West Virginia’s Ignition Interlock Program
Grows – And its Roads Grow Safer

West Virginia’s ignition interlock program has taken off, thanks to an enlightened law that cuts red tape and keeps drunk drivers off the roads.

Before Senate Bill 434 was passed, all DUI offenders in West Virginia had to wait through a license revocation period before starting the ignition interlock program. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

DUI Laws in the State of West VirginiaNow offenders can skip the revocation period, waive their administrative hearing, and start their ignition interlock program right away. They keep their driving privileges, and exchange their license for an ignition interlock restricted one, which allows them to drive only if the device is installed on their vehicle.

The state has benefited from the law. The number of administrative hearings in West Virginia has been cut in half. This frees police personnel, who no longer have to testify at hearings.

Every time such a bill is passed, some people object to the idea of giving drunk drivers a “free pass.” In fact, the pass is anything but free: the program includes mandatory treatment and safety classes. Fines and jail time are also imposed, depending on the severity of the offense. But it is the replacement of revocation by the interlock requirement which makes an immediate difference to public safety. Drivers are prevented from drinking anything before getting behind the wheel.

LifeSafer-Ignition-Interlock-FC100-HandRevocation might seem like a stiffer penalty, but in truth, about half of all drivers who have a suspended or revoked license continue to drive. And those who drink, continue to drink and drive as well. It’s a choice between a revocation that doesn’t keep drunk drivers off the roads, and an interlock program that does.

Since 2008, when West Virginia first implemented a program that required all DUI offenders – including first-time DUIs – to use an ignition interlock, DUI arrests have dropped a third, and drunk driving deaths have gone down by 20 percent.

We salute West Virginia’s lawmakers for having the vision to make the right choice. The state has provided more proof that ignition interlock programs work.

Will New Jersey Be the Next State to Require Ignition Interlocks for All DUI Offenders?

Another state is falling into line with the national trend toward requiring all DUI offenders – not just multiple offenders – to install ignition interlocks on their vehicles. New Jersey’s State Senate will soon vote on a bill that would require first-time DUIs to use the devices. The bill passed in the house last June.

NJ-postcardAn ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Once thought to be a last resort for hardcore repeat drunk drivers, ignition interlocks are now widely seen as a solution that benefits not only the driver but also society. States that have adopted all-offender interlock laws reduce alcohol-related road deaths, sometimes by more than 40 percent.

Why the change in sentiment from lawmakers? One reason is in the data: statistics from the CDC and other sources show that by the time a person has been arrested for DUI, he or she has driven impaired an average of 80 times. All-offender ignition interlock laws thus do a lot to take problem drinkers off the roads.

NJ-License-PlateAnother reason for the trend, at least in New Jersey, is that the state’s neighbor to the north has been racking up successes with its all-offender ignition interlock program. New York has had what is known as Leandra’s Law since 2009, and as a result the state’s alcohol fatality rate is below the national average.

In fact, a New York congresswoman, Nita Lowey, has proposed a federal ignition interlock bill. It’s a very good bandwagon for New Jersey to jump on.

One of the bill’s sponsors has noted — correctly — that license suspensions are not effective as a means of preventing drunk driving, or for that matter, illegal driving of any kind. Statistics show that more than half of all suspended drivers get behind the wheel during their suspension. An ignition interlock is the only effective means of ensuring that a driver behind the wheel has not been drinking.

Will the bill pass? We’re confident that it will. New Jersey is well known for the hard line it takes on drunk driving. The adoption of an all-offender ignition interlock bill is the next obvious step towards legislation that succeeds in the goal of keeping streets safe while enabling problem drinkers to get the treatment they need.

New LifeSafer Location: We Welcome
Westown Auto, Norfolk, Nebraska

Westown-Auto-LifeSaferIn northeast Nebraska you are going to need a vehicle.  Jeeps and light trucks are popular, and so is Westown Auto, an independent, family-owned used car dealership that specializes in Jeeps but also carries many other makes and models. Westown is now also the place to have your LifeSafer ignition interlock installed and serviced.

Apart from selling fine used cars and doing auto maintenance, Westown will take care of all your ignition interlock needs: installation, monitoring, calibration, service, and removal. They have facilities for working on 3 cars at a time.

Westown-Auto-Jeep-LifeSaferWestown serves all the towns in Northeast Nebraska, including O’Neill, Fremont, and Columbus. Joe Haller and his sun Justin started the dealership around a year ago. They have the automotive business in their blood, and so they were a logical addition to the LifeSafer family of providers. We’re delighted to welcome this family business.

If you’re looking to install an ignition interlock in Norfolk Nebraska or anywhere in northeast Nebraska, call 888-476-4674 or go here to book your appointment at Westown Auto. Joe and Justin will be happy help get you back on the road legally and safely.

Your Hump-Day Recess: Just Why Are You the Designated Driver?

Another homage to that vitally important person, that friend and savior, the designated driver. Unlike some PSAs about the subject, this fun ad admits that being a designated driver is perhaps not the most enjoyable task one can perform. The very thing that makes a person incapable of driving a car safely can also make them a somewhat boring companion to a sober person.

Nevertheless, the message is: you do it because it’s your turn. The ad comes from ICBC, the Insurance Brokers of British Columbia. They refer to designated drivers as “unsung heroes.

We’re in agreement. This time, it’s your turn to stay sober and get your friends home. Next time you get to drink and bore your designated driver.

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 messageour 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, a Cool 1950s Soviet Anti Drunk Driving Poster, He Got a DUI on a WHAT? a 1970s Alcohol Mythbuster,  Halloween Drunk Driving, a brewery that keeps its anti-drunk driving message under its cap, a thought-provoking UK ad celebrating 50 years of Think! a dramatic buzzed driving PSA , an offbeat ad from New Zealand, the world’s worst car modification, and a Thai drunk-driving ad.

Blame it on the Fish: A Wisconsin Man’s
Improbable Excuse for Drunk Driving

A Wisconsin man with nine drunk driving offenses had an excuse, for a change.

blames fish for wisconsin owi arrest John Przbyla was stopped for erratic driving and having a broken taillight. The officer then noted that the driver’s eyes were bloodshot and he smelled of alcohol. Yet Przbyla told the arresting officer he had not taken a drink.

No, he had just eaten beer-battered fish. That, he claimed, must have been what caused the intoxication.

Drunk Driving: A Matter of Scale

For the record, to make your average 8-ounce portion of beer-battered fish you need:

• ½ cup beer
• ½ cup flour
• Pinch salt
• Pinch seasoning
• Teaspoon oil

However, not all of that batter will make it onto the fish you eat – that is just the amount in the bowl of batter the fish will be dipped in. Let’s say half that amount of batter sticks to the fish. So his portion had ¼ cup beer in it.

Some alcohol – though not all – will burn off, since deep frying works too fast to boil much of it away. Let’s say three-quarters of the alcohol is left. That’s three ounces of beer that was ingested.

Wisconsin man tells tale about fish causing OWIHang on – let’s say he ate two portions, because after all, it’s beer-battered fish. So six ounces of beer went into Przbyla’s system – half a can. Even if he weighed a mere 140 pounds, drinking that amount of beer would register just .01 on a breathalyzer. It’s doubtful that such a small amount would cause bloodshot eyes.

No Sole Answer

Przybla has nine OWI offenses on his record. If he’s convicted at his hearing in January, that will make an even ten. Clearly this driver has a problem that is not being addressed by Wisconsin’s current OWI culture. There are no guaranteed answers, but given his tendency for recidivism, we think an ignition interlock would be in order. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Michigan has found that the OWI court/interlock combination is a powerful one. The OWI court supervises treatment, and the interlock prevents the offender from getting behind the wheel. As a result, the offender is given resources to turn his life around while the public is protected.

And everyone lives to tell the tale.

 

Where Are the Country’s Best and Worst Drivers?

bad-drivingThe yearly report from the website www.carinsurancecomparison.com, listing the best and worst drivers by state, is out again. Minnesota can rejoice in having the country’s best drivers, followed closely by neighbor Iowa.

Using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the site rates each state on factors such as fatalities per mile traveled, percentage of crashes involving broken traffic laws, drunk driving, speeding, and careless driving (using pedestrian and bicycle fatalities as a gauge).

Now that the numbers have been crunched, here are the 10 best and worst states, in order:

RANKINGBEST DRIVERSWORST DRIVERS
1MinnesotaMontana
2IowaSouth Carolina
3New HampshireTexas
4AlaskaNorth Dakota
5ConnecticutDelaware
6OregonLouisiana
7MichiganNevada
8WashingtonHawaii
9UtahOklahama
10IndianaMissouri

Why would Minnesota top the charts? Does “Minnesota nice,” the innate politeness and courtesy that the state is known for, carry over onto the roads? It’s possible. But we’d rather not generalize, because then we’d have to figure out what innate qualities caused Montana and South Carolina tie for the dubious distinction of having the country’s worst drivers.

We suspect that it’s not some inner quality, but a culture of drinking and driving, that put them there. Montana has the worst drunk driving record in the country, and the site notes that the five worst states were among the top ten in terms of drunk driving.

No survey is perfect, and this one might not be an accurate reflection of how good or bad drivers really are in the states listed. But if if these surveys do have any value, it’s in getting people thinking about what factors make our roads unsafe. And the signs point to alcohol as one of the main culprits.

When is a Car Accident Not an Accident?

In everyday speech we use the terms “car crash” and “traffic accident” interchangeably. But are they in fact the same thing?

Some definitions of the word “accident:”

  • An unfortunate happening, one that is unintentional
  • An unexpected event, one which happens without plan or cause
  • In law, something that happens which causes injury, but which is in no way the fault of the injured person

Firefighters-Saving-Woman-In-CarSo, when a drunk driver crashes, is it a car accident? Not according to the definitions above. Anyone who drinks and drives is engaging in a practice known to be lethal. Therefore, a crash by a drunk driver is a logical, if not inevitable conclusion.

A battle is going on to change the way we speak and write, and thus the way we think. The Minneapolis Star Tribune is considering a change to their style guide. It all started when the paper described as an accident a collision involving injury to a child by a reckless driver. Twitter reactions to the story were sharp: readers objected to the idea that the tragedy could not have been prevented.

A large group of road safety organizations wrote a letter to the Star-Tribune, affirming the need to end the use of the word “accident” for preventable crashes. Called Crash Coalition, the group minces no words:

Those who drive under the influence, distracted, or aggressively, among other behaviors, are consciously acting in a manner that is universally known to increase the chance of an event that could kill and injure innocent victims. Somehow the word “accident” doesn’t seem appropriate for such dangerous and reckless behavior.

In the UK, an organization called RoadPeace is taking up the cause. The points they want to drive home:

  • Crashes are still seen as unfortunate ‘accidents’, instead of preventable collisions
  • Society tolerates road death and disability as an acceptable price to pay for the convenience of cars
  • Crash victims do not have the same rights or support as other victims of crime or trauma

Accidents do happen, but they are rare. Most road collisions are preventable by driving at a proper speed, by staying alert and driving defensively, and of course, by not ever driving impaired.

New Location:
Welcome LifeSafer of Gulfport, Mississippi

The seaside city of Gulfport, Mississippi is known for its picturesque harbor and for being home to the Seabees. It’s also home to one of the newest LifeSafer Ignition Interlock locations.

Gulfport_SignLifeSafer of Gulfport, on Dye Road just east of U.S. 49, offers full ignition interlock service, from installation to monitoring, calibration and training. The proprietor, Kenny Babcock, is an experienced interlock technician who will go the extra mile to make sure that you are up and running quickly.

Beyond Gulfport, this LifeSafer location serves Biloxi, Hattiesburg, Long Beach, Pascagoula, Ocean Springs, Bay St. Louis, and other cities and towns in the Mississippi Gulf region.

Kenny will do installations on all makes and models of cars. If more than one family member is required to use the vehicle, additional users will be trained to use the interlock at no charge. It’s all part of the service that LifeSafer offers all customers.

At LifeSafer we’re proud to add LifeSafer of Gulfport to our large and growing list of service locations, which numbers well over 900 coast-to-coast.LifeSafer-Ignition-Interlock-FC100-Hand

If you’re looking to install an ignition interlock, and you’re in Gulfport Mississippi or anywhere in the Gulf region, call 800-377-8750 or go here to book your appointment at LifeSafer of Gulfport.

You’ll be back on the road before you know it!

 

Your Hump-Day Recess: Thai Drunk Driving Ad

How’s your Thai? Don’t worry, you really don’t need to speak it to get the idea of this ad. Once again, humor is the vehicle, but the message is serious.

Thailand has a drinking problem, and also a very severe drinking and driving problem. A recent study by the World Health Organization placed Thailand at the top of ASEAN countries in terms of alcohol consumption. Spirits are easily available and inexpensive. As a result, over half of road deaths have an alcohol component. The vast number of motorcycles and bicycles adds to the casualties. There are drinking laws in Thailand, but enforcement is lax.

One thing the ad does suggest is that drinking and driving is the “old” way of doing things. The young man dutifully steers the older man into the waiting arms of the police. Associating drunk driving with age isn’t a bad idea. If you can’t persuade people that impaired driving is dangerous, at least you can make it unfashionable.

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 messageour 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, a Cool 1950s Soviet Anti Drunk Driving Poster, He Got a DUI on a WHAT? a 1970s Alcohol Mythbuster,  Halloween Drunk Driving, a brewery that keeps its anti-drunk driving message under its cap, a thought-provoking UK ad celebrating 50 years of Think! a dramatic buzzed driving PSA , an offbeat ad from New Zealand, and the world’s worst car modification.

Crash Caused by Driver Who Drank For ‘Medicinal Purposes’

A distressing police report from Tacoma: an 86-year-old man caused a three-car crash while driving the wrong way down Interstate 5.

Brandy-rxFortunately, there were no life-threatening injuries. But what’s alarming is that the drunk driver, Panos Palas, blew a .123 on a breathalyzer, despite claiming he had nothing to drink. He revised his claim later: he drank some brandy for his cough.

It’s unclear from the article whether the brandy was taken alone or with a cough medicine, but either way, it was a bad decision resulting from seriously outdated thinking.

At 86, Mr. Palas is old enough to remember when brandy was indeed thought of as a medicine. Any fan of black-and-white movies will remember scenes in which a matron faints after some bad news, only to be brought around by a shot of brandy.

In an age before potent medications, doctors regularly prescribed alcohol. Its depressant properties alleviated anxiety, and a regular dose of brandy was often regarded as a way to improve high blood pressure, pneumonia, and many other diseases, despite a lack of scientific evidence. Alcohol falls into the category of folk medicine, albeit one that had, in earlier times, many satisfied customers.

Prohibition_prescription_front

Prescription Form for Medicinal Liquor
Used During Prohibition

In the US during Prohibition, doctors and their patients capitalized upon this belief – one could still procure alcohol for medicinal purposes, and the number of ailments for which the treatment was prescribed went through the roof. Looking at pharmacies’ record books, one would have thought that America was one sick nation indeed, at least from 1919 to 1933.

By the 1940s, with the advent of penicillin and other effective drugs, the fashion of prescribing alcohol receded. Those who wanted to drink brandy would have to find a reason that did not involve the medical profession.

Today there is no excuse to drink to cure a cough or any other ailment. And of course, there is no excuse — ever — to drink and drive.