West Virginia Offers DUI Offenders a Fast Track to an Ignition Interlock

The landscape for DUI offenders in West Virginia is about to change for the better. A new law allows people charged with DUI to join the state’s ignition interlock program immediately, provided they waive their hearing.

An ignition interlock is a device which tests a driver’s breath and prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above a certain level.

bigstock-traffic-stop-22175018-900x273In most states, a person charged with DUI can request a hearing to challenge the case immediately. If the hearing is unsuccessful, punishment may include having to drive with an interlock, after a set period of suspension elapses.

The West Virginia law lets offenders who accept the charge skip right to the interlock, instead of losing their license for a period of time.

It might seem counter-intuitive to some: why let DUI offenders drive? But in fact, ignition interlock programs are known to reduce alcohol-related road accidents and fatalities. The reason is that too many
offenders, particularly problem drinkers who pose the worst danger, continue to drink and drive without their licenses.

Ignition interlocks are the proven, practical answer. They prevent an offender from driving if they have been drinking. They also collect data on failed tests, so the authorities can track the progress of the driver’s efforts to adhere to a sobriety program.

The West Virginia DMV says that the effect will be twofold: it will protect other motorists and pedestrians,by keeping impaired drivers off the roads, and also speed up the  offender’s rehabilitation.

Congratulations to West Virginia for making their roads safer.

9 Worrying Facts about Drinking and Babies

BabyDrinking during pregnancy is considered, by many, to be extremely dangerous. If you are pregnant and take a drink, your unborn child is having the same drink.

Indeed, according to the Women’s and Children’s Health Network, the alcohol will reach your unborn baby and his or her blood alcohol level will be the same as yours. They go on to state that for pregnant women there is no safe time to drink alcohol, and no safe amount.

Consider the following before drinking during pregnancy.

  1. 7 million children under 18 in the U.S. have alcoholic parents.
  2. If you’re addicted to alcohol during pregnancy, they will be too.
  3. Exposing a fetus to alcohol increases the child’s risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
  4. For children who have their first drink at 12 years of age, the prevalence of lifetime alcohol dependence is 41%.
  5. Children of alcoholics are 4 times more likely to develop a drinking problem.
  6. Underage kids see 45% more alcohol ads than legal drinking adults.
  7. 40,000 babies are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome each year.
  8. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has risen 50% in the last three years.
  9. Alcohol withdrawal for a baby begins just hours after birth and can last up to 18 months.

Once again, if you are expecting a baby, drinking alcohol is the worst way possible to start off the new life inside you.

License Suspension for DUI?
It Just. Doesn’t. Work.

A Colorado study confirms the bad news: license suspension does not work as a punishment for DUI. The number of motorists cited for drunken driving who are driving without a valid license is an astonishing one in four.

license suspension doesn't work for duiRocky Mountain PBS I-News and 9News analyzed electronic court records of more than 45,000 DUIs issued in Colorado from April 2012 through April 2014. Almost 11,000 of that group should not have been driving, due to a license that was suspended, restricted or revoked. That’s an average of 15 a day.

It’s common to hear well-intentioned people demand that drunk drivers lose their license altogether. The problem is, a license is just a piece of paper. People who drink and drive often ignore suspended or revoked licenses. After a week or a month of suspension, they decide that the inconvenience of not driving outweighs the consequences of being caught without a license – even that of being caught driving impaired without a license.

Moreover, these people are dangerous. Driving impaired, and often uninsured, they pose a risk to everyone on the road.

There is hope of change. At the beginning of 2014 Colorado passed a law that allows first-time DUI offenders to regain their license with the use of an ignition interlock, a device which presents a common-sense solution to the ignition interlocks save livesproblem. An ignition interlock prevents a car from starting if the driver’s breath alcohol concentration (BAC) is above a preset level. Usually a camera records the breath test, so that the offender cannot cheat. Repeat tests are given during a typical journey so that the driver can’t drink after starting the car.

The use of ignition interlocks appears counterintuitive to those who feel that license suspension is a more appropriate punishment for drunken driving. And perhaps it would be – if a lack of license really kept impaired drivers off the roads. But the Colorado study shows that it doesn’t. As long as people ignore DUI laws and license suspensions, ignition interlocks are the way to go.

Taxi Companies and the Anti-Drunk-Driving Cause: A Natural Partnership

When concerned citizens want to raise funds to fight drunk driving, they Walk Like MADD. A fundraiser held in cities across the nation, Walk Like MADD unites people who believe that our roads are no place for impaired Call a taxi and avoid drunk drivingdrivers: parents, teens, law enforcement personnel, government officials, and just about everyone who cares about road safety. Sponsors of these walks include local businesses, schools, and public-spirited organizations. The money raised aids in the campaign for public awareness and better anti-drunk-driving legislation and enforcement.

In Homer Glen, Illinois on June 8th, one of the local Walk Like MADD’s sponsors will be Telecab, a taxi company which has served the region for 19 years. The company’s staff and drivers are proud to take to the road for the fundraiser. “The statistics don’t lie,” says John Buchanan, Telecab’s operations manager. “Drunk driving has been cut in half since 1980, when MADD began its fight against drunk drivers! TeleCAB wants to do all it can to keep drunk and distracted drivers off the roads.”

Photo credit:  www.waynemillerphotography.net/

It’s a natural partnership. Taxi companies are in business to give rides, and they have a ready market in all the people who have been out drinking and who should not be behind the wheel.  For years MADD has been encouraging people to call a taxi when theyre not in shape to drive home.

Taxis are a business, but they’re also a valuable resource for keeping streets — and their residents — safe. Everyone who drinks should keep a taxi company’s number handy.

Weak DUI Laws Put Children in Peril

Most of anti-drunk-driving ads portray the horrors of the crash – we see a car, driven by a drunk, careening into pedestrians or another car full of innocents.

child-victim-drunk-drivingBut the innocents are not always in the other car or on the street. Often they are riding with — and in the care of — the impaired drivers, who seem fine with risking their kids’ lives along with their own.

A recent study in Pediatrics found that almost two-thirds of children who died while riding with drunken drivers were not wearing seat belts. The drivers themselves often survived the crashes, suggesting that the children might have too — had they been wearing seat belts.

Another finding by the study’s authors – Dr. Kyran Quinlan of Northwestern University and researchers from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – was just as shocking. Many of the drivers involved in these fatal accidents had no valid driver’s license. Usually adults drive without a license because it has been revoked for a serious violation, such as Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

This study points to a serious problem with enforcement of DUI laws. Too many drunk drivers — unlicensed drunk drivers, no less — are getting on the roads and endangering their own children as well as everyone else on the road.

The answer is stronger ignition interlock laws and better enforcement of laws against driving without a license and mandated ignition interlocks. Right now, children’s lives are at risk, and that is never acceptable.

The NFL Has a DUI Problem

First, let’s figure out what these people have in common:

  • Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff
  • Tennessee Titans tight end Brandon Bardenpolice-and-NFL
  • Free agent wide receiver Titus Young
  • Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson
  • Arizona Cardinals tight end D.C. Jefferson
  • San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith
  • San Francisco 49ers cornerback Eric Wright
  • New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard
  • Buffalo Bills fullback Evan Rodriguez
  • New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Morgan
  • Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Quentin Saulsberry
  • Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Armonty Bryant
  • St Louis Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson
  • San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Al Netter
  • Chicago Bears defensive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff

If you’re thinking superior agility, quick reflexes, strength and athletic prowess, you would be correct. But something else is relevant here: the gentlemen named above were also arrested in 2013 on suspicion of DUI.

The compilers of the NFL Arrests Database, the San Diego Union-Tribune, note that the list might not even be complete, as their information depends on media coverage. But the sheer size of the list (and there have been more arrests this year) points up a problem the NFL are trying to deal with: the number of its star employees who drink and drive. That number is severely out of proportion, and out of control.

At present, a player responsible for a DUI is fined two game checks, i.e. plays two games for free. The word from Pro Football Talk is that the league and the player’s union, the NFLPA, are contemplating a one-game suspension as well as a one-game fine.

The logic is that players would be less inclined to drink and drive if they knew they would be suspended, and thus hurt their team as well as their finances. Perhaps this altered punitive approach will work. But if the league really wants to prevent its members from driving while drunk, they should consider mandatory ignition interlocks for offenders, as state governments are doing in increasing numbers. Because a football player is just as dangerous as anyone else when drunk and behind the wheel.

Surprising Facts about College Age Drinking

girls partyWhat percentage of college students do you think drinks alcohol? Half? More?

In fact, about 80% of college students drink alcohol.  If that doesn’t surprise you, this might: of those, about half participate in binge drinking which, studies show, creates a wide variety of problems. Binge drinking is a major cause of alcohol-related deaths. Students who binge drink are more likely to miss out on classes and score poorly on exams.  They also report higher incidents of assault, sexual abuse, unintentional injuries as well as suicide attempts. 1,825 students between the ages of 18 and 24 die every year from alcohol-related injuries. More than 97,000 students in the same age range are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault. Nearly 700,000 students in that same age range are assaulted or attacked by another student who has been drinking.

Male students tend to drink more. While female students consume about 4 drinks per week. Male students drink more than double that amount. Indeed, students spend an average of $50 a week on alcohol. This, perhaps, isn’t surprising considering that Americans spend $90 billion on alcohol each year.

The following motion graphic tells the story:

Infographic by 12 Keys Rehab

What Police Look for When Giving DUI Tests

DUI Test image Being pulled over by a police officer can be a nerve-racking experience, especially if you have had a glass or two of wine. If you are pulled over for being suspected of driving under the influence (DUI), the breath test is merely the last step in your evaluation. You can rest assured that, from the very beginning, the officer is making careful mental notes of everything you do, starting with how you drive and how you pull over — are you driving safely or erratically? Once you are pulled over, he will be looking for various indicators of intoxication. These include:

  • Your general demeanor—polite or aggressive
  • Alcohol smell on your breath or signs of drinking in the vehicle
  • Speech mannerisms—if you slur or speak too slow or too fast
  • Red facial flush or bloodshot eyes
  • Signs of anxiety or stress
  • Poor reflexes or clumsiness

The officer may have you perform one or more field sobriety tests.  The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established three standardized sobriety tests. These are:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test. In this test, the officer will ask you to track the movement of a pen or finger with your eyes. Nystagmus is the involuntary jerking of the eye when you look to the periphery. This becomes more pronounced when you are under the influence.
  • Walk-and-Turn Test. In this test, the officer will ask you to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, in a straight line—preferably along an already existing line. The officer will look for balance issues or for not following directions.
  • One-Leg Stand Test. In this test, the officer will ask you to stand on one foot, with the other foot six inches off the ground. You will need to count out loud while you do this. The officers will again be looking for balance issues.

There are other field sobriety tests that may be administered outside of the three standard ones. These might include:

  • A finger-to-nose test
  • Reciting the alphabet or counting backward
  • Balancing while standing with your feet together, your head back and your eyes closed

The officer may ask you to take a portable breath test (PBT), in which you directed to blow twice into a breathalyzer. There will be a few minutes’ wait between tests, which determine if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the legal limit for a DUI.

The combination of the officer’s experience reading the signs, your performance on the standard tests, and the result of your breath test determine if your next stop is back home or the police station.

How to Be Arrested for DUI – Without Even Driving

You’ve had too much to drink, and you know it is inadvisable to get behind the wheel. But the bar is closing down, your designated driver failed to show up, and a taxi costs too much. So what do you do?

drunk driverYou get into your car and have a nap, hoping that you will be sober enough to drive in a couple of hours. While you are sleeping, a policeman walks up and knocks on your window. Two minutes later, you are in handcuffs.

What happened?

Something called Physical Control. The fact is, you do not have to be driving to be arrested for a DUI. You just need to be in the driver’s seat of a car and be in possession of the keys. To the law in most states, this means you are in physical control of the car, even though you are not driving. Your keys do not even have to be in the ignition.dui-ends-in-handcuffs

Generally Physical Control violations are misdemeanors, and they do carry penalties including fines and jail time, though usually not as severe as those for moving DUI violations. Physical Control is an offense worth noting, as many drinkers assume that they are abiding by the law when they sit in their cars after a night of drinking without turning on the ignition.

If you think this is a harsh law, you are not alone. Many states have “safe harbor” laws to allow for the driver’s good intentions. If you are safely off the roadway, with the keys somewhere inaccessible (such as the trunk), then courts in some states will look kindly on you.

The laws on Physical Control are just one more factor that drivers should take into consideration when they step out for a drink. It isn’t enough not to be driving while impaired – make sure you’re nowhere near your car.

Will Self-Driving Cars Finally Solve the DUI Problem?

The road ahead for automotive technology is pretty clear, at least to silicon valley types: self-driving cars are in our future. And the California DMV just brought the future one step closer by issuing a set of rules for manufacturers who want to test cars on the state’s roads.

self-driving carThat’s right. California, known for its draconian driving regulations, is about to let self-driving cars on its roads. Of course, of the long list of requirements, some are designed to keep tinkerers and garage-based startups out of the running: massive amounts of insurance, a surety bond, and proof of financial responsibility in case the car gets into an accident.

The cars must be labeled as self-driving, much like cars with student drivers. But the most important requirement is that the person in the car is a licensed and fully-capable driver who is “capable of taking over immediate physical control” of the vehicle. California is notoriously hard on drunk drivers, reckless drivers, unlicensed drivers. The state is not about to give self-driving vehicles carte blanche.

Perhaps someday this technology will be so reliable that people who have had too many drinks at a party can hop in their self-driving cars, click a “Get Me Home” button and snooze in the back seat. But it won’t happen for decades, and perhaps never. Remember, self-driving trains (automated people movers, or APMs) have been in existence since the 1960s, but they are not very common; apart from a few subway lines, they are found mostly in airports and amusement parks. Human-populated roadways, moreover, are much more complicated than rails. One needs not only to navigate the roads but fathom the intentions of other drivers, and bear liability for accidents. It’s a lot to ask of a machine.

Incidentally, one of California’s regulations states that the autonomous vehicle test driver has not been “convicted of driving or operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol” for the preceding ten years.


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