2017 – LifeSafer Recalls The Year in Drunk Driving

The world of drunk driving legislation is a fast-changing one; one blog post a day can barely keep track of everything that’s going on across the country. As the year is going, it’s worthwhile to take one last look at what happened, and what failed to happen, in 2017. The idea here is to find a few new trends, and to spot the eternal truths as well. Here we go.

We’ve been at this for 100 years. Not LifeSafer, but society in general. The first drunk driving arrest happened 100 years ago.

 

Utah .05 limitUtah, Utah, Utah. There’s no doubt which state made the biggest splash on the the impaired driving scene. Back in March Utah lowered its legal blood alcohol limit to .05. There was a great deal of opposition from lobbyists working on behalf of those who profit from alcohol sales, of course. But a lot of smoke was blown too: an embarrassing campaign equating older people with drunks, and fear-mongering from those worried that vacationers won’t want to come to Utah for fear of being arrested for DUI. So far the fears have come to nothing, and we’re waiting to see how the state’s crash statistics fare. Initial reports are encouraging.

wisconsin-drunk-driving-signLaws Were Passed and Not Passed. Right now 30 states have laws requiring all drunk driving offenders to install or have access to an ignition interlock. Nevada was the most recent state to pass such a law. A similar law took effect in Ohio. Oklahoma might have been state number 30, but the state Supreme Court put the kibosh on that. However, Kansas tightened up its ignition interlock law by requiring offenders to have certification that they’ve completed their interlock term. Colorado signed a bill mandating 90 days in jail for a fourth DUI. It’s baby steps, given that some states make a second DUI a felony, but we’re glad drunk driving stays on their radar. Meanwhile, Wisconsin remains the outlier, refusing to criminalize a first drunk driving offense, and allowing offenders with five DUIs to drive without an ignition interlock.

drunk-driver-makes-dumb-decisionDrunk Drivers Gotta Drunk Drive. They were at it everywhere. Knocking over port-a-potties in Idaho. Driving drunk through a drunk driving PSA shoot in Oklahoma. Driving through libraries  and into drunk driving warning road signs in California, remodeling kitchens in Oregon, knocking down utility poles in Massachusetts. More than one drunk person drove to a police station to pick up another drunk driver who had been arrested. It didn’t go well.

They were not all in cars. If it has a motor and moves, people will drive it drunk. In Oregon cops nabbed a person who was piloting a motorized wheelchair while impaired. Nebraska had one of a number of riding mower DUIs. An airplane pilot got the sobriety test treatment too in California.

When they were cars, they weren’t your cars. Among the insanely expensive cars that were wrecked by drunk drivers this year were a Ferrari and a Lamborghini.

self-driving-car-duiPeople tried new ways to solve an old problem. Drunk driving was already with us when the first arrest was made (see above), and it’s still here now. But you can’t say we’re not thinking stuff up to try to get people to change their habits. We have smartphone apps to get people home in one piece. We keep working on self-driving cars, and promote Uber and Lyft and other ways to find people sober rides home. We even stick anti-drunk driving messages in video games.

A couple of states talk about shaming drunk drivers with “scarlet letter” license plates. One Minnesota town even threatened to play a Justin Bieber T-Mobile commercial over and over to arrested drunk drivers.

lifesafer-ignition-interlockWe keep confirming that ignition interlocks reduce alcohol-related road deaths. Every year a few studies come out which look at the drunk driving enforcement landscape and note what works to reduce the incidence of drunk driving. AAA Idaho found that ignition interlocks work. MADD found that ignition interlocks save lives. Johns Hopkins had something to say as well – something about how interlock devices reduce road deaths. We could go on – there’s the National Safety Council study and an essay in the Harvard Journal on Legislation, but you get the idea.

There are good people everywhere. At LifeSafer we send props to a brewery that is giving free Uber rides to customers who arrive via the rideshare service and thus can’t drive home on their own. Also to Austin, Texas, which is giving free parking to drinkers who leave their cars overnight. And there was a public-spirited mail carrier who refused to let a person drive drunk on that particular beat. Heroes all.