Driving This Memorial Day? Here’s Something to Make You Stop and Think

Memorial Day Drivers Are Running Red LightsTraffic advisories are pretty common as Memorial Day approaches. We all know that the roads are crowded; in fact, this year the AAA predicts that more people than ever will be on the highways, driving at least 50 miles.

You might have been warned about the Fatal 4: the four driving practices that lead to the most highway deaths each memorial day:

  • Speeding
  • Not wearing seat belts
  • Impaired driving
  • Distracted driving

If you know all this, perhaps this is something you don’t know.  More red light violations occur on Memorial Day than any other day. Drivers are impatient to get to their holiday destinations, and are more likely to jump the gun at intersections. Crashes at intersections number in the millions each year, and about 20 percent of all traffic deaths occur at them.

Police everywhere will be on the lookout for people who are driving too fast or carelessly, and DUI patrols will be out. However, there is no way that police can guard every intersection, so if you are out and about this weekend, whether on a holiday trip or just driving to the store, take extra care at intersections. Stop and look, and look again.

And once you’re through the intersection, be extra vigilant this weekend. There are just too many drivers on the roads, and many are on unfamiliar roads. Cars are full of noisy families, which can distract drivers. Some drivers will be tired and inattentive, and some, of course, will have been drinking. They won’t be watching out for you, so you need to watch for them.

In short: don’t speed, buckle up, don’t drink and drive, rest if you’re tired, and stay focused on the road ahead. Those four things will enable you to have a good Memorial Day weekend and then get you safely into next week.

Have a safe holiday weekend.

California DUI Woman to Her Arresting Officer: Thank You!

It’s the same in real life as it is on the police dramas we see on television: people who are arrested say a lot of things to cops, but never “thank you.”

thank-arresting-officer-for-duiThe exception is Mariya Fair, a California mother who was arrested for DUI on New Year’s Eve.  After a crash at a stoplight, at which no one was injured, she was booked for DUI by Fontana Police Officer Wayne Blessinger. She had been taking pain pills and muscle relaxants for what was really depression.

Recently she returned to the station to thank Officer Blessinger for the arrest that changed her life. His concern for her led to her getting help and turning her life around. In a TV interview Fair eloquently called it a “badly wrapped gift.”

It’s not always apparent to people being arrested for DUI, but the mechanisms in place to prevent DUIs can benefit the drinker as well as society.

  • Quite often an arrest of an otherwise law-abiding person is a wake-up call that forces the offender to deal with a problem that has been around for some time.
  • DUI courts and mandatory alcohol assessment and treatment have helped many offenders understand and get control of a drinking problem.
  • Ignition interlocks, or car breathalyzers, which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking, have  been found to be useful during rehab, when setbacks can often lead to impaired driving. Ignition interlock providers are sometimes thanked for their part in helping a drunk driver get back on the path of legal, safe driving.

Police, courts, and ignition interlock providers don’t expec t thanks from impaired drivers, but on occasion, someone realizes that we’re all the same side – that of public safety – and we get a hat tip. Our pleasure.

Your Hump-Day Recess: The $73,000 Bar Tab

A shock to the system can be an excellent reminder of what’s important in life. That’s why Bar Aurora and Boteca Ferraz,  the public-spirited nightspots in São Paolo, Brazil, decided to shock their patrons a few years ago with a bar tab that reflected not the price of the evening’s drinks, but the price of driving after drinking there.

And it appears that the price of drunk driving is high: thousands for ambulance transport, intensive care, facial reconstruction… it all ads up.

Hidden cameras captured the reactions of bargoers as they saw what their bill was – or rather, what it might have been had they decided to drive home.

The 2010 campaign, by Ogilvy & Mather Brasil, is another example of a trend to emphasize the problems that drunk driving can cause apart from the obvious one of injury and death. To see the faces of these customers as they view their total leaves no doubt that money is a strong motivator.

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, and a message to drunk drivers: grow up!

What Do You Get When You Let Your Unlicensed Teen Drive to Avoid a DUI? … A DUI.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. A Georgia couple decided they had drunk too much after a concert, so they had their 15-year-old daughter drive them home. The daughter had a learner’s permit, so they presumed that they were making the wisest decision.

Letting a child drive to avoid a DUI is just wrong.They presumed wrong. The girl struck a vehicle, and the father told her to keep driving rather than stop and deal with the matter.

When police tracked the family down through a license number, the father was arrested for DUI.

It might seem a strange call. After all, the father wasn’t driving. But Georgia law states that the supervisor of a learning driver must be capable of “exercising control of the vehicle.” Anyone who has been drinking is not capable of that control.

From time to time DUI arrests take place in which the one arrested was not driving at the time. A woman in Virginia got a DUI while in the back seat of a car.

A man in South Dakota wasn’t even in his truck, but he was drinking and bumped a gearshift, sending his vehicle rolling into a parked car.

In those cases, the issue was something called Physical Control, the idea that someone who is impaired and in control of a vehicle – even one that is parked – poses a danger and is thus guilty of a crime.

In this case the law was more specific: a supervising driver must be sober and ready to drive at any time. The father was charged with child endangerment as well as DUI.

The lesson here is to plan ahead. If you’re going to drink at a concert, have a designated driver (who is old enough to drive legally) or take public transportation. Desperate, poorly-considered last-minute ploys are a good way to end up with a DUI – or worse.

What are the Most Dangerous Days to be a Teenager? The Answer May Surprise You.

Prom and graduation night are occasions when teen drinking can get out of control

Memorial Day is when we warn drivers to be cautious on the crowded roads. We also point out Labor Day, New Year’s, even Cinco de Mayo – all are occasions when it’s a good idea to drive with an extra measure of care, if road accident statistics are to be believed.

But if you’re a teen, you have two days that stand out as more risky than most, and they’re not national holidays: prom and graduation.  They don’t make it into the lists of highest traffic fatalities because they don’t occur on specific dates, but take place on various weekends through May and June.

Nevertheless, you should know that about a third of all alcohol-related traffic deaths happen between April and June, when proms and graduations are in season. Little wonder: these two events combine end-of-school euphoria, social pressure, alcohol, and the bad judgement that teenagers are known for.

So, knowing that proms and graduations are risky times, what can a parent do to keep their teens safe?

  • Establish and discuss rules before the night. These include no drinking, curfew, and how they will be getting to and from prom, and which party they will go to.
  • Don’t rent hotel rooms or other out-of-home venues for prom or graduation parties.
  • Get together with parents and organize a non-alcoholic post-prom party.
  • Discuss frankly with your teen your concerns about drunk driving. In addition to being more likely to drive drunk, on prom and graduation night your teen will be more likely to ride with a friend who has been drinking. Let them know that neither option is allowed under any circumstances.
  • Make sure they know they can always get a taxi, a rideshare or a ride from you if they need it.
  • Impress on them that if a friend is about to drive drunk, they will be heroes if they take the keys away.

Contrary to what some students might think, alcohol is not a necessary part of a prom or graduation party. There’s plenty of fun to be had without it, and you’re the one who can teach that lesson to your son or daughter.

Can a Pig Beat a Drunk Driver in a Mayoral Election? How About a Murderer?

A pig is running for mayor against a drunk driver in Michigan

Giggles, mayoral candidate. Does she
have the political chops to win?

It’s safe to say it’s not politics as usual in Flint, Michigan. Three notables are running for the office of mayor:

  1. A convicted drunk driver
  2. A convicted murderer
  3. A pig named Giggles

We’re not sure where to go with this post. Long story short, a lawyer named Michael Ewing was disturbed about the histories of the first two, who were front runners in the race. So he wrote in the name of his one-year-old pig, Giggles, as a candidate. So far the candidate has proved popular.

Candidate 1, Flint City Councilman Eric Mays, was convicted of impaired driving in 2013. Candidate 2, City Councilman Wantwaz Davis, served 19 years in prison for second-degree murder.

Giggles has no previous record.

This piece of theater raises a real question, of course. Should convicted felons be ineligible for office? Davis claims that his up-close view of the prison system would be an advantage for running a city like Flint, which has a serious crime problem.

Like Mr. Davis, Mr. Mays has paid his debt for his crime. Should he be allowed to go no farther up the political ladder?

Mr. Mays was fortunate to have been caught in Michigan, which has very lax drunk driving laws. As is often the case in the state, he was able to plead down to a lesser charge which carries lighter penalties.

Michigan does not require ignition interlocks for first OWI offenders, except for “Super Extreme OWI” cases in which the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .17 or above – more than twice the national legal limit for intoxication. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

The state also does not suspend the licenses of drivers who fail their breath tests immediately upon arrest, as is the practice in most states.

We don’t have a stake in this mayoral race, but we’d support any candidate for state office that would promise to support a better ignition interlock law for Michigan, one that mandated devices for all OWI offenders with a BAC of .08 or above.

And if possible, we’d like that to happen before pigs fly – they’ve already started to run.

Wisconsin High School Students Make Their Own Social Host Law PSA

social host laws prohibit underage drinkingAs we’ve noted before, social host ordinances are growing in popularity. More and more communities are holding parents and other adults responsible for enabling underage drinking. Road safety organizations have urged lawmakers to enact ordinances. Concerned parents and teachers are on board. The idea is spreading that allowing underage kids to drink, even at home in a supervised setting, is not a good idea.

One group that has been conspicuously absent from the conversation – until now – is the kids themselves. That changed recently when a group of high school students in Wisconsin Rapids decided to publicize their district’s own social host law with their own PSA.

The plan is to put the PSA in the public eye for prom and graduation season, when teenage drinking is the most pronounced.

Quite a few parents think that it’s a better idea to host a drinking party for their high-school age kids so that they are drinking under their roof, where they can’t get in trouble. The belief is misguided, since a lot can go wrong at such a party. Also, you can’t control how drunk kids get (though you might think you can) and you can’t control when they’ll leave and what they’ll do afterwards. Many parents are also not aware of their own liability if they allow underage drinking.

This ad is aimed squarely at parents. Ultimately, they are the ones who make the choice, and they need to be aware that they’ll be breaking the law if they break out the beer.

Our hats go off to the students and teachers in Wisconsin Rapids, for creating this compelling message. And we also wish to praise the City of Wisconsin Rapids for passing a social host ordinance to keep kids safe and alcohol-free.

Your Hump-Day Recess: South Australia Tells Drunk Drivers to Grow Up

We’ve featured ads from far-flung places before. Places as varied as Brazil, New Zealand, and Thailand have produced compelling anti-drunk driving messages. Here’s one from South Australia that uses a simple and fresh approach.

What words come to mind when you think of drunk driving? “Dangerous,” “reckless,” and “foolish,” certainly.

The Motor Accident Commission of South Australia  wants you to add another association to those: “childish.”

Alcohol is entrenched in Australian culture to a disturbing degree. Some 20% of Australians drink to excess, and around 90 percent of police night-time callouts are alcohol related. This light-hearted campaign doesn’t address the problem of drinking as such, but emphasizes that choosing to drive is just plain immature. Good on you, mate.

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. and a lesson on how buzzed driving can ruin your love life.

Texas House Nails It: Ignition Interlocks Needed for First DUI Offenders

Welcome-To-Texas-Drrive-FriendlyAn important piece of DUI legislation cleared the Texas House of Representatives last week. If the Senate approves it and the Governor signs it, Texas will become the 25th state in the union to mandate an ignition interlock for every first-time DUI offenders. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

House Bill 2246 passed by a vote of 143 to 1. It looks as if some Texans are pretty enthusiastic about the prospect of protecting citizens on their roads and streets.

Under current Texas law, first offenders must have interlock devices installed only if they are convicted with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or more – about twice the legal limit for drunkenness. However, studies have shown that .08 – the legal limit in all states – is a severe enough impairment to warrant the interlock. At that level, judgement is compromised, hearing and vision are diminished, and reaction times are not sufficient to handle situations that might come up on the road.

What makes this bill particularly important is that Texas has the unhappy distinction of being the nation’s leader in drunk driving deaths. It would be a fitting distinction, and an important boost for the cause, if Texas became the 25th state to pass an all-offender ignition interlock law. Such laws have had great success in reducing alcohol-related deaths in neighboring states.

Texas isn’t there yet: the Senate still has to vote on the bill. But the House lawmakers, presumably acting on behalf of their constituents, have shown that the support is there.

Way to go, Texas.

Colorado Legislature Passes Felony DUI Bill – Over to You, Governor

Colorado wants to make 4th DUI a felonyColorado is on track to join the majority of US states that make it tough for drunk drivers to reoffend. A few days ago the State Senate gave its OK to House Bill 1043, which makes a fourth DUI a class 4 felony.

A word about felonies and felony DUI laws. Not everyone is aware of the difference between a misdemeanor and its more serious counterpart, the felony.

  • When misdemeanors result it jail terms, they are served in local or county jails. In Colorado those terms can be for up to 18 months.
  • Felons are sent to state prison. In Colorado felony prison terms are at least a year.
  • There are 6 classes of felonies in Colorado, ranging from Class 1 (e.g. first degree murder), carrying a sentence of life imprisonment, to Class 6 (e.g. possession of a controlled substance).
  • A Class 4 Felony is punishable by 2 to 6 years imprisonment and a fine of $2,000 to $500,000. Other Class 4 felonies include sexual assault, criminal conspiracy, and manslaughter.

A fourth Colorado DUI will place offenders in pretty distressing company. The implication is that anyone who repeatedly drives drunk is a danger to the public, and must be treated as one.

Many states are even tougher on drunk drivers. Four states regard a second DUI as a felony, and 22 states use a third conviction as the benchmark. If the Governor signs the bill, Colorado will join 18 states that currently make the fourth conviction a felony.

And will Governor Hickenlooper sign the bill? He’s already down as a supporter.  If he’s really committed to making Colorado a safe and family-friendly state, he’ll get his pen out now.