Archives for September 2018

Need a Sober Ride Home? There’s An App For That

This was originally posted at The Sobering Up Blog by Scramsystems

In 2016, nearly half of all drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes were between the ages of 16 and 34. And according to the Pew Research Center, more than 90% of Americans in that age group own a smartphone. Two mobile apps are tapping into those overlapping demographics to target would-be drunk drivers with easier options to find a sober ride home.

“Two Clicks to Save a Life”

The I’M DRUNK app is the creation of Carmen Dellutri and Tom Marquardt, two entrepreneurs determined to eliminate drunk driving and save lives. Their mission is “to change the social mindset of people about going out and being among friends and also about not driving drunk.”

The free app gives smartphone users quick access to taxi, ridesharing, or tow-and-go services anywhere in the country. “You never have to drink and drive or be impaired and drive again. Two clicks to save a life we like to call it,” Marquardt said recently.

The first click activates the app by tapping the “Be Safe” button and the second verifies the user’s location by zip code. The app then lists out transportation options for the user to choose from. Each user represents one less impaired driver on the road.

I'M Drunk App Screen Shots

 

Mobile Tech Aims to Stop Drunk Driving

SaferRide App Screenshot

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2016, nearly 29 people were killed daily in alcohol-impaired crashes—or almost one person every 50 minutes. In 2015, NHTSA introduced their own mobile app—called SaferRide—to help people who have been drinking find a sober ride home. With SaferRide, users can quickly connect with a taxi or call a friend with a pre-programmed number. And if a user doesn’t know where they are, the app can also pinpoint their current location with a tap of a button.

But, if a potential drunk driver already has a smartphone in hand to call a taxi or ping a ridesharing service, do they really need yet another way to find a safe ride home? Certainly supporters of these apps say yes. Sometimes, as the SaferRide app advertises, “too drunk to drive means too drunk for complicated apps.” As a result, apps like I’M DRUNK and SaferRide offer a simple solution—easy-to-use applications that help people get home alive.

 

In Best Known “Pot” State, Most Impaired Driving Still Linked to Alcohol

 

This was originally posted at The Sobering Up Blog by Scramsystems

When Colorado became the first U.S. state to permit the sale of recreational marijuana in 2014, some expressed concerns that the state would see a huge spike in drug-impaired driving. Four years later, the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice reports that cannabis alone accounts for about 6% of DUIs, while more than 90% of impaired drivers are under the influence alcohol or a combination of drugs and alcohol.

The division’s July 2018 report, “Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol, A Report Pursuant to House Bill 17-1315,” looks at Colorado’s 2016 DUI data—the most recent numbers available—to determine rates of alcohol- and drug-impaired driving. During that year the state reported 27,244 case filings with at least one DUI charge.

Drugged driving has become a pressing issue for many communities in recent years due to the rapid legalization of cannabis and the opioid crisis. While those concerns are well founded, the Colorado study highlights that drunk driving is still a significant danger on U.S. roadways.

Findings on Drugged and Drunk Driving

The report found key similarities between drugged and drunk driving and some important instances where they differ. Among the results:

  • Speeding charges were more likely to be associated when the suspect was only under the influence of alcohol compared to only under the influence of THC.
  • Nearly 38% of defendants stopped in 2016 had prior DUI convictions.
  • Almost three-quarters of DUI defendants were male, regardless of substance.
  • Alcohol and THC both metabolize quickly, and the data shows both BAC results and THC readings were higher the sooner a test was completed after a stop.
  • Contrary to common expectations, Colorado law enforcement obtained blood tests more quickly than breath tests. The median time between a traffic stop and breath test was 76 minutes, compared to 64 minutes for a blood draw.

More Data Needed On Driving While High

One key finding related to drugged-driving: the picture is very incomplete.

As of June 2018, 31 states and Washington D.C. allow medicinal marijuana use and nine states plus the District of Columbia allow recreational use. Even as more states legalize marijuana, law enforcement continues to face challenges with detecting and recording drugged driving.

Police and sheriff’s departments have used alcohol breath testers for decades. However, there is no reliable roadside chemical test to determine if a person is driving under the influence of cannabis. Officers may need to call in a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) to conduct a field sobriety test. In addition, an evidentiary test for drugs—often the most credited piece of evidence in a DUI case—requires a blood sample.

As many drugged driving suspects also have alcohol in their systems, jurisdictions often don’t test for drugs if the person has already failed an alcohol breath test. Drug tests can cost jurisdictions anywhere from $100 to $500 each, and “the additional time and cost required for further toxicology testing may not be considered worthwhile if the burden of proof for impairment is already being met by a BAC level.”

Finally, court systems don’t have a consistent way to record drug data for DUI cases. This combination of factors means that drug-impaired driving is likely unrepresented in the available data.

The Fight Against Impaired Driving

The study’s results don’t suggest that officials should be unconcerned about high drivers. Many jurisdictions report that while drunk driving still outpaces drugged driving, the rate of drivers under the influence of marijuana and opioids is clearly on the rise.

Drivers under the influence of alcohol are more likely to make other dangerous driving choices, including adding drugs to the mix, speeding, or driving distracted. And the study notes, “combining marijuana and alcohol increases impairment and motor vehicle crash risk more than each alone.” Ultimately, the data suggests that successful education and enforcement efforts need to focus on impaired driving as a whole. Drugged and drunk driving are closely linked and pose a serious danger on the roads.

Friends, Frats, & Freedom: a Recipe for College Binge Drinking

This was originally posted at The Sobering Up Blog by Scramsystems

College isn’t just eating pizza in dorm rooms, studying on the quad, and writing reports. Thanks to movies like Old SchoolVan Wilder, and Animal House, the word “college” is pretty much synonymous with “drinking.” But, college drinking extends past the occasional beer pong match and toga party.

According to SAMHSA’s 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 58% of full-time college students drank alcohol in the past month. And with about 20% of college students meeting the criteria for an alcohol use disorder, parties and drinking can be a dangerous hobby for undergrads, especially for freshmen.

College Freshmen Particularly At-Risk

Starting college is an exciting time for freshmen, but the stress of new environments, schedules, and a lack of friends to watch out for them puts them particularly at risk for dangerous drinking behaviors. As college freshmen exercise their newfound freedom and oftentimes little knowledge of the dangers of alcohol, they are susceptible to binge drinking a deadly amount, as is the case with a Texas Tech freshman who died of alcohol poisoning before his first day of classes.

In fact, alcohol is often a factor in freshman deaths, assaults, and injuries. Sometimes referred to as the “red zone,” the first two months are some of the most hazardous weeks for first-year students. But some colleges are beginning to recognize this dangerous adjustment period and have created awareness and training programs to educate students on safety precautions—many of which are required before classes begin.

College Binge Drinking Statistics

Early college drinking behaviors can have long-term impacts. Freshmen who develop unhealthy relationships with alcohol could put themselves at risk for their undergraduate career. Not only do underage drinkers account for more than 10% of the country’s alcohol consumption, but researchers estimate that 1,825 college students aged 18–24 die each year from alcohol-related injuries and car crashes.

Additionally, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) reports that over 150,000 college students will develop an alcohol-related health problem, and about 1.5% try to commit suicide due to drinking or drug use.

Over-consumption is still prevalent across campuses everywhere and college students still have some of the highest levels of binge drinking compared to other age groups. But college binge drinking rates are slowly declining. In fact, binge drinking rates have dropped steadily since 1991, and have even decreased by 21% over the past decade. So, while films featuring the stereotypical beer-guzzling frat boy probably won’t disappear anytime soon, binge drinking may someday become a thing of the past for college co-eds.

UK Using Technology to Crack Down on Drink Driving and Alcohol-Involved Crimes

 

This was originally posted at The Sobering Up Blog by Scramsystems

According to a recent bulletin from the Office for National Statistics, about 29.2 million adults in England drank alcohol in 2017, with 28.7% of men and 25.6% of women admitting to binge drinking on their heaviest drinking day. Not only are frequent visits to the pub commonplace in the UK, but an estimated 9,050 people in Great Britain were injured or killed when at least one driver was over the legal alcohol limit from 2006 – 2016.

But, new initiatives involving alcohol-sensing technologies are being offered around the UK to help curb drink-driving and mitigate alcohol-involved crimes.

Alcohol Monitoring Pilots are Promising

As areas around the UK are recognizing the impact of drink-driving and alcohol-involved crimes, pilot programs using various alcohol monitoring technologies are emerging across the country.

Interlock Device Programs

The Durham Police force, for example, is the first in the UK to pilot “alcohol interlocks,” which breath-tests drivers before their cars even start. If a driver’s breath test is over the legal alcohol limit, the device will immobilize the vehicle.

Over the last three years, the County of Durham has experienced about 285 road accidents linked to drink-driving; the alcohol-sensing device is fitted to vehicles of repeat drink-driving offenders on a voluntary basis or as part of their “behavior contract”.

Continuous Alcohol Monitoring Programs

In addition to drink-driving, the Office for National Statistics reports that more than half of violent crimes in the UK—including domestic violence and sexual offences—involve alcohol.

Another pilot, Blackburn with Darwen located in Northwest England, uses “sobriety tags” attached to the ankles of offenders of alcohol-involved crimes.

The SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring® (SCRAM CAM®) bracelet detects alcohol levels in the wearer’s sweat and alert authorities if the offender has breached their abstinence order. The sobriety tag tests for alcohol every 30 minutes, or about 48 times a day, making it impossible for a wearer to consume alcohol unnoticed.

Sobriety Tag Program Addresses Alcohol-Involved Offenses

In fact, 92% of people in the program remained sober while wearing the tag, demonstrating the promising effects of this innovative technology.

While the results of these pilot programs seem to be positive, will the UK begin to adopt these technologies to help alleviate alcohol-involved crimes and drink-driving?