No Refusal Policy Says No to Breathalyzer Denials in Texas

Breathalyzer“Don’t mess with Texas” is something you might have heard in relation to an anti-littering campaign, but if the Texas Department of Transportation has anything to say about it, the same slogan can now work for their latest anti-drinking and driving campaign.

Beginning this Friday, the Brownsville Police Department in Texas has instituted a year-round driving while intoxicated (DWI) no refusal policy. That means if you are suspected of driving while intoxicated, you won’t be able to refuse to submit to the Breathalyzer or provide a blood sample. In the past, the police in Brownsville had only put no refusal policies in place during busy holiday weekends when they’d be more likely to catch drinking drivers, but they moved to a year-policy to crack down on those who choose to drive while intoxicated.

Current DWI laws in Texas includes an implied consent law. Implied consent requires that you submit to the test, only receiving penalties such as a 180-license suspension should you refuse the test. With the new no refusal policy, if you are suspected of DWI and you refuse the Breathalyzer you will be sent to a local clinic for a blood draw.

Texas currently leads the nation with the highest amount of alcohol-related fatalities. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, 2012 saw 1,099 alcohol-related fatalities in the state. In Brownsville alone there were 174 alcohol-related crashes.

The new no refusal policy has met some opposition from local lawyers. They believe the police department and district attorney are violating individual constitutional rights by forcing suspected offenders to submit bodily fluids. There have also been supporters of the decision including Mothers Against Drunk Driving. As part of the MADD Take the Wheel Program they continually encourage drinking drivers to appoint a sober driver or Person Appointed to Stay Sober (PASS) when drinking.

Tips for driving in the rain

Tips for driving in the rainFor many States, especially the Pacific Northwest, winter means day after day of pounding rain. Wet weather comes with its own set of precautions, so before the rainy season really sets in, take time to brush up with tips for driving in the rain.

The first rule of thumb for driving in the rain is to slow down! Wet roads can be extremely hazardous because of excess water, making it easier to skid and slide when trying to stop. Other tips for driving in the rain include:

  • Stick to the middle lane of the roads. Water from rain will pool in the outside lanes.
  • Avoid driving too close to other cars and ease up on the accelerator so you don’t need to slam on your brakes. If you stick to the 3 second rule, where the car ahead of you is at least 3 seconds distance away, you’ll have more time to stop.
  • Turn your headlights on for increased visibility.
  • If the rain is coming down and it’s difficult to see ahead of you, follow in the tracks of the car in front of you.
  • When driving through large puddles, go slow or find another way around the puddle. If you drive through water that is too deep, you can affect your car’s components.
  • If you’re driving through a thunderstorm and are having a hard time seeing ahead of you, pull over somewhere safe and wait out the storm.
  • Try to avoid splashing pedestrians on the sidewalks

Even for the most experienced driver, rain can be almost as hazardous as driving in the snow. By following these tips for driving in the rain, both you and those driving with you will stay safe during the rainy season.

High School Students Asked To Take Breathalyzer At Prom

breathalyzerProm is supposed to be an exciting time – a time for beautiful dresses, boys in uncomfortable tuxedos, and a dance that should forever be remembered as one of the highlights of high school. Unfortunately there are always some students who feel like they want to take prom to the next level by adding alcohol to the mix, and it’s these individuals who can take a fun night out and destroy it with underage drinking.

But a high school in Marlboro, New York aims to make sure underage drinkers don’t ruin their next prom. The school district has proposed prom goers be asked to take a Breathalyzer test before they enter the dance. School resource officers would administer the test, and if a student flunks the test they could be suspended and barred from all year-end events. If the student is a senior, they could even be barred from graduation.

Some parents at the school aren’t on board with the proposed Breathalyzer because they feel it infringes on the 4th Amendment ‘Search and Seizure’ protection. What seems to be pushing the school board to a decision in favor of Breathalyzers is the increased frequency of underage drinking, and they cite a recent party where a parent was arrested for supplying alcohol to minors as one of the reasons the prom needs to test the blood alcohol levels of students who attend.

In New York, a person under the age of 21 can be charged with DUI if they drive with .02 blood alcohol level, so there is no tolerance for underage drinking in the state. In the case of Marlboro, what the school administration appears to be doing is trying to get students to consider the consequences of underage drinking and make the decision to avoid alcohol.

A vote to decide on whether breathalyzers will be at the Marlboro junior prom will be held May 2nd, 2014. It’s the hope of those in favor that the students attending will have a safe and alcohol free event.

Road Safety Education Burma-Shave Style:
Part 3: The End of the Road

In the second post in this series, we saw that, as the US become a nation on wheels,Burma-shave sign Burma-Shave signs sprang up along roads everywhere.  But the campaign was not to last. America had changed a great deal by the mid-century mark, and neither motoring nor advertising were immune to progress.

Almost every state in America had some Burma-Shave signs along its highways by the 1950s, providing a moment of diversion on long drives through miles of sometimes-repetitive scenery. Some still warned of the hazards of a stubbly chin, while others kept the public aware of the many dangers on the road, particularly the hazards of speeding ….


… or passing without proper visibility:


There were other warnings too, against inattention at railroad crossings, and of course, drunk driving, which had yet to acquire a social stigma, and was thus frighteningly common.


By the mid-1960s Burma-Shave had wrapped up its famous campaign. The company changed hands, and the signs began to disappear, many into the hands of souvenir collectors. Drivers would no longer be entertained (and reminded of the fate of drunk drivers) by messages like:

What changed was not the need for anti-drunk-driving messages, but America’s highways themselves. With the Interstate system roads had become bigger, faster and more crowded, and reading small signs by the shoulder was getting difficult – even dangerous.

The Burma-Shave signs were never a systematic method of driver education, just an inspired advertising campaign that happened to relate worthwhile public safety messages in an amusing way. But for many motorists those old signs were a reminder – sometimes their only reminder – of the benefits not just of a smooth chin but of safe and sober driving.


Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series:

← Part 1: A New Traveling Companion
← Part 2: The Campaign Picks Up Speed

Time To Brush Up On Bicycle Safety

bicycle safety With the winter fading away and the warm sunshine finally coming back out again,  thoughts are turning back to bicycles. After an entire winter cooped up in the house, its all too tempting for a child or adult rider to forget all safety rules and throw caution to the wind while riding a bike, but you can protect your child or yourself by taking a few minutes out to brush up on bicycle safety.

May is Bicycle Safety Month, and with it comes the realization that just because you’re on a bicycle, it doesn’t mean you can’t be involved in traffic crashes. Statistics from 2011 show how there were 48,000 bicyclists injured and 677 killed in motor vehicle crashes, and alcohol was a factor for either the cyclist or the driver in 37% of fatal crashes.

The key to bicycle safety is to realize that, even if you’re an adult, a bicycle is not a toy. Bikes are actually considered vehicles, and as such you’ll need to abide by traffic safety rules when you’re on one. Here are a few bicycle safety tips to follow when you or your children are riding a bike:

  • Wear a helmet – In the event of a crash, a bicycle helmet could save your life. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a guide that shows you how a bicycle helmet should properly fit.
  • Be visible – When riding a bike, always wear something neon or bright so you are easily visible on the road. If you do not have brightly colored clothing, use reflective tape to increase visibility.
  • Be on the lookout for potential hazards – Road hazards such as potholes, puddles, leaves, and dogs can all cause a crash. Be on the lookout for obstacles while riding a bicycle.
  • Never ride at night – The likelihood of being in a traffic crash increases at night when visibility is poor. If you ride at night make sure you have reflectors on your bike and use a light.

Riding a bike is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, but be sure to stay safe while riding by following these tips.


Michigan Super Drunk Law In Action

Michigan Super Drunk image

Drinking is a popular pastime in March and April in Michigan as there numerous festivities including St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness, spring break, and April’s “Drink Michigan,” the state’s official month of wine. Police put out extra patrols during these months as bars tend to do a brisk business.  In March alone, police reported a statewide tally of 2,271 drunken driving arrests, nearly 30 percent of which fell into the “super drunk” category.

The Michigan Super Drunk law went into effect this year. This law raises penalties for offenders whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .17 or higher and who have a prior drunk driving conviction. This level is over twice the legal limit of .08.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Eileen Kowall, seeks to send a message to those who have a problem and keep driving. “Repeat drunk driving offenders are four times as likely to get into a fatal crash than unimpaired drivers, so we must do all we can to keep these dangerous drivers off the road,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “By increasing the penalties for such offenses, we can send a clear message that repeat drunk driving will not be tolerated in our state.”

If convicted of being Super Drunk, offenders face up to 180 days in jail, a $700 fine plus costs, and up to two years’ probation.  If convicted there is a one year mandatory treatment and/or AA.  A restricted driver’s license is required for one year with an ignition interlock device after 45 days of no driving. Six points are also added to the offender’s driving record.

An ignition interlock device ensures that drivers cannot drink and drive. This breathalyzer device is connected to the ignition of the car. The driver must blow into the device and register below the state mandated level in order for the car to start.

Using the ignition interlock device, in conjunction with Michigan’s DWI Courts, have proven effective in keeping offenders sober, while still allowing them to be responsible to their jobs and families.

New Hampshire Ignition Interlock Laws

new hampshire ignition interlockNew Hampshire ignition interlock laws show the state is cracking down on DWIs by imposing fines and suspensions for DWI offenses. These suspensions and offenses vary depending on the circumstances of the DWI and the driver’s record. Currently, New Hampshire ignition interlock laws require anyone convicted of a DWI to attend an Impaired Driver Care Management Program. This program determines what the offender may require in order to gain education and treatment.

New Hampshire ignition interlock laws also have regulations mandating the installation of ignition interlock devices. These ignition interlock devices are mandated for all aggravated DWIs which are DWIs with high blood alcohol content or a DWI in which a serious injury has occurred. Ignition interlock devices are also mandatory for additional DWI charges. These fines, suspensions, and ignition interlock devices are helping to reduce the rate of DWIs and DWI related injuries.

Alabama Passes Ignition Interlock Law For All Offenders

ignition interlock Drunk driving is a preventable crime, and drunk driving crashes are not ‘accidents’ but are actually due to someone making a choice to get behind the wheel after drinking. To save lives, it’s vital that new states join in on laws that will cut down on drinking and driving, and that’s why having Alabama pass a new ignition interlock law is a step in the right direction.

Alabama is the 21st state to pass an all-offender ignition interlock law. With House Bill 381 authorized by Alabama Representatives, the state will require ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers including first time offenders with a blood alcohol level of .08.

Previous Alabama DUI laws included jail time of up to one year for first offenders, fines up to $2100, and the loss of the privilege to drive for up to 90 days. If you were a repeat or first time offender with a blood alcohol level of .15 or higher, you would also be required to install an ignition interlock. With the new law anyone convicted of drinking and driving in Alabama, including first offenders with .08 to .14 blood alcohol level, will require an ignition interlock for a period of six months.

For Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), having Alabama pass this law for all offenders will bring them closer to one of their goals as an organization. They would like to have every state in the USA require every convicted drunk driver to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. It’s part of their ‘Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving’ and the goal is to have the offender use the ignition interlock device for a minimum of six months. As of July 2013, there were approximately 300,000 ignition interlocks in use in the USA, and MADD’s goal is to continue the campaign until all states are on board.


Road Safety Education Burma-Shave Style:
Part 2: The Campaign Picks Up Speed

The famous Burma-Shave campaign was born in 1925, as we noted in the first post in this series. Motoring was young; the Model T still had two years of production ahead of it.

The 1930s and 1940s brought America faster and more reliable cars. Travelers who might have hopped a train in previous decades now took to the road to visit family or look for opportunity. And everywhere they went, motorists saw Burma-Shave signs along the highway, dispensing rhymed observations on shaving and road safety.

Dependable cars meant more long-distance trips, and with that a greater likelihood of sleep-deprived drivers. Burma-Shave tackled the issue:


Speeding, of course, had been causing accidents as long as cars had been on the road. Burma-Shave gave over a considerable number of its signs to admonish speeders:

burma-shave-hardly Drunk driving was another frequent target of the Burma-Shave copywriters. As more and more Americans owned cars, it became obvious that these hurtling masses of steel, in the hands of impaired drivers, posed a unique safety hazard. The signs addressed the problem with a healthy dose of dark humor:


It might seem a curious way to get customers – associating your product with road fatalities – but it worked. Burma-Shave was a top-selling shaving cream in its time. And for as long as the company ran its lighthearted sign campaign, it never eased up on the message: drunk driving kills.


In the final post you’ll read how Burma-Shave’s roadside campaign fell victim to the faster pace of the Sixties.

← Part 1: A New Traveling Companion Part 3: The End of the Road →


State Spotlight – Interlock and DUI Laws in the State of Maine

DUI Laws in the State of MaineAlthough the legal blood alcohol limit for driving in all states is .08, most states have a .02% legal limit for those under the age of 21. DUI Laws in the State of Maine include a zero tolerance law, where those under the age of 21 must maintain 00% to get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

As with most states, Maine has an implied consent law. Should you refuse to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test to test your blood alcohol levels, you will immediately lose your privilege to drive for a period of 275 days. Second and third refusals will receive 18 months to 4 years license suspensions.

First DUI offenders in Maine will be required to serve 30 days in jail. They will lose their privilege to drive for a period of 90 days and they will pay fines up to $500. The lookback or washout period for DUI in Maine is 10 years, and the second time DUI offender will spend up to 6 months in jail and pay fines up to $1000.

Second time DUI offenders in Maine will also lose their privilege to drive for a period of 3 year. After 9 months, it may be possible for the second time DUI offender to gain a restricted license if they install an ignition interlock device.