Wake Up! An Energy Drink DUI is Just the Beginning

Energy drink DUI and alcohol dependenceEnergy drinks are great until the buzz wears off and you’re in the throes of more guarana than you can handle with your grappa.  Mixing liquor and energy drinks may give an extra boost to your party, but there are also plenty of cautionary tales about the dangers of this trendy mix. Not only are you risking an energy drink DUI; you could be on a fast road to an addiction, too.

Your afternoon pick-me-up, road trip companion or favorite fatigue-fighting energy drink has evolved from plain old coffee into a variety of chemical and natural drinks promising hours of additional energy. Probably around 30 seconds after the first energy drink hit the shelves, someone added a few shots of liquor just to see what would happen. The result was the false security of feeling a lot less intoxicated than a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) would predict; the energy boost masked the effects of the alcohol.

Unfortunately, that effect does not necessarily make the person stop drinking their normal amount of alcohol. Instead, they are more likely to drink more of the deceptive combination, leading to energy drink DUI problems, a possible ignition interlock requirement, and a dependence on alcohol. Since the more a person drinks, the higher their tolerance can become, adding in energy drinks just encourages more alcohol consumption. Alcoholism or alcohol dependence is a natural result of those buzzy beverages.

The immediate problem of an energy drink DUI is obvious, but it is also the long term we must consider when getting our buzz on at a bar. As with any type of alcohol and any mixer used, be responsible and understand the risks that you take, even if you feel an extra pep in your step. Down the road, you will be grateful for taking things easy with the energy drinks.

An Illinois Ignition Interlock on a Motorcycle?

Illinois ignition interlock motorcycleIn many states, a DUI is a DUI. In states where there is an ignition interlock requirement or the option to install the device after a DUI, that means any vehicle could have an interlock, including a motorcycle. This guy was recently arrested for not having an Illinois ignition interlock on his motorcycle, a condition of his previous drunk driving conviction. Since Illinois is an all-offender ignition interlock state, anyone with a conviction is required to install an interlock on the vehicles that they drive, and in this case, that would include a motorcycle. If they violate that law, they face felony charges.

Illinois, Idaho and Washington state all allow interlocks to be installed on motorcycles. That helps prevent the old school thinking that it is still okay to drive a motorcycle after a DUI. A motorcycle is a vehicle, one that needs the driver to be just as sober while driving as any four-wheeled vehicle may need. On top of that, motorcyclists are at a higher risk for drinking and driving, as well as for a fatal outcome to any drunk driving incident.

In states where that do not allow interlocks on motorcycles, the drivers are expected to park their bikes for the duration of their license suspension. That includes those DUI offenders that have interlocks installed on their regular vehicles. Driving a motorcycle on a restricted license is a violation in all 50 states, and will increase the original penalties for the drunk driving conviction.

An Illinois ignition interlock device helps prevent further drunk driving incidents while allowing the offender the chance to maintain life, work, and other obligations. In exchange, anyone else on the road is assured that those drivers are sober behind the wheel, or the handlebars, as the case may be. Safety is a top concern in Illinois, and that includes all drivers, even the tough guy motorcycle crew.

What Could Have Prevented a 7th Wisconsin OWI?

Wisconsin OWI drive thru driverIt happens more times than we can say – a drunk driver is discovered in the drive-thru line at a fast food restaurant. It can even be laughable, a fun story about the man who passed out in line waiting for his burrito supreme. There are already too many problems with Wisconsin OWI drivers, and those across the U.S., to make light of these dangerous drivers. A food stop is more like a cry for help after a long night of drinking, especially when the driver has a history of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

You crave food when drinking because your body has had enough alcohol, not because it helps you get sober.

Food cannot prevent a person from drunk driving. In fact, there is only one thing that could have prevented this man with six prior Wisconsin OWI convictions from repeating his drunken behavior: an ignition interlock device. After being discovered in a parking lot, driving erratically with fast food and alcohol on his breath, the man tested at over twice the legal limit for a Wisconsin OWI. Worse still, he was legally restricted to a .02 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) – but did not have an ignition interlock device on his vehicle. You cannot restrict a person’s alcohol use and have no means of monitoring that level, nor can you expect them to respect that limit if they’ve already racked up multiple convictions.

Currently, Wisconsin law requires ignition interlock devices for high BAC, first-time OWI offenses and for all subsequent incidents. Like many other states, enforcing those policies can be challenging, but well worth the effort. Not only does Wisconsin have a lot of work to do to expand ignition interlock access, the state may also need to work on enforcing current laws and policies so that stories like this aren’t the norm. There is only one way to prevent Wisconsin OWI dangers, and that is with an ignition interlock device.

Coming Soon: The New Texas DWI Second Chance Bill

Texas DWI second chanceAny drunk driving conviction is a problem for those harmed during the incident, as well as for the driver behind the wheel. A Texas DWI can carry strict consequences for the offender, some of which carry over well past the day they have satisfied all requirements of their conviction. In particular, the criminal conviction itself can be a barrier to leading a normal life once the DWI dust settles.

Criminal background checks are a standard part of looking for a new job, a place to live or sometimes as a part of applying to certain schools or educational programs. As such, the Texas DWI second chance bill (House Bill 3016) will be enacted September 1, 2017, to allow offenders a better chance at life after a drunk driving conviction.

HB 3016 allows the opportunity for many Texas DWI offenders to have their misdemeanor record sealed after completing a six-month ignition interlock requirement or five years after satisfying all other requirements of the conviction. Texas has expanded access to ignition interlock devices for all offenders, but they are not mandatory in many simple, first-offense convictions.

This second chance is only offered to certain Texas DWI offenders, however. To be eligible, you must:

  • Have no other DWI or alcohol-related convictions on your record.
  • Not have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .14 percent or higher when you were arrested for the incident.
  • Not have caused any harm to another person, neither pedestrians nor other drivers.

A sealed DWI record will still be visible to law enforcement and to the court system but would be hidden from background checks used for employment, housing or educational purposes. That way, offenders are still required to fulfill consequences for their bad judgement, while not being penalized unfairly as they move on from the incident and into a new, better life.

The Cost of Not Strengthening Wisconsin OWI Law

The cost of a Wisconsin OWIRight now, many first offense Wisconsin OWI convictions result in a mere slap on the wrist: a low-penalty misdemeanor charge that is little more than a traffic citation. The state legislature wants to change that, or most do… but the cost seems to be a driving factor in how to increase penalties for drunk driving in Wisconsin while not forcing additional burdens on the taxpayers of the state.

In 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) estimated that alcohol-related crashes cost the state over $400 million. Increasing penalties for a first-offense Wisconsin OWI will cost the state money, but what will the value of preventing many first-time drunk driving offenses? Priceless.

As the Wisconsin OWI penalties stand today, a first-offense incident without any bodily harm, property damage or fatality will incur the following:

  • Misdemeanor criminal charge.
  • $300 fine.
  • Suspended driver’s license.
  • Driver improvement surcharge ($355).

However, the real cost of any Wisconsin OWI is the risk to lives on the roads. Over 5,000 alcohol-related crashes occurred in 2015, causing almost one death or injury every three hours in Wisconsin. When you consider the devastation from any type of drunk driving incident, there is not really a cost that is too high. When you see the number of people killed each year by drunk drivers, any argument against increasing penalties and expanding ignition interlock access is invalid. Just ask a victim or the surviving family members who have lived through the experience.

By not increasing penalties, we are allowing the problems to continue and grow. Wisconsin lawmakers continue to fight for stricter OWI laws and more access to ignition interlock devices, despite the resistance. As such, we can all step in and lend a hand, and a voice, by encouraging those opposed to stricter laws to reconsider their choice, and supporting those who have already made a stand for safer streets.

Weird DUI: Guilty and Driving Yourself to Jail

weird dui guilt trip signAlcohol has a way of bringing out our true feelings, whether it’s a 2 AM text to an ex or the guilt felt by a drunk driver. Sometimes that means a drunk driver heads directly into a DUI checkpoint, ready to admit guilt. In other cases, a suspect may be trying to get off the streets as quickly as possible, driving right past law enforcement. In a recent weird DUI case, a man in California felt so bad about his intoxicated judgment that he drove himself (under the influence of alcohol) to a local police station to turn himself in.

What do you do when you realize you’re too drunk to drive? Stop driving immediately.

If not, you could be the next in this series of weird DUI stories:

In every sense, a DUI is pretty much a guarantee that you are driving yourself to jail, even if you are only trying to get home. Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal in all 50 states and a danger to everyone on the road. With risks like high court costs and fines, possible jail time, an ignition interlock requirement, and the reality of a fatal accident skipping the weird DUI or any drunk driving incident is the best advice you can follow. Alcohol definitely encourages a true reflection of our inner workings, but that should never include a trip to the police station at any point in our travels home.

You Can’t Swim Away a Florida DUI

Florida DUI swimThere are thousands of ways people think they can get out of a drunk driving charge. Some will try to trick a police breathalyzer by stuffing their mouths with pennies or gum, while others believe that cold showers and coffee are enough to sober up before driving. A recent Florida DUI story is another in the series: it’s about a man who drove his car off of a Florida bridge, only to swim back to shore and find himself right in the hands of law enforcement.

To be clear, swimming will not lower your blood alcohol concentration, either.

Blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, is the measurement used to determine whether a person is legally drunk. Right now, that legal, per se limit stands at .08 percent in 49 states and in D.C. (Utah recently lowered the state’s BAC limit to .05 percent). The man in question had a BAC of .22 percent, almost three times the Florida DUI limit. At .22 BAC, one can expect extremely slurred speech, a loss of motor control and even lethargic responses. In Florida, one can also expect plenty of consequences at that BAC limit, including high fines, possible jail time and an ignition interlock requirement.

More than likely, the suspect was too intoxicated to realize his road was leading directly to the ocean, and as a result, he had to swim to shore for safety. However, we can all understand that Florida DUI headlines are often a little more dramatic than the normal and that people do try to swim, shower or have pennies ready to beat a breathalyzer or get out of a drunk driving problem. The best prevention is to just keep your safety in mind before heading out for a night, when alcohol is involved, or have numbers ready in your phone just in case.

Making Sense of the Iowa OWI Problem

Iowa OWI problemThe Iowa OWI problem needs a little more scrutiny, even as the state ramps up a 24/7 sobriety program to help keep drunk drivers off the road. 24/7 sobriety sounds like a good plan, as it uses technology to monitor those who would possibly risk another OWI. The program an option in the state, available to counties to implement. However, just because people are being monitored for the use of alcohol, they are not necessarily staying out of trouble and out of the driver’s seat.

In 2016, 43 percent of all fatal Iowa OWI crashes involved people with more than one drunken driving offense.

With 24/7 monitoring, those offenders must check in twice a day and have a sobriety test. They are held accountable for any alcohol they have consumed. The problem is that it’s possible for someone to pass a test and then start drinking and driving. If they choose to disregard the consequences of the program – and there are always people who have slips and who disregard the consequences of drinking on any program – then there is nothing to prevent that person from taking to the road and endangering everyone.

This is where ignition interlock devices make the most sense. An ignition interlock actually prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Thirty states now mandate the devices for all OWI offenders. While some argue that the devices should only be used for multiple offenders, states have found that requiring the requiring the devices for every OWI offense reduces alcohol-related crashes. 24/7 sobriety can help an offender deal with his or her alcohol problem, but ignition interlock devices are the last line of defense for society – it actually prevents drunk driving.

Instead of waiting for another disaster on the roads, now is the time to take action and improve Iowa’s OWI laws. Contact your Iowa state legislators today or talk to your neighbors about increasing awareness of drunk driving prevention. The longer we wait, the more we are part of the problem, and not a factor in the solution.

Putting the Brakes on Texas DWI Checkpoints

Texas DWI checkpointTexas DWI checkpoints were established to help increase safety on the roads. The events serve to weed out drunk or intoxicated drivers, with the additional benefit of discovering people with outstanding warrants or other problems. However, DWI checkpoints in Texas and across the U.S. all have one big problem: the danger posed to the law enforcement officers trying to keep the rest of us safe.

How to navigate a Texas DWI checkpoint safely:

  • If you see a checkpoint ahead in the distance, do not try to make a U-turn or otherwise turn your vehicle around. Other officers are watching and will take measures to ensure you are sober behind the wheel and not being evasive by driving away.
  • Politely answer questions and hand over your driver’s license, insurance card and other car documents upon request.
  • If you are asked to submit to a breathalyzer test, remember that if you refuse, you could be charged with an implied consent violation.
  • Keep your speed to a minimum until you are given the signal that you can drive away, and then do not speed or make any other actions beyond carefully driving away.

Many states with sobriety checkpoints have had issues with law enforcement officers injured or killed during the events. Maryland’s “Noah’s Law” (all-offender ignition interlock law) was named after an officer who was killed during a DUI checkpoint by a repeat drunk driver.

When you have not had a drop to drink and are still forced into a Texas DWI checkpoint, the additional time and effort can be a frustrating experience. However, with a little bit of understanding and patience, you will be well on your way before you know it. The safety of others on the road and that of the law enforcement officers providing the safety service are priorities. Let’s all give these officers and events a break and support sober driving in Texas, and across the U.S.

When Do I Need a Maryland Ignition Interlock?

Maryland Ignition InterlockAll DUI offenders convicted in court are required to install a Maryland ignition interlock. What can vary is the length of time an offender must install and maintain an interlock. Your Maryland ignition interlock requirement will depend on:

  • Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of the DUI offender at the time of arrest.
  • Any prior drunk driving convictions (in Maryland or other states).
  • Other “aggravating” DUI/DWI circumstances like reckless driving or property damage.
  • If children were passengers in the vehicle during the DUI.
  • The accumulation of “points” on a license that indicates other traffic offenses.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MDMVA) also has an administrative license revocation (ALR) policy that requires an ignition interlock device to reinstate driving privileges. The ALR helps an alleged offender facing DUI or DWI charges get their affairs in order and continue moving forward, despite the fallout from their decision to drink and drive. In Maryland you can actually skip your administrative hearing if you go ahead and install the interlock and provide proof to the DMV.

In some cases you may need an ignition interlock as part of your job. If you are a minor, your parents could insist on the device as well.

Maryland is one of a majority of U.S. states that require an ignition interlock for all drunk driving convictions. MADD reports that in a 10-year period Maryland ignition interlock devices prevented 42,163 drunk driving attempts, with 5,635 of those in 2016 alone. While nobody looks forward to an interlock, the reality is that if we cannot make safe choices before heading out for a night of drinking, we will have no choice but to blow to go.