Unequal DUI laws

Q&A with Sharon Peters

Q: My nephew has been picked up for driving impaired at least four times. Very little in the way of punishment ever happens. And still he drives. In my part of the country, he would have lost his license years ago, and probably would have done time. He lives in Pennsylvania. Is that known as a state that does nothing about DUI?

A: You are correct in supposing that law enforcement/ courts can treat such individuals very differently from state to state. Pennsylvania is among the 10 most lenient states (ranking number 49 out of the 50 states and District of Columbia) when it comes to how strictly DUIs are approached, according to WalletHub, which did a recent analysis of DUI enforcement rules across the country. The group examined 15 metrics, including minimum jail sentences to ignition interlock devices (which are regarded by many as a highly effective deterrent to keeping drivers who have driven drunk or stoned in the past from repeating that behavior).

Any number of approaches could be used, of course, to assess how harsh or lenient the laws relating to DUI are written … and, especially, applied. This methodology may or may not lock in on all that contributes to whether a state is a crackdown state or a soft one.

MADD, using different methodology, also put together a list of the 14 most lenient states. Pennsylvania was on that group’s list, too.

All this seems to confirm your suspicions.

Readers comment: Several terrific readers got in touch with me after a recent column in which I answered a question about gas caps not consistently being on the same side of cars, and that can lead to confusion at the pumps when one is driving a rental car or the vehicle of a spouse or someone else. “I agree with all you wrote,” one reader commented, “that it would be easier if you could count on them being on one side or the other. You should have pointed out, though, as I remember you did several months ago, that in most vehicles there is a symbol on the gas gauge that indicates which side the gas cap is on.” Indeed I should have. I always appreciate the reminders!

© CTW Features

What’s your question? Sharon Peters would like to hear about what’s on your mind when it comes to caring for, driving and repairing your vehicle. Email Sharon@ctwfeatures.com.

Automakers accelerating on auto-braking

By Jim Gorzelany
CTW Features

 Your next car could apply the brakes on its own to help avoid a collision Your next car could apply the brakes on its own to help avoid a collision Perhaps as the first step toward driverless cars, expect advanced safety systems that can help drivers avoid, or at least lessen the effects of a crash to become widespread in the not-too-distant future.

Ten automakers recently committed to making the potentially life saving systems standard in all their vehicles sold in the U.S., presumably over the next few model years. They include Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes- Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo. Together, these companies were responsible for 57 percent of U.S. light-duty vehicle sales in 2014.

Other automakers could follow suit, and has been the case with important safety features like antilock brakes and electronic stability control, there’s a possibility frontal crash protection could one day be mandated for use in all cars by the federal government.

Until recently limited to the luxury car segment, frontal crashavoidance systems are fast becoming prevalent among more affordable cars and crossovers, though they’re usually offered only on costlier versions within a given car line, and are often bundled with other features in expensive options packages.

A forward collision warning/prevention system uses radar, cameras or lasers to monitor the distance between a vehicle and the traffic or other obstructions in its path. The same hardware is also used in a vehicle’s adaptive cruise control system that maintains both a set speed and distance from the traffic ahead. Basic systems will engage visual and audible alerts if it determines the car is closing in at a potentially hazardous rate of speed and pre-charge the brakes to maximize their stopping power. A full-blown collision avoidance system will go a step further and automatically apply the brakes at full force if the driver isn’t reacting quickly enough.

Most such systems operate at higher speeds with the intent of saving lives, though a few models, specifically those from Volvo and Mazda, are also selling separate auto-braking systems that operate at slower speeds to avoid fender benders in stop-and-go traffic. A few Infiniti models further offer lowspeed systems that will automatically apply the brakes while backing up to avoid hitting pedestrians and other vehicles.

According to a report conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Arlington, Va., autobraking technology can reduce insurance injury claims by as much as 35 percent. “The evidence is mounting that AEB is making a difference,” says IIHS’ president Adrian Lund. “Most crashes involve driver error. This technology can compensate for the mistakes every driver makes because the systems are always on alert, monitoring the road ahead and never getting tired or distracted.”

In order for a vehicle to earn IIHS’s highest Top Safety Pick+ designation, it must offer an automatic braking system in one or more of its versions. Vehicles earning a “superior” rating are able to successfully avoid a crash or substantially reduce a vehicle’s speed in tests conducted at 12 and 25 mph. To garner an “advanced” rating a vehicle must include an autobraking function and be able to avoid a crash or reduce speeds by at least 5 mph in either of the two tests. Forward collision warning systems that meet performance criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and autobrake systems that provide only minimal speed reduction in IIHS tests earn a “basic” rating.

As of this writing, the IIHS has given a record number of models a “superior” rating for forward crash avoidance when properly equipped, including the 2016 Acura ILX, MDX, RDX and RLX; 2016 BMW X3; 2015 Chrysler 300 and its twin, the 2015 Dodge Charger; 2016 Honda Accord Coupe and Sedan, 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, CLA and E-Class; and the 2016 Mazda 6 and CX-5. The 2016 Volkswagen Golf, Golf SportWagen, Jetta and 2015 Volkswagen Touareg are deemed “advanced” for front crash prevention.

© CTW Features

Real estate investing for beginners

On the heels of a recession that saw home values drop, many would-be investors have shied away from buying investment properties. But real estate has historically remained a sound investment, boasting a long-term appreciation rate that makes it a worthwhile investment for those who can withstand temporary setbacks in housing prices and hold on to their properties over the long haul.

But investors are often nervous as they look for their first properties. Uncertainty about housing prices aside, investing in real estate also is risky, and first-time investors need to be comfortable with such risk in order to make the most of their investments. The following are a few things potential real estate investors should consider as they decide if investing in real estate is right for them.

Personal ability

Real estate investors typically have tenants, and those tenants inevitably have needs. Investors who have experience as contractors may not find it difficult to renovate a property and make it more attractive to tenants, nor are they likely to be inconvenienced when minor issues on the property need to be addressed. Investors with no such experience will need to hire contractors to do the work for them, cutting into potential profits down the road. In addition, investors who don’t have the ability and/or the time to address minor issues like a clogged drain or a drafty window on their own will need to hire a property management firm to tend to such needs. Such firms are effective, but also expensive, further cutting into your profits. Even those investors with contracting experience may have little or no knowledge of how the leasing process works, forcing them to rely on a real estate firm to write up leases and ensure all leases stay current. This, too, can cut into an investor’s profits. Investors who don’t bring any relevant expertise to the table can still make a profit from their real estate investments, but those profits likely won’t be as significant when outside companies must be hired to ensure the property is in good shape and all necessary documents are in order and up-to-date.

Time

Real estate is often a time-consuming investment. Tenants pay good money to live in attractive rental properties, and those tenants will have a host of needs that must be met. Investors must be sure they have the time to address their tenants’ concerns, especially investors with no plans to hire property management firms. Potential investors who already have full plates at work and at home may not be able to devote the time necessary to make the most of their real estate investments, and therefore might be better off finding another way to invest their money.

Time also must be considered when considering profits. Real estate is not the type of investment that turns a profit overnight. Even investors who are looking to invest in an up-and-coming neighborhood must be prepared to hold onto their properties for at least a few years, if not much longer, to maximize their investments. Though real estate is a sound investment, it is not a get rich quick type of investment, so investors looking to make a quick buck should consider alternatives before buying investment properties.

Size

First-time real estate investors might be wise to choose a smaller property for their initial investment. Larger properties can be overwhelming to manage, and investors often rely on property management firms to tend to these properties. Such firms charge more to manage bigger properties, which can eat into investors’ finances. Veteran investors can handle such overhead costs, but first-timers might find themselves caught off guard upon realizing the gravity of their financial commitment. A good rule of thumb for first-time investors is to stick to smaller properties, only moving on to larger buildings once they are fully comfortable with all that comes with investing in real estate.

Costs

The cost of a real estate investment goes beyond the purchase price of the home. In addition to the mortgage on the property, investors must pay the taxes and insurance on the property, as well as any costs associated with maintaining and managing the property. Certain tax breaks are available to real estate investors depending on where they live. For example, in the United States, taxes on the profits when a property is sold may be deferred if those profits are immediately rolled into another property (such a deferment is only available to those investors who arrange this exchange prior to selling the initial property). Potential investors need to consider all of these costs, and might want to hire a real estate lawyer to help them make the most of their investments and any profits they yield. But even hiring an attorney is an additional cost investors must consider before investing.

SPORT SHORTS

The Edison Wizards Lacrosse Club is announcing registration for two boys teams: for grades 5-6 and grades 7-8.

Players will learn to play lacrosse from experienced coaches and players. The cost of registration is $100. Players are required to supply their own equipment.

Practice will be twice a week starting early March 2016. Games will be played on Friday nights and Saturdays.

Please visit www.wizardslax.com for information regarding registration. Call 732-710-0310 for further information.

Expectations high for Monroe girls

MONROE TOWNSHIP

By JIMMY ALLINDER
Correspondent

The Monroe Township High School girls’ basketball team is on a mission. Last year, the Falcons finished 21-6 but dropped the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) title to Piscataway Township High School in the championship game and were eliminated by Marlboro High School in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV semifinals. Monroe is hoping the results will be different with the return of a seasoned cast of veterans that hopefully make up for graduation losses.

“We definitely have high expectations for this year, but we have big shoes to fill,” head coach Leigh Vogtman said. “I’m confident we understand the work that has to be put in each day in order to match or exceed the achievements we had last year. We had the opportunity to take our program to new heights over the last two seasons, so we are looking to build on that.”

The big shoes Vogtman references are the departures of point guard and outstanding ball-handler Erica Junquet, who is now at Trinity College, and forward Cindy Foresta, who was a strong presence in the pivot. However, there is an abundance of experienced talent that should make up for those graduation losses.

Senior Hannah Fisher and junior Casey Filiault are both capable guards with excellent ball skills who can assume the controls of quarterbacking the team. The Falcons will also have athletic depth in the paint with seniors Ashlyn Petersen, Erin Seppi and Grace Martini. Petersen is committed to Franklin & Marshall University to play basketball, Seppi is headed to the University of Maryland and will be a goaltender for the soccer team and Martini is committed to East Stroudsburg University to play field hockey.

Monroe’s talent, however, isn’t limited to its starters. A host of other veterans and newcomers are waiting to jump off the bench and get into the action.

Senior Kassidy Utheim showed her value in the pivot last year, and she will receive more touches this season. She is committed to Worcester Polytechnic Institute to play volleyball. The other senior expected to make an impact is Linda Wallentine, who missed her junior season due to an injury.

A pair of juniors, Kennedy Selby and Alexa Coyle, will also see increased minutes, especially since Monroe’s fast-paced tempo requires the rotation to get frequent rest.

“We have six seniors who have played together since fourth grade,” Vogtman said. “So we hope there’s a level of comfort with one another that will result in the team chemistry required to win big games.

“This is a tight-knit group. They are self-motivated and have demonstrated the excitement to take on the challenges of this season.”

Monroe was 3-0 with victories against South Plainfield High School and J.P. Stevens High School — two of the Falcons’ GMC White Division opponents — as well as a win against Plainfield High School Dec. 28 in the opening round of a holiday tournament. The Falcons faced Allentown High School Dec. 30 in the tournament finals.

The teams most likely to challenge Monroe for the division title are Bishop George Ahr High School and Sayreville War Memorial High School. Following a home game with New Brunswick High School Jan. 2, the Falcons will face Sayreville in their first encounter Jan. 5 at the Bombers’ court.

Lane has East Brunswick girls off to another strong start

EAST BRUNSWICK

By JIMMY ALLINDER
Correspondent

Flash back to three seasons ago when the East Brunswick High School girls’ basketball team finished with a 3-17 record and a sixth consecutive losing season.

Following that dismal campaign, Keith Lane, a longtime coach of boys teams in the district, was chosen to revive the once formidable program, and the result his first season was remarkable. Calling on tried and true coaching methods, Lane guided East Brunswick to a 16-7 record and, most important, restored respectability to a once proud team. Among the many changes, the highly organized coach implemented a series of team-building exercises designed to imprint a winning attitude in the players’ minds that contributed mightily to the turnaround. Following another outstanding record last year (21-6), the Bears are off to a 3-0 start this season and hope to contend for the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Red Division title.

The most recent victory was a 32-30 decision against West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North — the team that knocked the Bears out of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV tournament two seasons ago. East Brunswick was scheduled to meet West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South Dec. 30.

“Much of what we try to do is built around four elements: team chemistry, defense, playing hard and rebounding,” Lane said. “If we stick to those basics in that order, the rest will take care of itself.”

Lane points out that offense is not included in the core four as they are described, but scoring has certainly not been a problem since his philosophy has been implemented with his teams averaging over 50 points a game.

The Bears are led by a pair of capable senior captains, forwards Sydney Greenspan and Allie Warren. In addition to being complete players, each possesses outstanding leadership skills and has taken the point in helping nurture younger players.

The rest of the deep rotation includes sophomores Nicole Johnson, Shanelle Colmon and Sabria Glasgow, all of whom possess good speed and ball-handling skills. Other contributors are seniors Kim Anderson, Abbie Auerbach and Ariana Perez; juniors Dhariti Patel, Bella Petrone, Angini Ragumar and Dormi Valentina; and freshmen Anna Curreri and Alyssa Bondi.

“One of the things we do to build team chemistry is nominating players following practice who demonstrate the most hustle and vote on the top two,” Lane said. “They each receive a bright yellow t-shirt, which they get to wear until the next election. It’s kind of badge of honor.

“Our athletic director, Chris Yannazzo, also gets involved by sitting down with players on an individual basis. He’ll pose different scenarios and asks each how they would handle a potentially disruptive situation. Everything we do is related somehow or another to making those core elements real.”

Evelyn Marie Wenzel

Evelyn Marie Wenzel, 88, passed away peacefully on Dec. 4 at the Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care Center, Naperville, Illinois.

Evelyn was born on June 3, 1927, a daughter to the late Michael and Maria (Zachary) Maklary and a sister to the late Louis Maklary from South River.

She graduated from South River High School in 1945. She fell in love and married Albert William Wenzel on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 1948. They lived in Milltown and had three children: Corey William, Kurt Allyn and Kristine Maryann. In 1974, they moved to Naperville, Illinois.

Evelyn’s beloved husband, Albert, died suddenly while on vacation in August 1975. Evelyn persevered to live a happy, long life, though she never remarried. She had an adventurous spirit and made it to places like California, Texas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Italy, France and Ireland.

Evelyn was a devoted Catholic, praying for others more than praying for herself. She attended Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Milltown, and St. Raphael’s Church, Naperville, Illinois, among other places of worship. She was a kind, generous person, often helping others. She had an endearing laugh and great smile that would always make you feel good.

Evelyn leaves her loving memories to be cherished by her three grown children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grand child on the way in April 2016. She loved them all.

Per Evelyn’s wishes, no viewing or services will be held. She will be cremated per her instructions and be buried in a plot at Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery, Naperville, Illinois, next to her beloved husband, Albert, who has waited 40 years for her arrival. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Catholic Charities. Cards may be sent to Kurt Wenzel, 4246 Central Park Lane, Aurora, Illinois, 60504.

Photo

 KATHY McBAIN/STAFF KATHY McBAIN/STAFF Greater Media Newspapers held a holiday food drive in the Manalapan office from Dec. 9-21. Donations were brought to the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in Neptune.