Maryland Courts Are a Revolving Door for Drunk Driving Offenders

Ask a prosecutor in Maryland about habitual drunk driving offenders, and they’ll tell you plenty. That’s because the state has a lot of repeat business from DUIs. The police are certainly arresting their fair share of drunk drivers, but their efforts are not being matched in other parts of the system. Too many drunk drivers face too few consequences, and as a result these dangerous offenders are returned to Maryland’s roads.

Circle-Road-SignIf the state of Maryland is to confront its revolving-door DUI problem, it needs to face some stumbling blocks:

  • Lenient courts. The maximum penalty for a single drunk driving conviction in Maryland is one year imprisonment. Repeat convictions can garner up to 3 years in jail. However, a standard DUI rarely gets anything near the maximum. Unless the DUI is associated with a gross injury or other crime, the chances are good that the sentence will be less than maximum. Often it is just probation or a few days in jail. Moreover, offenders can often get out of jail after serving a small part of their sentence, thanks to prison overcrowding.
  • Reliance on suspension. A first conviction also carries a minimum 45 day license suspension. This might seem like an effective punishment, but the statistics say otherwise: more than half of suspended drivers continue to drive despite their suspension. And if they are problem drinkers, they will drive drunk.
  • Inadequate ignition interlock laws. Currently 24 states have laws which mandate an ignition interlock for all DUI offenses, including first offenses. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Maryland will only impose an interlock requirement for a first offense if the blood alcohol concentration (BC) of the offender is over .15 – about twice the legal limit. Even those offenders do not always get the interlock, if a judge rules otherwise. The good news is a new bill, Senate Bill 395, may change that. MADD and other safety advocates support the bill, which makes ignition interlocks mandatory for all offenders who blow .08 or above.

Chronic drunk drivers are a persistent, difficult problem, one that does not go away of its own accord. States that have had success reducing drunk driving deaths have done so through concerted effort. Maryland can do it too. Once the state gets serious about sentencing DUI offenders and beefs up its ignition interlock laws, Maryland will see a similar downturn in road deaths due to drunk driving.

LifeSafer Welcomes Alltek Automotive Repair
Of Longmont Colorado

For 20 years, drivers in and around Longmont, Colorado have been taking their cars and trucks to a shop they can trust: Alltek Automotive. Now anyone needing an ignition interlock can drop in to the family-operated shop on Main Street for reliable, honest and totally professional service. LifeSafer welcomes Alltek as our newest ignition interlock provider.

Alltek Automotive of Longmont Colorado will take care of your LifeSafer ignition interlock needsMotorists from Firestone, Boulder and Loveland as well as Longmont go to Alltek for every kind of service and repair: oil changes, brakes, steering, alignment, engine work, air conditioning, and more. They service hybrids and diesel models as well.

Alltek will install, monitor, and service your LifeSafer ignition interlock, and also train you in the operation of the device. The shop has 7 bays and three technicians to help get you in and out quickly and efficiently.

Alltek-Automotive-LifeSafer-FrontThe proprietor, Gary Pias, has been with Alltek from the beginning. The shop prides itself on vast technical knowledge and also eco-friendly service.

If you’re near Longmont and need an ignition interlock – or if your check engine light goes on – you know where to go. Call 888-855-0630 or go here to make an appointment with Alltek Automotive Repair. And happy motoring!

Hump-Day Recess: A 1949 DUI Stop

The roads of 1949 were a different world. While the states had laws against drunk driving, enforcement would not worry the police and courts much for another twenty years or so. Intoxicated drivers were usually seen as amusing mischief-makers, rather than deadly law-breakers. Too often they were sent home with a warning – a warning that didn’t take.

A 1949 DUI stop by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol

From this 1949 photo, it looks as if the Oklahoma Highway Patrol took this driver seriously, though it’s not clear if he was arrested, or just told to go home and sleep it off. Even if he did end up in court, sentences and fines for DUI were light, and of course there were no ignition interlocks to ensure that the drivers did not offend again.

Though we don’t know the outcome of this DUI stop, we offer a very belated kudos to the OHP for their vigilance.

Your Hump Day Recess: Every Wednesday LifeSafer brings you something a little different, related to the worlds of drunk driving and 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, 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 Vince and Larry, the Crash Test Dummies.

You Have No “Right” to Drive a Car

You can find out almost anything on the Internet. Including a lot that isn’t true.

To prove that point, some kind souls have built some convincing hoax websites. A site for ordering gasoline online is one example. The delightful Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus is another. They illustrate beautifully why you can’t believe what you read on the Internet.

The right to drive is not in the U.S. Constitution.

Did the Founding Fathers assert our right to drive a car?
Is a driver’s license an infringement of that right?

If only all the misinformation were in the form of amusing hoaxes.

Try Googling “driving is a constitutional right.” You’ll end up more than 45 million results. Not all of them are terribly relevant, but a surprising number of Web pages out there are dedicated to the – mistaken – idea that the right to drive your car is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Some even assert that driver’s licenses are an unconstitutional infringement of individual rights.

The not-so-sad fact is that there is no “right” to drive. In the U.S. – and in any country you care to name – driving is a privilege. In order to obtain the privilege, you must apply for a license and abide by the rules of the road.

Freedom of Movement = Right to Drive?

People who insist that driving is a right invariably point out that the Constitution guarantees freedom of movement. And it does.

So can I get into a car without a license and drive? No. You can ride as a passenger anywhere you want – that is your constitutional right. But operating a motor vehicle still requires a license, because the states have reserved the right to require one.

The matter came up in California in 1999. The case was Miller vs. Reed, in the 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. The decision stated:

While the ‘right of travel’ is a fundamental right, the privilege to operate a motor vehicle can be conditionally granted based upon being licensed and following certain rules. If rules are broken or laws are violated, the State reserves the right to restrict or revoke a person’s privilege.

So the matter is settled in California, and courts in other states are not falling all over each other to rule otherwise. So we can expect to see the “driving is a constitutional right” pages fade away as people discard their mistaken ideas and embrace the truth.

And if you believe that, maybe we could interest you in some dehydrated water.

 

Drunk Drivers Go Free in El Paso Texas:
Where’s the Ignition Interlock Compliance?

A law only helps society when it’s enforced. And recently a TV station in El Paso, Texas discovered a lack of enforcement which places a dire burden on public safety: the city is putting drunk drivers back on the road.

KFOX14 in El Paso investigated the results of a 2011 law requiring repeat drunken drivers to install ignition interlocks. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Many states require ignition interlocks but don't enforce the requirement. Examining arrest records, KFOX14 found almost 200 offenders who should have been using ignition interlocks on their vehicles, but who were driving without one.

The problem is not the police, who are arresting drunk drivers. The glitch happens in the time after the arrest, but before the court case. That’s when the offenders can leave jail once they have posted bail, usually with no conditions – including an interlock condition – attached.

So the DUI offenders are falling into a gap in which they are unsupervised. They can end up driving for months without an interlock, depending on how the court case is delayed.

interlock-testAnd of course, even after appearing in court, some offenders whose licenses are revoked will continue to drive. Statistics show that more than half of drivers who are suspended for offenses ignore the restriction and drive anyway.

The upshot: compliance is often the weak link in an otherwise good ignition interlock law. Here are some ways that states can help ensure ignition interlock compliance:

  • Make an interlock order a condition for getting out on bond after arrest
  • Monitor defendants on bond, to ensure that the interlock is installed
  • Impound the vehicle of a drunk driver and do not return it until an interlock is installed
  • Make the ignition interlock part of a supervised DWI court program that blends supervision with treatment and mandatory interlock use
  • Ensure that hardship programs are in place for those who cannot afford the interlocks

There is plenty of evidence that ignition interlocks work to reduce alcohol-related road deaths. What we need now is evidence that municipalities such as El Paso are doing a better job enforcing the laws that help protect society against drunk drivers.

Do Ignition Interlocks Have Lasting Effects on Sobriety?

Lifesafer ignition interlock rolling re-tetIgnition interlock laws have been around for decades now. While the success of the laws is well known, one sometimes hears an objection to the benefits of installing an ignition interlock, a device which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

That objection is that the device has no effect on the driver’s behavior after it is removed — the offender goes back to drinking as before.

The long-term effects of ignition interlock use are still being studied, but there are indications that, in fact, they do play a part in bringing about safer drinking habits. Last year a study by researchers at the non-profit Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation surveyed a group of DUI offenders who were participating in an ignition interlock program.

Before being arrested, all of the offenders drank at bars or restaurants. Afterwards, some continued to drink at commercial establishments, and others confined their drinking to the home.

teen driversAs it turned out, the offenders who stopped drinking outside (where there was a temptation to drive) also reported that they drank less, drank alone less often, and were more likely to continue to drink less after the interlock was removed.

Another PIRE study found that how often a driver failed a breath test during the interlock program was a good predictor of whether or not the driver was re-arrested for another DUI offense.

While not conclusive proof, these studies do suggest two reasons why ignition interlock programs are useful beyond the obvious one of preventing a driver from operating a vehicle while impaired:

    • Ignition interlocks might well have a lasting effect on some offenders’ behavior
    • Monitoring of offenders’ use of the interlocks might provide valuable predictors of future behavior

More work needs to be done, but it’s clear right now that ignition interlocks save lives, in ways we have documented and possibly in ways we’re just beginning to learn about.

Welcome Master Tech Transmission Specialists & Autocare of Walterboro South Carolina

Master-Tech-Transmission-Ignition-Interlock-Provider-South-CarolinaIf your transmission starts making a funny sound anywhere in greater Charleston County, South Carolina, you’re advised to head for Master Tech Transmission Specialists & Autocare in Walterboro and have it taken care of by the experts. For the last eight years this independent rebuild shop has setting things right inside cars of all types, and doing it with care and professionalism. LifeSafer is delighted to welcome Master Tech as its newest ignition interlock provider.

With 7 lifts and 4 top-flight technicians, Master Tech can accommodate plenty of vehicles. They provide a complete ignition interlock service: installation, training, monitoring, and service. The staff will be happy to answer your questions and see that you’re on the way securely with your new interlock.

In addition to Charleston County, drivers from neighboring Dorchester, Berkeley and Colleton counties are frequent customers. While they are known for their expertise in transmissions,
Master-Tech-Transmission-Specialists-Ignition-Interlock-Provider-Walterboro-SCMaster Tech is an AAR – an Approved Auto Repair facility that meets the AAA’s strict standards. They offer a complete menu of repair services, from brakes to shocks to electrical – “everything but tires” is their motto.

“We work really hard with people,” says Fred, the proprietor. “We make an extra effort to do our very best.”

If nothing but the best is good enough for you, remember to come to Master Tech for your ignition interlock needs.

Looking to install an ignition interlock in Walterboro South Carolina or Charleston County? Call 888-812-9495 or go here to book your appointment at Master Tech Transmission Specialists & Autocare. You’ll be on your way quickly, safely and legally.

Hump Day Recess: Buzzed Driving Gets
You Busted in More Ways Than One

On Hump Day Recess we’ve offered a number of witty anti-drunk driving ads that stress the various drawbacks of a DUI that go beyond the outright physical danger. One of the most popular themes in these ads is the social and financial cost of a drunk driving conviction. Legal fees, fines, lost jobs, broken relationships, and all the attendant hassles of being caught at drunk driving — or buzzed driving, which is the same thing — make a compelling case for not doing it. Here’s how the Ad Council boiled it down to 30 seconds:

It’s probably sad that we need to resort to alternative reasons for giving up buzzed driving: the danger to oneself and others should be enough. But humans are not always rational, so any argument that works is worth using. For young people especially, the thought of an incomprehensibly large expense, coupled with the social stigma, makes a good case for driving sober.

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, 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 Vince and Larry, our favorite crash test dummies

A New Mexico City Considers
Seizing Repeat DWI Offenders’ Vehicles

New Mexico debates seizing cars of repeat DWI offendersIf you have multiple DWI convictions in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, you might lose more than your license soon: you could say goodbye to your ride. The City Council is debating a proposal that would allow the DMV to seize the vehicles of repeat DWI offenders.

Drivers arrested for their second DWI offense could choose between having their car permanently seized or booted for a month. The latter option would require paying a fee.

Vehicle Forfeiture for DWI: Pros and Cons

Car seizure laws tend to provoke controversy. Supporters of forfeiture note that a vehicle in the hands of an impaired driver is a dangerous weapon. Other weapon-wielding criminals are arrested and disarmed. Why should this not be the case with drunk drivers? In addition, the threat of vehicle seizure should be a strong deterrent to anyone considering a drive home after a night of drinking. Finally, as the seizure is a civil action, it could be employed even if the driver escaped conviction on a technicality.

Opponents say that the driver, and not the car, is the problem. Many citizens worry that the profitability of the forfeiture system would lead to abuse and conflict of interest. It would put the largest burden on the poor, who could not afford the booting fee and would thus have their cars taken away permanently. Many forfeiture opponents prefer ignition interlocks, also called car breathalyzers, which are able to reduce DWIs by preventing a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Offenders retain their vehicles, and are theoretically able to work, seek treatment, and rebuild their lives.

There is also the issue of a car being used without the owner’s knowledge for drunk driving. In the case of the Rio Rancho ordinance, the owner’s car would not be seized unless the city could prove that the owner had knowledge of the intention to drive drunk.

It’s too soon to tell where Rio Rancho will come down on the issue of confiscating repeat DWI offenders’ vehicles. But New Mexico is well acquainted with the successful use of legislation to reduce alcohol-related deaths: the state was the first to introduce ignition interlocks for all DWI offenders, and its roads are much safer as a result. Whatever happens in Rio Rancho, we hope it helps continue the downward trend in drunk driving offenses that is New Mexico’s proud legacy.

4 Reasons Austin Texas Sees Far Too Many DWI Arrests

Austin Texas has a drinking and DWI problemIn most places in the US, drunk driving arrests are down. One city that defies this trend is Austin, Texas. For several years, DWI arrests have been on the rise, and the number of alcohol-related crashes on Austin’s roads is proportionally higher than other Texas cities. In fact, Austin’s downtown zip code has the highest alcohol sales in the state. Given that Texas regularly ranks in the top three states with the worst drunk driving records, that’s a meaningful and distressing distinction.

A number of factors contribute to the climate that seems to tolerate drinking and driving:

  • Drinking Culture. Austin is famous among Texas cities for its love of drinking. Some fifty thousand university students, bustling nightlife with a plethora of bars, a steady stream of tourists, and the party atmosphere that festivals like SXSW create all add up to an atmosphere of excess.
  • Inadequate Transport. It is very difficult to get a taxi during the wee hours in Austin. Not enough taxis are being issued permits. Partygoers eventually give up and crawl into their cars to drive home.
  • Inadequate Prosecution. Police complain that their DWI arrests are not resulting in convictions. One reason is that the caseload is too large for the staff. Many DWI cases end up getting dismissed or re-filed as other, simpler charges with fewer consequences.
  • Inadequate Ignition Interlock Laws. 24 states now mandate ignition interlocks for all DWI offenses. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. All-offender interlock laws are known to reduce DWI road deaths. Texas mandates ignition interlocks only for drivers who have had two more DWI convictions within ten years.

There are solutions for most of these problems. Stronger ignition interlock laws and better nighttime transport are no-brainers. And perhaps Austin can eventually address those drinking problems that stem from their unique culture. A number of public officials have come forward to say that something must be done. It remains to be seen whether Austin’s citizens will heed the call and start to rid their streets and highways of the menace of drunk driving.