department, but other law enforcement agencies as well.
Feel free to email me at email@example.com with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out our new department website at www.paragouldpolice.org for information ranging from wanted persons to the periodic picture from the past.
June 11, 2012 // Sidewalks
A while back, the police department ran a story in the Daily Press regarding parking on the sidewalks. The city has taken a proactive step in recent years to renovate/replace deteriorated sidewalks. In fact, in the last four years, the city has invested approximately $800,000 on sidewalks. All of this has been done to assure that pedestrians have a safe location in which to walk. However, when motorists park on sidewalks, or block them with their vehicle, this defeats the purpose of having sidewalks to begin with.
Section 36-5 of the City of Paragould Code of Ordinances specifically deals with encroachments and obstructions of city streets and sidewalks. This ordinance states “it shall be unlawful for any person to cause or permit any encroachments or obstructions upon any street, sidewalk, or other public grounds within the city unless permission for such encroachment is obtained as herein described”. The permission is required to be obtained from the mayor, or in his absence, the chief of police. The permission will be in written form, and will state the terms and condition of the approved encroachment or obstruction. State law also covers this under statute number 27-51-1302. This statute addresses stopping, standing, or parking in prohibited places. Parking on a sidewalk is the first listed prohibited place in this statute.
Recently, a few citizens have asked if these laws apply if a sidewalk crosses their driveway. The answer is yes. The city and the state have easements with regards to the applicable roadway. On all new streets in the city limits, the street and easements equal 50 feet. In other words, if you’re standing on the “center line” of the street, 25 feet to your left and 25 feet to your right belongs to the city. According to the city inspector’s office, this measurement will vary in the older parts of town. In addition, the chief inspector advised me that the general rule of thumb is that the sidewalk is at the very end of the city’s easement. Anything that is between the sidewalk and a home belongs to the homeowner. If your vehicle is parked on your driveway, but you are blocking the sidewalk, this means you are in violation of city ordinance by obstructing the walkway and could result in a citation.
My intent for today’s column is to educate our citizens regarding the sidewalk issue so that we do not have to write citations. However, if a citation is what is needed to protect the investment that has been made in the sidewalks, then that is what we shall do. There are lots of people who utilize our sidewalks on a daily basis, including those with disabilities who must use a wheelchair or other mobility assistance equipment. Driving or stepping off of a sidewalk and over a curb is not an option for them. They need for the sidewalk to be clear so that they may be able to reach their destination comfortably and safely. Are you going to be the person that prevents this? I hope not.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments. You may also take a look at our website at www.paragouldpolice.org.
June 04, 2012 // Yards
I mentioned last week about summer being here and how outdoor activities abound this time of year. Well, if you’re like me, there’s a couple of things that go along with summer that are not so much fun; mowing the grass and mosquitoes.
I must admit, I really enjoy a well-manicured lawn. I like for my yard to look like it belongs in a golf course. My flower beds aren’t looking real sporty right now, but that’s another story for another time. If you noticed, I mentioned that I like for my lawn to look good. I did not mention that I enjoy getting it to that point. I’m not a fan of mowing. However, I do it because I enjoy the end result and because city ordinance says that it is required of me.
Section 18-19 of the Code of City Ordinances states that all property owners within the city are required to cut weeds, grass, remove garbage, rubbish and other unsanitary and unsightly articles and things from their properties. In a nutshell, keeping your lawn cut and trash picked up will have you in compliance with no issues. However, if you are one to accumulate lots of items and store those in your yard, then that can become an issue. Be mindful of your neighbors and keep your property cleaned up and mowed.
Mosquitoes are the one thing about summer that I absolutely despise. If there is a mosquito in a 50 mile radius of my location, it’ll find me. Those little suckers, pun intended, drive me insane. I dislike spraying that greasy mosquito stuff on me, but I dislike being whelped up even more. As many of you know, mosquitoes breed in locations where there is standing water. Places like this include old tires and unused swimming pools. Even things like a kid’s wagon that has been left uncovered will accumulate rain water and can breed mosquitos. Section 18-19 addresses this as well. It states that property owners are also required to eliminate, fill up, or remove stagnant pools of water or any other unsanitary thing, place or condition which might become a breeding place for mosquitoes, flies and germs harmful to the health of the community.
Summer is here to stay for the next few months. Even though we may thoroughly dislike mowing the grass or picking up our yards, we need to do those things so that we remain within the law and to keep our neighborhoods attractive. Not only does this do wonders for neighborhood morale and personal satisfaction, it goes even deeper than that. The City of Paragould is committed to bringing job opportunities to its citizens, and when potential employers begin looking at communities, appearance of a city is a factor when making a selection on where to locate their facility. Let’s all do our part in helping our community look more appealing to not only ourselves and our neighbors, but to potential employers as well.
Email me at email@example.com, check out our department website at www.paragouldpolice.org, or follow me on Twitter at Pgouldcop832.
May 29, 2012 // Pedestrians & Bicycles
Summer time is definitely here ladies and gentlemen. Walking and bicycling are popular activities with many of our residents this time of year. These activities often put those individuals on a roadway of some type, be it a city street or a U.S. Highway. This means that motorists and pedestrians/bicyclists need to be mindful of the applicable laws.
As a pedestrian, the main thing to remember is that the law of tonnage ALWAYS prevails. In other words, cars are bigger than you and that means you should yield the right of way. According to Arkansas statute 27-51-1202, however, pedestrians who utilize a crosswalk shall have the right-of-way when crossing a roadway. Vehicles are required to slow down, or even stop if need be, to allow the pedestrian to cross. If you are crossing anywhere that does not have a crosswalk present, refer to my law of tonnage comment above.
In a related topic regarding pedestrians, Arkansas traffic law does not address how pedestrians should walk while in a public roadway. Obviously, if there are sidewalks present, that is where a pedestrian should be. In the absence of sidewalks, it is always recommended that pedestrians walk in the oncoming traffic lane, towards oncoming traffic. This allows someone walking to observe a possible situation and can avoid any conflict with a motor vehicle.
As bicycling becomes more prevalent in our city and our state, motorists and bicyclists need to be on the same page with regards to interacting with one another on the roadway. In the eyes of the law, bicyclists have the same privileges and right-of-ways as motor vehicles. Translation: Bicycles have just as much right to be on the roadway as cars do. So, if you’re one of those that lay on the horn behind a bicycle in order to get them to move, remember that they belong there too. When you are overtaking (passing) one of those bicycles, Arkansas law requires that you remain a safe distance from a bicyclist as you pass by. Arkansas statute 27-51-311 requires motorists to overtake bicycles on the left by at least three feet clearance, and to not move back to the right side of the roadway until it is safe to do so. The fine for this can be up to $100 if the law is broken, and it can be a fine of up to $1,000 if an accident is caused and there is serious injury or death involved.
I mentioned that bicyclists have just as much right to be in the roadway as motor vehicles. With that privilege also comes responsibility. All bicyclists are required to obey the same traffic laws as those operating motor vehicles. That means all stop signs are to be stopped at, and if you’re riding one of those fancy shmancy road bikes, you have to keep it under 55 mph (in a 55 mph zone). Let’s all do our part to get along with all modes of transportation, whether it is four-wheeled, two-wheeled, or two-legged. Not only will this ease some road rage, but it’ll also hopefully prevent serious injuries or death.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out our department website at www.paragouldpolice.org, or follow me on Twitter at @Pgouldcop832.
May 21, 2012 // Theft
It is no secret that times are tough for everyone with regards to money. Good paying jobs are harder to come by these days. However, this is no excuse to steal someone else’s property in order to sell it and use the money for things such as drugs or alcohol. One of the biggest problems we have right now is the theft of scrap metals. These metals are then taken to a scrap yard and sold by the pound, or sold to another individual so that they may take the metals to a scrap yard to be sold.
Theft of scrap metal is in violation of Arkansas statute 5-36-123, and can carry some serious penalties. While the theft of such materials carries the same penalties as a normal theft, the theft of scrap metal does have enhanced penalties if there is damage done with regards to stealing the scrap metal. If there is a damage estimate of $250 or more, then the classification of the theft goes up one level. In other words, if the theft was under $1,000 worth of metal, it would be a Class A misdemeanor. However, if $500 worth of damage was done to property in order to get the metal, that Class A misdemeanor now becomes a Class D felony. This enhancement also applies if the metal is transported across state lines to be sold. As an aside, the costs incidental to the damage done are also taken into consideration with regards to this enhancement. For example, any lost profits, costs for repairs, etc will be taken into consideration.
Receiving scrap metal that you know to be stolen is also a crime. This is statute 5-36-124. It states that if someone knowingly accepts, acquires, or sells scrap metal that is known to be the property of another, then they are guilty of theft by receiving of scrap metal. If the value of the metal is over $1,000 then this offense will be a Class D felony. If it is less than that amount, as stated earlier, it is a Class A misdemeanor. If you are charged with this offense a second time, it will automatically be a Class D felony.
While the local scrap yards have done an outstanding job of putting policies in place to combat this, along with working diligently with law enforcement, this can sometimes be a difficult thing to police. Just like raising a child, it is going to take a village to combat this and other types of illegal activity. I encourage each of you to notify the law enforcement agency that services your area if you see any crime being committed or notice something or someone that is out of place in your neighborhood. It is going to take all of us making a difference to turn society around.
Email me at email@example.com with any questions or comments, check out our new website at www.paragouldpolice.org , and follow me on Twitter at @Pgouldcop832.
May 15th, 2012 // Disorderly Conduct
I have been a law enforcement officer for the last thirteen and a half years. Being in this position makes me keenly aware of what is going on around me at all times. That includes when I’m “off-duty”. Unfortunately, I’m never really off-duty. This includes times when I must run to the store because the baby needs milk, or if I’m out paying bills. During these times, I sometimes observe individuals acting inappropriately or causing a scene in public. Just like the common phrase “there’s an app for that”, referencing smart phones, there’s a law for that type of behavior.
Committing the offense of disorderly conduct, statute 5-71-207, occurs when a person purposely causes public inconvenience, annoyance, alarm or recklessly creates a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm. These public inconveniences, annoyances, and alarms come in many different forms. People who engage in fighting or violent, threatening, or tumultuous behavior can be charged with disorderly conduct. Anyone making excessive or unreasonable noise could be cited for disorderly conduct. The statute does not define what noise might be, however. This is something that could be interpreted differently by different individuals.
The big one that I notice the most is when folks use obscene language or gestures in a public place. This language or gesture must be conveyed in a manner in which it could possibly provoke a violent or disorderly response from another person. It amazes me, and not in a good way, at the people who conduct themselves in this manner. It’s never a fun conversation for me when I have to explain to my 8 year old why those things are not appropriate to say or do. I strive every day to conduct myself in an appropriate manner, not only for my children, but to the general public as well. I would want to do this regardless of the profession I was in.
Society is heading in the wrong direction these days. It seems that there is less and less respect for the law, which in turn causes problems that branch out farther than you can imagine. There are economic and social consequences with regards to not following the law. Those are in addition to the obvious legal consequences. Behaving irresponsibly and breaking the law has a ripple effect in our society. There is never just one victim. Be aware that your behavior in the public eye can not only be illegal and get you arrested, but it can also affect innocent bystanders.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments, visit our website at www.paragouldpolice.org, or follow me on Twitter at @Pgouldcop832.
May 9th, 2012 // Public Intoxication
As many of you can tell, spring crept in early and summer seems to be trying to do the same. With temperatures getting warmer, the typical warm weather activities begin cranking up. Baseball and softball games are in full swing. Lake trips are beginning to get more and more prevalent. Swimming pools are preparing to open. With all of these activities, alcohol use is common as well. While being 21 years of age allows you to drink alcoholic beverages, there are still some responsibilities that you must maintain.
Public intoxication, Arkansas Criminal Statute 5-71-212, prohibits anyone from being intoxicated, or drunk, in public. No one may be under the influence of alcohol or narcotics to the point that safety becomes an issue. If an officer believes an intoxicated individual to be a danger to himself or others, an arrest may be made. An intoxicated person can also be arrested if there is a danger that said person could damage the property of another person.
If an intoxicated person is annoying or harassing individuals in his vicinity, they can be arrested as part of this statute as well. The main thing to understand is that alcohol affects the way the brain functions and that includes motor skills and judgment. Under the affects of too much alcohol, people tend to say things they would not ordinarily say. I can’t count how many times my life has been threatened by someone who was intoxicated.
This statute also prohibits anyone from drinking in public, unless it is in a restaurant or establishment licensed to do so. There are instances where permits can be issued by Alcohol Beverage Control to temporarily allow this otherwise, and those permits are for a specific timeframe and date. In a nutshell, if you are anywhere where someone could see you consuming alcohol, you are technically drinking in public.
Summer time is the season for fun in the sun. However, you must remember to partake of alcohol in a responsible manner if you choose to drink. That applies to every season, not just summer. Not only does being responsible help keep you safe, it’ll also keep you out of the “Gray Bar Motel”.
Email me at email@example.com with any questions or comments, visit our website at www.paragouldpolice.org , and follow me on Twitter at @Pgouldcop832.
May 1st, 2012 // The Job
Contrary to popular belief, law enforcement officers are human beings just like everyone else. When I get ready for work, I put my pants on one leg at a time same as everyone else. I have a family just like many of you. When I get cut, I bleed red too. And to settle the ageless debate many of you may have from time to time; yes, we like donuts as much as the next person. So, does this mean we have feelings like everyone else? Just as much, if not sometimes more, than everyone else.
The biggest trait of being a police officer easily has to be the large number of hats we must wear. We are commonly called upon to be counselors, paramedics, lawyers, social workers, translators, etc. The hats are almost endless. The feelings and thoughts that go with these numerous hats are also endless. We are tasked with seeing and hearing things on a daily basis that most people will never see or hear in a lifetime. That is a huge burden that we must carry. We have a job in which there’s usually someone at our destination that does not want us there. There is typically some type of animosity or turmoil that we will deal with on every call for service. This job is not for everyone.
I have just started training yet another brand new officer. Some of the things I drill into new recruits is that they will wear many hats, they will take many calls ranging from a barking dog to a homicide, and there will be multiple times in their career where they will feel helpless. I know many of you won’t believe this, but even big ol’ mean cops cry from time to time. We won’t cry in front of anyone on a scene, because it is bred into us to be strong for those that can’t be at that moment. We usually see people in bad situations, such as domestic disturbances or the death of a loved one. If I were to tell you that those things don’t come home with us once in a while, I’d be lying to you. It’s difficult on our families as well, because sometimes we can’t talk about it to them. It’s not necessarily due to being confidential, but more to protect them from the “real world” and to keep them from being terrified by what we sometimes have to do.
Did I write about this today to illicit pats on the back or atta boys? Absolutely not. I wrote this to remind you, the reader, that we are human beings just like you. My wife teaches school to educate students, just like I work at the police department to enforce the law and to protect those that can’t protect themselves. It’s a job. The big difference is that my job requires me to do things that are unpopular to most people. No one likes receiving a traffic citation, yet my job requires me to write them. No one likes being arrested, and yet again my job requires me to do that as well. The main goal I had today was to remind you that just because we have an enforcement role in society, it doesn’t mean that we don’t care. In fact, it is quite the opposite. We do it because we care about our community.
Next week I’ll get back to Arkansas law and how it could affect you. As always, if you have questions or comments email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can go to our department website at www.paragouldpolice.org to review my past columns and to see valuable information regarding news or wanted persons. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter at @Pgouldcop832.
April 23, 2012 // Seatbelts
Recently, a major accident occurred in Jonesboro that claimed the life of some small children. The safety seat aged children were ejected from the vehicle, as they were not restrained in a safety seat. If there’s one habit that someone should have, it would be to buckle children into a child restraint EVERY time.
Children, these precious gifts that we have been given, require special care and attention when making sure they are safe in an automobile. All children from birth through one year of age are required to be restrained in an approved child safety seat that is rear-facing. This rear-facing position must be maintained until the child is one (1) year old AND twenty (20) pounds. After that point, the child may be turned around to a forward-facing position. With regards to the rear-facing infant seat, most all of them are designed to be removed from the car and carried by a handle. Please take special care to rotate the handle back down before driving. This will prevent serious injury or death to your child if you are involved in a traffic accident. Children are required to remain in some type of child restraint device until they are six (6) years old OR sixty (60) pounds. After your child has reached the “6 or 60” point, they are legally allowed to sit in the regular seat with a seatbelt. However, there is nothing wrong with leaving your six year old or older child in a booster seat longer if necessary. My eight year old son remained in a booster seat until he was almost eight because the seatbelt crossed his chest perfectly. If I allowed him to sit in the seat, the belt would catch him across the neck and therefore not do him any good and could be quite dangerous. The federal government is looking at changing the law regarding the weights and times I just mentioned. They currently recommend that infants remain rear-facing until they are two years of age, and also recommend that children remain in a booster until 8 years or 80 pounds. Again, as of now these are recommendations but this could be changed to law at a later date.
Seatbelts must continue to be used for all kids under the age of 15, no matter where they are sitting in the vehicle. Over the age of 15, anyone sitting in the front seats (driver or front passenger) is required to be buckled up. Those over the age of 15 in the rear seat(s) are not required to buckle up, but I would highly advise against this practice. Buckling up, whether as a child or as an adult, will help prevent serious injury or even death. In a related issue, it is recommended that children under the age of twelve (12) not be allowed to ride in the front seat. This prevents them from being severely injured or killed due to airbag deployment. As I stated before, this is merely a recommendation and not law.
As adults, we must realize that our children rely on us to protect them. Children are not going to tell you to buckle them up, and some may even get themselves unbuckled while going down the road. It is the adult’s job, although widely unpopular with the kiddos, to make sure that his behavior gets corrected. Their life may very well depend on it. We have several officers in our department who are child safety seat technicians. Any of us would be more than happy to inspect your current seat to ensure that it is installed correctly and to make sure the straps are where they should be. Feel free to come by the police department anytime and ask for assistance.
Email me at email@example.com with any questions or comments, follow me on Twitter at @Pgouldcop832, or view this and past columns on our website at www.paragouldpolice.org.
April 9th, 2012 // Misc. Traffic Laws
I thought I’d take the opportunity today and enlighten you on some of the lesser-known traffic laws in Arkansas. In our Arkansas Motor Vehicle and Traffic Laws manual that we police officers often refer to as the “Act 300”, there is a section titled “Miscellaneous Rules”. It is here where we find little tidbit laws that really don’t fit anywhere else.
First up is statute 27-51-1401, Obstruction to Driver’s View or Driving Mechanism Prohibited. It states: “No person shall drive a vehicle when it is so loaded, or when there are in the front seat a number of persons, exceeding three (3), as to obstruct the view of the driver to the front or sides of the vehicle so as to interfere with the driver’s control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.” In a nutshell, if you have regular cab pickups, or vehicles with a bench front seat you may not have but two passengers up there with you. Besides, with a mandatory seatbelt law in place for all front seat passengers, it makes sense to only accommodate the number of seatbelts you have available.
This next one deals with coasting down hills in a vehicle. Statute 27-51-1404 states: “The driver of any motor vehicle when traveling upon a downgrade shall not coast with the gears of the vehicle in neutral.” It continues to state that operators of commercial vehicles may not coast down a hill with the clutch disengaged. While I am not quite certain as to the purpose of this law, I’m sure it is similar to the warning labels you commonly see on hairdryers stating that users should not use them near water. Someone, at sometime, has done this and the results were not good.
Everyone reading my column today has, at some point, had a problem with hazardous drivers or speeders on their street/road. Some of you (I do not want to see a show of hands here) have thought about taking the law into your own hands and have wanted to put a homemade speed bump or speed deterrent out in the roadway. Not a good idea. Statute 27-51-1405 is titled “Throwing Destructive or Injurious Materials on Highway Prohibited”. It specifically states that you are not to throw or deposit any glass bottles, glass, nails, tacks, wire, cans, or any other substance likely to injure any person, animal, or vehicle upon the roadway. Not only does this charge apply, but you could also be looking at littering as well. Give us a call if you’re having traffic problems in your neighborhood. Leave the speed deterring to us, and keep yourself from getting a ticket or two.
The last two statutes I want to mention involve animals, but more specifically, horses. Upon approaching a person walking upon or along a public highway, or a horse or other draft animal being ridden, led or driven thereon, the operator of a motor vehicle or motor bicycle shall give reasonable warning of his approach and use every reasonable precaution to avoid injuring the persons or frightening the horses or other draft animals. This is statute 27-51-1406. In statute 27-51-1407, motorists are required to stop if the horse that is being ridden or driven (think horse and buggy here), appears to become frightened. The motorist is to remain stopped until the horse has passed and, if necessary, assist in preventing an accident. This last one carries a fine of up to $200, per the statute.
I hope that mentioning these laws to you has been helpful in some way. As I said in the beginning, these are laws that are not widely known nor are there violations of them commonly seen. However, at the end of the day, the law is the law. As a friendly reminder, remember that we the police do not make the law. We merely enforce what laws are passed.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments. You may follow me on Twitter at @Pgouldcop832; however, I must admit that I have been slacking in the tweeting department lately. I’ll try to remedy this ASAP. Also, don’t forget to check out our department website at www.paragouldpolice.org. My columns are posted under “Rules of the Road” under the Divisions tab.
April 02, 2012 // Child Abuse
As I sit here in my office chair typing this week’s column, I’m listening to the baby monitor as my baby girl is sleeping in her bed. She’ll be a year old this weekend. My how this year has flown. Seems just like yesterday that my wife and I were in the delivery room waiting for her appearance. I often watch her sleep and wonder to myself how anyone could purposely harm children, especially babies. Unfortunately, it is a much more common occurrence than I care to think about.
Child abuse, whether physical, mental or sexual, has become much more prevalent in recent years. Working directly with children teaching the D.A.R.E. program the last several years, I have seen the effects of abuse on children. They typically have social interaction problems and/or behavior problems. The really sad part of it is that not knowing how a “normal” family functions, they believe that what happens at their home is “normal”. I realize that the term “normal” is subjective, but you get my point.
In my line of work, I come into contact with many families for a variety of different reasons. I commonly see two very different ends of the spectrum regarding kids and abuse. On one far end, I see the kids who are being abused by parents, grandparents, siblings, babysitters, etc. This abuse can be any of the three that I mentioned earlier. These are the kids that we as police officers work diligently to protect. I have always felt that our main job is to protect those that cannot protect themselves, and unfortunately these kiddos fall into that category.
On the complete opposite end, you have the parents who are scared to death to discipline their children for fear of being reported for abuse. We commonly get phone calls from parents requesting our assistance with their children, as they are “out of control” or “they won’t listen to me”. Probably the most common call we receive is “my child refuses to go to school”. Many of you reading this are probably thinking that you wouldn’t have been able to sit for a week if you had pulled a stunt like refusing to go to school. My mother remembers very well the days of the razor strap or the willow tree branch. They certainly made her reassess her previous poor decision. The fact is, as a parent you are expected to discipline your child. I said discipline, not beat. Not maim. Not disable. Not abuse. Discipline. You may spank your child. Abuse does not include physical discipline of a child when it is reasonable and moderate and is inflicted by a parent or guardian for purposes of restraining or correcting the child. Reasonable and moderate physical discipline should cause no more than transient pain or minor temporary marks.
Obviously, child abuse is unacceptable any way you look at it. Children look to adults, and especially their family, to protect them and guide them. When that trust is taken away through abuse it creates lifelong issues for that child which will follow them into adulthood and, ultimately, their own children. Conversely, it is my opinion that not disciplining a child in a way constitutes its own type of child abuse. When no guidance or correction is given to a child, that child grows up not knowing the difference between right and wrong, nor do they know how to properly function in society. These are what I call “The Lost Children”. These are the kids that, through no fault of their own, will end up in prison or suffer an early death due to poor decisions.
We as adults and/or parents, have a tremendous amount of responsibility when it comes to children. We walk a fine line when it pertains to discipline. I don’t enjoy disciplining my son, however, I know that it is something that I must do to correct his behavior and guide him the right way. While we must guide them the right way, we must do so in the correct way. Hopefully this has cleared up the myth that parents cannot discipline their children. If you know of a situation in which a child is being abused, do your part to protect that child and call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-482-5964.
Contact me at email@example.com with any questions or comments. You can also follow me on Twitter at @Pgouldcop832. My columns are also posted on the Paragould Police Department website at www.paragouldpolice.org under Rules of the Road.
March 25, 2012 // Lane Usage
Since the inception of this column, it seems that I have written many that involved lane markings or lane usage. Issues regarding these pesky white and/or yellow markings are unfortunately abundant. It would appear to my comrades and I that see these issues everyday, that there are a couple of reasons why these issues keep coming back up again and again. One possible reason is that people do not understand or know what a pavement marking means (i.e. a solid white line that becomes dotted after so many feet). The other possible reason, and probably the most common, would be the lack of paying attention.
The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department is responsible for lane markings and signage for state and federal highways. Those markings and signs are there for you, the motorist, to understand what to do and to tell you what is expected of you when you are driving in that location. Common markings that give direction include the large arrows painted on the pavement in the traffic lanes. Those arrows will tell you what your lane is allowed to do. A classic example of this is on Court St. as you approach U.S. Highway 412 at the old Dr. Pepper plant. There are three separate lanes there, including the turning lane. Each lane has its own direction it may go. The far right lane (closest to the sidewalk) is for making right turns only. The inside lane (between the far right lane and the turning lane) is for going straight into Sundale Circle only. The far left lane (turning lane) is for turning left onto U.S. Highway 412 only. Each one of those lanes has its very own arrow painted on the pavement indicating these directions. In addition to those painted arrows, there is a sign posted alongside the sidewalk that indicates “Right Lane Right Turn Only”. The reason for bringing this up again is that we are continuing to see motorists making a right hand turn from the inside lane. The inside lane is for going to Sundale Circle ONLY. Contrary to popular belief, there are no double turn lanes in the city of Paragould. In just the last week, I have witnessed three vehicles turning right from the inside lane. Unfortunately, each one of those times I was responding to a call for service and was unable to initiate a traffic stop. This is a dangerous practice that will continue to cause traffic accidents if it is not corrected.
The big thing about Court St and U.S. Highway 412 is that it seems to have a plethora of traffic violations. In addition to folks making from the wrong lane, we also see motorists making a right turn on a red light who do so illegally. In Arkansas, it is legal to make a right turn on a red light (unless posted otherwise). However, there is one major catch: You must stop first. If you do not stop your vehicle before making the turn, you are guilty of running the stoplight. Make it a safe practice to stop at all red lights to avoid a citation, or even worse, a major traffic crash with injuries or death.
In a nutshell, your tip of the week from me is this: Pay attention to your surroundings while driving. Observe the signs and lane markings, and do what they tell you. This will make you a better driver, and help reduce the number of accidents in the city of Paragould and other locations in which you may travel.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow me on Twitter at @Pgouldcop832, or check out our new department website at www.paragouldpolice.org for more information.
March 19, 2012 // Smoking in Vehicle
The issue of smoking has been a “smoking hot” topic off and on for years. One of the first major efforts by the government to curb smoking in the interest of public health was to ban television advertising by tobacco companies. When I taught the D.A.R.E. program to local 5th grade students, I would commonly ask the question “How many of you have seen a tobacco commercial on television in the last couple of days?” Invariably, at least half of the class would raise their hands. I would explain to them that even I have not seen a tobacco company’s commercial on television, as the federal government banned them a few years before I was born. The last tobacco related commercial to be shown on television was December 31, 1970. Effective January 1, 1971, tobacco companies could no longer advertise on television. You’re probably asking yourself, “What does this have to do with cost of tea in China???” That’s simple. Absolutely nothing. However, smoking is a factor if you are operating a motor vehicle in the state of Arkansas and have children.
The “Arkansas Protection From Secondhand Smoke For Children Act of 2006” went into effect on July 21, 2006. This law was aimed at eliminating the harmful effects of secondhand smoke to small children while in the confines of an automobile. This law originally set the limit as children under the age of 6 years, and under 60 pounds. Effectively, if a child was in a child restraint seat (infant seat, convertible seat, or booster seat), individuals were prohibited from smoking in the vehicle while those children were present.
In 2011, this law was amended to change the age limit. Currently, if there is anyone under the age of 14 present in the vehicle, you are prohibited from smoking in the car. By law, the fine can be no more than $25. Per the law, if a person is convicted, pleads guilty, pleads nolo contendere (no contest), or forfeits the bond for the violation, no court costs (or other costs and fees) shall be assessed. Any person who proves to the court that they have entered into a smoking cessation program may have his or her fine eliminated for a first offense violation of this law.
After my several year stint of teaching kids to stay away from tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, I am still a firm believer that tobacco is unhealthy for the human body and that it is also a “gateway” substance that leads to more dangerous substances. Preventing young people from being exposed to tobacco smoke not only keeps them healthy, but hopefully it also helps keep them from “learning the ropes” and exploring. I would suspect that is what the legislators were thinking when the law was drafted originally.
Contact me at email@example.com with any questions or comments. You may also follow me on Twitter at @Pgouldcop832, or check out our website at www.paragouldpolice.org. My past articles are under “Rules of the Road”.
March 06, 2012 // Directing Traffic
One of the many duties that a police officer has is to investigate traffic crashes. There are many facets to these, and depending on the severity of the accident, requires two or three officers. In serious accidents, measurements must be taken, potential witnesses must be located, information gathered, and the scene documented well. There is one other very important task that is often under appreciated, yet one of the most important.
Directing traffic around an accident site not only helps keep traffic flowing, but it also helps prevent further accidents. Officers must take into account several factors when determining how and where to direct traffic. We must determine if routes are safe (i.e. debris, fire, etc). We must take the surrounding area into account as well. If an accident is on a major roadway, with major intersections nearby, we must take care not to clog those intersections so that other accidents do not occur. Often times, the decision of what to do with other traffic must be made within thirty seconds of arriving on scene. Sometimes that is an easy task, but most times it is not.
I cannot even begin to tell you the number of times that I have been yelled at, cursed at, honked at, and nearly ran over while directing traffic during my years as a law enforcement officer. Recently, a major accident brought this back to my attention. While directing traffic, I witnessed several disgruntled drivers who were either upset that they could not go where they wanted to go or did not want to follow my instructions. We officers understand that motorists do not like being delayed for long periods of time. I can assure you that we dislike standing in the middle of a busy roadway dodging cars much more. You may be one of those that get frustrated with being stopped for a long period of time, or moving much more slowly than you would like. Trust me when I say that there is a method to our madness. We know all of the aspects of the situation, the surrounding area, and the best ways to route traffic. Will it be an inconvenience to most drivers? Sure, but it will be the safest way of doing things. Safety takes precedence over timeliness every time.
Arkansas law requires motorists to obey police officer’s instructions with regards to traffic control. Statute 27-49-107 states “No person shall willfully fail or refuse to comply with any lawful order or direction of any police officer invested by law with authority to direct, control, or regulate traffic.” Disobeying a police officer’s order with regards to directing traffic can result in a citation. That ticket here in Greene County is $170.
Directing traffic around accidents or other issues is part of our job. Your job, as a motorist, is to comply with our requests so that we can keep traffic moving (even if it is slowly) as safely as we can. As I stated before, we don’t like standing out there anymore than you like being inconvenienced. However, it is an inconvenience that is, unfortunately, necessary from time to time.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments. You may also follow me on Twitter at @Pgouldcop832. Don’t forget our new department website, www.paragouldpolice.org . All of my columns will eventually be archived there for future reference.
February 28, 2012 // Orders of Protection
I was recently asked for information and comments for an article regarding orders of protection. The story was run a couple of weeks ago in a Sunday edition of the paper. There were some things printed that I would like to clarify for you, as there have been further comments and concerns regarding protection orders.
When making an arrest for violating a protection order, I mentioned that we need proof. Arkansas law allows us to make an arrest for violating a protection order without a warrant. However, we must establish probable cause to do so. We must have a level of reasonable belief, when coupled with articulated facts, which would lead a reasonable person to believe that the crime did happen. If a victim contacts us and states that the offender, who they have a protection order against, just drove by their home and yelled at them while driving by, I cannot immediately go the offender’s home and arrest them based on the victim’s word alone. Having a history of committing particular crimes (i.e. drug abuse, domestic abuse, terroristic threatening, etc.) does not constitute probable cause by itself. Taking a person at their word does not count either. Having unbiased, neutral third party witnesses to an incident help with establishing probable cause.
Protection orders state that the defendant (aggressor) shall not have contact in person, by phone (text or voice), email, etc. There is to be no contact at all. If a victim is receiving text messages or phone calls from the offender, then probable cause in this situation is pretty easy to establish. The context of the text messages or emails, voicemails, and phone records themselves help us establish that much needed probable cause.
It is important for everyone to know that when we make an arrest, it is due to the fact that we witnessed the crime ourselves, we have facts and unbiased witness statements to establish probable cause, or we have a warrant where probable cause has already been established. Establishing probable cause is a requirement of the fourth amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects citizens from illegal searches and seizures. Depriving someone of his or her liberty and freedom is something that we do not take lightly. That is a responsibility that we police officers carry with us everyday. We have a unique position in that our job not only requires us to protect victims of crimes, but we must also take care to not arrest individuals without sufficient evidence or probable cause. We have to walk a fine line.
There are very few cases in our careers as law enforcement officers where we can look back and say “We did everything we could do, and we are satisfied with the results”. We ALWAYS wish we could do more. We police officers “what if” and Monday morning quarterback things more than any group of people I know. If my “gut feelings” over the last several years were enough probable cause by themselves, I’d have lots more arrests under my belt and there would be many more offenders behind bars. I’d be a happy man, along with many crime victims. However, what I “know” and what I can prove are two totally different things.
Protection orders are put into place to protect victims of abuse or terroristic threats. I truly believe that the majority of the time, these orders work as they are designed to. Most instances where they do not work as designed can be traced back to the victim allowing the offender to make contact. In the majority of those cases, the victim and offender reconcile and pretend the order does not exist. In VERY few cases, the order does not give the desired affect to the victim because the offender does not care what the order states. The offender is determined to defy the order, even though they know that there are legal consequences. I can somewhat equate this to someone who commits any other type of crime. Our criminal code book states that certain actions are illegal. The offender knows that its against the law and that there will be consequences, yet chooses to disobey the law anyway.
In cases where the offender does not appear to care what the protection order states, the victim needs to be very diligent to report all contact to the appropriate law enforcement agency. If the offender is on the victim’s property, the victim should remain in a safe place and contact law enforcement immediately. The victim should not make contact with the suspect at any time. By the offender not knowing law enforcement has been contacted, we stand a greater chance of catching the offender on the property and in violation of the protection order. Also, it goes without saying that if at anytime you feel threatened or that your life is in danger, call 9-1-1 immediately so that officers can be dispatched to your location.
Police officers never want to come across as non-caring about a situation. We get just as frustrated with our limitations on some things as you do. Legislators make the laws in the legislative branch of government, while judges interpret the law in the judicial branch. Police officers fall under the executive branch of government, which is responsible for the enforcement of laws. If you feel that a particular state law is not accomplishing its intended purpose, I encourage you to contact your state representative or state senator and convey your concerns.
As always, you may contact me at email@example.com, or follow me on Twitter at @Pgouldcop832. Beginning tomorrow, our new department website will be up and running. Be sure to visit www.paragouldpolice.org and take a look around.
February 21, 2012 // Lane Usage
How many of you get frustrated when you are driving on a four-lane, wanting to overtake the slower outside lane traffic, and cannot do so because of someone driving as slow in the inside lane? Ok, you can put your hands down now. This seems to be an ever-increasing problem that I feel needs to be addressed.
Recently, I was sent down to the Craighead County Jail to pick up a subject we had charges on. While trying to overtake the slower traffic in the outside lane, I find myself behind a large work truck in the inside lane. The truck was doing about 48 miles per hour…in the inside lane…for a long time. My blood pressure rose. You get my point. You have been there too. Unfortunately for me, but fortunate for them, I was outside my jurisdiction at the time.
Arkansas statute 27-51-301 requires that vehicles be driven on the right side of the roadway. In paragraph (b), it specifically states: “Motor vehicles shall not be operated continuously in the left lane of a multilane roadway whenever it impedes the flow of other traffic”. Did you notice the words “shall not” in there? The inside lane should be used for overtaking slower traffic in the outside lane. Once you have overtaken that vehicle, you should move back into the outside lane until you need to overtake someone again. Don’t forget to signal your lane changes.
To add to the previously mentioned statute, 27-51-208 addresses minimum speed regulations. Paragraph (a) states: “No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with the law”. Reducing speed for safe operation usually occurs every winter (except this year apparently) when road conditions deteriorate and become slick. Often times on interstate highways or divided highways, you will notice two speed limit signs on the same pole. One is the designated speed (i.e. 65), and the other says “minimum speed” with 45 mph underneath. Anyone driving under the minimum speed established could be cited.
The moral of today’s column is to always drive in the outside lane, unless overtaking a vehicle. If your destination requires you to turn left from the inside lane or the turning lane, please remain in the outside lane until you are approximately 1,000 feet from your turn location. At that time, signal a lane change for the inside lane and move over when it is safe to do so. This will keep traffic moving smoothly and safely, allowing us all to reach our destinations in a timely and accident-free manner.
Feel free to email your comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also follow me on Twitter at @Pgouldcop832.
February 14, 2012 // Stop Signs
What is eight-sided, bright red in color, with white lettering? I’ll give you another hint: It’s usually attached to a tall, green metal post. If you said stop sign, reward yourself with a cookie. If you didn’t guess correctly, then this column is for you.
Stop signs are an integral part of driving. They are probably the most widely recognized and utilized signs in modern civilization. These signs are erected for a purpose, and that is to protect us from traffic crashes that could result in severe injury or even death. These signs also establish who has the right-of-way at intersections. Unfortunately, many people do not adhere to what the sign tells us to do and therefore creates a problem.
Failing to stop at a stop sign or stop light is a violation of Arkansas law. I have heard all of the excuses known to man in my twelve years as a law enforcement officer. One of my favorites is “Well, I did a rolling stop”. Are you familiar with the term “Oxymoron”? A rolling stop most definitely fits the bill. The bottom line is that the sign says to stop. There is no fine print below the word STOP that says “Only If You Want To” or “Only If Another Car Is Coming”. And, in case you are wondering, the fine for failing to stop is $165 in Greene County. I have worked numerous severe accidents over the years involving drivers failing to stop. Believe me when I tell you that a $165 fine should be the least of your worries.
Since I’m on the stop sign soapbox today, I’ll mention something that one of my readers emailed me about. When two vehicles approach a through street or highway from opposite directions, and one of those vehicles intends to turn left and the other intends to proceed across, who has the right-of-way? The vehicle intending to proceed across the intersection has the right-of-way every time. The vehicle making the left turn must wait until the other vehicle clears the intersection before making that turn. This same principal applies to traffic lights that are green on both sides and no protected arrow is present. Those proceeding straight have the right-of-way over those turning left.
Another common problem we see with stopping, or in this case the lack thereof, involves making a right turn at a red traffic light. Unless there is a sign that states “No Right On Red”, it is permissible in Arkansas to make a right turn on red. However, the catch here is that you MUST STOP FIRST. If you fail to stop, then you are guilty of running the red light and that might just get you a law enforcement officer’s autograph.
I truly believe that these infractions are the result of people being in too big of a hurry. I discussed in a previous column that we as a society are on the go all the time and feel like we are always running behind. I can assure you that the few extra seconds it takes to stop at a stop sign or red light will pay off. People’s lives are dependent on us as a society to drive with caution and responsibility. Do your part by slowing down and obeying the law.
Feel free to contact me at email@example.com with any questions or comments. You may also follow me on Twitter at @Pgouldcop832.
February 07, 2012 // Environmental Driving
As I sit down to write this column, it is raining. Police officers hate it when it rains, especially when it’s their shift working. There are always numerous accidents when it’s raining. A couple of hours ago, I listened to the wails and yelps of numerous sirens headed west. There had been an accident. It was raining. A veteran State Trooper friend of mine told me, in jest, a long time ago that there were three rules to being a good police officer: 1. Stay cool in the summer. 2. Stay warm in the winter. 3. ALWAYS stay dry. Number three gets us every time. A soaking wet bulletproof vest is not pleasant to wear, I can assure you.
When driving a motor vehicle, we must always be aware of our surroundings and current environmental conditions. Recently, there were two major accidents on an interstate in Florida in which several people were killed. The major contributing factor was smoke across the highway, which limited visibility. A little closer to home, three tractor-trailers collided just outside of Reyno in Randolph County. Fog was very thick at the time and had visibility close to zero.
There are going to be numerous times in which environmental conditions are going to deteriorate while we are driving. Be it snow, sleet, fog, rain, wind, smoke, etc., the manner and speed in which you were operating the vehicle prior to the change will need to be altered. First and foremost, speed should be reduced. When visibility or traction fades, speed is you enemy. Every time we have snow or ice on the roadways, I see people drive by me like I’m standing still. If I’m in my personal vehicle, all I can do is shake my head. You see, when its slick on the roadways or beginning to get that way, going is not usually too big of a problem. It’s the stopping part that will get you. I commonly hear the phrase “Well, I’ve got a four-wheel drive. Snow and ice don’t faze me”. A four-wheel drive does come in handy when it comes to getting better traction. However, when it comes to stopping, a four-wheel drive vehicle will slide just as far (if not farther) than a vehicle not equipped with four-wheel drive.
The point that I’m trying to make is that we must learn to slow down and use our heads when environmental conditions change. Rain will make the pavement slick, especially at the very beginning of a rain. All of the oils that have been dropped from vehicles will combine with the rainwater and make asphalt extremely slick. We all know how slick snow and ice can be, and the previous examples I gave prove that lack of visibility is dangerous as well. Anytime our visibility and traction are lessened, we must slow down and drive accordingly. Remember, we’re basically driving a 3,000-pound bullet. Losing control and striking someone or something is not going to turn out well. Arkansas statute 27-51-104, the Careless and Prohibited Driving statute, states that driver’s must not operate a motor vehicle in such a manner that would cause them to lose control of their vehicle. Losing control of a vehicle when visibility is poor or the roads are slick could apply here.
If the visibility drops to the point that you cannot see, DO NOT stop in the roadway or pull onto the shoulder. Attempt to find a parking lot or private drive to pull into, and make sure you park a good distance from the roadway. This will keep you from getting struck by other motorists who cannot see. If you are out and about when it becomes slick, slow down. Prepare to stop WAY before you get to a stop sign or stop light, and never cram the brakes. Slowly apply the brakes and let off, alternating that until you are safely able to come to a stop. If you find yourself beginning to skid or slide sideways, always remember to steer into the skid. To put it a little simpler, if you find that when you look out the windshield of your car and the front of your vehicle is moving to the left (counter clockwise), steer to the right. If your front end is moving to the right (clockwise), steer to the left. Never turn your steering wheel the same direction that your front end is going. That will just spin you around, making you lose control.
Slow down when road conditions have deteriorated. Leave a little earlier, start stopping a little sooner, and most importantly leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you. If you follow these simple tidbits of advice, you will most likely save yourself from having an accident, and save me from a soaking wet bulletproof vest.
As always, send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on Twitter at @Pgouldcop832 for important event reminders, tips and tidbits related to the law, and the occasional picture of my cute kiddos.
January 27, 2012 // Teenage Drivers License
As a teenager, one of the most memorable experiences has to be that of getting a driver’s license. Teenagers are quick to whip that plastic card out so they can show you the almost mandatory cheesy grin of their first driver’s license photo. Its funny how, as we get older, we try our best to keep anyone from seeing that very photo. I guess we’re not nearly as proud of it as we once were.
Quite frequently, parents ask us questions about driver’s licenses with regards to their teenager. There are three types of permits/licenses: Instruction Permit, Learner’s License, and Intermediate License. Each of them has their own requirements and attributes. I’ll condense them down and explain each.
Instruction permits may be issued as young as fourteen (14) years of age. Two major requirements when applying for an instruction permit involve school related data. First, the student must submit proof of a “C” average with their application. Secondly, students must have regular attendance in compliance with the established written policy of the school district or school concerning truancy. After supplying the required documentation and application, the written test is given. Upon passing the written examination, an instruction permit will be issued and it will be valid for a period of six (6) months. During those six months, any permit holder may operate a vehicle providing that a licensed driver who is at least twenty-one (21) years of age accompanies them and is occupying a seat beside them. All passengers in the vehicle, while a permit holder is operating the vehicle, must wear a seat belt at all times. As long as the permit holder has remained free of a serious accident and conviction of a serious traffic violation, the permit may be renewed or re-issued for another six months if needed. Once proper instruction has been received, and within the prescribed six-month period, the driving portion of the exam will be taken. This exam involves operating a motor vehicle while being observed by a Driver’s License Examiner employed by the Arkansas State Police. Provided the permit holder passes this exam, the examiner stamps the instruction permit. With that permit stamped, the permit holder takes it to their local Revenue Office for the much anticipated picture license. The permit has officially been converted to a Learner’s License. For reference, drivers’ testing is done here in Paragould every Monday and Friday at 9:00 am inside the Labor Park Building just off E. Kingshighway.
The Learner’s License is exactly what it states. It’s a license to use from the age of fourteen to the age of sixteen. It is during the time period that you LEARN how to drive and navigate public roadways safely and correctly. This prepares teenagers for those days ahead when they will be driving alone. Those with the Learner’s License may only operate a vehicle under specific conditions. All passengers in the vehicle must be wearing seatbelts. There must be a licensed driver in the vehicle that is at least twenty-one years of age, and a driver with a learner’s license SHALL NOT use a cellular telephone device or other interactive wireless communication device while operating a vehicle unless it is deemed an emergency. Reporting a crime, fire, medical emergency, etc. are examples of such an emergencies. Calling a friend up while driving to find out what they’re wearing to the movies, however, is not considered an emergency.
Intermediate driver’s licenses are the licenses issued to those that are sixteen years of age, but less than eighteen years of age. In order for this license to be issued, the applicant must hold a valid Learner’s License and have remained free of accidents or citations for the previous six months. The restrictions I listed for the Learner’s License (seatbelts required, no cell phone use) still apply here. In addition to those, a couple more are added. Intermediate drivers may not have more than one unrelated minor passenger in the vehicle at any given time. The exception to this rule is if there is a licensed twenty-one year old, or older, in the front passenger seat. This keeps distractions to a minimum so that, hopefully, fewer accidents occur. The second added restriction is that intermediate drivers may not operate a vehicle between the hours of 11:00 pm and 4:00 am. This does not apply if there is someone at least twenty-one years of age in the vehicle, they are driving to or from a school activity/church function/job, or they are driving because of an emergency. A regular, non-restricted driver’s license is issued once the individual turns eighteen years of age.
While getting a driver’s license is a major milestone in life, it comes with much responsibility. Those of us that drive are essentially driving a two-ton bullet. If we do not act accordingly and responsibly, the results could be deadly. To you parents out there preparing for a teen driver, please teach your kids the responsible and legal way to operate a vehicle. Potentially, their life depends on your guidance and instruction. To you teenagers, who are chomping at the bit for that plastic card with the cheesy picture, please listen to whoever is taking the time to teach you the ins and outs of driving. While we adults may sometimes sound like “fuddy duddies”, I can assure you of this: We have been there, done that, and have a t-shirt (or citation) to prove it.
Feel free to contact me at email@example.com with any questions, comments, or suggestions.
January 20, 2012 // Yielding to Emergency Vehicles
As some of you may know, I recently transferred back to the patrol division after a several year stint teaching the D.A.R.E. program to area elementary students. In my assignment as a D.A.R.E. instructor, my job duties were school, public relations, and administrative related. I rarely had time to carry out enforcement duties, and the patrol division handled responding to emergencies. Needless to say, there have been some adjustments for me going back to being a “street cop”. I’ve had to re-educate myself in several areas as several things had changed during the years that I had been absent from patrol. I still have some “re-educating” to do, but I’m getting there. There is one thing that I have noticed, however, that has not changed since my last tour on patrol: Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.
I’ve been in law enforcement now for just over 15 years, with 13 of those years as an officer. My entire career thus far has seen an infinite number of instances where vehicles fail to yield to emergency vehicles. This concept is not a new one, as it has been in every driver’s manual ever printed and covered in every driver’s education class ever taught. Under statute number 27-51-901 of Arkansas’ Motor Vehicle and Traffic Laws, (a)(1) states: “Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle, when the driver is giving audible signal by siren, exhaust whistle, or bell, the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to and as close as possible to the right-hand edge or curb of the highway clear of any intersection and shall STOP and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer.”
For the record, the word “stop” being all caps and underlined is my own emphasis, and is not printed that way in the statute. I emphasized this, because many people seem to believe that pulling over to the right is good enough. It is not good enough, and I will explain why. Those of us who respond to emergencies see times where we are nearing our destination and must make a right turn into a parking lot or driveway. If someone just pulls to the right, but keeps driving the speed limit, I now have to slow down or even stop to wait for that vehicle that I overtook to get by me before I can turn. The last thing I need while responding to an emergency is to get “t-boned” by a vehicle that did not stop after pulling to the right. Another instance where this becomes problematic is on two-lane highways or streets. If someone just pulls to the right a little, but does not stop, that causes a problem for us because now we have a speed issue. If someone is traveling at 55 mph on a two-lane highway, and only pulls to the right and doesn’t stop, I now have to increase my speed accordingly in order to overtake them so that I may return to my lane and avoid oncoming traffic. All lanes of traffic must pull to the right and stop when an emergency vehicle is approaching with lights and siren activated.
Pulling to the right is as imperative as the stopping part. In the last couple of months, I have been very discouraged by the amount of people who stay in the inside lane of a multi-lane roadway and hit the brakes. I have also noticed several times where motorists will dart into the turn lane. That maneuver means that they are pulling over to the left, and not the right. Those of us who operate motor vehicles are trained to not pass on the right unless there are special circumstances. The reason for this is that motorists are trained to always pull to the right. If a motorist is doing what they are supposed to do by pulling to the right and stopping, we could not pass on the right, as it would cause an accident. As the drivers of emergency vehicles, this statute also requires us to drive with the due regard for the safety of all persons using the roadway. Passing people on the right and causing an accident is something we do not want to do.
Whether or not you believe that pulling over to the right and stopping is an inconvenience, just remember something for me. When you see an ambulance, fire truck, police car, or rescue truck driving with lights and siren activated, that means someone needs our help and they need our help quickly. One day that “someone” may be you or a family member. Do you want us to get to you quickly, or do you want us to slow down or stop for those who do not yield to us? Please make it a habit to pull to the right and stop. Someone’s life may just depend on it.
Email your questions, comments, and requests to firstname.lastname@example.org .
January 13, 2012 // School Zones
For those of us who frequently travel Highway 49 on the south end of the city, we have noticed a difference regarding traffic flow. With the opening of the new Greene County Tech High School, speed limit changes were made and a traffic light was added. This will be a major adjustment for those traveling through the school zone in the mornings and afternoons.
State law sets the speed limit in school zones at 25 miles per hour. Statute 27-51-212 reads as follows: “(a) No person shall operate a motor vehicle in excess of twenty-five miles per hour (25 m.p.h.) when passing a school building or school zone during school hours when children are present and outside the building. (b) This speed limit shall not be applicable upon the freeways and interstate highways of this state or to school zones adequately protected by a steel fence limiting access to and egress from safety crossings.”
From an enforcement standpoint, this is somewhat vague because it does not address if the building is a great distance away from the roadway in question, nor does it define in what capacity the children are outside the building. Is it recess and they are outside for a lengthy period of time, or are they changing classes/buildings and only outside for twenty seconds? If we as law enforcement follow the “letter of the law”, anytime we see children outside the building we could technically enforce the 25 m.p.h. school zone. This could apply at 10:30 in the morning just as easily as 3:00 in the afternoon. There are flashing yellow lights in front of Greene County Tech’s main campus on Highway 412, Greene County Tech Primary on S. Rockingchair Rd, and the Paragould Junior and Senior High campus on Court St. Those lights are programmed to come on and shut off at set times in the mornings and afternoons. It is during those times, when vehicle and pedestrian traffic are at its peak, that we enforce the school zone speed limit. The lights are typically activated from around 7:00 to 8:15 in the mornings and from 2:45 to 3:45 in the afternoons. Those times are not exact, but will be very close.
With regards to flashing yellow lights near the new Greene County Tech High School on Highway 49, I contacted Superintendent Jerry Noble to see if there was a plan to implement them. He stated that they intend to consult with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department to see about getting them installed. Mr. Noble told me that he definitely wants to see those lights put in. Hopefully we’ll see those get installed soon, as they will be a helpful reminder to everyone to slow down during those high traffic times.
Writing about flashing yellow lights reminded me to mention the new traffic light at the new high school. How many of you have noticed the flashing yellow left-turn arrow and wondered why it was doing that and what it meant? I can assure you that there are a lot of people asking those questions. Typically, a stoplight with a protected left turn (green arrow) will cycle to a caution arrow (yellow arrow) and finally to a green light. With that green light, you are still able to make the turn, but you must yield to oncoming traffic first. There’s a sign beside the light that tells us this. The new traffic lights, like on Hwy 49 at GCT, now do a flashing yellow arrow after the protected left turn has ceased. This flashing yellow tells you that you may still make a left hand turn, but you must yield to oncoming traffic first. I have not gotten my theory confirmed with anyone with the highway department, but I suspect this is to help lessen accidents where people have not yielded to oncoming traffic. I have worked numerous accidents where people have told me that they turned because they had a green light. They did have a green light, but did not have the green arrow indicating that the turn was protected. If the arrow is yellow and it is flashing, it most certainly gets your attention and reminds you to yield.
In closing, I do want to mention one more thing about speeding in a school zone. Not only is there a fine involved, there is a driver’s license issue if you speed in a school zone multiple times in one year. The law states that if there is a second infraction within one year, your driver’s license is to be suspended for six months by the Office of Driver Services. If there is a third offense within a year’s time, that suspension goes to one year.
I have heard numerous complaints about an added traffic light on Highway 49, and I have heard about the same number of complaints about the 25 m.p.h. zones near schools. If you will stop and think about it, we have all driven through these zones at one point or another and seen the traffic congestion. It is easy to see why the reduced speed limits and traffic lights need to be where they are. There is an increase in traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian. Take a drive through a school zone in the afternoons, and it reminds you of a real life version of the old Atari video game “Frogger”. Remember to slow down and be patient. Growth of our school districts is a good thing for our city, and our future.
Contact me at email@example.com with any questions or comments.
January 06, 2012 // Turn Lanes and Lane Markings
Today’s installment of my column is a follow up of last week’s column. Again, this is one I had written before, but was asked to mention it once more. As I am still seeing these issues as well today, it serves as a great reminder.
Since the inception of this column, it has become even clearer to me as to why these educational columns are important. Most adults are many years removed from the dreaded days of studying the driver’s manual in order to pass the written driver’s license test. I don’t know about any of you, but I know I haven’t picked up a driver’s manual since I took my test. In other words, no one (except us badge wearing folk) brushes up on changes in the law or even refreshes on the old stuff. We become complacent and develop the “It’s always been done like that” mentality.
I’d like to address an issue that is becoming more and more of a problem. This issue deals with turning lanes and lane markings in general. After the highway department four-laned Highway 49, it changed a couple of intersections a tad bit. A big change was at Highway 49 and Court St. On the west side of that intersection, in the westbound lanes (near the Paragould School District Administrative Offices), the traffic lanes are divided by a solid white line for several feet before that solid line turns to a dotted line. It seems that most drivers do not understand what that solid line means. This solid white line means the same as what we know a solid yellow line means: Do not cross. We know on a double yellow line, no one may pass from either direction. If a solid yellow line is on our side, but a dotted yellow is on the other side, that means that the folks in the opposite lane may pass but we may not. This solid white line at Highway 49 and Court St. tells us that we may not cross it until it becomes dotted. This is to protect those persons coming from the north on Highway 49 and turning right onto Court St. I constantly see people crossing this solid line, and sometimes even driving up on the concrete island there. The other change on intersections occurs at Highway 49 and Highway 135. The outside, northbound lane becomes non-existent at this point, as the four-lane has not been extended any farther north. There are road signs forewarning this, and lane markings are painted to indicate that the outside lane is right-turn only. The key to this is to make sure you are paying attention and being aware of your surroundings. There have been numerous accidents or near accidents here.
I want to quickly address turn lanes, as it ties to the lane marking issue I mentioned previously. A prime example of a problem area in this instance is Highway 412 and Rockingchair Rd. As motorists are driving westbound on Highway 412, they are trying to enter the turn lane at the stoplight in order to turn onto Walcott Road. The lane markings clearly show a double yellow line for several feet before it turns to a solid/dotted yellow line indicating, “turn lane”. You cannot cross into a turn lane before it is legally allowable.
The next time you are out and about and are going to make a left turn at a stoplight, take notice of the lane markings. The solid yellow line will stop, and the next line you see is a solid white line. There will be a gap of no markings in between. By law, you may only enter the turn lane at that point. A common place you will see this not being observed is on Carroll Rd near Walmart. When traffic is backed up on Carroll Rd, drivers that are needing to go west on Highway 412 will jump in the turn lane WAY early and drive down it until they reach the stoplight. This is unacceptable and illegal. If someone enters the turning lane correctly, and you are driving down the turn lane and strike their vehicle, you are at fault due to using the turn lane incorrectly. As I said earlier, this is one of those “But that’s always how we’ve done it” type situations.
I hope that today’s column has cleared up any lane usage / lane markings questions you may have had. If it hasn’t, feel free to contact me and I’ll address your specific question. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
December 30, 2011 // Multi-lane Highways, Lane Usage
I received an email this week from a faithful reader (thanks Don) who remembered the following column that I wrote back in February. Since reading my column, he has faithfully made all of his turns correctly by turning into the lane closest to him. The problem he is seeing is that there are some folks that don’t read my column to get these friendly reminders. When there are vehicles behind him, turning the same direction, they are immediately going into the outside lane and trying to get around him. He has almost been involved in accidents on more than one occasion due to this, as once he turned into the correct lane, he signaled to the right to change to the outside lane. So, for those of you that obey the law and follow my advice in my columns, be sure to watch for those that don’t. I pulled this column out of mothballs, as Don felt it would be a good reminder. I whole-heartedly agreed, so enjoy this re-run.
For most folks, turning onto a multi-lane highway is a multiple occurring event everyday. What is also true, most people will make that turn illegally. When turning onto a four-lane roadway, the law states that when making a right-hand turn you must be as close as practical to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. For those making a left-hand turn, you must turn into the lane closest to the centerline of the roadway.
I’m going to pick on the Highway 412 / W. Court St. intersection for a moment. It is very common to see people turning right onto Highway 412 from Court St. What is even more common is the amount of vehicles that will immediately go to the inside lane. Why does this pose a problem? First of all, it’s against the law (Ok, you saw that coming). Secondly, let’s think about the drivers trying to make a left turn from Sundale Circle for a moment. Their light is also green and they are able to turn as well. If they are making a left turn, they are entitled to the inside lane of Highway 412, just as the person making a right turn from Court St. is entitled to the outside lane. If the vehicle coming off of Court St. immediately bails off into the inside lane, while a vehicle making the left from Sundale Circle turns into the inside lane like they’re supposed to do, who do you think is at fault here? You would be correct if you guessed that the vehicle coming from Court St. was at fault. That vehicle made an improper turn, and therefore would be at fault in a collision. Moral of the story here: Always turn into the lane closest to you.
When working accidents involving an improper turn, we often hear the excuse “That’s the lane I needed to be in because I was going to turn left/right up there”. That’s all fine and well, but you still have to turn into the lane closest to you. How do you fix this issue? Hint: It involves a plastic “arm” attached to the steering column, that when activated, emits an annoying clicking sound.
Some type of turn signal device for automobiles has been around since the 1930’s. Buick, in 1939, was the first manufacturer to offer them standard on all of their vehicles. After that, most manufacturers offered them as an option up until competition became too great and they too made them standard. The federal government made them mandatory for all motor vehicles some years later. Arkansas law requires you to signal your intentions to change lanes or to make a turn. To be more specific, you are required to signal those intentions 100 feet prior to the lane change or turn.
To recap: When turning onto a multi-lane highway, always remember to turn into the lane closest to you (with turn signal activated), and then signal for a lane change in order to merge into the desired lane. This will greatly lessen the chances of becoming involved in a collision, and you won’t be breaking the law. Besides, with regards to turn signals one of my readers made a good point. You paid for them when you bought your car, so you might as well use them.
Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments at email@example.com .
December 23, 2011 // Cell Phone Usage in Vehicles
Last week I wrote about the law regarding the use of cell phones in school zones and road construction zones. The long and short of it is this: You can’t use them in those areas. I emphasized that the safety of students and road workers was the primary motivation for such a law. This week, I am going to stay in the telecommunications area and discuss an issue that effects EVERY motorist.
On July 14th, 2008, Paul Davidson of Jonesboro was traveling on Hwy 1 just south of Jonesboro when a vehicle he was meeting crossed the centerline and struck his vehicle. Paul was killed in the crash. The driver of the at-fault vehicle, along with his family, admitted that he had been texting when he lost control of his vehicle and struck Davidson. Paul’s daughter, Hilary, led a charge to ban texting and driving so that maybe other families would not have to endure the loss and pain as she and her family had. Fast forward to October 1st, 2009. Act 181 of 2009, appropriately named Paul’s Law, goes into effect. This law prohibits drivers of motor vehicles from using handheld wireless telephones to engage in text messaging. It was codified as 27-51-1501.
The law specifically states that, except for an emergency, no driver of a motor vehicle may use a handheld wireless telephone for wireless interactive communication while operating a motor vehicle. With the popularity of smart phones increasing with all age demographics, this is not an issue that is confined to teenagers and young adults. It appears that all age groups are embracing the conveniences of electronic communication. Embracing the convenience is great, as long as it is embraced while stopped in a safe place or preferably outside an automobile completely. There is an exception for those who are performing official duties. Those exempted are police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. Before any of you get your dander up, I can assure you that just because we are allowed to while we are working, does not mean we will. In fact, our department has forbidden us to text while driving, and advised us to pull over to a safe area if we should need to use our phones for voice calls. While we may drive thousands more miles than the average citizen each year, we police officers are still human beings and most definitely capable of making a mistake once in a while.
Some of you are probably saying to yourselves: “Boy, he sure is harping on this issue. He’s written about it before, then the article last week, and now this one. What gives??” I’ll tell you “what gives”. If you have been keeping up with the news lately, you have probably seen that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is interested in banning cell phones from motor vehicles totally. In their plan, the ban would even include hands-free devices and kits. What would bring such a drastic measure to the forefront? If you guessed that there has been a sharp increase in traffic crashes due to cell phone induced distracted driving, you would be correct. It would appear that the federal government would like to get the public’s attention.
The Paragould Police Department will be stepping up enforcement with regards to texting while driving. We intend for today’s column to serve as your warning for this offense. My fellow officers and I will be issuing citations for non-compliance of this law. Our hope is to get your attention, so that maybe we can prevent another senseless death like that of Paul Davidson.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this or any other column. I would also like to hear from you if you have an idea for a future column. Remember to always buckle up and drive safely!
December 16, 2011 // Cell Phone Usage in School Zones
After a few months on hiatus, I’m proud to say that I’m back. Juggling work and a home life, as many of you know, is tough. However, I added a baby to that mix in April, which officially completed the three-ring circus. Now that I’m somewhat acclimated, I feel that I can get back in the groove with my column.
My past columns have covered several different topics ranging from child safety seats to proper lane usage. My goal is to always provide you with information regarding the law that you may not have known, or have forgotten somewhere along the way. One such law that some may not know, or have not gotten used to yet, is the law regarding using cell phones in a school or work zone.
Act 37 of the 88th General Assembly of the state legislature was approved on February 16th of this year, and went into effect October 1st. This act, which was placed into Arkansas code 27-51-1605, prohibits the use of a handheld wireless telephone or device by anyone who is either in a school zone or highway/roadway construction zone. The definition of handheld wireless telephone is “a wireless communication device with which a user engages in wireless interactive communication using at least one hand”. The wireless interactive communication noted in the definition includes text messaging or surfing the Internet from your phone or device. This definition does not include hands-free wireless telephones or devices, CB radios, or GPS/Navigation devices. Also, this law does not apply if there is an emergency and you are contacting some type of emergency service (police, fire, EMS), nor does it apply to law enforcement officers if they are on official business. In other words, even though I am a police officer, I cannot talk on my phone in a school zone on my day off.
For anyone that takes their child/children to school, be it on a daily basis or once in a while, it is easy to see why this law is so important. School campuses are bustling places in the early mornings and afternoons. Students are everywhere. Cars are everywhere. With everyone wanting to go different directions, coupled with the fact that most folks are either running late or impatient, its easy to see where any extra distractions could lead to a tragic accident. While cell phones have become an almost mandatory part of our lives, they do lead to distracted driving if used in an automobile.
Highway/roadway construction zones are just as important to pay attention to. These zones can put up by the state highway department, county road department, or city street departments. No one likes road construction. In our “gotta hurry up and get there” lifestyle these days, construction areas slow us down. However, we must remember that there are men and women working in those zones so that eventually our roads will be better, and possibly even allow us to reach our destinations quicker than before. We must do what we can to ensure their safety, along with our own, while they are working to make our roads better.
As a police officer, I see the results of distracted driving often. Most times it just involves property damage, but serious injury or death can occur. As the husband of a school teacher who has car line duty a couple times a week, I hear about the large number of driver’s who are not following the law. Remember, a child’s life or well-being is much more important than what is for supper that night or what weekend plans need to be made. While I know its almost second nature to pick that phone up when it rings, let’s give those cell phones a rest while in school or work zones. You might just find that doing without that phone for a few minutes could be the most peaceful part of your day.
As always, if you have questions or comments about my column or even have an idea for a future column, feel free to email me at email@example.com and I will promptly return your email.