Free Poster For Independence Day: A Road Safety Reminder From the Founding Fathers

Independence Day is coming up this weekend. No doubt you’ve already been deluged with Hints for a Safe July 4th, July 4th Road Safety Tips, and Steps to a Safe Independence Day Celebration.

And that’s fine. But this year, instead of our own tips, LifeSafer is offering a poster you can print out and hang on the wall. It offers one simple reminder. Were they around today, we’re confident our Founding Fathers would have signed on for this. Have a safe and joyous Independence Day.

LifeSafer reminds you not to drink and drive this independence day
To download a high-resolution poster for printing,
right-click here and choose “save as” or “save link as.”

Kentucky Ignition Interlock Law Goes Into Effect. Nice Work.

kentucky-dui-lawsKentucky has joined the ranks of states that impose ignition interlock requirements on drunk drivers. Up to now, interlock devices have been optional in Kentucky. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

The law that is going into effect, SB 133, states that drivers with second or subsequent convictions must install the interlock on their vehicle. First-time offenders will not be required to install one – unless there are aggravating circumstances. In Kentucky, aggravating circumstances include:

  • Excessive speeding ( more than 30 mph over limit)
  • Driving the wrong way on a highway
  • Causing an accident resulting in death or serious injury
  • Driving with a high BAC (blood alcohol concentration)
  • Refusing to submit to alcohol tests
  • Driving impaired with passengers under 12

The new Kentucky ignition interlock law helps bring the state in line with the majority of US states, which have mandatory interlock requirements for at least some offenses.

Could things get any better? Well, yes. The trend these days is for all-offender ignition interlock laws. Currently 25 states mandate interlock devices for all DUI offenses, including first offenses. The result in those states is a dramatic downturn in alcohol-related road deaths – sometimes more than 40 percent.

Texas recently became the 25th state to pass an all-offender interlock law. A few states seem ready to grab for the title of 26th, but no one has gone for it yet.

Perhaps when Kentucky sees how much safer the state’s roads are after repeat offenders are using interlocks which keep them sober behind the wheel, the legislature will contemplate an all-offender interlock law. Till then, good job, Kentucky.

Can Refueling Your Car Cause An Ignition Interlock Fail?

gasoline-can-trigger-ignition-interlockIgnition Interlocks, or car breathalyzers, have one job – to detect alcohol. And they’re good at that job. But if you have an interlock device installed in your vehicle you’ll need to know that alcohol can be found in a lot of places, — including your local filling station – and your ignition interlock is constantly looking out for it.

You probably already know that your interlock can react to residual food particles in your mouth, because things like bread and fruit can actually ferment and manufacture alcohol in your mouth. But there is another non-drinking source of alcohol you should look out for.

Occasionally users report that their ignition interlock registers alcohol when they start up after refueling their car or truck, even when they haven’t drunk anything and their mouth has been rinsed clean.

What’s happened is that ethanol fumes from the gasoline have seeped into the mouthpiece. It’s a small problem, and relatively rare, but here’s how to ensure that it doesn’t happen to you.

  • Close vehicle windows and doors while refueling.
  • Don’t operate the heater or A/C until you’re clear of the filling station. If they’re on, the ventilating fans could draw in fumes from outside.
  • Windshield washer fluid has a high alcohol content, so it’s a good idea to keep the window closed for a short while if you’ve washed your windshield as well.

Getting a fail from ethanol fumes is pretty rare, but with the simple precaution of closing windows and doors, you won’t need to worry about it.

Colorado State Patrol to Country Jam Festival Fans: The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’ Anymore

For four days every year the country fans of America get their own Woodstock: the Colorado music festival known as Country Jam. But this year’s fest was not all pickin’ and singin’: there was some patrollin’ and arrestin’ going on as well. Colorado State Patrol made certain that the Jam Ranch was one terrible place to drink and drive. And most of the attendees got the message.

Few DUIs at Country Jam in Colorado this yearLast week fans arrived en masse for the concerts in cars, trucks, campers and on motorbikes.  After four days of fun and music, one would think the Jam Ranch would be fertile ground for anyone hunting drunk drivers.

So did the police, who set up patrols on I-70 from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. for six consecutive days to catch anyone who might be impaired. In the old Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound days, patrols would net 50 or more DUIs. But by the third day of this year’s festival, just 2 arrests were reported.

This is a dramatic change in public drinking behavior. From news reports, people were camping out at the festival and, if they’d been drinking, were sobering up for the last day so they could drive home with their heads and driving records clear.

What has changed? Enforcement has helped a great deal: saturation patrols have raised awareness of the chance of arrest, and sobriety checkpoints, which are legal in Colorado, have kept anti-DUI efforts constantly in the public eye.

But not everyone fears punishment. There are outlaw types too: what if you’re the only hell your mama every raised? What’s making you stay sober while driving?

In a word, attitude. The public is losing patience with drunk drivers, and the trend toward stricter laws, social host restrictions, and ignition interlock requirements is proof of it. Impaired driving isn’t amusing anymore – it’s seen as the lethal activity it really is. And those who drink and drive are finding less and less sympathy as years go by.

We salute the Colorado State Patrol, and all the safety advocates who have been spreading the message far and wide – because people come from far and wide to Country Jam. Changes in drunk driving statistics don’t happen by chance, not at this magnitude. A lot of people worked very hard to make a common but deadly practice unfashionable.

These days, in Colorado, most drivers walk the line.

Maryland’s SPIDRE Is Catching More Drunk Drivers in Its Web Lately. What’s Going On?

Cops in Maryland appear to have their hands – and their back seats – full. A surprising number of DUI arrests have been recorded lately. For example, 80 drivers were arrested in just one weekend. One offender managed to get caught twice in one night.

maryland's spidre patrol is making many dui arrests latelyWorse, the drivers seem to be more intoxicated than usual. The State Police SPIDRE (State Police Impaired Driving Effort) Unit, part of a program which targets areas with high rates of drunk driving crashes, reported that the average BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of offenders was more than twice the legal limit.

For the record, a .17 BAC is very, very intoxicated. At that level a person has difficulty holding a conversation, much less a steering wheel.

What’s the explanation for Maryland’s upswing in super-drunk drivers? It’s possible that light drinkers are obeying the law. Anti-DUI efforts have been widely publicized, and perhaps the educational efforts have hit home with people who might otherwise have been careless. Problem drinkers, however, might still be getting too drunk to make the right decision. As a result, the percentage of high-BAC DUIs goes up.

That doesn’t explain the high arrest numbers, however. One hopes that the police are just getting better at their job, and nabbing more impaired drivers on the road. However, only time and more analysis will tell whether this surge is an anomaly or a worrying trend.

Until we know, be careful on Maryland roads. And be grateful that SPIDRE and the rest of the State Police are working towards the state’s goal of zero drunk driving fatalities.

Congratulations, Texas. Thanks To You, Half the USA is Now Driving on Safer Roads

Governor Greg Abbott has just signed HB 2246 into law. That means Texas is the 25th state to require ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers who choose to drive while suspended. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Texas is the 25th state to require ignition interlocks for first offenders.

Most of the states now have ignition interlock laws of some kind. However, many states require the device for second or third offenses, or for high BAC (blood alcohol concentration) offenders. Texas has declared that any driver arrested with a BAC over the legal limit of .08 must use the device.

Why is this important? Because research has shown that states that pass all-offender ignition interlock laws dramatically reduce their rate of alcohol-related crashes. And Texas now has an extremely high rate of drunk driving road fatalities.

It stands to reason. License suspensions on their own don’t work. More than half of suspended drivers defy their suspensions at least sometimes, and those that tend to drink and drive will keep on doing it. An ignition interlock, however, ensures sobriety at the wheel. If the driver has been drinking, the vehicle won’t start and the failed test is logged and sent to the authorities.

All-offender laws are taking over because they:

  • Ensure that the driver of the vehicle is sober
  • Allow the offender to get to work and school, so life is disrupted less
  • Allow problem drinkers to drive to counseling and treatment
  • Remind the offender constantly of the consequences of drunk driving

Furthermore, unlike jails, the ignition interlock is paid for by the offender, easing the burden on society at large.

We hope that Governor Abbott’s signing of HB2246 marks the turning point for all-offender ignition laws. Legislators in other states can point to the fact that half the country has adopted this very sensible road safety legislation, and they will work to keep their own state from falling behind the curve.

Now, which state is going to be the one to put these laws in the majority? We’ll be waiting for more good news.

Your Hump-Day Recess: Buzzed Driving Will Leave You Broke

Here we go again. Never mind that buzzed driving is extremely dangerous, particularly to drivers aged 18 to 21. Those facts don’t sink in. Never mind that you could lose life and limb, that you could cause death or injury to the people you love and innocent strangers.

No, let’s take a different tack: buzzed driving will cost you money, and ruin your chances in the dating market. Here’s our lesson for today.

The Ad Council and NHTSA have been tireless in their efforts to find new ways to bring home the message that drunk driving is a bad idea. They and others have tried scare appeals and emotional attacks. And in some ways, this is in that tradition: a scare tactic based on the idea that young people are afraid of social ostracism more than anything else.

We hope it’s working, and we praise any effort to reach young people on any level. After all, if rational, logical appeals worked, we wouldn’t have drunk driving in the first place.

Your Hump Day Recess: Every Wednesday LifeSafer brings you something a little different, related to the worlds of road safety, to ease your progress over Hump Day and through the week.
Previous Hump Days: a German Ignition Interlock spoof from 1960, our Top 10 Worst Crash Tests, a different kind of Anti-DUI message, Budweiser’s dogged anti-DUI campaign, How Not to Dodge a Parking Ticket, the world’s worst traffic jams, a dramatic buzzed driving PSA , an offbeat ad from New Zealand, the world’s worst car modification, Vince and Larry, our favorite crash test dummies, a karaoke microphone breathalyzer, extraterrestrial advice on drunk driving, some excellent Soviet anti-drunk-driving posters. a lesson on how buzzed driving can ruin your love life, South Australia to Drunk Drivers: Grow Up!, and a woman calls 911 to report herself for DUI.

I’m a Diabetic. Will That Affect My Ignition Interlock Test?

If you have diabetes, you might be concerned about rumors that your condition can cause a false positive with an ignition interlock, resulting in a failed test and a possible lockout from your vehicle. If you believe this, you’ve fallen victim to one of the constant plagues of the Internet: the Outdated Information That Will Not Die.

Ignition Interlock Myths That Won't Die - e.g. the diabetic false positive

Like zombies, some ignition interlock myths just won’t die.

The concern stems from acetone, a chemical produced in the body during ketosis, the process by which one’s body gets energy from burning fat. Diabetics and people on low-carbohydrate diets experience ketosis and thus produce acetone in their bodies.

The first ignition interlocks, produced in the 1980s, employed semiconductors to detect alcohol, and these devices were also sensitive to acetone. Thus, diabetics would sometimes get a false reading.

However, modern ignition interlock devices employ fuel cells, and not semiconductors, to detect alcohol. These advanced devices are able to distinguish between acetone and alcohol, and will not cause a false positive.

In the old days before fuel-cell technology, acetone was known as an interferent – a substance that would interfere with the alcohol-sensing reaction of the ignition interlock. Cigarette smoke was also considered an interferent.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does exhaustive tests on interlock devices, and the organization has determined that neither acetone from A diabetic has nothing to worry about with a modern ignition interlockone’s body or cigarette smoke will skew tests (though it’s a good idea to wait a minute after taking a drag on a cigarette as smoke will shorten the life of the interlock’s sensor).

So, if the concern about diabetes and ignition interlocks comes up, consider yourself a mythbuster. Put the Outdated Information That Will Not Die to rest at all time. Your ignition interlock will keep you on the road, legally and safely, as long as you keep away from alcohol, the one substance that really does make the device do its job.

Get a DUI in California and Make Your Insurance Company Richer

insurance rates go up after a California DUIThe risks of driving drunk are well known. The worst consequences, of course, are the possible injury and death that can result from driving impaired. And then there are the punishments: fines, jail time, community service, a mandatory ignition interlock, probation, and the various side effects of a criminal charge.

Often you’ll see “higher insurance rates” mentioned as one of the problems you’ll encounter after a DUI. But how much higher?

In California, a great deal. A new WalletHub survey ranked the states for how much insurance rates rise for drivers who are considered high-risk. That category includes DUIs, and also reckless drivers, speeders, and those who have had two accidents in a year.

Californians who are convicted of drunk driving will pay an average of $1,752 more for car insurance. That rise is second only to Louisiana. California is also among the highest in terms of percentage – the above figure represents a 103% rise. All in all, you can expect to pay about $3,400 to insure your car after a DUI. And since your offense stays on your record for 10 years, if you’re convicted this year you’ll will be paying that amount through 2025.

Is this fair? Why does one conviction cause the insurance companies to turn on you like that?

The reason can be found in a 2010 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study which looked at people with a first DUI conviction. NHTSA found that

  • the annual rate of DUI violations was 7.15 times higher among drivers with 1 prior than among drivers with no prior violations.

In addition, other studies have shown that:

  • More than 80% of DUI offenders have a significant problem in their relationship with alcohol and/or other drugs.
  • A driver usually has to drive impaired between 200 and 2000 times to generate one arrest.

All this adds up to higher risk, and it makes sense for the insurance company to place it on the driver at risk, rather than the pool of drivers who obey the impaired driving laws.

The key word, though, is risk. Insurance companies wouldn’t raise rates on DUI offenders if they didn’t think that there was a good chance they’d eventually be paying out for body work, new vehicles,  and possibly hospital bills. Staying sober behind the wheel, then, makes sense from a financial as well as a safety point of view.

Pennsylvania: Parking Valets Can Legally Put Drunk Drivers Back on the Road

pennsylvania court rules that parking valet can let drunk drivers drive - go figure

For many, it’s a head-slapping decision that defies common sense: the Pennsylvania State Superior Court ruled that a parking valet is under no obligation to withhold car keys from a drunk customer.

The test case was a man named Richard Moranko, who emerged drunk from a casino in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and was handed his car keys by a parking valet. Moranko died that night in a single-vehicle car crash.

His blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .329 – four times the legal limit.

The court said that they could not find any law giving the valet “the power, let alone the duty” to withhold the car keys.

It seems a strange decision, but Pennsylvania has been reluctant to encourage anyone from interfering with drunk drivers. Some states have social host laws, which hold party hosts liable for drunk driving injuries caused by a guest to whom they served alcohol. Pennsylvania does not, at least not for drivers over 21. Only licensed alcohol retailers have a responsibility to see that their customers do not drink and drive.

Apparently, parking valets are not considered licensed retailers. But the question remains: if the driver is visibly drunk, as he certainly was in this case, how can an establishment not consider it a duty to keep him off the road? The Ad Council has produced ads for more than 30 years telling people not to let their friends drive drunk. Is this case different because the valet and Moranko weren’t “friends?”

Moranko might have killed others on his drunken voyage. Does it make sense for the keeper of the car keys to let anyone back on the road, no matter how lethal they are? If Pennsylvania’s laws aren’t strong enough to let a parking valet tell a customer to call a taxi, they need to change.