Monthly Archives: April 2009

Ignition Interlocks Coming…as Standard Equipment

I’ve commented in the past about MADD’s love affair with ignition interlock devices (IIDs) — what the National President of MADD has characterized as the way to "literally wipe out drunk driving in the United States".  See New MADD Goal: All Cars Equipped with Breathalyzers.  And I’ve posted news stories about the automobile manufacturers gearing up to install these costly and ineffective mini-breathalyzers as standard equipment in all vehicles.  See All U.S. Cars to Have Ignition Interlock Devices?.  Not surprisingly, it turns out that three of MADD’s six most generous contributors are Generals Motors, Ford and Toyota.  See  Breathalyzers Soon Mandatory for All Cars, Toyota Announces DUI-Proof Cars and The Car in Your Future (Nissan).

Still doubt that the car in your future will require you to take breath tests before you can start it — and, with some models, periodically while you’re driving?  In yesterday’s news:

Obama Chooses MADD Official to Lead Safety Agency

Washington, DC.  April 8 — President Barack Obama has chosen a top official with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to lead a Transportation agency that oversees safety and fuel efficiency requirements for automakers.

Chuck Hurley was nominated Wednesday to become administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Hurley, a longtime safety advocate, has served as MADD’s chief executive officer since 2005 and worked for the National Safety Council and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

At MADD, Hurley urged states to adopt tougher drunken driving laws and require first-time offenders to use ignition interlock devices on their cars. The devices require drivers to blow into an instrument that measures alcohol and prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver’s blood alcohol concentration exceeds a certain level…

The organization has received funding from several auto companies, including General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co. and others. The General Motors Foundation provided MADD and MADD-related programs with $133,000 in grants in 2007, according to financial records filed with the IRS.

What do you think Mr. Hurley’s first order of business will be?

(For why you don’t want an IID in your next car, read my posts Ignition Interlock Devices: Dangerous but Profitable and MADD Announces End to Drunk Driving: A Reply.) 

Public Reacts to Police Blood Draws

I’ve posted in the recent past about the growing practice of allowing police to forcefully draw blood themselves from citizens suspected of drunk driving.  See  Blood Draws in the Back Seat by the Dashboard Light,  Forced Blood Draws by Cops Spreading , Would You Want a Cop Taking Blood from You? and Forced Blood Draws: Citizen Backlash?

Despite the frightening realities of having cops jamming needles into squirming suspects handcuffed in the back seats of police cars, the overriding concern is saving the time and money expended on using nurses or licensed technicians at a medical facility.  

It would seem that perhaps the citizenry is finally saying "Enough"…

City Council Forum Draws Heated Debate

Police chief defends plan to train officers to draw blood from drunken-driving suspects

Austin, TX.  Mar. 31    …(A)bout 200 civil-rights advocates and other citizens…came to Monday evening’s public forum to question Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo about his plan to train officers to obtain blood samples from suspected drunken drivers.

“We have to use whatever tools are available to us — and legal — to keep people safe,” Acevedo told a jeering audience that packed the City Council chamber and overflowed into the lobby.

Both the plan and the forum were prompted by the latest development in the Austin Police Department’s controversial practice of requiring drunken-driving suspects who refuse a Breathalyzer test to give a blood sample…

Texas law requires the samples to be a taken by medical personnel or a “qualified technician,” so officers must take suspects to hospital emergency rooms and have a nurse collect the evidence.

But hospitals want out of the deal, Acevedo said. They say their staff does not have the time and cannot afford the legal risk of improperly declaring a suspect drunk.

Acevedo said the city could not afford the seven full-time phlebotomists it would need to take blood samples if hospitals stopped cooperating.

At the forum, Acevedo urged City Council and the public to let Austin police take part in a federal pilot program that would train officers to draw suspects’ blood themselves.

The police chief’s arguments did not satisfy critical audience members who lined up behind a microphone to grill him. The line only grew as the debate approached its scheduled end, ultimately continuing for an extra half hour.

At some points, the audience’s excitement overwhelmed the forum’s organizers. The moderator and an assistant tried for several minutes to remove one man from the microphone as he accused police of having “blood lust” and the audience chanted, “Let him talk!”

“Do you think free people in this country are going to submit to a gang of thugs?” the man asked a weary-looking Acevedo.

“If the hospitals don’t want to do it, then why should the police be doing it?” asked Jim Harrington, a UT School of Law adjunct professor who plans to help draft a City Council resolution to explicitly prohibit police officers from taking blood samples.

State Rep. Sylvester Turner has also submitted a bill to the Legislature that would ban police from taking the samples themselves…

John Bush, a panelist and the executive director of Texans for Accountable Government, was applauded as frequently as the police chief was shouted down as he attacked the training plan as “impractical and of questionable constitutionality.”

“I do not feel that any amount of training would be sufficient for an officer to take blood from a resident of Austin,” Bush said as the audience — which included several members of his group — roared with approval.

“We’re talking about police officers. They’re not necessarily known for being the most genteel creatures,” said Debbie Russell, president of the ACLU’s Central Texas chapter, to audience laughter as Acevedo smiled and took a drink of water…

The five-member panel also included Councilman Mike Martinez, who won cheers for opposing the training program, and Karen Housewright, the executive director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s Texas chapter and Acevedo’s only solid ally on the panel.

Has the worm finally turned?  Are Americans finally waking up to the MADDness?

(Thanks to Jeanne Pruett and RIDL)

Professional Courtesy

What would happen if you were arrested for drunk driving?  What if you were arrested for DUI after crashing your car – twice the same day?  A long stretch in the local jail?  Not if you’re a prosecutor…

Calif. Prosecutor Drops DUI Charges Against Nevada Prosecutor

Baker, CA.  Apr. 1 – A Nevada prosecutor pleads guilty to reckless driving and won’t be prosecuted for DUI in connection with two crashes in a six-hour span, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Nye County District Attorney Bob Becket crashed two cars within six hours on the same stretch of California  highway in June 2008. He failed an alcohol breath test at the scene of the second crash.

In September, Beckett pleaded not guilty to DUI charges.  But he changed his plea after the DUI charges were dropped, pleading guilty instead to reckless driving. As part of the plea, he is also required to complete a class on alcohol and automobiles.

Beckett will not be prosecuted for drunken driving under the plea deal entered in Barstow, Calif., Superior Court on Friday.

In the first crash, which happened early afternoon, Beckett totaled the county-issued SUV he was driving on California Route 127, south of Shoshone, Calif. No other vehicles were involved.

After riding home in a tow truck, Beckett went out to the same highway in his own van, crashing six hours later.

After failing a breath test for alcohol at the scene, Beckett was arrested, taken to Baker, Calif., and released into the custody of a friend.

San Bernardino County deputy district attorney Joel Buckingham said the plea agreement was not out of the ordinary and Beckett did not get any special consideration.

Two back-to-back crashes within hours of each other, failing a breath test — and the drunk driving charges are dropped, with no jail time and only a reckless driving conviction…No special consideration?