Monthly Archives: June 2009

Fast-Food Dragnet Fails

A few days ago I posted about the latest police tactic: stationing cops in fast-food drive-thrus and nabbing drivers if they appeared to have DUI symptoms.  See Burger With Fries…and Field Sobriety Tests.  

So how has that brilliant scheme worked out?

Plan To Get Drunks at Drive-Thrus Falls Flat

Tucson, AZ  –  A plan by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department that would have stationed deputies at fast-food joints to sniff out drunken drivers appears to have fallen flat.

The department had hoped to target drunken driving by putting undercover deputies inside 24-hour fast-food restaurants to spot impaired drivers placing their orders. If deputies spotted someone with classic symptoms of impairment, they were to call a uniformed deputy stationed outside to pull the driver over.

But sheriff’s Lt. Karl Woolridge says the department asked various fast-food chains if they’d agree to be a part of the program, but all of them declined.

Hmmm….I can’t imagine why the owners of the chains wouldn’t want cops in their places harrassing their customers.  Oh well, back to the drawing board….

(Thanks to Jim Nesci)

Driving While Intoxicated vs Driving While Texting

Which is more dangerous to human life: driving  under the influence of alcohol — or driving while texting? 

Texting Could Be More Dangerous Than Drunken Driving

June 25 –This morning, NBC’s “Today” show featured a story on how driving while texting could be more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol. Car & Driver has developed a test to measure the difference in reaction times when driving while reading an email, actively texting and driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08, the legal limit. The test takes place on an abandoned air strip.

In terms of reaction time, both reading an email and texting were far worse than being inebriated for the older subject, Car & Driver Editor in Chief Eddie Alterman, 37. A 22-year-old intern also took the same tests and was quicker in all scenarios, with barely a variance between the three.

Ok….So which carries a jail sentence — or is even illegal?

No More Texting While Driving

Frederiscksburg, VA.  June 25 –Virginia has banned text messaging while operating a motor vehicle. The ban starts July 1, the day most new state laws go into effect.

Virginia is one of 14 states to ban text messaging while driving, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The fine for a first violation is $20, and $50 for a second violation. Driving and texting will be considered a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement officers must have another reason to stop or arrest a driver.


DUI “Scarlet Letter” License Plates Another Bust

I’ve railed long and hard in the past about the growing trend of humiliating citizens convicted of drunk driving by forcing them to have special license plates on their cars (no matter who is driving).  See, for example, The Scarlet Letters, The Return of the Scarlet Letter, and Washington State Says "No" to DUI Scarlet Letter .  The idea came from the old Salem witch trials, when women accused of adultery were branded or had to wear a scarlet "A", as memorialized in Nathaniel Hawtheorne’s classic novel The Scarlet Letter.     

Another of the hair-brained weapons in MADD’s "War on Drunk Driving", this one has proven a failure as well…

DUI Plates Are Another Flop

Akron, OH.  June 19 – When it comes to combating drunk driving, Ohio leads the league in crackpot ideas.

One of our most recent legislative brainstorms — special license plates for convicted drivers — has been a total bust.

Since the law was changed in 2004, Ohio has issued 46,627 ‘’restricted plates.'’ In Summit County alone, 2,949 individuals and/or families have been sentenced to drive around with the distinctive yellow-and-red plates, the modern equivalent of The Scarlet Letter.

If these plates were working — if the drinking populace is cowering at the notion of having to adorn its vehicles with these things — we would have experienced a significant drop in alcohol-related traffic fatalities.


If you compare the last year without special plates, 2003, to the most recent year for which statistics are available, 2007, you find that, while Ohio’s overall crash rate has plummeted, the number of alcohol-related fatalities has increased.

• Total crashes of all types: down 16 percent.

• Fatal alcohol-related crashes: up 2 percent.

• Alcohol-related fatalities per 1,000 total crashes: up 21 percent.

Lord knows how many plates would have been manufactured if the legislature hadn’t changed its mind about mandating them for every offender. Only nine months after the new law was implemented, it was adjusted to eliminate first-timers with a blood-alcohol level below 0.17 percent…

Restricted plates — originally called ‘’family plates,'’ apparently because they bring ridicule to the entire family — actually have been available since 1967, but their use was left to the discretion of judges. Clearly, most judges didn’t believe singling out DUI offenders for public humiliation was appropriate.

No kidding. If we single out drunk drivers, why no special plates for murderers, rapists, extortionists, armed robbers and child molesters?

Heck, if legislators really believe public scorn is an appropriate element in our criminal justice system, we should bring back pillories.

At least those might have an impact.

I still like the branding idea best…

Burger With Fries…and Field Sobriety Tests

Want to know where we’re going with MADD’s hysterical "war on drunk driving"? 

DUI Deputies May Be Posted in Drive-Thrus

Tucson, AZ.  June 14  –  Drunken drivers with the late-night munchies soon could get more than just a burger and fries at the drive-through window.
The Pima County Sheriff’s Department’s new anti-drunken driving campaign — called Operation Would U Like Fries, or Operation WULF — hopes to put undercover deputies inside 24-hour fast-food restaurants to spot impaired drivers placing their orders, said Sgt. Doug Hanna, DUI unit supervisor.
If deputies notice someone with any of the classic symptoms of impairment — slurred speech, red or watery eyes, beer breath — they will radio a uniformed deputy stationed just outside, Hanna said.
The second deputy will then pull over the driver and, if field tests confirm what the officer at the drive-through suspected, arrest him or her for driving under the influence…

Is this latest Big Brother craziness really going to be effective in reducing the level of alcohol in drivers — or just their level of cholesterol?

DUI unit supervisor Hanna said Operation WULF is just another tool for law enforcement agencies to use in battling drunken driving. The more deputies out in the community — whether they are at checkpoints, on the roads, in liquor-serving establishments or at drive-through windows — the more likely the message will get out.
Ah…the old DUI roadblock justification: they may not work very well, but they’re great for "educating the public".
The next time you drive through a McDonald’s late at night, hungry, eyes reddened from fatigue…get ready for a few field sobriety tests along with your burger and fries.

(Thanks to Andre)

Signs of Reason

For years I've been preaching that the focus of the so-called "war on drunk driving" should be on the problem drinker — the alcoholic with prior convictions and/or very high blood-alcohol levels — rather than on the far more commonly arrested social drinker.  See my June, 2006, blog post "Time for a Change".  Dealing with the problem drinker is addressing the source of most alcohol-related traffic fatalities; punishing social drinkers is simply a prohibitionist war on alcohol.

Finally, signs that the voices of reason are beginning to be heard over the hysterical screams of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  In today's Wall Street Journal

Drunk Driver Data Don't Walk Straight Line Either

Rarely Do Intoxicated Motorists Get Caught, and When They Do, the Meaning of Blood-Alcohol Levels Is Hazy

What makes a drunken driver really drunk?

That question was highlighted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving's decision Monday to remove a liquor-industry-funded group from a high-profile campaign to prevent drinkers from taking the wheel. The group, called the Century Council, argues on its Web site that hard-core drunken drivers cause most alcohol-related traffic deaths, and therefore any crackdown should focus on them…

The dispute over crash statistics is complicated by the number universally used to measure drunken driving: blood alcohol content. It is rarely monitored by drivers and poorly understood even by the most sober minds. Despite this confusion and the fuzziness of test results, penalties for drunken driving tend to be more black-and-white than for speeding fines, which increase as speed does.

MADD split with the Century Council because the two groups disagreed about a penalty requiring drivers caught above the limit to install an ignition interlock, a device that prevents those convicted from driving whenever their breath alcohol is too high. The liquor-backed group told several states it only supported this measure for the most hard-core drivers. These include repeat-offenders and people whose blood alcohol content exceeds 0.15 grams per deciliter of blood — a much higher level of alcohol content than the legal limit of 0.08.

The basis for the Century Council's hard-core threshold comes from government tests of drivers involved in alcohol-related fatal crashes in 2007, showing three out of five had a BAC of at least 0.15.

Other research establishes that these heavy drinkers are far more dangerous than other drunken drivers on the road. Paul Zador, a statistician at the research company Westat, has compared the blood-alcohol levels of drivers killed in crashes with levels of drivers stopped for random roadside testing during peak drunken-driving hours. That helped him estimate how likely it is that an extra drink will prove fatal. Compared with sober drivers, drivers at 0.15 or higher were about 400 times more likely to die in a crash. Drivers with levels between 0.10 and 0.14 were 50 times more likely than sober drivers to die in a crash…

Complicating matters, people's alcohol-metabolism varies, as does the relationship between their breath alcohol — which is what is usually measured — and their blood alcohol. That has been a favorite line of argument for some defense attorneys. In response, some jurisdictions have based their laws directly on breath-alcohol levels, according to Rankine Forrester, chief executive of Intoximeters Inc., which makes breath-alcohol testers. That solves the legal gray area but creates a scientific one, because intoxication arises from blood alcohol, not breath alcohol.

A hint of reason in all the MADDness…