National Seat Check Saturday 2014 is September 20th

National Seat Check SaturdayIn the event of a crash, your seat belt can save your life. If your child is in a crash, it’s the proper buckling of him or her into the correct child safety seat that could save their life. To draw awareness to child safety and highlight the proper type of child safety seats, National Seat Check Saturday 2014 is September 20th.

Every year in the USA, motor vehicle crashes lead the way as the cause of death for children between the ages of 1 to 12. In 2010 alone, the NHTSA noted that an average of 2 children were involved in a fatal crash every single day.  325 children were also injured on a daily basis, and this number as well as the fatality rate could be drastically reduced if the correct child safety seats were used.

Take some time this  to ensure your child is secure in their car seat. Visit an Inspection Station where a certified technician will inspect your car seat and show you how to install it properly. The steps you take now could save your child’s life in the event of a crash.

Infographic: Serious Jail Time For
Drunk Driving in Arizona

As states go, Arizona is one of the least tolerant of drunk drivers. While jail time is a possibility after a DUI conviction in most states, drunk driving in Arizona guarantees that you will spend time behind bars.

The first DUI gets you just one day minimum. Not a lot, but enough to make you think about what you’re risking by driving while impaired. And as we said, that’s guaranteed – no wiggling out of it.

If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is in the extreme range at the time of arrest, you can look forward to a month in jail. That’s enough to disrupt just about anyone’s life. Second and subsequent offenses garner even more time – up to a half year.

This infographic is a reminder that Arizona takes its drunk driving laws seriously. And so should every driver.


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Ignition Interlock Laws in Illinois are Good —
The Judges’ Rulings Not So Much

Early this month a Cook County judge gave Leslie Thurow probation for aggravated DUI. It was her second conviction for drunken driving.

Leslie-ThurowIt was also a bad decision by the judge. A few days later Thurow was in court again for her third DUI. This time she critically injured a state trooper, Michael Cokins, in a crash. When tested, Thurow’s blood alcohol level was .175 – more than twice the legal limit.

It’s worth noting that Thurow’s probation for was aggravated DUI – a charge that is supposed to trigger a harsher response. Thurow’s aggravated DUI charge resulted from her status as a repeat offender. Yet she was released with no regard to the danger she posed to motorists and pedestrians. According to the Chicago Tribune, she was told to “stay off the roads” and report to probation.

Illinois-lawsA judge should know that ordering repeat DUI offenders to stay off the roads is pretty much futile. By some estimates three quarters of suspended drivers — including drunk drivers — ignore the law and drive.

That is why they invented ignition interlocks. A breath alcohol ignition interlock device, or BAIID, prevents a car from starting if the driver has been drinking.

In terms of drunk driving legislation, Illinois gets a 5-star ranking from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). That’s as good as it gets. Illinois mandates BAIIDs for all DUI crimes, including first offenses. There are also prescribed fines and prison time.

The problem is not the law, but judges who treat drunk driving like a traffic offense. Chief Thomas Weitzel of the Riverside Police Department notes that “the laws in Illinois are adequate but the judges are not. They routinely reduce DUI’s to lesser offenses.”

Like many police officials who see first-hand the devastation that drunk drivers cause, Weitzel supports ignition interlock laws. Had a BAIID been installed in Thurow’s SUV, she could not have driven drunk, and a 28-year-old Illinois state trooper would not now be in the hospital.

Your Hump-Day Recess:
A Different Kind of Anti-DUI Message

There are a lot of anti-drunk driving PSAs out there. Many of them stress the obvious dangers — very real dangers— of impaired driving. Nothing wrong with that.

This video takes a different tack, and does it beautifully. Instead of emphasizing the peril, which can sometimes seem remote to the average indestructible young driver, this anti-DUI PSA reminds you of the economic and social consequences of a DUI, which can be enormous and very hard to shake for years.

The video, Happy Hour Fail, comes from the Texas Department of Transportation.

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: car safety, animals, posters. traffic jams, more posters, fake microbrews a German Ignition Interlock spoof from 1960, a Star Wars anti-drunk driving message and Your Top 10 Worst Crash Tests.

My Ignition Interlock Requires a Test
While Driving – Is that Dangerous?

If you’re unfamiliar with ignition interlock devices — those car breathalyzers that prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking — you might think that they’re easy to bypass. “Just have a friend blow into it,” people say. “Or start the car while you’re sober, and then leave the motor running while you’re at the bar drinking. What could be easier?”

In fact, interlock manufacturers have developed technologies that make it very difficult, Lifesafer ignition interlock rolling re-tetif not impossible, to bypass an ignition interlock and drive drunk.

One such technology is the rolling retest. After you have passed the initial test and have been driving a few minutes, the device will require you to blow into it again.  If you fail or refuse this rolling re-test, alarms will sound — the horn will honk and lights flash, forcing you to pull over. This re-test is required periodically in order to prevent scenarios like the one described above. “Curb service” — having a sober friend “assist” you by blowing into the interlock — is no longer feasible.

Sometimes drivers are concerned that the rolling re-test is dangerous or distracting. In fact, it’s perfectly safe when done correctly.

When your interlock signals for a re-test, you have a certain number of minutes to pull over to a curb or shoulder and blow into the device.

If pulling over is not possible, you can still take the test while driving — it’s not distracting at all. On a well-designed ignition interlock, the rolling re-test uses audio only. The interlock emits a tone to signal that you should blow into the device. A different tone signifies that you have passed the test. There is never a need to take your eyes off the road.

Not only is a re-test not dangerous, it’s one of the most important safety devices on your car. It ensures that you can keep on driving, in compliance with the law, unimpaired and safe from harm.

Courthouse Sting Reveals Sad Truth:
License Suspensions Don’t Work

Do drivers charged with DUI take their license suspension seriously? On a Monday not long ago, police in Indio, California decided to find out.

Many DUI offenders drive on a suspended licenseThey followed a dozen people out of the courthouse. All had been ordered by the judge not to drive.

The police found that eight of the twelve arranged to get back home legally. But the other four offenders got into their cars and drove away, just minutes after their licenses had been withdrawn. Two arrests were made.

The Sheriff’s report states that stakeout operations like this act as a deterrent with the goal of “keeping impaired and unlicensed drivers from the road” and heightening awareness of impaired driving.

No one should be surprised by the results of this operation. If anything, the number of drivers defying the suspension was on the low side. Studies show that over half — by some estimates, 75% — of DUI offenders continue to drive even with their license suspended.

The operation highlights the disdain with which many people treat license suspensions.

What to do about it?

If license suspensions don’t keep people from driving, then they certainly won’t keep people from drinking and driving. The answer is to order the installation of ignition interlocks in the vehicles of all drunk driving offenders. Ignition interlocks are devices that prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Many states already mandate interlocks for first DUI offenses, and they have reductions in road deaths to show for it. Many more states are contemplating all-offender ignition interlock laws; there is even a federal law in the offing.

Is there a workable alternative to ignition interlocks? As we have seen, suspensions don’t work. Rehabilitation and counseling programs can be helpful, but they don’t ensure public safety. Only an interlock, properly installed and monitored, does that.

Why David Cassidy Just Doesn’t Get It

Last week 1970s pop and TV star David Cassidy completed his plea deal for his DWI felony charge in New York.

Cassidy admitted to driving while intoxicated in the town of Schodack, New York. He appeared to be frustrated with the court’s requirements, which now include an alcohol screening. He just wanted to get things “taken care of and over with.” In his defense, Cassidy said:

“I admit I was driving drunk, but this was my first offense in New York state; I didn’t hurt anyone or crash my car.”

That’s all true. But Cassidy’s “no harm, no foul” attitude doesn’t wash. He might feel that because no one was injured this time, he should be let off with a wrist slap. But the law has been dealing with drunk drivers for a long time, and New York has been addressing it more actively than most states.David Cassidy by Allan Warren is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Let’s ignore the fact that Cassidy has, in fact, three drunk-driving arrests under his belt. What’s important is his implication that a “first offense” for New York State deserves light treatment.

We know that by the time a drunk driver is arrested, he or she has usually driven impaired an average of 80 times. A “first offense” is very often a lucky intervention for a serial drunk driver. That is why New York, like many states, mandates ignition interlocks for first DWI offenses. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a car from starting when the driver has been drinking. License suspensions are not effective in getting impaired drivers off the road; at least half of offenders with suspended licenses continue to drive. Only ignition interlocks remove alcohol from the equation.

Cassidy went on to state that the publicity has hurt his career. That’s unfortunate, but drunk driving is a serious crime, and instead of complaining about the publicity, Cassidy should be grateful that he was stopped before he hurt himself or someone else on the road.

Embarrassing Revelations Prove It’s Time For
Mandatory Ignition Interlocks in Pennsylvania

A recent article in the Philadelphia Enquirer highlights some embarrassing facts about DUI enforcement in Pennsylvania. Among the paper’s findings: state laws coddle drunk drivers, and enforcement gaps have created a revolving door that lets them get back behind the wheel without consequences. As a result, about half of convicted drunk drivers are repeat offenders.

Pennsylvania Needs to Pass better ignition interlock lawsWhat has caused this sad state of affairs?

  • Inadequate ignition interlock laws. Unlike many states — about half of the country at this point — Pennsylvania does not require that every convicted drunk driver install an ignition interlock. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a car from starting when the driver has been drinking. Statistics show that mandatory ignition interlocks for first-time DUI convictions keep drunk drivers off the road and reduce crashes.
  • No immediate license suspension. Another, even more surprising gap in Pennsylvania’s DUI laws: drivers who fail a breath test do not have their license suspended immediately. This practice, called administrative suspension, is almost universal in the USA. Most states have concluded that anyone failing a breath test is by definition a hazard on the roads, and has broken the implicit sobriety agreement made when one accepts a driver’s license. Pennsylvania seems reluctant to take this logical step, and prefers to keep intoxicated people in the driver’s seat.
  • Light punishments. Then there is the reluctance to impose prison sentences. Pennsylvania does not jail impaired drivers unless their level of intoxication is very high – a blood alcohol concentration of .15 percent. In many other states drivers face possible imprisonment when their breath test registers .08, the standard level that indicates impairment.
  • Loopholes. One is not likely to get to a conviction anyway. Pennsylvania’s DUI laws contain a generous supply of loopholes for defense attorneys to exploit, so many cases are dismissed.
  • Lax treatment of no-shows. Many people arrested for DUI simply ignore their summonses and do not appear in court. In Philadelphia, most notably, there is not enough manpower to go after all of these scofflaws, and as a result, drunk drivers get back behind the wheel.

This coddling of impaired drivers has led precisely where one would expect: more repeat offenders. The Enquirer’s own calculations, based on figures from NHTSA and PennDOT, are that half of all convicted drunk drivers in the state are repeat offenders. Nationwide, the figure is one in four.

Pennsylvania needs to get serious about its drunk driving problem. Legislators should first address the steps that are proven to save lives:

  • Immediate license suspension after a failed or refused breath test, and
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) on the vehicle of any driver convicted of DUI, including a first offense

Enforcement issues must be dealt with too, if Pennsylvania’s roads are to become safer anytime soon. But strong laws are key, and it’s up to Pennsylvania’s concerned citizens to demand the drunk driving legislation they deserve.

Your Hump Day Recess:
Top 10 Worst Crash Tests

The VW bus (really a truck) at 5:45 is the most frightening thing we’ve seen in a long while.

Once again, hats off to the designers of safer cars. Please drive carefully, and drive sober. And if a Holden Commodore turns up on Craigslist, pass it by!

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: car safety, animals, posters. traffic jams, more posters, fake microbrews a German Ignition Interlock spoof from 1960, and a Star Wars anti-drunk driving message.

Is An Ignition Interlock Really a Punishment?

You sometimes hear people say that the ignition interlock in their car is a “punishment” for a DUI conviction. They consider the device part of the DUI package: a fine, a stay in jail, perhaps an impounded vehicle, and now an ignition interlock device, or IID,  to install and learn to use.

Ignition Interlock DeviceTo many drivers, having to blow into the device every time they drive feels like a punishment.

But in fact, the purpose of an ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, is not to punish. The device has one purpose only: to prevent alcohol-related road accidents. It treats all drivers of a vehicle equally, demanding that they breathe into a mouthpiece for a few seconds before starting the engine.

Why use an interlock at all? Why not just punish offenders instead? Research has shown that impaired drivers are hard to keep off the road. License suspensions don’t work – 50% to 70% of drivers continue to drive on a suspended license – and while educational campaigns do help, they only work on people who are ready to receive the message that you shouldn’t drink and drive.

Some An ignition interlock is a safety device that keeps you on the roadpeople aren’t ready to take that message to heart, and instead choose to drink and drive. The law considers that choice serious enough to merit immediate action.

Ignition interlocks have been found to be the solution.  As long as the device is on the car, the choice to drink and drive – always a bad choice – is removed.

Most people get used to the interlock quickly. The procedure of testing and doing rolling re-tests is not hard to learn. It becomes an automatic task like fastening seat belts.

And like a seat belt, an ignition interlock is not a punishment – it’s a safety device. If you’ve been convicted of drunk driving, it’s the best friend you have, because it allows you to keep driving, working, going to school, and otherwise lead a normal life, while keeping you and everyone else on the road safe.