Get a Halloween DUI & Lose Your Ride!


Police will be doing sweeps this weekend and Monday, watching for drunk drivers in and out of costume. Be warned – and have a happy Halloween. 

      – LifeSafer

AMI and NHTSA Partner for Halloween DUI Jukebox Campaign

AMI Halloween DUI jukebox quizJukeboxes in bars usually stay in the background. They play tunes, but they’re not known for taking a stand on issues.

That changes this Halloween. AMI has partnered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to help all the people who are out celebrating this weekend get home safely and avoid a Halloween DUI. And they’re using the medium of the digital jukebox to do it.

What can a jukebox do? AMI’s digital jukeboxes will be running an “Impaired Driving IQ Quiz” that tests a user’s knowledge of issues involving alcohol and driving. Those who pass the test win a free song.

The partnership is part of NHTSA’s Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving campaign, which has for years been educating people – particularly young people – on the dangers of driving with an amount of alcohol that might not seem enough to be dangerous.  In fact, that “buzz” is enough to diminish one’s driving skills, judgment, and reaction time.

jukeboxIt’s not a bad idea – taking the Halloween DUI message right to the bar. Apart from a beer coaster, and perhaps a poster in the bathroom, there aren’t many places in a bar to encourage people to plan a safe ride home. And a bar is a good place to do it – though it’s even better to do it before you get to the bar.

The quiz will appear on AMI jukeboxes from coast to coast, featuring local numbers to call to get a safe ride home. We hope AMI tries similar ideas during different holidays, and that NHTSA keeps thinking of more ways to spread the message to make a plan, drive sober, and be safe.

Man Uses Pig’s Ear to Fool Alcohol Monitoring Bracelet.

alcohol monitoring device fooled by pigs earThe police officer knew something wasn’t kosher right away when he saw the man passed out in the driver’s seat of a truck in I-90 near Huson, Montana. Several empty beer cans and a liquor bottle lay in the truck as well. The deputy saw that the driver was intoxicated, and a DUI arrest was made.

What’s interesting is that the defendant had six prior DUI convictions and a seventh felony DUI case that is still open.  He was supposed to be wearing an alcohol monitoring bracelet which reads the user’s perspiration and detects alcohol use. The data can then tell authorities if probation terms or other legal restrictions on alcohol have be breached.

The man in question defeated the bracelet by placing some buckskin and a pig’s ear between the device and his leg.

Clearly, we need to control pig’s ears better to prevent incidents like this.

No, that’s not true. But whether or not the man would have gotten away with it, and whether or not pig’s ears really work, a couple of facts are clear:

  • Some people are determined drunk drivers who will repeat their crime no matter what. If they are out and about, there must be a way to protect society from them, and license suspension will not work.
  • Ignition interlocks are the best answer. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. The real crime is drunk driving, which can take innocent lives.  An interlock device prevents the driving part of drunk driving – the part that endangers everyone.

If a convicted drunk driver has an alcohol monitor and decides to drive, he or she will be caught eventually, but not before taking to the road and putting lives at risk. Alcohol monitoring has its place, but an ignition interlock is the only technology that will keep a vehicle from starting. Obviously it’s the choice that works best for public safety.

Road safety policy should begin with of techniques and technology that have proven successful and have reduced DUI crash death rates. Other approaches – ones that don’t actually address the driving part of drunk driving – are at best supplementary, and at worst… hogwash.

Nation’s Sheriffs: DUI is a Crime. And Crimes Mean Victims.

DUI Victims need care, say sheriffsThe National Sheriffs’ Association wants law enforcement officers to know that a DUI crash is more than an incident to be investigated and reported on. It’s a crime with often devastating consequences for the DUI victims.

Officers called to a collision take down facts, determine the cause, and of course, get help for crash victims. But traditionally that has meant seeing that they got medical treatment. Once that has been taken care of, the matter was taken over by courts and insurance companies.

The problem with the traditional approach is that drunk driving is a crime, and those who are affected by a DUI are crime victims. They need and deserve the same assistance that other crime victims now get though victims assistance programs. This could include referrals for counseling, compensation, legal advice, and more. This video encourages law enforcement officers to employ compassion and consideration when dealing with DUI victims.

The police are not just the first people a DUI victim sees after a crash; they are also the link between the crime and the people who can help ease suffering during the aftermath. Every DUI collision has many victims, not just the ones who are hit. Families and friends can also be affected in ways that only become clear weeks or months later. The National Sheriffs’ Association is sending an important message to officers around the country: remember you’re dealing with innocent victims whose lives are changed forever by this thoughtless crime.

Prison for Texas DWI: Is There a Less Costly Way to Protect Us?

Prison for Texas DWIA discussion is going on in Texas about a problem that spans social, legal, economic, and even medical issues: does it make sense to incarcerate Texas DWI offenders by the thousand, year after year?

Some repeat Texas DWI offenders – the most serious ones – are serving sentences of 30 or even 40 years. Altogether some 6,000 inmates in the Texas prison system are there because of alcohol-related offenses. It’s a costly way to keep drunk drivers off the roads.

Stiff Sentences: Not Arbitrary

Texas is not alone in having a hard time with very serious multiple repeat drunk driving offenders. When a person has paid fines, spent time in jail, sometimes many times over many years, what can a judge do to prevent this person from getting behind the wheel again? Knowing that these people will reoffend and possibly injure or kill someone means that long sentences, though they appear desperate, are not arbitrary: judges simply don’t know what else to do. The likelihood that these offenders will drive drunk again is pretty much one hundred percent.

Alternatives to Incarceration for Texas DWI

It’s worth reviewing the other methods that courts use to deal with DWIs. Some are punitive, some preventive, but all are attempts to solve a persistent public health problem:

  • License suspension. This is the almost universal automatic punishment for DWI that courts and DMVs impose. The problem is, it works mostly for people who are inclined to obey the law, and who do not have alcohol issues. Studies show that half to three-quarters of suspended drivers get behind the wheel despite license revocation.
  • Vehicle impoundment. This has the advantage of making it more difficult for a repeat drunk driver to reoffend, but you can’t impound a vehicle forever, and if you did, the driver would write it off and find a new one.
  • Fines. Adding to the cost of a DWI with fines and fees is punitive in nature, but it only seems to dissuade people who do not have a problem with driving sober in the first place, i.e., offenders who really did make a mistake and do not intend to repeat it. Fines also punish the poor disproportionately.
  • Jail. Drunk driving is a criminal act, and jail terms are sometimes called for. Many states mandate a short jail stay (e.g. 24 hours) to give an offender a sense of the criminality of their act. Long-term prison is expensive to society, and it’s very hard to restore one’s life after a long sentence. As a result, long sentences are usually reserved for incorrigible repeat offenders and those who have injured or killed others.
  • Ignition Interlocks. Technology has provided a solution that actually prevents drunk drivers from starting their vehicles. This breathalyzer-like device takes a breath sample, and shuts off the ignition if the one tested has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over a set amount, usually around .02.

What Makes Ignition Interlocks Different

Ignition Interlock for Texas DWIThe advantages of an ignition interlock are that it’s paid for by the offender, rather than the state. Users pay a monthly fee of $80 to $100, and they must bring the vehicle in regularly so the device data can be downloaded and sent to monitoring authorities. Also, it allows an offender to keep a job, raise a family, or get an education, all the while keeping them from driving drunk.

Most relevant to the discussion at hand, an ignition interlock can be applied for years, or even a lifetime, to keep the driver, passengers, and others on the road safe.

There is a place for prison, and certain Texas DWI offenders need to be locked up. But a 2012 Pew study found that imprisoning an inmate costs $1,783 a month – quite a bit higher than the average two-bedroom apartment rental in Dallas.

If a better solution for repeat DWI offenders could take all but the most lethal of repeat offenders and keep them sober behind the wheel, all Texans would be better off. Fortunately, that solution exists. Strong, well-enforced ignition interlock laws are the answer to the state’s expensive DWI problem.

Could Wisconsin’s Wimpy Ignition Interlock Law Finally Man Up?

wimpy wisconsin ignition interlock lawDrunk driving appears to be an easier occupation in Wisconsin than it is in the surrounding states. Wisconsin does not criminalize a first OWI provided the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below .15. But that might change if State Representative Andre Jacque gets his way. The Republican from the De Pere Assembly District plans to give a steroid shot to an ignition interlock law that is among the puniest in the nation.

An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Wisconsin mandates the devices for those convicted of drunk driving with a BAC of .15 or above, or those with repeat offenses.  The devices are known to reduce alcohol-related road deaths.

However, many of those convicted in Wisconsin are evading the requirement. They sell their cars to a relative and claim they no longer have one; then they “borrow” the car in question, which offers no protection against drunk driving. That’s not illegal in Wisconsin – if a driver is stopped without an interlock, he or she can legally claim that they’re borrowing someone else’s vehicle, and are not flouting the law.

Jacque wants to do a very sensible thing: tie the interlock requirement to the offender’s driver’s license, so that any vehicle the offender drives must have an interlock installed. Many states have just such a law, and for good reason. Repeat offenders, who often have alcohol abuse or dependency problems, are inclined to drive drunk again and again until they are caught – or killed.

The law Representative Jacque wants to pass would impose fines of $500 to $1,200 and possibly jail time for anyone who does not install an ignition interlock.

It’s a sensible move: Wisconsin’s vigorous drinking culture has led to a tolerance of drunk driving that is rare in the country. The weakness of the state’s ignition interlock program  has compounded the danger on the road: too many drunk drivers are free to get back behind the wheel, where they, their passengers, other drivers or pedestrians might not be so lucky next time.

Wisconsin citizens needs a break, and Representative Jacque wants to give them one, by beefing up the state’s ignition interlock law so offenders have to take it seriously. Anyone who takes road safety seriously will listen to Andre Jacque during this next legislative session, and help him reform Wisconsin’s feeble OWI laws.

MADD Aims to Unleash the Power of Youth to Fight Teen Drinking

Power of You(th) fights teen drinkingMothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is known for fighting the scourge of impaired driving in America, and for helping the victims of this thoughtless and preventable crime. However, teen drinking is another cause that MADD has taken up, and for good reason: car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and about a quarter of those crashes involve an underage drinking driver.

October is when schools talk to students about drinking, and so October is the month that MADD chose to release The Power of You(th), a program to discourage teens from drinking by engaging students educators, schools and communities in a targeted awareness campaign.

Part of the program is the newly-released Power of You(th) Teen Booklet, which has been enhanced using the feedback of teens who read and gave their advice about last year’s booklet. The booklet includes fast facts, activity ideas, tips for refusing alcohol, and some sample social media posts that students can use.

Among the sobering facts in the toolkit:

  • Teen drinking kills about 4,700 people each year – more than all other illegal drugs combined.
  • Youth who begin drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who wait until they are 21.

The Tips for Saying No are a good idea for tongue-tied teenagers who often don’t know how to handle the peer pressure that leads people to drink when they don’t want to. Having a ready answer can make it easier to stay alcohol-free.

The Power of You(th) program also includes toolkits for educators, school resource officers and community partners. All of them make the challenge clearer and provide strategies for keeping teens and alcohol apart. A worthy fight like this one needs all the ammunition it can get, and MADD has provided a boost for those on the front lines of the war against teen drinking and drunk driving.

Energy Drinks With Alcohol Equals More Drunk Driving

energy drinks with alcohol cause drunk drivingEnergy drinks are still flying under the radar in this country. The FDA doesn’t monitor them; anyone of any age can buy them; schools don’t object to them, and doctors rarely ask patients about energy drink use.

Perhaps they’re not worthy of too much attention to their own, although some authorities are concerned that they do indeed pose risks.

But one trend that is definitely of concern is the fashion of combining energy drinks with alcohol. The idea is to enjoy the fun effects of alcohol – the disinhibition, the elevated mood – without the sedative effects. This allows one to drink more on any given night.

Two probably obvious things should be stated about this trend. First, it’s generally young people who chug Red Bull with their vodka. A recent study by the Research Society on Alcoholism found that 57 percent of college students surveyed had combined energy drinks with alcohol.

Worse, more frequent energy drink consumption was associated with more drunk driving, for two reasons:

  1. Those who combined energy drinks with alcohol drank more heavily, and heavier drinkers are more likely to indulge in risky behavior like drunk driving
  2. Those who drank energy drinks without alcohol were more likely to drive drunk. This was an unexpected and disturbing finding.

An earlier study by the NIH also found that drinking energy drinks led to a desire for more alcohol.

The fact that energy drinks are favored by the same demographic that is most likely to binge drink and drive while impaired (fatal crashes due to alcohol are highest in the 21 to 24 age group –fully a third of all alcohol-related fatalities) should be worrying. At present, there are many awareness programs that try to persuade young people not to drink and drive. They should start looking at the alcohol/energy drink combination too, as it is probably claiming more lives than we know about.

In Northern Virginia? Take an Autumn MADD Walk to Fight Drunk Driving

walk like madd fairfax vaIn Northern Virginia, the fall is the season for walks among reddening leaves in the crisp cooling air. Any walk is a pleasure, but one walk next weekend – October 29th – will do double duty. Not just a day out with friends and fresh air, the Northern Virginia Walk Like MADD 2016 will raise money for and awareness of drunk driving and its victims.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has been fighting drunk driving for decades, pressing for laws that promote ignition interlocks (devices which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking) and punish child endangerment. The organization also helps drunk driving victims and their families, and engages in educational efforts to prevent underage drinking and driving.

The October 29th Walk Like MADD will take place at Burke Lake Park, a particularly gorgeous setting  this time of year. The walk will wind through tree-lined paths and will take participants along Burke Lake part of the way. The participants will include those whose lives have been affected by drunk driving, and also law enforcement teams who support MADD and the anti-drunk driving cause. Many well-wishers and supporters will also be walking: those who recognize that drunk driving must end, and who want to do their part.

Among the notable participants will be the Northern Virginia’s own Nova Roller Derby league – sans skates, presumably – showing their solidarity with the people who have been affected by drunk driving. Nova is a public-spirited group who support charities on a regular basis.

To do your part, all you need to do is:

  • Register as a runner or walker
  • Show up

walk like madd northern vaYou can register as an individual, join a team or create one. All the information is online. Registration cutoff is Friday, October 28th, so don’t delay. Make your pledge now and do your part to fight a preventable crime that takes ten thousand American lives every year.

You need to get out more. And fall doesn’t last long. Here’s a chance to get out and spend an enjoyable morning in a park. And make a difference while you’re doing it. See you in Fairfax!

Northern Virginia Walk Like MADD 2016
Where  Burke Lake Park 7315 Ox Road
Fairfax Station, Virginia
Starts: 10/29/2016 @ 9:00 am
Ends: 11:00 am
Check-in Time: 8:00 am to 9:00 am


Vampire Arrested for Drunk Driving? It Happened in Wisconsin (Or Not).

drunk driver will bite officers' throatsYou often hear about drunk drivers engaging in unwise behavior. People have been known to offer cops beer, pizza, and and even a Mcdonald’s gift card. Then there’s the DUI suspect who laughed hysterically, and the one who wore a ridiculously appropriate t-shirt.

But have we had any vampires before now?

That was the threat of a woman in Waukesha County, Wisconsin who was picked up for what could be her fourth OWI conviction. According to news reports, she threatened to bite the throats of the policemen who arrested her and said that someone was going to die.

It began, as many drunk driving arrests to, with a cracked tail light. The officer than saw that she was driving outside the time allotted by her restricted license. Worse, she had not installed the ignition interlock device that she’d been ordered to. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Finally, she was given field sobriety tests, which she failed.

Those offenses were enough to have her arrested. Wisconsin does not have specific laws against vampires, though had she actually bitten their throats additional charges would surely have been laid.

This story highlights one of the problems with Wisconsin’s ignition interlock program: weak enforcement. Had the driver had the device installed, she would not have been able to start her vehicle that evening. She would not have endangered herself, her children (who were in the car with her) or other drivers and pedestrians on the road. Ignition interlocks work, but they need to be installed.

Wisconsin, like many states, needs better follow-up to ensure that these life-saving devices are used. It should also follow the recommendations of MADD, road safety organizations and law enforcement associations and require ignition interlocks for all OWI offenses, including first offenses.

Fight vampires however you want. We can’t say for certain that the woman in question was a vampire. But enforcing ignition interlock laws would take a bite out of drunk driving in Wisconsin.