Archives for May 2018

Summer DUIs: Drunk Driving Never Goes Into Vacation Mode

This was originally posted at The Sobering Up Blog by Scramsystems

Whether it’s backyard barbecues, boating on the lake, or catching a baseball game, summertime offers plenty of opportunities for people to socialize and spend more time outside. And for many, enjoying summer activities also means consuming alcohol. As a result, the summer months see a substantial increase in both alcohol-involved crashes and DUIs, especially around holiday weekends.

Designed to raise awareness about summertime activities and drinking, and the potential consequences of mixing the two, our Summer Drinking & DUIs Infographic is full of sobering statistics for the summer months. In addition, visit our Summer Drinking & DUIs Resource Centerfor resources and tips to help ensure the 2018 vacation season remains enjoyable, relaxing, and most importantly, safe.

When It Comes To Monitoring, Scientists Want To Get Under Your Skin

 

This was originally posted at The Sobering Up Blog by Scramsystems

Are James Bond-type microchips the next wave of alcohol monitoring technologies? Scientists at the University of California San Diego seem to think so. These engineering researchers are hoping that an injectable microchip that monitors drinking will help treatment programs improve outcomes.

Monitoring Alcohol Consumption: Beneath the Skin

In April, engineers at the UC San Diego announced the development of a miniature biosensordesigned to be implanted beneath the skin to monitor alcohol consumption in humans. The injectable chip measures one cubic millimeter and is powered by a wearable device, like a smartwatch. It works when alcohol interacts with an enzyme coating, which then generates a byproduct that can be electrochemically detected. These electrical signals are transmitted wirelessly, indicating the presence of alcohol.

“The ultimate goal of this work is to develop a routine, unobtrusive alcohol and drug monitoring device for patients in substance abuse treatment programs,” said Drew Hall, an electrical engineering professor at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and the leader of the project. “A tiny injectable sensor—that can be administered in a clinic without surgery—could make it easier for patients to follow a prescribed course of monitoring for extended periods of time,” Hall said during the technology’s announcement.

Alternatives to Continuous Alcohol Monitoring

For decades, alcohol monitoring technology has been designed primarily for community corrections to ensure offenders convicted of alcohol-related crimes remain sober. However, in recent years, there’s been increasing interest in developing monitoring for treatment and even personal use.

For example, in 2016, the UC San Diego team announced the development of a disposable temporary “tattoo” that is worn on the skin and collects blood-alcohol readings from the wearer’s sweat. The downside to this technology is that it’s single-use and easily removable with just one pull. Other types of monitoring technology, more akin to fitness bands, help wearers track their alcohol consumption via a wrist-worn monitor. While patches and bands are lower-profile and less expensive compared to continuous monitoring technology, they’re more ideal for personal use, such as helping people track their alcohol consumption during a night out with friends.

However, these alcohol-monitoring alternatives are fairly unobtrusive and critics question how many people will agree to have a microchip injected into their bodies.

While the work of the UC San Diego team is compelling, the chip has only been tested in vitroand many stages of testing and possible legal hurdles—likely lasting years—will be required before it can advance to general use. Given a choice between an ankle bracelet or a microchip that is implanted under your skin, which would you choose?

Dash Cams Provide Frightening View Of Drunk Driving

This was originally posted at The Sobering Up Blog by Scramsystems

A growing number of people are using dashboard cameras to prove safe driving habits or to protect themselves during traffic accidents. But these devices are also providing a terrifying, front-seat perspective on the dangers of drunk driving and the poor choices impaired drivers make. For example, this video shows a Georgia woman who stopped in the middle of a freeway after being pulled over by police, endangering herself, the officers, and other motorists.

While there are many bystander and law enforcement clips online that highlight the erratic behaviors of suspected drunk drivers, a recent video released by the Sussex Police in South East England shows first-person footage of an intoxicated school teacher’s perilous 20-minute drive home, which ends with the driver crashing into a parked car.

In the video, the dash cam catches the entire journey of inconsistent speed, erratic steering, and hitting curbs and bushes, all from the driver’s perspective. While nobody was hurt—this time—the Sussex Police released the video in the hopes of deterring others from making the decision to drive while intoxicated.

These videos are surfacing with increasing regularity on sites and social media channels like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Law enforcement agencies believe the videos can help deter people from making the bad decision to drive buzzed or drunk, but some are concerned the videos could inspire copycats.

“No Refusal” DUI Policies: Time Is A Factor

This was originally posted at The Sobering Up Blog by Scramsystems

 

During a drunk-driving traffic stop or following a crash, time is a critical factor when it comes to accurately determining a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Because the human body rapidly metabolizes consumed alcohol, if too much time passes between the initial stop and the administration of a BAC test, the results may not support prosecution.

That’s why many jurisdictions turn to blood draw testing when a DUI suspect refuses a breath test. In some counties, it can take several hours to get a paper warrant issued for a blood draw, especially if the request is made late at night. In places like Illinois’ Boone County and McHenry County, electronic warrants are speeding up this process. Relying on on-call judges, officers can obtain the court order necessary to mandate blood sample testing for drivers who refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test. The goal of these programs is to preserve evidence—a driver’s BAC levels are often the strongest evidence in DUI cases—in hopes of securing more convictions.

Blood Tests Seen as More Intrusive

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in Missouri v. McNeely that blood testing without a warrant was unconstitutional. The ruling was reaffirmed three years later in Birchfield v. North Dakota when the high court upheld penalties for warrantless breath tests, but not for blood testing. At the time, Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion:

“Because the impact of breath tests on privacy is slight, and the need for BAC testing is great, the Fourth Amendment permits warrantless breath tests incident to arrests for drunk driving. Blood tests, however, are significantly more intrusive, and their reasonableness must be judged in light of the availability of the less invasive alternative of a breath test.”

As a result, many states had to alter their implied consent laws. Now, the only way officers with probable cause can compel a DUI suspect to undergo blood draw testing is by acquiring a legal warrant beforehand.

Streamlining Due Process Procedures

Boone and McHenry Counties’ are part of a growing policy trend utilizing technology to more quickly obtain warrants, helping to both collect and preserve BAC evidence in cases of drunk driving. If a DUI suspect refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test, warrant requests can be created, reviewed, and processed electronically, allowing officers to acquire a blood sample test at a nearby hospital. No Refusal policies are providing counties not only more evidence, but more accurate evidence for prosecuting drunk driving offenses in court.

By instituting No Refusal DUI policies, many law enforcement agencies are no longer allowing suspected drunk drivers to simply avoid sobriety testing during DUI stops.

According to a statement made by McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally, “This policy will ensure that prosecutors are equipped with the strongest possible evidence in court and, thereby, that all DUI offenders are held accountable.”

 

Cinco de Saturday—Weekend holidays mean more drunk driving

This was originally posted at The Sobering Up Blog by Scramsystems

Commemorating Mexico’s 1862 defeat of French forces, Cinco de Mayo—only sporadically celebrated throughout Mexico—didn’t gain widespread popularity as a U.S. holiday until the 1960s, when it became a way for Mexican-Americans to celebrate their heritage and for Anglo-Americans to learn about Mexican culture.

But, as the holiday’s popularity began to grow in the 1980s, alcohol companies viewed this as a prime marketing opportunity and the link between Cinco de Mayo and drinking began.

Cinco de Saturday—Weekend holidays mean more drunk driving

With special “fiesta” themed cocktails, local bar crawls, and even Cinco de Mayo-specific TV commercials sponsored by big alcohol brands, the connection between drinking and this festive holiday remains strong. Bars, restaurants, and partygoers are already gearing up for a weekend of tequila-fueled entertainment using social media hashtags like #CincoDeMayo and #CincoDeDrinko to promote their plans for the weekend.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), reports that twice as many drunk driving crashes happen on weekends, and when you throw a holiday into the mix, that number tends to increase. Data from Alcohol Monitoring Systems also shows that drinking violations by monitored, repeat DUI offenders are generally two to three times higher when a holiday falls on a weekend compared to when it occurs on a weekday.

In fact, in 2016 alone, 78 people were killed in drunk-driving related crashes over the Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend, and almost 20% of drivers in fatal crashes had BACs of .15 or higher, according to NHTSA.

Fiesta Responsibly

If you choose to have a margarita or two and party like there’s no mañana, make sure to follow these tips to have a safe Cinco de Mayo.

  • Plan your sober ride home before you leave for the party. There’s nothing worse than having to worry about how you are getting home at the end of the night or making the wrong decision to drive impaired. Before you take your first sip, designate a sober driver, utilize ride-sharing or taxi services, or arrange to stay the night.
  • Understand how much you are actually consuming. Margaritas account for almost half of all drinks ordered on Cinco de Mayo, but many people don’t realize that the average margarita is equal to two to three “standard” drinks. Pace yourself by alternating alcoholic beverages with water, and make sure to have a bite to eat before you drink.
  • Leave your car at home. Remove the temptation to drive by leaving your car at home. Not only will you avoid traffic and DUI checkpoints, but you might even save money on parking!