As New Years Eve Approaches…

2013 is just about to wind down, and at Midnight on Wednesday, 1 January 2014 is the dawn of a new year.  We’ve had more traffic pattern changes out there on Interstate 275, especially the recent traffic pattern change that has motorists from southbound Interstate 275 exiting onto Himes Avenue (Exit 41C) from the left lane as part of the mega-reconstruction project that is supposed to wrap up around the later part of 2016.  Believe me, it will be a better Interstate 275 in Tampa when it’s all said and done.
Now that New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day is fast approaching, it’s time for my annual reminder on celebrating the holidays safely, whether it is New Year’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July or any other holiday throughout the year including the unofficial holiday of Super Bowl Sunday.  You can find my tips to celebrate the holidays right here at Interstate275Florida.com (link will open a PDF document in a new window).
Just remember, if you are celebrating New Year’s Eve and the beginning of 2014 and alcoholic beverages are part of the celebrations, may I give you some words of advice, especially if you had too much?


1.  Designate a driver to take you home.


2.  Call a taxi cab and have a taxi cab driver take you home.


3.  Call AAA’s Tow To Go at 1 (855) 286-9246.


4.  Stay the night at a friend’s house.


5.  Stay the night at a hotel, such as the Hilton Downtown St. Petersburg Bayfront, the Hampton Inn Downtown St. Petersburg, the Hampton Inn in Ybor City in Tampa or any other hotel in the Tampa/St. Petersburg region.  Rates may be high for New Year’s Eve, but it’s better to spend $150-$175 for one night’s hotel room than spending at least $10,000 defending yourself against a DUI charge, if not more.  (Not to mention spending the first few hours of 2014 in the Pinellas or Hillsborough County Jails in their respective booking and holding areas, as you will not be able to even make bail until you are sober enough). 
 
6.  The Tampa Bay region’s law enforcement agencies – such as the Florida Highway Patrol, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the St. Petersburg Police Department and Tampa Police Department, just to name a few – will be out in full force New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Morning with active patrols looking for impaired drivers as well as the use of DUI checkpoints.  If you are pulled over and caught, you will be arrested for DUI.  Once the officer or FHP trooper puts those nickel plated law enforcement regulation handcuffs on you behind your back it is the beginning of what lies ahead as far as a DUI arrest is concerned.

 
7.  DUI can have serious ramifications as far as your future is concerned – your job, your career, even taking a trip to Canada.  (Convicted of a DUI?  You will have an extremely hard time entering Canada for a vacation trip!)  Besides, your auto insurance rates will soar right through the roof, so much that you will be a high risk driver and insurance companies will either charge you extremely high rates or drop you altogether. 
 
And one more thing:  Forget about renting a car if you were recently convicted of a DUI – the major car rental agencies, such as Alamo and Dollar, do check driving records with the swipe of your driver’s license; all it takes is for the car rental agent to find out that you had a recent DUI conviction and the agent denies your rental.  Besides, it’s way more embarrassing than your credit card being declined. 
 
And you will have a record for a DUI, even if it’s your first time.  Florida law prohibits judges from withholding adjudication of guilt on any DUI charge, if you are found guilty.
 
Sobering?  New Year’s Eve, the stroke of midnight, the sounds of Auld Lang Syne and the sun rising on 2014 doesn’t have to end in a DUI arrest, or worse. 
 
As we did with 2013, let’s start 2014 with New Year’s Day on a positive note!  Happy New Year from Interstate275Florida.com!

As the sun sets on 2012 and the sun rises on 2013

As the sun starts to set on 2012, perhaps we can start on an Interstate 275 related topic – transit related, that is.

You probably know this already, but we are one of the few metropolitan areas in the United States that has no meaningful mass transit system.  In other words, we have just buses with schedules that are most of the time inconvenient.  Translation:  Owning a car is mandatory, unless you are lucky enough to live close to work (such as downtown St. Petersburg or downtown Tampa, for example).

For the Tampa Bay region (Tampa/St. Petersburg) to succeed and be competitive with other metropolitan areas in the country, our region’s transit system needs a complete overhaul to include rail based mass transit.  Sure we can widen Interstate 275 in Tampa to eight lanes but it comes with a major price tag:  Land acquisition on either side of Interstate 275 in order to make the expansion among other things.  In other words, simply widening Interstate 275 is not enough to fix our region’s transit woes.


I came across this article I found in The Tampa Tribune about bus service between downtown Tampa and Tampa International Airport.  According to that article, it is possible to ride a HART (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit) bus from downtown Tampa to Tampa International Airport to help save on uber expensive taxi cab fare but there is one catch:  Transit time between the airport and downtown is 42 minutes, give or take, and the route follows not Interstate 275 but Kennedy Blvd. (FL 60).

You know what taking Kennedy Blvd. to downtown from the airport and vice versa is, especially if traffic on Interstate 275 is backed up due to an accident and you have to use Kennedy Blvd. as an alternate route:  Several traffic signals and yet another major backup during the weekday on eastbound Kennedy Blvd. when you get past Lois Avenue, as Kennedy Blvd. narrows from three to two eastbound lanes just before Dale Mabry Highway (US 92).  The end result is stop and go traffic, which motorists and buses are subjected to daily.


The solution, according to The Tampa Tribune article, is this:  Transit service between downtown Tampa and Tampa International Airport can be made quicker but not using a rail-based solution.  Instead, the plan calls for bus rapid transit between the two locations utilizing not Kennedy Blvd. but Interstate 275.  That might sound OK, but I think bus rapid transit is not enough (in fact, not even the answer).  Why?

Even if such a route utilizes Interstate 275 between downtown Tampa and Tampa International Airport, buses would be subjected to the same delay as motorists, especially if there is an accident causing a partial or complete closure of Interstate 275 at some point requiring traffic to detour.  In downtown Tampa between the Marion Street Transit Center and Interstate 275 at Ashley/Tampa Streets (Exit 44), buses would have specialized equipment on board that would change traffic signals in favor of the bus.  Again, once a bus is on city streets it is basically subject to the same traffic delays as motorists are.

With the widening of Interstate 275 between the exit for Tampa International Airport (FL 60, Exit 39) and downtown Tampa just before the Hillsborough River now taking place, there is ample space in the median to accommodate rail based mass transit – a commuter rail line, a light rail line or even Amtrak service to St. Petersburg (which has not seen an Amtrak train since 1984; all Amtrak service is out of Tampa Union Station as we know today)!  Using that space in the newly expanded Interstate 275 median thanks to the widening that is taking place, perhaps a light rail line could be constructed between downtown Tampa and Tampa International Airport, perhaps as the first line of a network of light and/or commuter rail lines linking Tampa with St. Petersburg, Clearwater, New Tampa and other locations in the Tampa Bay region with buses providing the feeder service into the rail system.

Perhaps the folks at HART as well as TBARTA (the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority) ought to revisit transit between downtown Tampa and Tampa International Airport from a rail based perspective rather than a bus based perspective.  From what I have read, studies have shown that rail based transit leaves less of a carbon footprint in that electricity is used (especially for light rail systems – if you want an example, look no further than the TECO Streetcar Line that connects downtown Tampa with Ybor City, but the electric lines can be fixed using a third rail concept to make the surrounding area more appealing), rather than using diesel fuel as buses use today.  Commuter rail and Amtrak, from what I understand, uses diesel fueled locomotives but their consumption is greatly reduced when you compare it to a bus that uses regular streets and highways.

(After all, rail based transit runs on dedicated right of way while bus based transit is a part of regular highway traffic.  Even if bus rapid transit is implemented with a dedicated bus lane, still buses would have to stop for traffic signals even though there is equipment installed that would give the bus priority.  However, dedicated bus lanes can’t be everywhere depending on where the lanes are installed.)


In fact, a recent Bay News 9 I-Poll asks this question:  Do you think the Tampa Bay region is ready to support a light rail system?  As of 30 December 2012, 51% is saying yes while only 44% are not.  I think the people of Tampa and Hillsborough County are getting the message when they defeated a measure on the ballot that would allow a light rail system to be constructed using tax monies to finance its construction.  To me, I think the reality of congested traffic and longer commutes is setting in, and it is pronounced as every year goes by in the Tampa Bay region without a reliable and workable mass transit system based on more choices than what we have today.

And another Tampa Bay region mass transit issue should be fixed if and when the day light and/or commuter rail comes:  The merger of HART and PSTA (Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority) into one system, run by TBARTA which would be a comprehensive mix of light rail, commuter rail and buses.

OK.  Let’s change gears and head towards the sun rising on 2013 and the new year.

Every New Year’s Eve I put out a reminder on celebrating the holidays safely, whether it may be New Year’s Eve, 4th of July or even the unofficial holiday of Super Bowl Sunday.  You can find these tips to celebrate the holidays such as New Year’s Eve safely right here at Interstate275Florida.com (this link will open a PDF document in a new window).

Just remember, if you are celebrating New Year’s Eve and the beginning of 2013 and alcoholic beverages are part of the celebrations, may I give you some words of advice, especially if you had too much?

1.  Designate a driver to take you home.

2.  Call a taxi cab and have a taxi cab driver take you home.

3.  Call AAA’s Tow To Go at 1 (855) 286-9246, according to this recent St. Petersburg Times Dr. Delay article.

4.  Stay the night at a friend’s house.

5.  Stay the night at a hotel, such as the Hilton Downtown St. Petersburg Bayfront, the Hampton Inn Downtown St. Petersburg or any other hotel in the Tampa/St. Petersburg region.  Rates may be high for New Year’s Eve, but it’s better to spend $150-$175 for one night’s hotel room than spending at least $10,000 defending yourself against a DUI charge, if not more.  (Not to mention spending the first few hours of 2013 in the Pinellas or Hillsborough County Jails in their respective booking and holding areas, as you will not be able to even make bail until you are sober enough).

6.  The Tampa Bay region’s law enforcement agencies – such as the Florida Highway Patrol, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the St. Petersburg Police Department and Tampa Police Department, just to name a few – will be out in full force New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Morning with active patrols looking for impaired drivers as well as the use of DUI checkpoints.  If you are pulled over and caught, you will be arrested for DUI.  Once the officer or FHP trooper puts those nickel plated law enforcement regulation handcuffs on you behind your back it is the beginning of what lies ahead as far as a DUI arrest is concerned.


7.  DUI can have serious ramifications as far as your future is concerned – your job, your career, even taking a trip to Canada.  (Convicted of a DUI?  You will have an extremely hard time entering Canada for a vacation trip!)  Besides, your auto insurance rates will soar right through the roof, so much that you will be a high risk driver and insurance companies will either charge you extremely high rates or drop you altogether.

And one more thing:  Forget about renting a car if you were recently convicted of a DUI – the major car rental agencies, such as Alamo and Dollar, do check driving records with the swipe of your driver’s license; all it takes is for the car rental agent to find out that you had a recent DUI conviction and the agent denies your rental.  Besides, it’s way more embarassing than your credit card being declined.

And you will have a record for a DUI, even if it’s your first time.  Florida law prohibits judges from withholding adjudication of guilt on any DUI charge, if you are found guilty.

Sobering?  New Year’s Eve, the stroke of midnight and the sun rising on 2013 doesn’t have to end in a DUI arrest, or worse.

Let’s start 2013 with New Year’s Day on a positive note!  Happy New Year from Interstate275Florida.com!

The Sunset of 2011 and the Sunrise of 2012

It’s New Year’s Eve, and that means everyone will be out there partying until the stroke of Midnight when 2011 gives way to 2012. However, New Years Eve can be a memorable experience for you if you celebrate responsibly.

I posted some helpful tips on celebrating New Year’s Eve safely that was inspired by a Bay News 9 article on this subject. I recently expanded this topic and turned these tips into a PDF document which I have made available on Interstate275Florida.com on a permanent basis simply by clicking on this link. It’s easy to celebrate the holidays safely, and it’s not just restricted to New Year’s Eve.

I put these tips here as a reminder of the most common danger of being out and about on New Year’s Eve (as well as any other major holiday), especially out there on Interstate 275 as well as other major highways in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area: Drinking and driving. I post these tips out there as a public service in the hope that needless accidents can be prevented, especially around New Year’s Eve.

After all, the Florida Highway Patrol – along with other law enforcement agencies in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area – will be out in full force looking out for impaired drivers. If you drink and get behind the wheel, and a state trooper sees you driving erraticly or you have the misfortune of going through a DUI checkpoint, expect to spend the beginning of the new year with a pair of steel handcuffs, placed behind your back and double locked, and being taken to either the Pinellas or Hillsborough County Jail depending on where you get arrested and spending time in a holding cell until you sober up.

As a reminder, if your New Year’s Eve celebrations include drinking, please, please do one of three things:

1. Designate a driver.

2. Call a taxi to take you home. You can retrieve your car the next day.

3. Spend the night at a hotel or a friend’s house. Even if rates are high for New Year’s Eve or any other major holiday, it’s much better (and much cheaper) to pay for a room at the Hilton Downtown St. Petersburg Bayfront or any other hotel than face the consequences of DUI if you are caught.

Ask yourself: Would you rather pay $120 for a hotel room for one night or $20,000 for taking a chance by drinking and driving? Let’s see:

$120: Can pay for one night’s hotel room on New Year’s Eve (approximately).

$20,000: Can pay for your first DUI, and we’re talking DUI that does not involve property damage, bodily injury or even death. It includes, among other things:

Court imposed fines
Court imposed costs
Attorney’s fees
Cost for ignition interlock
Cost to retrieve your vehicle from the impound lot
Mandatory DUI school
Increased insurance costs
And the list goes on and on…

It’s your choice.

Again, do yourself a favor and if you had even one drink, don’t get behind the wheel and drive! Let’s start 2012 on the right note!

Reminder on Etiquette when approaching a Toll Plaza and Other Things

It’s the holiday season, and traffic is heavier than usual on the interstates and toll roads of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. Unfortunately, I don’t like to say this but I have seen a lack of etiquette out there on the roads especially during the holiday season.

For instance, I took a side trip to Tarpon Springs recently when I was trying to turn left from southbound US 19 onto eastbound Keystone Road, which is undergoing a transformation from two lanes to four lanes from US 19 to East Lake Road (CR 611). Unfortunately, the protected left turn signal only let just a few cars through and the lane closures on Keystone Road was causing left turning traffic to block the northbound lanes of extremely busy US 19. As the left turn signal changed from green to red I had no choice but to stop and wait for the next signal to avoid being stranded out in the intersection as well as avoid a ticket for running a red light.

Unfortunately, a gentleman driving a SUV behind me did not like my careful operation of my vehicle in accordance with Chapter 316 of the Florida Statutes. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw him making threatening gestures at me, including yelling at me apparently telling me to break the law so that he can get to the CVS Pharmacy on the southeast corner of US 19 and Keystone Road. Luckily, the man in the SUV behind me did not do anything more serious as there was a Tarpon Springs Police officer on eastbound Keystone Road waiting to cross US 19.

I cannot understand why the man in the SUV behind me had to be in a hurry for. Was it because he had to pick up a prescription at the CVS Pharmacy in a hurry? (Hey, CVS Pharmacy has late hours). Was it also that the man in the SUV was in a hurry to get Christmas shopping done? These questions I won’t know the answer to.

OK. Getting back on topic here.

Let’s say you are at a toll plaza and you enter the SunPass only lane by mistake. Or, you enter the Selmon Crosstown Expressway and you do not have a SunPass. What do you do?

First and foremost, do NOT stop or turn around – not only it is illegal, it is dangerous! Simply drive through the SunPass lane – your license plate will be captured by way of a photo image and you will be sent a bill for the toll(s) owed. Instructions on how to pay for the missed toll(s) are on the bill that you would receive.

In fact, here’s the perfect stocking stuffer you can get – a SunPass transponder and account for your vehicle. With a SunPass, you can pay reduced toll rates for those with SunPass transponders than those paying with cash. Besides, more and more toll plazas are being converted from the traditional method of toll collection to all electronic toll collection. The SunPass web site has more details including where you can go to pick up your own SunPass transponder as well as how to set up your SunPass account.

Now here are some more road etiquette tips for you motorists out there:

That conversation or business deal on that cell phone or smartphone can wait until you arrive at your destination safely. Same thing goes for texting too.

If you have to be at a place at a certain time (such as getting to your flight at Tampa International Airport or getting to work on time), please leave early. That way, you can arrive at your destination with even a few more minutes to spare!

Take it easy in those crowded mall and shopping center parking lots. In fact, why don’t you drop off your party at the front entrance so that you can park the car and then you can join your party inside at a predetermined location after you are settled in. Besides, everyone will be happy campers.

Handicap parking spaces are only for those with a handicap parking placard and are handicapped. If you happen to have someone’s handicap parking placard and you are not handicapped, don’t abuse the privilege.

Don’t speed or tailgate your fellow motorists out there on our highways in an attempt to be somewhere on time. Not only it’s against the law and you can get an expensive traffic ticket, you are also throwing money away on gasoline too. Besides, the money you save by not speeding or tailgating you can use it on Christmas shopping!

And one more thing: PLEASE DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE! Especially when New Year’s Eve rolls around, it’s much better to stay overnight – whether it may be a friend’s house or a hotel room such as the Hilton Downtown St. Petersburg (even if the rooms are pricey for New Year’s Eve) – than spend the New Year in the booking area of the Pinellas or Hillsborough County Jails. Besides, it costs about $20,000 when you factor in fines, court costs, attorney’s fees, etc. for a DUI – and we’re talking first offense DUI here.

So, enjoy the holiday season and beyond in 2012.

NOTE: Comments are closed for this blog entry.

New way to get to the Interstate 275 Florida Blog and New Year’s Eve

2010 is just about to come to a close and 2011 will be on the horizon. With New Year’s Eve approaching there will be a lot of people out there ringing in 2011!

First, a new way to get to the Interstate 275 Florida blog. All you have to do is to type in blog.interstate275florida.com in your browser’s address bar and that will take you straight to the Interstate 275 Florida Blog! Of course I have also updated the link to the Interstate 275 Florida Blog right from my blog intro page on Interstate275Florida.com and you can also get here using that link if you would like. Just another way I make content easier for you to access here at Interstate275Florida.com.

If you have a bookmark to the Interstate 275 Florida Blog, you may want to update it to reflect the new blog.interstate275florida.com URL address. This is important, especially if your bookmark to this blog has the BlogInterstate275Florida.com domain name address as the BlogInterstate275Florida.com domain will be retired soon.

OK. Let’s move on to a more important subject concerning New Year’s Eve, and that is celebrating New Year’s Eve responsibly.

Last year around this time I posted some helpful tips on celebrating New Year’s Eve safely inspired by a Bay News 9 article on this subject. I recently expanded this topic and turned these tips into a PDF document which is available on Interstate275Florida.com simply by clicking on this link. It’s easy to celebrate the holidays safely, and it’s not just restricted to New Year’s Eve.

I put these tips here every year as a reminder of the most common danger of being out and about on New Year’s Eve, especially out there on Interstate 275: Drinking and driving. I post these tips out there as a public service in the hope that needless accidents can be prevented.

As a reminder, if your New Year’s Eve celebrations include drinking, please, please do one of three things:

1. Designate a driver.

2. Call a taxi to take you home. You can retrieve your car the next day.

3. Spend the night at a hotel or a friend’s house. Even if rates are high for New Year’s Eve or any other major holiday, it’s much better (and much cheaper) to pay for a room at the Hilton Downtown St. Petersburg Bayfront or any other hotel than face the consequences of DUI if you are caught. (Ask yourself: Would you rather pay $120 for a hotel room or $20,000 for taking a chance by drinking and driving?)

Again, do yourself a favor and if you had even one drink, don’t get behind the wheel and drive! Let’s start 2011 on the right note!

New Year’s Eve

As 2009 draws to a close and 2010 is on the horizon, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year from Interstate275Florida.com and the Interstate 275 Florida Blog.

With New Years Eve quickly approaching and New Years Day on the horizon, there is going to be plenty of people out and about celebrating the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010. However, the most common danger of New Years Eve as far as Interstate 275 is concerned is drinking and driving. Here is a comment I made to a story that Bay News 9 had on tips to celebrate New Years Eve safely (I have expanded on more information that you will only find on this blog entry), and I am posting this here as a public service:

If you plan on celebrating New Years Eve and plan on drinking, please either designate a driver, call a taxi to take you home or if you have a hotel room (or a friend’s place) to spend the night, do so.

As this article on Bay News 9 proves, the Florida Highway Patrol (along with sheriffs and police agencies in the Tampa Bay region) will be patrolling major roads including Interstate 275. If you are caught, expect to ring in the new year wearing a pair of steel nickel plated handcuffs (double locked and behind your back), being placed in the back seat of the cruiser, and being transported to the county jail depending on where you are caught – at least until you are sober enough. That means you will not be able to bond out until you are sober enough.

The legal limit in the State of Florida is .08

Add to that fines, court costs, attorneys fees, driver license revocation, possible jail term depending on your record, and absolutely no withholding of adjudication of guilt – if you’re caught and convicted, it will haunt your driving record for the rest of your life as Florida law prohibits judges from withholding adjudication of guilt on DUI.

Let’s look at these a little closely with a little help from the folks over at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles at their DUI information page. This is if you are caught for the first time:

Fines: Not less than $500 and not more than $1,000. If you blow a .15 or more on the breathalyzer then the fines increase to not less than $1,000 and not more than $2,000. That’s a couple car loan payments for starters.

Community Service: Mandatory 50 hours of community service or additional fine at the rate of $10 per hour. Imagine spending your weekends at some kind of community service project rather than doing something you like, and you got to work during the week.

Imprisonment: Up to 6 months in the county jail at the discretion of the judge. If you blow a .15 or more on the breathalyzer then it’s up to 9 months. Do you want to spend half a year at least in a facility where your freedom of movement is restricted and in a jail cell? Those jail cell locks are not your typical house locks.

Probation: Up to one year, which can include a mixture of both imprisonment and probation.

DUI School: Mandatory DUI school before you get your drivers license back, no ifs, ands or buts. DUI school can be quite costly!

Impoundment of Motor Vehicle: Your vehicle is taken away from you for 10 days, and don’t expect to get it back if the judge send you to jail for DUI. The 10 days start when you are released, not when you are sentenced. Imagine that luxury SUV you like so much is now impounded all because of your decision.

Property Damage: If you damage any property while you are under the influence, then the charges become a first degree Misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to one year in the county jail.

Bodily Injury as a result of DUI: Now we’re talking serious Felony charges. Fines of up to $5,000 and/or up to five years in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections. You got that right, state correctional institution.

Loss of Life as a result of DUI: This is a very serious matter here. Now we’re talking second degree Felony charges with a $10,000 fine and/or 15 years in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections. This is DUI/Manslaughter. Just ask the man in Tampa who took my grandmother’s life on 25 May 1990 on South Westshore Blvd and West Leila Avenue.

Drivers License: At least six months revocation of your driving privilege. That means your ticket to drive is taken away from you. However, if you are convicted of DUI/Manslaughter then the drivers license revocation is permanent.

Driving Record: If you are convicted of DUI, you are adjudicated guilty of DUI. That means you will have a DUI record for the rest of your life, as Florida law prohibits judges from withholding adjudication of guilt for any DUI offense. This means your insurance rates will go right through the roof, so much that some insurance companies have the right to refuse to insure you. This also means you can lose your job and have plenty of difficulty finding another job (after all, nearly all employment applications ask you if you have been convicted of a crime including DUI).

And one more thing, while we’re on the subject of driving record and DUI: You will not be able to visit Canada for a period of time if you are convicted of DUI in Florida or another state. From what I understand DUI in Canada is an indictable (felony) offense. Want proof? See the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website for more information on the impact of travel to Canada following a DUI conviction.

Finally, the cost of drunk driving can be a lot more than the Florida Highway Patrol trooper (or sheriff deputy or police officer) that arrests you and the jail, court date and fines/probation/jail that follow after conviction – it can be deadly and it can have lifetime consequences as described above.

Please, folks, do yourself a favor and if you had even one drink, don’t get behind the wheel and drive! Let’s start 2010 on the right note!