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Sapulpa, Oklahoma, community law blog

The dangerous results of increasing speed limits

Oklahoma residents who are concerned with road safety might be surprised to learn that despite the improvements in safety features in vehicles, the increase in speed limits over the last 20 years have resulted in a significant number of deaths. In fact, according to one study, the 1,900 deaths around the country in 2013 due to the increase in speed limits were about the same as the lives saved from the increased use of airbags.

The study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that while fatalities were down over 20-year-period, deaths due to states increasing the speed limit kept the numbers from being even lower. In 1973, Congress passed a law that mandated states to keep the speed limit at 55 miles per hour in order to receive the maximum amount of federal funds for highways. While the law was not a result of safe driving concerns, it did result in states keeping their speed limits at 55 mph through the 1970s and most of 1980s. In 1987, Congress relaxed the restriction on speed limits and the law was repealed completely in 1995. Through that period, states began increasing their speed limits, first in rural highways, then later in urban ones.

Economic prosperity blamed for surge in accident deaths

The roads in Oklahoma and other U.S. states have become more congested, and this has led to an alarming increase in traffic accident fatalities. Experts say that Americans are traveling more because the economy is performing well and gas prices are low, and they expect growth to continue for the next few years. This has road safety advocates concerned because advances in vehicle design and safety technology do not seem to be enough to keep road deaths in check.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety once concluded that improvements in automotive safety features were largely responsible for reducing driver deaths by about a third, but the nonprofit group now concedes that even the latest accident avoidance systems did not prevent traffic accident fatalities from increasing by 7 percent in 2015 from the previous year. Figures from NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System suggest that the final death toll for 2016 will be even higher.

Planning to marry? Plan for a prenuptial agreement as well.

Planning a wedding is an exciting time, but it is important for Oklahoma couples to focus on their long-term futures, not just one day out of their lives. From financial planning to saving for a home, there are many ways that you can keep an eye on a strong future beyond the wedding day. One of the other ways that you can do this is by drafting a prenuptial agreement.

You may be hesitant to think that you could benefit from a prenuptial agreement, but in reality, it can be both smart and practical for couples of all income levels and assets. Contrary to what many people believe about it, a prenuptial agreement is not planning for a marriage to fail; rather, it is a way to ensure the protection of the interests of both parties.

Caution urged on driverless car testing

Many Oklahoma motorists have likely been following news reports describing the ongoing development of self-driving car technology. Google has been testing autonomous vehicles for quite some time, and other car makers have gotten into the effort as well. For example, Ford Motor Company has announced its intention to have its autonomous vehicles in operation by 2021, backed by a $1 billion investment in an artificial intelligence company.

However, these efforts have not received universal acclaim. Some safety groups have expressed concern that early models need to be certified by their manufacturers before they are tested on public roadways. One group believes that fewer vehicles should be allowed to be tested than the number that has been proposed in legislation under consideration by a House of Representatives committee. A New Jersey congressman has stated that there should be input from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration before this legislation is voted on. However, there's currently a vacancy at the head of that agency.

Nearly 80 percent of drivers engage in road rage

Nearly 80 percent of drivers in Oklahoma and across the U.S. have engaged in some form of road rage during the previous 12 months, if the data revealed by a 2016 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety continues to hold form. Worse, 4 percent of drivers have gotten out of their car to confront another driver, and 3 percent purposely hit another vehicle.

The study found that the most common form of road rage was purposeful tailgating, with 51 percent of drivers admitting to the behavior. Meanwhile, 47 percent of drivers admitted to yelling at another driver, 45 percent said that had honked at another vehicle in anger and 33 percent said that had made an angry gesture. The study also found that male drivers and drivers between the ages of 19 and 39 were more likely to engage in road rage. Further, men were three times more likely than women to engage in the most extreme forms of driver aggression, such as exiting their cars to confront another driver or colliding with another car on purpose.

What to do after a traffic accident

Anyone can be involved in a traffic accident, and while everyone hopes not to be, it is always a good idea to be prepared and informed about what to do in the event of a collision. There are some steps Oklahoma drivers can take if this happens to them.

Remaining calm after a traffic collision is important. The driver can assess the situation, seek immediate medical help if necessary and assist other people involved in the collision. Another immediate step that should be taken is to gather information about the incident, including getting the name, address, telephone number, license plate and insurance information of the other driver involved as well as the contact information of witnesses to the accident. Some information about the accident site is also a good idea, particularly if the other driver leaves the scene.

The process of gaining custody of a sibling

If circumstances warrant, a person may ask for custody of a sibling. However, an Oklahoma court will need to make sure that whoever makes the request is financially able to support the sibling and mature enough to do so as well. Sibling custody battles may also be difficult in the event that the child's parent is still alive. In some cases, a parent may voluntarily relinquish custody, which may eliminate the need for a battle.

If there is a need to go to court to ask for custody, an application should be filed where the child and that child's guardian live. Applications may be filed in whatever jurisdiction is most appropriate if the child doesn't live with his or her guardian. If the person seeking custody is already the legal guardian, an application may be filed wherever that individual lives.

Facing DUI or DWI? Don't get run over by the system

After working hard all day, you may have stopped to have a couple of drinks with your buddies. On the way home, you heard the sirens before you saw the flashing lights in your rearview mirror. After talking to the officer, you found yourself taking field sobriety tests and breathing into a breath-testing machine.

The next thing you know, you're in the back of the police car on your way to jail. You had only had a couple of beers, and you didn't feel drunk when you got behind the wheel. Why did your breath test land you behind bars?

Driver fatality rates for different types of vehicles

Oklahoma drivers might be less safe in passenger cars than other vehicles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has conducted a study of vehicle safety and found that drivers of minivans, pickups and SUVs may be safer than drivers of passenger cars. The study looked at driver fatalities per 1 million registered vehicles and found that the average number of driver fatalities for all types of passenger vehicles was 30. The rate for passenger cars was 39. Minivans had 19 while for SUVs the number was 21. For pickups, it was 26.

The IIHS looked at data for the model years 2011 to 2014. However, the organization said the data was not entirely accurate regarding vehicle safety. It did not look at passenger fatalities, and in order to be included, vehicles needed to have 100,000 registered vehicle years. For some vehicles, the sample size was small while other types of vehicles were excluded altogether. According to the vice-president of research at the IIHS, vehicles that had both few driver fatalities and a large sample size could be considered safer.

The advantages of nesting for the children in a divorce

Divorced parents in Oklahoma may be interested in nesting, a relatively new concept to emerge in co-parenting plans. This arrangement flips around the usual concept of co-parenting. In nesting, the parents are the ones who relocate in and out of the home while the kids remain in a stable and familiar environment.

There are numerous advantages to nesting that could benefit children and make the divorce process less difficult for them. The parents will be the ones primarily shouldering the burdens of change while the children get to stay in a familiar place. It is likely that children will be able to remain in the same school, keep the same contact with friends and maintain living arrangements in the family home. This consistency is something that many separating parents struggle to give their children during and after the divorce.