Do Athletes Drive Drunk More Than Most People?

Do athletes drive drunk more than you and me?If you subscribe to a sports news update, you might sometimes mistake it for a crime report: almost every day you’ll find news of an arrest, trial, or conviction of some sports figure. A lot of those arrests are for driving under the influence. You’d be pardoned for assuming that athletes drive drunk every chance they get.

Some of our recent DUI arrests:


  • Alvin Bailey, Cleveland Browns
  • Austin Seferian-Jenkins, New York Jets
  • Shiloh Keo, Denver Broncos
  • T.J. McDonald, LA Rams
  • Jonathan Williams, Buffalo Bills
  • Lawrence Taylor, former New York Giants


  • Iman Shumpert, Cleveland Cavaliers


  • Ray Bourque, former Boston Bruins
  • Evgeny Medvedev, former Philadelphia Flyers


  • Jeremy Feffress, Texas Rangers

In addition, we have  a wealth of college athletes, among them

  • Tucker Beirne, University of Miama
  • Duane Gibson, University of Evansville

Also former college athletes and even a couple of coaches. And that’s just this year.

This procession of athletic talent raises questions, most notably, do athletes drive drunk more often than you and I do? The answer, which might surprise you, is probably no. Last year a UT Dallas study examined the perception and reality of crime among NFL players. It found that the arrest rate was lower in general for the NFL than the general population, with the exception of some violent crimes.

Basketball and baseball players don’t get arrested in greater percentages than NFL players, suggesting that the general perception of professional athletes as DUIs waiting to happen is a result of the prominence of the players and the publicity their trials get.

College athletes are a different story, because college students (and people of college age) are more prone to drink and drive than the general population.  The highest risk group for DUI is young adults age 18 to 25 – exactly the age of college athletes.

But What Happens When College Athletes Drive Drunk?

What might be different is the way college athletes with a DUI are treated. Last year ESPN collected 6 years’ worth of police reports involving college athletes in 10 major programs, and found that many students evaded criminal charges for a variety of crimes, including drunk driving. Some athletic programs had a lawyer on call in case a player got arrested, and officials from athletic departments tried to impede investigations.

Not all schools shield athletes who drive drunk, of course. Increased scrutiny in recent years has brought some sunlight to disinfect parts of the system. The fact that both studies mentioned here were performed in 2015 shows that more eyes are on the problem of sports and crime.

But the sad fact remains that athletes, both professional and student, are watched and admired by the public. Being arrested for DUI at the national rate is still not good enough. Athletes should assume the mantle of role model and hold themselves to a higher standard of behavior. Until leagues and schools hold them to that standard, we’ll be seeing more well-publicized DUI arrests in the news.

California Governor Brown Signs Ignition Interlock Bill

ciimPraised for Positive Step Forward to Curb Drunk Driving

Note: This announcement comes to us from the Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers

SACRAMENTO, CA – The nation’s leading ignition interlock manufacturers today praised California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. for signing into law legislation (SB 1046) that establishes a statewide ignition interlock device (IID) program to prevent drunk drivers from re-offending.

The new law extends the current IID pilot program in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare counties for two more years, and then enhances and expands the program statewide beginning January 1, 2019.

The Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers (CIIM) lauded the Governor for approving the measure that will protect the public by encouraging DUI offenders to participate in a supervised IID program immediately after their driver’s license is suspended that gives them unrestricted driving privileges.

Ignition interlock device from LifeSafer

Ignition interlock devices save lives by preventing drunk drivers’ vehicles from starting

“This new law is a positive step forward to help slow the revolving door of unlicensed, uninsured drunk drivers who continue driving at the public’s peril,” said David Kelly, Executive Director of CIIM.

Each day, an estimated 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on suspended licenses.  Each year in California alone, drunk driving crashes kill nearly 1,000 people and seriously injure 20,000 more each year in California.

A report issued by MADD this year found that ignition interlock devices have stopped more than 1 million drinking-and-driving attempts since 2010 in the four counties participating in California’s current pilot program.

“Imagine how many more drunk drivers will be kept off California’s roadways, and how many deaths and injuries will be prevented when this law goes into effect in 2019,” Kelly said.

A California Department of Motor Vehicles report issued in June 2016 found that IIDs are 70 percent more effective than license suspension in preventing repeat DUI offenses.

“The unanimous approval of this law is a clear sign of the growing recognition that this proven-effective technology is the safest, most effective way to stop a drunk driver from becoming a repeat offender,” Kelly said.  “It is also a testament to the superb leadership of the bill sponsor, Senator Jerry Hill, and the relentless efforts of MADD, especially Mary and Tom Klotzbach.”

Twenty-eight other states and the District of Columbia require ignition interlocks for all DUI offenders.  Recent studies have found that:

  • DUI deaths decreased by 15 percent in states that enacted all-offender interlock laws (University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine)
  • Ignition interlock devices are effective in reducing recidivism among DWI offenders, sometimes by as much as 62 to 75 percent. (National Transportation Safety Board)
  • The re-arrest rates for alcohol-impaired driving decreased by a median of 67 percent relative to comparison groups. (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Injury Prevention)

The Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers (CIIM) is the voice of the ignition interlock device industry on the national and state levels to advance policies and legislation that lead to efficient and effective implementation of ignition interlock programs that increase installation and use rates.

You can follow the Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers on:
Twitter: @interlocks_CIIM

Family Nearly Has a Second OWI Collision. The Odds? All Too Good.

michigan-owi-oddsIt’s one of those news stories that sounds like a one-in-a-million occurrence. A family was driving home from court, where they had just witnessed the sentencing of a drunk driver who had killed their son Jared. Their son’s ashes were in the car.

Then another drunk driver swerved into their lane. Fortunately this time they were able to avoid the car, which they followed, taking a video for evidence. The drunk driver was arrested.  He was found to have a blood alcohol concentration 3 times the legal limit.

At first it seems like a frightening coincidence. But when you look at the numbers, you’ll see that it’s all too common for drunk drivers to be on the road.

Around 35,000 people are arrested for impaired driving each year on Michigan’s roads. But only a small percentage of Michigan OWI offenders are ever caught. How small? No one knows exactly, but California, which has a higher arrest rate than most states, estimates that they catch only one in 500 drunk drivers.

Let’s accept that estimate for the sake of argument, and say it applies to Michigan as well. That means that each year there are something like 17,500,00 instances of drunk driving across the state.

With more than 17 million drunk drivers out there, is it that surprising that you might encounter one – or two? In fact, you probably encounter more, but don’t realize it because you write it off as a crazy driver who forgets to signal, or who’s going too slowly in the fast lane.

And just because they’re not caught doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous. In this case, a slower reaction could have caused a second heartbreaking collision in the life of this unfortunate family.

The point is that this incident in Chippewa County, Michigan should not be considered surprising. Drunk driving is all too common, and every state should be doing its utmost to prevent recidivism. In the case of Michigan, requiring ignition interlock devices for all Michigan OWI offenders would be a good start, as would administrative license revocation (ALR), by which licenses are suspended automatically upon refusal or failure of a sobriety test, without court proceedings.

Please remember that drunk drivers are out there, in numbers far larger than we like to imagine.

Illinois Drunk Driving PSA Spoofs Cheesy 1970s Cop Shows

Your Hump-day Recess: Wide Collar Edition

Here are a few things we know about males aged 18-35:

  1. They are more likely to drink and drive than any other group, male or female.
  2. They think of themselves as invincible and like to take chances (hence #1).
  3. They think 1970s cop shows are hilarious.

Well, #3 applies to just about everyone under the age of 60, but you get the idea. The Illinois Department of  Transportation (IDOT) is trying to reach this elusive group of drivers with a new PSA that uses humor – specifically Starsky-And-Hutch type retro humor – to make a point.

We give IDOT props for wigs and wardrobe – it can’t be that easy to locate white suits anymore – and the car crashing into cardboard boxes is authentic 1970s TV car-chase-excitement-on-a-budget. And humor, a time-honored way to reach audiences, also offers a welcome break from the gloomy siren-and-stretcher PSAs.

The problem is that, ultimately, this PSA a traditional warning ad: if you drink and drive you’ll endure fines, imprisonment, and all the shame of a DUI. We’ve heard it all before, and so have most 18-34-year-olds. If it’s one thing we’ve leared about drunk driving education, it’s that young males are a tough sell: particularly as teens, they value sensation more than caution and common sense.

Still, if one life can be saved by watching men in aviators and moustaches leap across rooftops, it’s worth 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: 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, the world’s worst traffic jams, a dramatic buzzed driving PSA , an offbeat ad from New ZealandVince and Larry, our favorite crash test dummies, some excellent Soviet anti-drunk-driving posters, a lesson on how buzzed driving can ruin your love life, South Australia to Drunk Drivers: Grow Up!, a woman calls 911 to report herself for DUI, Felix the Cat and Drunk Driving,  DUIs who crash vintage cars – (ouch!), Woman Unwittingly Creates Self-Driving Car, A Brilliant PSA from Australia, a Road Safety Message in a Vodka Bottle, a PSA about binge drinking that is decidedly “meh,” Drunk Driver Crashes $4 Million Car, Drunk Driving in 1910, a Superb New Think! PSA from the UK,Drunk Driving in 1955: New Breath Test Technology Will Save the Day!, the Best Animated Gifs About Drunk Driving, Angle Parking: A Surreal DUI Stop Photo, a Hertz Advertisement that Could Have Used Another Set of Eyes, a Laugh Out Loud Anti-Drunk Driving Ad, How to Beat a Breathalyzer with Peanut Butter … Not!Who Knew? GM Invented the DUI Ignition Interlock in 197,. and a Colorado drunk driving prank reveals a shocking truth.

Tennessee Lawmakers Do a Quick U-Turn on Underage Drinking Law

tennessee does u-turn on underage drinkingYou’ll remember that a few weeks ago the Tennessee Legislature had the distinctly original idea of reversing decades of progress that the country has been making with underage drinking laws. It passed a law raising the legal blood alcohol level for drivers under 21 to .08 BAC – the same as adults. It had been .02 since the late 1990s.

The problem is, about $60 million in highway funds is tied to keeping the .02 level for drivers under 21.

Bearing that in mind, the Tennessee lawmakers hastily repealed the measure in both houses by large margins – 31-1 in the Senate and 85-2 in the House.

The Federal Government cannot directly force states to change its driving laws. However, it reserves the right to withhold funds from any state that does not employ certain standards. These include a legal drinking age of 21 and a legal intoxication level of .08 BAC. For a while the feds also mandated a speed limit and motorcycle helmets, but these became mired in controversy, and they were eventually scrapped.

The .02 limit for underage drivers persists, however.

Teen Drivers Need Different Laws

The idea of these lawmakers was to get tougher on underage drunk drivers, by slapping on them the same penalties as adults. But they reasoned that increased penalties went with increased responsibility, so they raised the legal limit as well. In other words, you can drink like an adult, but if you drive, you’ll be punished like one.

It was a bad idea. Young people are by nature poor decision makers, even before alcohol enters the discussion.  Higher underage BAC levels are a protection for teens as well as a restriction. Kids who drink are more likely to have drinking and other problems as adults, and are more likely to be involved in collisions than older drinkers.

There is a time to treat teens like grownups, and a time to protect them from the worst part of their nature. The .02 limit is there to save lives. It’s worth going over the reasons for underage drinking laws – and to be glad they’re in force to protect our youth.

Maryland Road Dedicated to Officer Felled by Drunk Driver

officer noah leotta, drunk driving victim

Officer Noah A. Leotta

When good people die at the hands of drunk drivers, do roads remember? Perhaps not, but drivers should. Which is why Route 97 in Montgomery County, Maryland, will always bear the name of Noah A. Leotta.

In December of 2015 Officer Noah Leotta had pulled aside a drunk driver on a road in that county during a holiday patrol, when he was struck and killed by another drunk driver. The senseless and tragic death of a beloved officer caused outrage in his community, outrage which led to the passing of a law mandating ignition interlocks for first-time DUI offenders.

An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Requiring all drunk driving offenders to use ignition interlocks has been proven to reduce alcohol-related road deaths. When Maryland passed Noah’s Law it became the 26th state to have an all-offender law. The count is now at 28, and more states are coming on board. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) issued a report which underscored the dramatic effect that ignition interlocks have had on the law enforcement landscape, preventing 1.77 million incidences of drunk driving.

On September 13th Governor Hogan dedicated part of Routh 97 in memory of Officer Noah Leotta. The dedication serves as a reminder to all of the terrible consequences of drinking and driving.

Perhaps seeing the name of a good man who fell victim to drunk driving will make others think about the decisions they make after a drink or two. We hope it does. If not, the law that bears Noah’s name will be invoked to help ensure that drunk drivers in Maryland don’t get a second chance to risk their lives and those of others through this thoughtless, lethal and entirely preventable crime.

Missing Wheel, Dragging Bumper: Drunk Driver, Ya Think?

drunk-driver-loses-wheelPolice in Bellevue, Washington encountered a man driving a car that was not outfitted to specifications, in that it only had 3 wheels. In addition, the front bumper was dragging on the ground.

Most people who are missing a wheel, much less a wheel and half a bumper, tend to stop their vehicles and survey the damage. Usually a tow is in order. This man, however, proceeded along the street until police stopped him. He told the police he had no idea what he’d hit which might have caused him to lose a wheel.


The Devil Made Him Do It?

A man drove into the side of a church on a recent Sunday morning – fortunately, early enough that no one was yet in the building. Apparently the crash put the fear of the lord into him – he told police he was a passenger and not the driver of the errant car.

Most people don’t realize that making such a false claim turns a collision into a hit-and-run: it’s the equivalent of leaving the scene of the crime.

These two incidents highlight a couple of things. First, even though they are amusing in themselves, they illustrate how dangerous drunk driving is. The driver of the first car had no idea what he’d hit. With his senses that impaired, he could easily have hit a pedestrian or an infant in a baby carriage. Most likely he’d collided with a parked car or other solid object, but that was not due to any caution on the driver’s part. The second car could have hit a building that was inhabited. Cars are dangerous killing machines when out of control.

The second thing we learn is how bad a driver one becomes under the influence. Bad enough to keep driving after losing a wheel.  Bad enough to miss a turn and hit a church.

As it is in Bellevue, Washington, so is it all over the country: people are drinking and getting behind the wheel, oblivious to or uninterested in the possible consequences.

This time the consequences were funny – except to the drivers and those whose property was damaged.

Next time it might not be.

Drunk Driving: Does Anyone’s Punishment Stop Anyone Else?

drunk driving punishment for deterrenceIn Des Moines, Iowa a woman named Deanna Marie Gliem was recently convicted of two counts of vehicular homicide. Driving drunk, she had crashed into a car and killed two men. In a tearful statement before sentencing, she said, “hopefully this will stop somebody else from doing the same thing that I did.”

The “this” that would stop another drunk driver turned out to be a 35 year prison sentence.

The purpose of a drunk driving punishment is at least twofold. There is retribution – punishing a person for wrongdoing. There is also deterrence – making a criminal think twice before committing another crime, and also warning other potential criminals of the consequences.

And in the case of dangerous criminals like repeat drunk drivers, there is an imperative to get the person off the street to make others safe.

But does it work? Will having Deanna Marie Gliem imprisoned for 35 years keep other drunk drivers off the road?

The defense argued that it wouldn’t. According to news reports, Gliem’s attorney said that young people – the most common type of drunk drivers – would not be deterred by the sentence. Neither would problem drinkers. News that a 54-year-old woman would be in prison until she was 89 might be scary, but to a person with serious substance issues, the thought of not drinking is scarier still. Indeed, Gliem herself minimized her own drinking problem, according to court testimony.

If we classify drunk drivers, some fall into the category of people who are able to learn from their mistakes. Many such drivers are thoughtless and foolish, but a DUI arrest, with its shame, fines, jail time and ignition interlock requirement, are enough to shock the offender into becoming a sober driver. This does not minimize the threat they posed to themselves and others on the road, but at least they are able to change their behavior.

Even these one-time drunk drivers  take to the roads despite the punishments that others receive for drunk driving.

However, about a third of those arrested for DWI are repeat offenders, according to NHTSA research. These people can be problem drinkers or people with serious behavioral issues, and are not likely to be deterred by punishments either.

Two strategies exist to deal with chronic repeat DWI offenders. The District Court judge employed the more drastic one – imprisonment – for good reason. Vehicular homicide is the worst possible outcome of impaired driving.

In other cases – where treatment is a possibility, and homicide or injury is not an issue – an ignition interlock is the best option. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Interlocks and imprisonment are the only two measures that actually prevent a drunk driver from repeating his or her crime.

We want to believe that a 35-year-sentence will deter others from making the bad decision to drink and drive, but history teaches us that drunk drivers are resistant to the measures that would deter others not in the grip of an alcohol abuse problem. Prisons will always be needed for some, but it is expensive and it places hardships the offenders’ families, who might be innocent of wrongdoing. When possible, and ignition interlock is the better choice.

Bud, Lyft and the Designated Driver: Are We All On The Same Page?

You have to hand it to Budweiser. They know how to talk to their fan base. One of our nation’s top beer brands, Bud doesn’t’ pretend to be anything but your basic good-time brew. If 20 percent of people buy 80 percent of the beer, they’re out to keep that vital top 20 percent of the market. And that means keeping it alive as well.

In addition to making beer that’s not for the grapefruit-coffee-smoked-porter crowd, Budweiser has devoted some perfectly good profits to its anti-drunk driving messages, including some notable Super Bowl PSAs.

Now the beer giant has partnered with rideshare company Lyft to help its legions of drinkers get home safely.  From now until the end of the year, passengers 21 or older can get a free ride (up to $10) on weekends and holidays in Florida, New York, Illinois and Colorado. Here’s Bud’s take on the deal, part of their #GiveADamn campaign:

Nothing wrong there. Bud says they care about making suds and keeping customers breathing. And Lyft is planning on giving away 5,000 free rides each week in four states. The stated goal is to make a dent in the 10,000 alcohol-related road fatalities that the country sees each year.

Bud’s position is simple and transparent – more or less like their beer. Lyft’s statement is, perhaps, a bit more puzzling. The company blog notes that “everyone deserves a designated driver, even if you’re on a tight budget.”

Well, no. Grammar aside, you don’t have a designated driver because you deserve one. A designated driver is not a lunch break or a birthday mani-pedi. It’s an absolute necessity if you’re out drinking. Positioning a DD as a reward or perk does not do the cause any favors. Maybe, during the partnership, some of Budweiser’s gift for straight talk will rub off on Lyft.

Does Hot Weather Cause Drunk Driving?

summer drunk drivingDrunk driving is one of the most studied of criminal activities. It’s fascinating to researchers because it crosses social and economic lines, and is often committed by people who would not dream of breaking the law in other ways.

Which is not to stay that all the questions about who drives drunk, and why, have been answered. We don’t always know at what point the decision to drink and drive is made, and what could have prevented it. So we keep looking at the conditions surrounding the crime – driver age, time of day, month and year, and other factors.

One factor that does make a difference is weather, believe it or not. A study by Insurance Media LLC found that as many as ten times the number of intoxicated drivers can be on the roads on warm days than are driving on cold winter days. This applies on regular work days as well as weekends and holidays.

What’s going on?

In climes with distinct and cold winters, the higher temperatures can bring on a festive mood which might lower inhibitions. Perhaps the urge to party while it’s nice out trumps good judgment.

Another factor is the effect of alcohol combined with heat. Sun exposure and heat can heighten the effects of alcohol. Alcohol also dehydrates the body, just as sun and warm air do, which means that by the time you get behind the wheel, you can be feeling the effects of dehydration, which are similar to those of alcohol, and will compound any mistakes you make on the road. Thus, you’re more likely to be arrested if you’re drunk and dehydrated than just drunk.

So beware when it’s hot out: you are more vulnerable to alcohol, so it will take less to get you to the point at which you’re unable to drive.

Stay cool. And sober. And out of jail.

Enjoy the last days of summer.