All She Did Was Hit A Curb — Busted!

Have you ever hit a curb when making a turn, say, out of a driveway? Most of us have at one time or another. Usually we say, “Whoops!” and drive on.

targeted for DUIBut seeing a driver glance off a curb on the way out of a Wal Mart parking lot was enough to put a New Hartford, New York police officer on the alert. He pulled over the driver and smelled alcohol. Busted.

The driver, a woman from Utica, New York was found to have a blood alcohol concentration exceeding .08 per cent, and was charged with DWI. In New York that means a fine of at least $1,000, possible imprisonment, and an ignition interlock installed in her car.

Spotting the car hitting the curb gave the officer probable cause for stopping the car. It could have been any number of signs, ones that all police keep a lookout for:

  • Drifting into the center lane
  • Nearly missing a parked car or other vehicle
  • Driving too slowly – it’s amazing how many impaired drivers are caught this way!
  • Tailgating
  • Forgetting headlights at night
  • Stopping where they don’t need to, e.g. green lights

Once you are stopped, the officer will talk to you and evaluate your speech. If he or she thinks there is cause, you will need to blow into a breathalyzer.

Moral: if you are driving impaired, no matter how well you think you hide it, you are not in control, and that one small slip will be enough to alert the police.



Top ways to avoid underage drinking at Prom or Homecoming

the top ways to avoid underage drinking at Prom or HomecomingSchool events like homecoming, football games, and dances are great for socializing with friends and having fun. But if you’re one of the many teens who add underage drinking to a social event, you’ll be putting yourself in danger.

Every year in the United States, teens are injured or killed in alcohol-related crashes, and many of them occur during Prom night or Homecoming. You can help prevent your teen from underage drinking by becoming aware of the top ways to avoid underage drinking at Prom or Homecoming:

  • Talk to your teen openly and honestly about underage drinking long before Homecoming or Prom night.
  • Be sure to create a plan with your teen for the evening and share it with other parents
  • Be aware of online posts and pages that may direct your teen to a party location
  • Create your own personal inventory of all alcohol in your home and hide it if necessary
  • Make sure you know who is driving to and from Prom, and if it is a limo, contact the company and ask about the possibility of underage drinking in the vehicle
  • Never rent hotel rooms for your children on prom night
  • Be in constant touch with other parents and keep each other up-to-date on plans

Prom should be one of the best nights of your child’s life, but it should also be a safe one. Speak to your child, be aware of the game plan for the evening, and stay in contact at all times. A teen that knows you have all the information and are up waiting for them to come home is much less likely to pick up a drink.

That Microbrew Might Be
Stronger Than You Think

Beer has always been plentiful in the US – even when it was outlawed – but the beer landscape has changed in the past two decades. For most of the 20th Century there were national brands – the Budweisers, the Michelobs – and regional brands: Genesee in New York State, Olympia in Washington, National Bohemian in Baltimore, Stevens Point in Wisconsin.

beers have different alcohol contentsAn explosion of craft beers has changed all that. There are no less than 3000 craft breweries in the US today, brewing specialized beers for specialized tastes: IPAs, hefeweizens, bocks, stouts, and others, crowding supermarket and convenience store shelves with a dizzying array of choices.

Aficionados note that quality has risen. But so has alcohol content. And that matters because beer drinkers usually judge their ability to drive based on how man beers they’ve had.

A Miller Genuine Draft has a 4.7% ABV (alcohol by volume). A 170-pound man might be able to drink a few cans and still be under the .08 limit.DUI-Meter

But what if that person, confident he can still drive after three beers, orders three Samuel Adams Imperial Whites (ABV 10.3)? That’s the equivalent of over six Miller Genuine Drafts.

And there are stronger beers still, a single glass of some whose ABV equals three supermarket beers. So a drinker could be getting behind the wheel after “two beers” that are really six.

Craft beer fans are not ready to give up their favorite brews, so we recommend the alternative: do not drive after drinking. The fact is that even one beer impairs judgment and coordination. You need to wait for alcohol to metabolize, and that will take longer if you are drinking stronger craft beers.

The next time you order a beer, glance at the ABV number and do the math. As with taste, so it is with alcohol: every beer is different.

Your Hump-Day Recess: Budweiser’s Ad
Against Drunk Driving Dogs Your Conscience

As part of what it calls Global Be(er) Responsible Day, Budweiser has put together an incredibly popular ad against drunk driving. The message is, “Make a plan to make it home. Your friends are counting on you.” The last time we checked the film had collected more than 7 million hits on YouTube.

PSAs on this topic have come a long way from the days of scary crash scenes, flashing sirens and a child’s doll or shoe strewn upon the roadway. Obviously someone at Budweiser thinks that sentiment is a better way to reach people than fear. If it works, we’re fine with it.

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, and a different kind of Anti-DUI message.

South Dakota Supreme Court Reverses
A DUI: A Strange Case of “Physical Control”

Did you know that you don’t even have to be driving to be arrested for a DUI? In most states, you just need to be in what is called physical control of the car, even if the motor is switched off and the keys are in your pocket. If you’ve been drinking, just sitting in the car and having the ability to turn the ignition key is considered enough to warrant an arrest. That means that well-intentioned drivers who decide to sleep it off in their car after a wild party can well wake up in jail.

Young driver with bottle in hand sleeps in the car.Sometimes a driver gets lucky, though.

Donald Nekolite went to a dance in Canistota, South Dakota with his girlfriend. Since she agreed to be the designated driver, Nekolite drank heavily, and then went out to his truck to get a cigarette. He opened the passenger door and reached over to the driver’s side to retrieve his cigarettes, and in doing so bumped the gearshift into neutral. The truck rolled into a parked vehicle.

Nekolite was arrested, charged and convicted of being in physical control of the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

Nekolite felt he was wrongly convicted, so he appealed. The circuit court upheld the conviction, but the Supreme Court reversed the decision.

It all hinges on the question: what is physical control?

The original court decision said that physical control meant “the vehicle was operable and that the defendant was in position to manipulate controls which would cause it to move.” The truck was operable, and he bumped the gearshift. Ipso facto.

Or not. There were a lot of aspects to the case, but the upshot is that physical control, as it is explained to juries, has another part: “…such control as would enable the defendant to actually operate the vehicle in the usual and ordinary manner.”

Nekolite was guilty by the first part of the definition, but not of the second: leaning through the passenger door, he could not “operate the vehicle in the usual and ordinary manner.”

Nekolite did the right thing: named a designated driver for the evening. He fell afoul of physical control laws, but in the end, fortunately, it was the South Dakota Supreme Court that shifted.

Ignition Interlocks Today:
Improved Accuracy and Reliability

People who have never used one of today’s ignition interlock devices (IID) are often told that they’re inaccurate, giving alcohol readings above what is actually present in the system. In fact, interlock technology has been progressing over the past couple of decades, and the front runners among today’s devices are extremely accurate and reliable, thanks in large part to one major advancement: the fuel cell method of alcohol detection.

The First Generation: Semiconductors

Ignition interlocks, also called car breathalyzerDUI-Meters, got their reputation for inaccuracy in the old days when devices used a semiconductor to detect alcohol.

In a semiconductor breathalyzer, a small piece of metal is heated to an extremely high temperature, and a voltage is run through it and measured. When alcohol fumes touch the metal, it changes the resistance, and hence the current. The amount of resistance change indicates the amount of alcohol in one’s system.

It sounds good, but the problem is that many substances, and not just alcohol, can change the resistance of a metal conductor: gasoline vapors, cigarette smoke, and other chemicals can alter the results and give a false positive.

Little wonder that police departments and courts are mandating that these devices be retired. There are still some interlock devices around that use the outdated semiconductor technology. If you are looking for an interlock, be advised to steer clear of them.

Today’s Technology: Fuel CellFC100

Today’s accurate devices use platinum electrodes which actually remove the alcohol from the breath by separating it into acetic acid and water. This oxidation reaction produces an electric current (like the chemical reaction that powers your car battery) which can be precisely measured. The electrodes react to alcohol and only alcohol, so you are much less likely to encounter a false positive result. When it does happen, it’s because the interlock is doing its job and detecting alcohol from another source, such as mouthwash. Rinsing the mouth with water should clear this up.

So if an ignition interlock device is in the cards for you, there’s no need to worry, as long as you don’t drink while driving. Just choose a device with alcohol-specific fuel cell technology, and you’ll be able to stay on the road without a hitch.

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.