Spring has arrived, the end of the school year is in sight, and prom festivities are taking place. These joy-filled celebrations too often include alcohol and the accompanying perils of underage drinking and driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one in three alcohol-related teen traffic fatalities occurred during the prom season, from April to June.
Encourage the young people in your life to avoid alcohol use and drunk driving during this special time in their lives. Spread the word about the dangers of underage drinking with the statistics featured in this infographic and increase awareness of the dangerous consequences of underage drunk driving.
The goal of DUI checkpoints is primarily deterrence: to raise the perceived risk of arrest, and secondarily to enforce drunk and impaired driving laws. Checkpoint information such as location and time is often highly publicized in the targeted areas using High Visibility Enforcement (HVE)tactics to promote compliance with the law. But, not all agencies and organizations agree with distributing details about sobriety checkpoints as it may enable potentially impaired drivers to avoid the targeted area. For these reasons, there is some debate over the best approach to checkpoints: Advertise or Surprise?
Publicized DUI Checkpoints: A Deterrent?
One argument for disclosing location is to protect the agency conducting the checkpoint. Checkpoints were deemed legal and constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1990; however, publicly announcing them in advance limits their intrusion into people’s lives thus avoiding the possibility of a Fourth Amendment unlawful search issue arising.
Several national agencies strongly recommend the use and publicizing of sobriety checkpoints.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also recommends spreading the word about checkpoints to increase the perceived risk of getting caught, thus deterring impaired drivers and adding to the overall efficacy of the use of sobriety checkpoints.
A Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) review of studies evaluated the impact of publicized sobriety checkpoints. Six studies showed an increase ranging from 4 to 32% in the percentage of people in the targeted communities exposed to the “Don’t Drink and Drive” message.
The National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine in a 2018 report writes “States and localities should conduct frequent sobriety checkpoints in conjunction with widespread publicity to promote awareness of these enforcement initiatives.”
Are Unannounced DUI Checkpoints Easily Avoidable?
Historically, law enforcement agencies have preferred the “surprise” strategy for DUI checkpoints. Like many officers, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Sgt. Michelle Anaya feels that notifying the public about checkpoints may allow illegal drivers to detour around them. “By providing notice to the public, those that are breaking the law are given the opportunity to potentially avoid a checkpoint.” Missouri Representative Scott Fitzpatrick felt so strongly that checkpoints are too easy for drunk drivers to avoid that he sponsored and passed a bill effectively eliminating their use in that state.
Even if a sobriety checkpoint is a non-publicized surprise, drivers may still be able to prepare in advance. The Fair DUI Flyer works on the premise that most states have not outlined exactly what standard of cooperation or adherence is required at checkpoints. This simple state-law specific flyer is placed by the driver in their window from the inside as they enter the checkpoint. The flyer shows the applicable law by which the driver is not required to show ID, speak with law enforcement, or even open their window.
The crucial element of surprise for sobriety checkpoints was threatened by technology almost a decade ago, and again recently. In 2011 a group of U.S. Senators wrote a letter to smartphone companies asking them to ban apps that would identify drunk driving checkpoints. Several companies complied with the request. With the rise of Waze, a GPS navigation app that alerts users to traffic issues and police presence, a letter has again been written. New York City police in early February 2019 sent a letter to Google, the app’s parent company, stating that people who post the locations of sobriety checkpoints may be “engaging in criminal conduct”. Echoing the sentiment of the pro-publicizing checkpoint camp, Waze stated that identifying police locations promoted road safety because drivers were made aware and modified their behaviors.
We’ve all read the frequent headlines about drunk driving crashes on highways and residential streets, in urban and rural areas, at excessive speeds and even driving well below the speed limit. A DUI arrest is not limited, however, to operating a car on a designated public road.
Each state determines the legality or criminality of where you are and what you are doing when you are behind a wheel with alcohol in your system. We’ve taken a look at six of the more surprising ways you can receive a DUI in a variety of states.
1. Drunk Driving While Operating a Tractor
The Arkansas House has recently approved legislation containing a new definition of “motor vehicle” that includes farm equipment such as tractors. A portion of the bill clarifies that operators of farm equipment involved in near-fatal or fatal driving incidents must have their blood alcohol content (BAC) checked just as an automobile driver would. The bill will be known as “Jacob’s Law” after the Arkansas man killed in an alcohol-related farming crash.
2. A DUI While Your Car is Parked
In many states it is possible to be charged with a DUI without actually moving your vehicle. Laws in these states declare it is illegal not only to drive a vehicle under the influence but also to be in “actual physical control” of a vehicle in a state of impairment. This Florida man was arrested on just such an offense, as was this Missouri lawyer. These laws also apply to intoxicated drivers who moved into the passenger seat or the back seat of the car they were operating.
3. Driving Drunk on Private Property
The West Virginia Supreme Court determined that anyone driving while intoxicated, whether on public or private lands, can be charged with drunk driving.
“The legislature chose to structure our DUI statutes to regulate the condition of the driver, not the locale in which the driving is taking place,” Justice Ketchum wrote. “Thus, the legislature expressed its plain intent to prohibit an intoxicated person from driving a vehicle anywhere in West Virginia, whether on public roads or across private land.” This precedent could be overturned with new legislation reaching the West Virginia legislature in 2019.
4. Driving With (legal) Open Containers of Alcohol
Mississippi is the only state in the nation without a law against open containers in a vehicle. Technically this lack of a prohibition does not mean that drinking and driving is legal. A driver could be in possession of any number of containers of alcohol, but they still cannot drink while driving, and they must maintain a BAC under .08.
5. Don’t Drink and Ride a Bike in these States
More than 20 states have laws that allow for charging a drunken bicyclist with a DUI. Of the remaining states, many have laws that can be applied depending on where the bicyclist is riding. This Colorado woman was charged with a DUI after she damaged a car while riding her bicycle. North Dakota recently exempted bicycles and horses from state DUI laws, while South Dakota will charge a DUI not only to those operating a bicycle, but also anyone operating a tractor, horse, lawnmower or golf cart while under the influence.
6. Operating Watercraft Under the Influence
Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is a state law nationwide. In several states not only does this charge apply to the intoxicated driver of any type of vessel such as a boat or jet-ski, but also includes operators of water skis, kneeboards, wakeboards, and similar non-motorized recreational watercraft.
Laws on drinking and driving exist for a reason—to keep people safe. Driving while impaired by alcohol slows reflexes, reaction time, and physical coordination. In a car or on a bicycle, on private property or on public waterways, driving under the influence of alcohol is always dangerous.
What surprising and unexpected ways to get a DUI have you read about?
Veterans treatment courts (VTCs) are one of the fastest growing specialty court types in the U.S.; there are now more than 551 VTCs nationwide. Recent legislation will fund support staff at these alternative courts to assist veterans on their road to recovery.
This act enhances the ability of Treatment courts to serve veterans; the VA will be required to place 50 additional Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) specialists at VA Medical Centers. These specialists will serve as part of a team in a VTC. VJO Specialists currently serve in 551 Veterans Treatment Courts (VTCs) and other Veteran focused court programs across the U.S.
Veterans Treatment Courts and VJO specialists serve veterans who are or will soon be, part of the criminal justice system. The goal is to reduce recidivism among veterans by connecting participants to treatment services such as alcohol and drug counseling, rather than serving jail time. VJOs work directly with the courts to create treatment plans to address the reasons behind the criminal behavior of veteran offenders, many of whom are living with substance abuse problems.
Alcohol Abuse and Criminal Consequences On the Rise for U.S. Veterans
The VJO Specialist and court-ordered treatment programs address underlying issues like alcohol abuse and drug abuse, problems on the rise in the veteran population:
Alcohol abuse and related criminal activity is a growing problem for some veterans. There has been a significant increase in binge drinking in male veterans, with two times the increase for female veterans. Drinking more is connected to more drinking and driving and the veteran population has seen an increase in drunk driving of almost 60% since 2014. “There’s no denying that American veterans contribute to the nationwide epidemic of drunk driving,” a study by the American Addiction Centers concludes.
Veteran Treatment Courts are continuing to open across the nation; criminal justice reform legislation is ushering in options outside of standard sentencing and incarceration. Soon, alternative courts with increased funding and enhanced support services for veterans may become the norm.
New laws and policies aren’t the only way jurisdictions across the country are addressing the issue of drunk driving. To help reduce DUIs, a number of jurisdictions are implementing alcohol monitoring programs that use a variety of technologies to supervise drunk driving offenders.
Lindsay Williams is a writer and communications specialist at SCRAM Systems. Williams earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Science from the University of Colorado and has over five years of professional writing and digital marketing experience. Prior to her time at SCRAM Systems, Williams worked as a DUI/DWI and alcohol education class coordinator where she gained first-hand experience in helping educate and rehabilitate alcohol-involved clients.
The Prevention Research Center at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) has released a new study focused on a less researched aspect of drinking and driving behavior—the location where the drinking event took place before drinkers get behind the wheel and drive.
Where Have We Been When We Drink and Drive?
The study sought to uncover how different drinking contexts relate to the risk of alcohol-impaired driving and driving after drinking. A sampling of 8,553 adults across California revealed people drink most frequently in their own homes, followed by a friend’s or relative’s house. The classic “drinking in a bar” fell to the bottom of the list of frequent drinking locations.
Of the adults surveyed, more than half reported drinking at some time in the past year, with the majority of those drinking occasions taking place at home. Imbibing at home was associated with more frequent drinking, while consuming alcohol in other venues, such as bars and restaurants, was less frequent but more likely to lead to getting behind the wheel after drinking.
The study reaffirms that drinking outside the home correlates to higher rates of drinking and driving. However, the research also reveals that a substantial source of impaired drivers may be those frequent drinkers who only infrequently drive after drinking.
More Drinking = More Drinking and Driving
The research reveals new findings on the “place of last drink,” showing that greater drinking frequencies, regardless of place, are always related to greater rates of drunk driving, whether the drinking event is in one’s own home, at other’s homes, or at house parties.
Researchers have upheld the common knowledge that drinking at bars often leads to alcohol-impaired and drunk driving while noting that the study’s findings coincide with other studieson place-of-last-drink. These earlier findings show that alcohol-impaired driving events may also be widely distributed across residential areas. Study findings indicate approximately half the number of persons arrested for drunken driving were drinking in a private residence before their arrest.
Preloading and Prevention
There is a need for more detailed research on drinking location and how it relates to drinking and driving, and to what extent “preloading” at home may continue into a drinking event outside of the home. As recent research has shown and recent news stories have highlighted, further study may aid in prevention efforts.
The results of this latest study suggest that new programs to reduce alcohol-impaired driving should start with focused, community-based prevention programs. Where drinking takes place is fixed for most drinkers—drinkers drink where they feel welcome and comfortable. We may see a significant reduction in alcohol-impaired driving if anti-drunk driving programs include the risks of driving after drinking at home in their messaging.
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.
Mobile Tech Aims to Stop Drunk Driving
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.
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.
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.
College isn’t just eating pizza in dorm rooms, studying on the quad, and writing reports. Thanks to movies like Old School, Van 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.
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.
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.
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”.