Los Angeles County Receives $2.5 Mil. for DUI Checkpoints


Los Angeles County, California is receiving $1.1 million in federal funding for DUI Checkpoints and other traffic safety measures for the current fiscal year (October 2013-September 2014). The county is receiving an extra $1.419 million from UC Berkeley. The state Office of Traffic Safety funds DUI saturation patrols and overtime pay for personnel who work under the grant.

According to the California Office of Traffic and Safety website, California has the highest number of DUI and sobriety checkpoints annually than any other state in the country. A statewide survey claimed that almost 90% of those surveyed were in support of sobriety checkpoints.

The NTSB Recommends All States Should Require Ignition Interlock Devices

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that all states update their DUI or DWI laws to require the ignition interlock device for all convicted drunk drivers, even first-time offenders. Currently, only 17 states require the interlock device for first time offenders. The NTSB completed a special investigation report on wrong-way driving collisions, of which more than half involved drivers impaired by alcohol. One of the study’s conclusions states, “New countermeasures to alcohol-impaired driving, as well as renewed emphasis at the federal, state, and local level, are needed.” Also: “The installation of alcohol ignition interlocks on the vehicles of all driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenders would reduce accidents caused by alcohol-impaired drivers.” The NTSB is is an independent federal investigative agency consisting of only about 400 employees and 5 board members. They have an annual budget of nearly $100 million.

The NTSB have pushed for widespread use of ignition interlocks for DUI/DWI offenders for many years. For this recent recommendation, the board cited a new study that found 360 people are killed each year in wrong-way driving crashes, and that 60% of these wrong-way drivers involved alcohol. The report emphasizes that seven of the nine wrong-way driving crashes had drivers with a BAC exceeding 0.15%. Additionally, 9% of those drivers had a previous record of a DWI conviction within the last three years.

The report had specific recommendations to the 33 states that do not currently mandate use of the ignition interlock devices for all DWI offenders, and also the District of Columbia and Puerto Rice. The recommendation specifically states that their governments should “enact laws to require the use of alcohol ignition interlock devices for all individuals convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses.

The NTSB strongly endorsed continuing development of a “passive alcohol-detection technology” called the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). The DADSS would prevent drivers with alcohol in their systems from starting their vehicles if the system detects alcohol with its breath- and touch-based sensors. The NTSB has recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety would together to accelerate the widespread implementation of these technologies.

An opponent to these measures is Sarah Longwell, The American Beverage Institute’s managing director. She says the interlock devices need to be reserved for “hardcore” offenders, or those whose DUI or DWI involved a very high BAC (above .15%) or repeat offenders. She argues that first-offenders with blood alcohol levels less than double the legal limit need to be treated separately than those with high BACs or who have previous offenses. Longwell said, “You don’t punish somebody going five miles over the speed limit the same way you do somebody going 50 miles over the speed limit.”

If the DADSS systems continue to develop their technologies and become widespread, Longwell surmises that it would “eliminate people’s ability to have a glass of wine with dinner or to have a beer at a ballgame and then drive home.”

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, states with DUI and DWI laws that require interlock devices for first-time offenders include: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. Missouri’s new laws will not be fully enacted until 2013.

NHTSA Announces that Drunk Driving Fatalities Dropped in 2011

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is celebrating a historic milestone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released new data showing that the number of drunk driving fatalities in 2011 fell by 2.5% compared to 2010. The number of people killed in drunk driving accidents (DUI) in 2011 was 9,978, and for the first time this number is below 10,000.

The number of people killed in drunk driving crashes in 2010 was 10,136. The 2011 fatality rate also outpaced the 1.9% decrease in overall highway deaths. MADD National President Jan Withers said, “This drop in deaths is an important milestone in our nation’s ongoing fight against drunk driving and is further validation that MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® is working. MADD urges state lawmakers to take advantage of recently passed federal funds available for states requiring all convicted drunk drivers to use an ignition interlock device.”

According to the NHSTA, the costs of alcohol-related vehicle crashes is estimated at $37 billion annually. The number of fatalities in 2010 equated to one person being killed every 51 seconds in an alcohol-related crash.

Many states will now require the ignition interlock device for repeat DUI offenders. In some cases, even first-time offenders may be ordered to install the device in their vehicle. Late in 2012, Alabama joined many other states by reforming their DUI laws and requiring these devices for certain drunk drivers.

MADD began the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® in 2006, and since the inception of this program the number of drunk driving fatalities has dropped by 27%. The main components of the campaign includes encouraging law enforcement efforts to set up sobriety checkpoints, pushing lawmakers to require ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers, and supporting the development of technology of breathalyzers and blood analysis to test blood alcohol concentrations.

Florida Reconsiders Alcohol Standard for Ignition Interlock Devices

The state of Florida has one of the highest thresholds of blood-alcohol levels for a driver who has a court-ordered ignition interlock device in their vehicle. The ignition interlock device will prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver’s alcohol level is measured as too high, and Florida’s standard for the devices is set at .05, which is nearly the legal limit of .08. These devices are often used to deter DUI offenders from future drinking and driving.

The new proposed standard is .025 which is more “in line” with national standards, according to Julie Jones, the executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. She is pushing for legislation that would lower the level for these devices.

Under Florida law, a convicted drunk driver must install the ignition interlock device in their vehicle if they have multiple DUI convictions, if they had a very high BAC (above .15), or if there was a minor in the vehicle at the time of their DUI.

Ignition interlock devices can carry a number of fees, including:

  • $12 interlock fee
  • $75 for installation
  • $72.50 for monthly monitoring and calibration
  • $100 refundable deposit or a $5 monthly insurance charge

Florida statutes require the devices to be installed on a first-time DUI offender if court-ordered. A second-time DUI offender must install the device for at least one year, or two years if they had a high BAC or minor in the vehicle. A third-time DUI offender is required to use the device for 2 years, and a fourth-time DUI offender is required to use the device if they have four convictions or more under the condition of a hardship license.

Independent Study Finds South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Program Reduces DUI

According to a new RAND Corporation study, South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Project has helped to reduce the number of repeat DUI arrests and additionally there was a 9% reduction rate in the number of domestic violence arrests. The 24/7 Sobriety Program is an alcohol monitoring program that is court-ordered when someone has been charged with an alcohol related offense.

Researchers in the RAND study found that frequent alcohol testing followed by swift but modest sanctions was efficient in reducing repeat drunk driving arrests. The study’s finding was that the 24/7 program was associated with a 12% reduction in repeat DUI arrests , and that overall there were modest reductions in traffic crashes.

The RAND Corporation analyzed data from 2004 to 2010, and Judge Larry Long has said that RAND independently analyzing the data lent to the reliability of the results.

The program requires those charged with multiple DUI’s to submit to twice-daily alcohol breath tests, and some participants were required to wear alcohol-monitoring bracelets as well as install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle.

Will New Texas DWI Laws Pass to Allow for Sobriety Checkpoints?

The Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee met Monday in Austin to discuss creative ways to curb DWI in the state. San Antonio police Deputy Chief Anthony Trevino urged legislators to allow for permanent DWI checkpoints that would allow law enforcement to stop drivers and do routine sobriety tests near “drunk driving hot spots.” The deputy police chief’s idea was opposed by Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project who said that this would allow for police abuse of power.

Harrington said, “Once you start setting these roadblocks, you are basically saying the government has control over your movement.”

State Representative Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, the committee chairman, wanted “creative ways” to reduce the number of DWI’s in Texas, and said that the committee was looking for a change in DWI laws to “get on the front end of the problem.” In 2010, drunk drivers with a blood alcohol level higher than 0.08 killed 1,259 people on the Texas roadways. California, which has the second highest number of DWI deaths in the country, had 791 deaths in 2010 caused by drunk drivers.

Gallego said, “It’s always bothersome when California does something better than Texas. California – with more cars, more drivers and more people – still has less DWI-related deaths than Texas does.” This hearing was Pete Gallego’s last in the state Capitol, as he was elected on November 6th to represent U.S. House District 23.

Bexar County (San Antonio) District Attorney Susan Reed expanded “no refusal” weekends to every day of the year starting in April 2012. This means that anyone suspected of DWI in Bexar County will be required to have their blood tested if they refuse the breathalyzer. Reed said of their policy, “We are now the largest metro area in Texas to have an absolute no-refusal policy.”

Bill Lewis, MADD’s public policy liaison, asked legislators to support sobriety checkpoints by passing laws to allow police officers to conduct them. He said checkpoints could save 200 lives in Texas every year. Lewis said of lawmakers, “We have asked them to provide those guidelines for, what is it 18 years? They haven’t done it, so may it’s time to try something else.” He said he would be surprised if the checkpoints do get passed into law because he recognizes that some see checkpoints as government playing “big brother.”

Lewis did suggest to the Legislature that all first-time DWI offenders be required to use an ignition interlock device on their vehicle, which would prevent a car from starting if the driver has any detectable amount of alcohol in their system. Under Texas law, it is the discretion of the judges whether the ignition interlock device is used for DWI offenders.

Texas prohibits checkpoints based on the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, however the Corpus Christi Police Department claims to have found a loophole. Public Information Officer for the Department, Julie Garcia, claims that the department does conduct what they call “driver’s license checkpoints” routinely. If during this driver’s license checkpoint a driver is suspected to be impaired, the officer can conduct field sobriety tests, which if failed, the driver “can and will be arrested.”

Driver’s license checkpoints are also used in Lubbock County, according to Assistant District Attorney Tom Brummett, who said that these checkpoints are an effective way to legally target DWI drivers. He said, “Even though we can’t use DWI or sobriety checkpoints, the law does allow us to use driver’s license checkpoints, vehicle safety checkpoints.”

$73k Anti-DUI Grant Just in Time for the Holidays

What better way to kick-off a safe start to the New Year than to receive a $73,000 grant to fund an anti-DUI program? The Palm Desert Police Department received the large grant from the state Office of Traffic Safety (OTS). According to the director, Christopher J. Murphy, the DUI checkpoints funded by such grants have been “an essential part of the phenomenal reduction in DUI deaths” from 2006 to 2010 in California. He added, “But since the tragedy of DUI accounts for nearly one third of traffic fatalities, Palm Desert needs the high visibility enforcement and public awareness that this grant will provide.”

The special grant is going to use the funds to target impaired drivers and also educate the public on the dangers of DUI by creating checkpoints. According to Palm Desert Police, the DUI checkpoints have been the most effective tool to any DUI enforcement strategy, and are said to save $6 for every $1 spent.

On November 19 of this year, the Palm Desert Police Department received a $100,072.00 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety to fund a year-long program aimed to prevent deaths on the roadways through special enforcement and raising public awareness. The grant was said to fund Specialized DUI training in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement, and Drug Recognition Evaluation. The grant was also expected to fund DUI Saturation Patrols, compilation of DUI Hot Sheets, Court sting operations that would catch drivers using their vehicle after a court appearance after their license had been pulled for DUI, and stakeout operations to observe repeat DUI offender probationers with revoked or suspended licenses.

The grant comes at a time when DUI enforcement is at its highest. Programs like DUI checkpoints are used to reduce the number of deaths and injuries related to drunk driving, which is especially high during major holidays like Christmas and New Year’s.

DWI Task Force Arrests Bartender for Over-serving, Texas

A DWI taskforce in Montgomery County, Texas called the “Bars and Cars” task force has arrested a bartender for over-serving a patron. The DWI task force does not simply focus on drivers who are already drunk and on the road, but on all aspects that lead to drunk driving, including the places where many DWI stories begin–at bars.

In The Woodlands, Texas, undercover officers from the Conroe Police Department visited Baker Street Pub and began observing bartender Chelsea Wilburn and an intoxicated customer. Warren Diepraam, from the Montgomery County DA’s Office, said, “This person was obviously intoxicated, shouting racial epithets. He had slurred speech, very droopy eyes, fumbling around.”

Willburn is being charged with the sale of alcohol to an intoxicated person which is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, Willburn may face up to a year in jail and a fine up to $4,000.

The Baker Street Pub has also been cited for serving alcohol to an intoxicated person, according to an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. The report is in review to determine potential administrative penalties.

The “Bars and Cars” DWI task force is working with bars and educating bartenders and servers about the laws regarding serving already intoxicated patrons. This effort came after a string of fatal drunk driving accidents in the Montgomery County area over the summer.

Strange Alcohol Laws in the U.S.

There are over 70 different types of licenses for selling alcohol in Kansas, and seven classifications dictating alcohol sales in a county, ranging from dry, wet, moist, limited, golf course, winery, and qualified historic site (QHS). In Kansas, voters are not allowed to buy alcoholic beverages during primary or general elections but can during special elections. Grocery stores must have a separate entrance and shop in order to sell wine or liquor, and consumers can run a tab on beer at a bar but cannot do the same for distilled spirits or wine.

Beverages with more than 3.2% alcohol by weight or 4% by volume (most liquors, wines, and even beers now) must be sold at room temperature in licensed liquor stores. Oklahoman beer distributors sell low-point beer to avoid this limitation, allowing beer to not just be sold in convenience stores and supermarkets, but also refrigerated!

Indiana is the only state in the U.S. that bans all alcohol sales on Sundays outside of bars and restaurants.

You can legally drink under the age of 21 in Texas if you are accompanied by a parent, guardian, or spouse. The parent, guardian, or spouse must be visibly present while the minor is possessing or consuming the alcohol.

You may not be able to receive a permit for serving beverages of low alcohol content if you are specifically a donut shop:

A. The commissioner shall not:
(7) Issue a permit of any class to any donut shop for the sale of alcoholic beverages. For purposes of this Paragraph, “donut shop” shall be defined as an establishment that meets all of the following:
(a) Sells donuts, pastries, or other confections.
(b) Does not operate a fully equipped kitchen used for the preparation of uncooked foods, other than donuts, pastries, or other confections, for service and consumption of such foods on the premises.
(c) Does not prepare and serve uncooked foods, other than donuts, pastries, or other confections, at least five days a week.

Living Closer to Bars May Increase Odds of Becoming a Heavy Drinker

Reuters reported on a Finnish study which found that living in closer proximity to a bar may increase the likelihood of becoming a heavy drinker and engaging in risky alcohol behavior. The study followed 54,778 Finnish adults over seven years, and found that a person who moved one kilometer (0.6 mile) closer to a bar had a greater odd of becoming a heavy drinker by 17%. A heavy drinker is defined as drinking more than 10 ounces a week of distilled alcohol for a man, and drinking more than seven ounces of distilled alcohol a week for a woman.

Professor Jussi Vahtera of Turku University reports that the alcohol-induced mortality rate of men and women living alone rose steeply after the decrease in the price of alcohol in 2004. In the last two decades, the number of alcohol-related diseases and alcohol poisoning have doubled among the Finnish working-age population.

The study took place between 2000-2009, and included responses from 78,000 people who responded to at least one survey, and 54,778 responses from people who responded to at least two surveys.

According to the cross-sectional findings, the likelihood of an extreme drinking occasion (one that results in a pass out from alcohol use) and heavy use was higher among those that resided less than a kilometer away from a bar verses those who lived more than a kilometer away from a bar.

Lead researcher Jaana L. Halonen, of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Kuopio, responded in an email, “Factors other than proximity are also likely to explain the observed association.” She noted that one possibility could be that drinkers choose to live closer to bars. The study also looked at a subset of people who did not move, but bars came closer to them, and found that the findings were similar among those individuals, too.

Of the people who lived an average of 0.12 kilometers from a bar, just over 9% of those individuals were categorized as being a heavy drinker. Those who lived about 2.4 kilometers, or 1.5 miles, away from a bar, about 7.5% of those people were considered a heavy drinker.

While the association was modest, Holonen commented that even a modest association between access to bars and being a heavy drinker is “notable.”

For any one person, Halonen said, the risk of becoming a problem drinker depends on a whole range of factors. She added that, it is possible restricting bars’ hours could limit the local people’s risky drinking.

The study conducted entirely in Finland many not account for how the findings would apply to other countries, as Halonen said, drinking habits and the “cultural norms” will vary by country. For instance, she notes that, “in the UK and Australia, heavy drinking is reported to be more common than in Finland, whereas in the USA it is less common.”

In the USA, the prevalence of binge drinking is about 17.1%, according to analyzed data collected in 2010 by the Center for Disease Control.