2 Drunk 2 Care Driver Jailed For 24 Years

image from thespec.comWith how easy it is for photos and information to go viral these days, it’s no surprise that one tweet has the potential to alter lives. Unfortunately for Kayla Mendoza, one tweet was enough to ensure she received a long prison sentence.

In November of 2013, Mendoza was out drinking with her friends. She was an underage freshman in college, and she drank two extra large margaritas before tweeting she was ‘2 drunk 2 care.’ She then decided to get behind the wheel of her car and drive the wrong way down an expressway in Florida, driving at speeds up to 80mph when she crashed straight into two best friends who were on their way home after a night out. The girls she hit were killed, and she suffered head injuries and broke both legs.

When her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was tested, she was found to be twice the legal limit and had marijuana in her system. She was charged and convicted of two driving under the influence (DUI) manslaughter charges, and for her crimes was sentenced to 24 years in prison and 6 years probation after that. She’ll also never drive again because her driver’s license has been permanently revoked. Normally, Florida driving under the influence laws requires a first offender to spend not more than 6 months in jail, pay fines up to $1,000, and lose their driver’s license for one year, but DUI with manslaughter charges require extra penalties.

The ‘2 drunk 2 care’ tweet wasn’t the only social media update that sealed Mendoza’s fate. She also tweeted she was a ‘pothead princess’ and often sent out updates about how she was drunk, baked, and high. Maybe the severe penalties will be an example of how severe DUI crashes can be and how social media updates can come back to haunt you long after you’ve posted them.

Image from thespec.com

Moving Toward Zero Traffic Deaths In Colorado

drunk drivingWhen it comes to drunk driving deaths, one death is one too many. Unfortunately a large number of alcohol related fatalities still occur every year, and that’s why Colorado is one of 35 states joining in for a campaign called ‘Moving Towards Zero Deaths.’

Zero might be a lofty goal when you consider the amount of traffic related deaths in Colorado. In 2013, there were 481 traffic related deaths, with 91 of those being alcohol-related. But alcohol-related traffic deaths are only the second leading cause of death on Colorado roads, with distracted driving taking the #1 slot.

Strict driving under the influence (DUI) laws could be the reason why distracted driving may be taking more lives than drunk driving. Colorado DUI laws require penalties for first offenders including jail time, $1,500 in fines, a 9-month driver’s license suspension, and an ignition interlock program for anyone who wishes to drive during their time of suspension.

In contrast, distracted driving penalties in the state don’t hold the same weight. Although Colorado’s phone and texting while driving laws are considered primary laws where the officer doesn’t have to pull you over for another violation to issue a citation, the fines only range from $50 for a first offense to $100 for a second offense.

In order to make the Moving Towards Zero Deaths campaign successful, lawmakers need to address both drunk driving and distracted driving deaths by toughening up laws. Take DUI laws for example – there is currently a bill on the table that would impose a felony charge on anyone who has a 3rd or 4th DUI conviction in Colorado.

Will Colorado be able to reach their goal of a reduction in traffic related deaths by 2019 as planned? It’s a tall order to fill, but even one life saved is worth the effort.

St.Patrick’s Day A Deadly Day For Drunk Driving

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There are a lot of interesting stories behind why people drink on St.Patrick’s Day. One Irish legend has it that St.Patrick was visiting an Inn when the innkeeper gave him a glass of whiskey that was less than full. St.Patrick wanted to teach the innkeeper about generosity, so he told him there was a monster in the cellar that fed on greed and dishonesty, and in order to banish him forever, the man must be more generous.

The next time St.Patrick visited the Inn, he found all patrons had whiskey glasses filled to overflowing, so he went down to the cellar and banished the demon for the innkeeper. In honor of this lesson on generosity, everyone must down a glass of whiskey on St.Patrick’s Day. The custom is called drowning the shamrock, and for luck you should float a leaf in your glass before you do your whiskey shot.

This is just one of the legends behind St.Patrick’s Day. It’s all well and good if you’d like to take a drink for luck in honor of St.Patrick, but if you do you better hand your car keys over to someone else. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants you to know that St.Patrick’s Day is one of the deadliest days for drunk driving in the United States, and between 2009 and 2013, 276 lives were lost due to drunk driving crashes. In 2013 alone, 31 people died in St.Patrick’s Day crashes.

How can you stay safe while still having fun on St.Patrick’s Day? Keep in mind that buzzed driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, and even if it doesn’t put you over the legal limit, that one whiskey shot can be enough to impair your coordination, affect you vision, and result in a crash. Your safest option is to always choose a designated driver or order a cab long before you need to make a choice about how to get home.

This St.Patrick’s Day you can honor St.Patrick’s generosity by choosing to be the sober driver for a friend in need. You may just save a life.

NHTSA Says Drinking And Driving More Dangerous Than Drugged Driving

drinking and drivingWe all know drinking and driving is a bad idea. Every time you get behind the wheel after having a few drinks, you have an increased risk of crashing your vehicle. But did you know it’s more likely you’ll crash if you are drinking and driving under the influence of alcohol than if you drove after you’ve used marijuana?

A study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that those drivers who used marijuana had a lower crash risk than drivers who drank alcohol and drove. There are a lot of different reasons why a detectable drug presence doesn’t measure up to alcohol when it comes to driving, and one major reason is that alcohol is fairly predictable. There is concrete data as to how long it takes the body to metabolize it, so it’s easy to tell how much or how little alcohol will affect your driving skills. Because there are so many different types of drugs and each are chemically different, it’s hard to accurately say how your body will react. You could be severely intoxicated from one drug while showing little effect from another.

Although the NHTSA study shows that marijuana use doesn’t affect your crash risk, Colorado is one state that’s decided to fight back against marijuana-impaired driving. They have driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while ability impaired (DWAI) laws that set a THC blood alcohol threshold of 5 nanograms per milliliter. If police determine you violate that threshold, Colorado penalties include jail time, license suspension, and the possibility of an ignition interlock in any vehicle you drive.

Does the NHTSA study mean everyone should relax their guard about driving under the influence of drugs? Not at all. With several companies working on marijuana breathalyzers and law enforcement reporting an increase in stoned driving, driving under the influence of anything is a bad idea.

You Can Be Charged With DWI If You Are Under .08 In New Mexico

breathalyzerWhen most people head out for an evening of fun, they don’t set out with the intention of ending the evening in handcuffs due to a driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrest. A lot of people are now using personal breathalyzers to try to stay under the legal limit of .08, but as many are finding out, in certain states you can be arrested for DWI even if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is under .08.

In New Mexico, police officers can arrest you for DWI if they feel you are impaired to the slightest degree. How do they decide if you’re impaired? Once stopped at a checkpoint or pulled over, an officer will speak to you and attempt to detect the scent of alcohol or look inside your vehicle for open containers. They may ask you to submit to field sobriety tests that include walking a straight line or reciting the alphabet, and if they feel they have cause, they’ll ask you to submit to a breathalyzer test. The results of the breathalyzer will determine exactly what your BAC is, and at that point, even if your BAC is lower than .08, the police officer may arrest you for DWI.

No matter what your BAC, if you are arrested and convicted of DWI in New Mexico, you’ll spend up to 90 days in jail, pay fines up to $500, lose your driver’s license for a period of one year, and must install an ignition interlock device in any vehicle you drive.

Your personal breathalyzer might say you’re well below the legal limit of .08, but drinking any amount of alcohol makes it unsafe to drive a vehicle and could net you a DWI conviction. For more information on DWI and ignition interlock laws in New Mexico, visit Guardian Interlock’s New Mexico page.

What Will Change Your View On Buzzed Driving?

breathalyzerIf you’re standing at a party and you see someone who is practically falling down drunk, you know they shouldn’t get behind the wheel. If they tried to drive, you’d probably feel confident taking their keys away from them. But what if you see someone who has been drinking, but they aren’t really exhibiting the signs of being drunk? Do you stop them from driving too?

For most people, the answer isn’t as easy as yes or no, and that’s the reason why so many people get behind the wheel while buzzed. Buzzed driving is defined as driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01 to .07, and although you’re technically under the legal limit for driving, driving while buzzed can be just as dangerous as driving while drunk.

Research done by the University of California, San Diego found that drivers who are buzzed are more likely to be the sole blame for fatal car crashes than sober drivers. They also found that the transition between buzzed driving and drunk driving was a smooth one, meaning there is no jump in drunkenness or immediate downturn in driving skills – as blood alcohol concentrations go up, driving skills steadily go down hill.

Yet people all across the United States believe that, as long as you stay under the legal limit you’re OK to drive, and that’s why the Ad Council began creating public service announcements (PSAs) like this one. They’re designed specifically to change attitudes about the dangers of buzzed driving.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6OVcDtEvhhU]

People know you shouldn’t drink and drive, but with over 10,000 people killed in impaired driving crashes every year, it’s clear they’re still making the choice to get behind the wheel. Unless you have a breathalyzer in your vehicle, you have no way of knowing what your BAC is before you drive, so if you want to stay safe, don’t drive after drinking, period.

Even Buzzed Drivers Can Kill

breathalyzer How much do you have to drink to get to .08? It’s a question a lot of people wonder about when they’ve been out drinking and are considering how they’re going to get home. Because alcohol affects everyone differently, one person could reach the legal limit with two glasses of wine while it would take someone else 5 cans of beer to hit the same blood alcohol concentration (BAC). But when you’re considering driving after a night of drinking, whether you’re over the legal limit shouldn’t be the deciding factor.

Even if you’ve had enough alcohol to just make you feel ‘buzzed,’ you still shouldn’t get behind the wheel, and a recent crash in Nova Scotia, Canada proves it. An 81-year-old grandmother was hit and killed by a driver when she was crossing an intersection on foot. Although she was transported to the hospital immediately, she died the next day of injuries sustained in the crash.

The driver who hit her, a 73-year-old male, had an open bottle of alcohol in the back seat of car. At this point you’re probably thinking he must have been drunk while driving, and that’s a safe assumption, but not only was the driver not over the legal limit, he ‘passed’ the breathalyzer at the scene with a BAC below .08.

Because the driver wasn’t over .08, in terms of immediate penalties he only had his license suspended for 7 days. You can’t blame the family for being shocked over this, because 7 days after killing someone, the driver was back on the road again. If he would have registered .08 on the breathalyzer and received a first time DUI charge in Nova Scotia, the driver would be prohibited from driving for one year, would be required to pay up to $2000 in fines, and may be required to install an ignition interlock for one year.

The police did their due diligence and led a month long investigation into the crash, but at the end of the day the driver only received two tickets – one for failing to yield to a pedestrian and one for having open alcohol in his car.

Alcohol affects everyone differently, and even if you don’t register .08 on your personal breathalyzer or on a police grade breathalyzer, you could still be too drunk to drive. Even if you’ve had one drink, the best thing you can do for yourself and everyone driving on the roads with you is to hand your keys over to someone else.

Photo credit The Shelburne County Coast Guard

Back To School A Good Time To Focus On Teen Distracted Driving

Teen Distracted While DrivingWhen teens take driver training, their instructors ask them to keep their eyes on the road and their hands in the 10 and 2 position on the steering wheel. But for many teens, as soon as driver training is over the rules fly out the window, and that includes keeping your eyes on the road. From texting to focusing on passengers in the vehicle, distracted driving is one of the biggest threats to teens today.

Back to school time is a great time to be reminded of the dangers of distracted driving. The Bakersfield, California Highway Patrol have upped their efforts to save lives and eliminate distracted driving in school zones by launching ‘Operation No Cell Phones Around Schools.’ Taking place from Monday, August 25th to Friday, August 29th, the campaign included “Operation Cell-Free Friday, Saturday, and Sunday” over the Labor Day weekend. Although this specific campaign has concluded, they will still be patrolling school zones and checking drivers for distracted driving and cell phone use.

Because teens are novice drivers, anything that takes their attention away from the road is going to up their risk of crashing. Many states have an outright ban on novice drivers using handheld devices in vehicles, but teens continue to text and drive. 13% of teens in 2011 crashes admitted to using their cell phone at the time of the crash. That’s 1.3 million preventable crashes due to cell phone use, a number that has to decrease.

Teen distracted drivers can turn into adult distracted drivers too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that more than 9 people in the USA are killed every day due to distracted driving, and more than 1000 are injured in distracted driving crashes.

With teen risk so high, campaigns to target distracted driving like ‘Operation No Cell Phones Around Schools’ become an important way to remind teens why taking your eyes off the road for even 5 seconds can result in a crash. If your teen is stopped during the first few weeks of back to school for distracted driving, consider it an opportunity to sit down and talk with them about how dangerous cell phone use is when driving a vehicle.

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Teens Take To The Test Track To Learn About Distracted Driving

Teen texting while drivingDistracted driving is a growing problem in the United States, and distraction is one of the biggest issues facing teen drivers today. 10% of all drivers under the age of 20 who were involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crash, and they make up part of an estimated 421,000 people in all age categories who were injured in distracted driving crashes in 2012. This number is up from 2011, when 387,000 people were injured.

To give teens an idea of how distraction can affect their driving skills, the Livingston County sheriff department put 40 teenagers, all between the ages of 15 to 18, behind the wheel of vehicle and asked them to drive through a course designed specifically to simulate distracted driving. The track is part of the ‘Distracted Driving Initiative’ where teens attended a classroom session before they drove on the test track.

The teens drove with supervision of the police and took part in 4 distracted driving scenarios that included everything from a blaring radio, passengers screaming, wearing goggles to mimic drinking and driving, and letting the teen text while driving. What happened when the teens were distracted? They drove over orange traffic cones and swerved out of their lanes. Imagine if that was real life and the cones were other cars.

Most teens taking part in the test track admitted they underestimated the power of distracted driving. The test was also a good reminder of how little time it takes to crash a vehicle. Livingston County sheriffs told the teens that a vehicle will move 70 feet per second when you’re driving 55 mph, and anything can happen in that one second.

Sometimes it takes a wake up call and real-life lesson to learn just how dangerous texting while driving can be. It’s safe to say that these teens learned their lesson.

Most Drugged Drivers Are How Old?

drugged driversHave you ever watched the news and heard a report of a fatal crash where drugs were involved, then automatically assumed it was a young person? You wouldn’t be alone if you thought that – because crashes are the number one cause of death for young people in the United States, it’s pretty easy to assume that if there is a vehicle crash on the news, drinking, drugs and teens or young adults are involved.

That’s why the data from a new study recently published is so surprising. It found that drugged drivers involved in fatal crashes in the USA are more likely to be older than 50 years old. According to the study, released by Public Health Records in June of 2014, the profile of the drugged driver involved in fatal crashes has changed substantially over the past 20 years. Not only are these drugged drivers older than 50, they’re also more likely to test positive for multiple drugs including marijuana, prescription drugs like pain killers, and hard street drugs like cocaine.

The researchers analyzed data on drivers who tested positive for drugs after being involved in fatal crashes. From 1993 to 2010, they found the number of people with 3 or more drugs in their bodies increased from 11.5 to 21.5.

Getting behind the wheel with even a single drug in your system can affect your driving skills, but combining drugs and alcohol can impair you to the point where you’re almost guaranteed of a crash. It’s scary that the data from this study confirms more and more people are now using drugs and alcohol together. 70% of the people involved in the study who tested positive for cocaine also had alcohol in their system. 55% of those individuals who had marijuana in their systems had alcohol in their system too.

Although most people understand that drinking and driving is dangerous, the dangers associated with drugged driving aren’t as widely known. Maybe studies like this will increase public awareness and kick off some safety campaigns showing the dangers of drugged driving.

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