Halloween DUI Safety Tips

bigstock-Young-Woman-Drinking-Wine-27556253Halloween is one of the favorite holidays of the year; celebrating time-honored traditions of costumes, parties, candy and kids. Now, more than ever, Halloween has become a big day for adults to unleash their own inner children, so to speak, and take advantage of the carefree feeling of this festive day. Unfortunately, when many adults are determined to celebrate, that can mean the overindulgence in alcohol, making Halloween fun another cautionary tale to be passed down through the generations.

As with many other holidays where drinking is encouraged, Halloween has gotten a scary reputation for the number of drunk drivers on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that 41 percent of all Halloween highway fatalities across the nation involve the driver of a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. This means that almost half of the fatalities on the road are attributed to those who are legally drunk, in all 50 states. While this statistic is frightening, the worst may be yet to come.

Pedestrian traffic on Halloween is at an all-time high, with young trick-or-treaters in costumes heading door-to-door in order to receive the treats of the season. Not only are there more people walking through neighborhoods, but, the excitement of the day and the costumes being worn are also factors in the need to be extra careful on Halloween. If a person has been drinking and gets behind a wheel, the normal precautions and care given to safe driving are certainly affected, and there are countless examples of how this combination can be dangerous, if not deadly.

If you are planning on celebrating Halloween with the ghouls at a bar or the pirates at a party, remember that the best way to eliminate your own chances of becoming a Halloween DUI statistic is to have a plan. Stay sober or plan for a taxi for your drive home, or, enlist a friend as your designated driver. Let the costumes be the scariest thing on the streets in your neighborhood, and everyone will have a happy and safe Halloween.

Child Endangerment and Alcohol

bigstock-Sad-Kid-Tired-Of-Trip-42957829The consumption of alcohol have many immediate and long term negative effects on the health and overall wellness of the individual. Many people only think of the risk they are putting themselves at by drinking to excess. But alcohol consumption can have a serious impact on the people around us. One of the most important groups of people, who can be the most endangered by people around them drinking, is children.

According to the NIH, from 1996 to 1998 there were 317 reports of accidental alcohol poisoning. Many of these reports involved children under the age of twelve. A father in Los Angeles recently had his infant rushed to the emergency room after the father accidentally mixed a bottle with gin instead of water. In cases like this it can be difficult for doctors to act quickly, as checking an infant’s blood alcohol content is not the first thing on any doctor’s mind. Doctors described this as an apparent life-threatening event. This infant may not have survived this mix up if it weren’t for prompt medical attention.

According to the AACAP one in every five Americans grew up with an alcoholic relative. Because of this, these people are exponentially more likely to develop unhealthy drinking practices than people who grew up without alcoholics in the family. Many children who are raised by alcoholics suffer some form of neglect or abuse. Studies have shown a correlation between rates of abuse in children and their rates of drinking later in life. Children who are raised by alcoholic are around four times more likely to struggle with alcoholism at some point in their life than the average American.

Drinking and driving can also have serious implications for children. According to the CDC in the year 2010, 17 percent of traffic related deaths in children under the age of fourteen involved a drunk driver. Of the 211 children who died in alcohol related crashes, over half of them were in the car with the drunk driver. Before getting behind the wheel of a car, drivers should consider the children in their lives. Is driving under the influence really worth the risk it poses? What if you could save a life by taking a cab?

It is always heartbreaking when the life of a child is cut short. It is even more heartbreaking when it could have been prevented. The next time you drink try to think of how your decisions may be affecting another person.

Underage Drinking Laws and Child Endangerment

underage drinking child endangermentIn every state in the Union, it is illegal for people younger than 21 years of age to drink alcoholic beverages. Nevertheless, many American youth are allowed and encouraged by the adults in their environments to imbibe, contributing to legal and criminal problems. Underage drinking laws are present to help protect children from an activity which may stunt their development and requires a certain level of responsibility in order to manage well. Alcohol is something that alters how we perceive ourselves and others and can drastically reduce the level of control we have over our bodies.

But, when it comes to underage drinking laws versus child endangerment, many of us are unsure how they are connected or different. If someone is arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), when does a conviction for that also include a violation of underage drinking laws or child endangerment? Child endangerment comes into play when a drunk driver has a child in the vehicle when pulled over. Having a child in the vehicle while driving under the influence is unlawful because it risks the life of the child by placing a minor who needs the care and guidance of responsible adults in a dangerous situation.

An offender can be accused of child endangerment simply by putting a child in a risky situation like that present during a DUI, but underage drinking laws go into effect when the offender is found with a minor who has been drinking alcohol. The presence of a minor who has been drinking could invoke both child endangerment and underage drinking laws, providing additional stress in the offender’s life. An adult who has been drinking found in the presence of a minor who has also been drinking raises many suspicions and accusations will follow.

While a driver who is arrested for a DUI while having a minor in the vehicle is not necessarily going to face criminal charges related to underage drinking laws, it is still good to be mindful of the potentially dangerous situation the offender is in. When adults are drinking alcohol around minors, it is not always possible for them to be aware of what the minors are doing. Young people can sometimes take advantage of situations in which the adults around them are not in full control of themselves. Driving after such a lapse in judgment could result in criminal charges related to a variety of infractions, including child endangerment.

Pool Parties and Drinking Don’t Mix

Drowning manSummer is a time for relaxing, visiting exotic and foreign lands, and spending hours close to or in a body of water. Unfortunately, many people think that relaxing and having a good time are synonymous with drinking alcohol. While it is definitely possible to enjoy one’s self without ever having a sip of anything likely to lead to inebriation, people often enjoy combining their favorite vice with a recreational activity.

Every single day of the year, ten Americans die from an accidental drowning. If this statistic were not bad enough, only two of those daily deaths are people aged 14 or younger. That means that a large number of adults die each day due to unintentional drowning. These numbers do not include boating accidents, so it is imperative that people have all of their faculties about them when around swimming pools.

Pool accidents won’t necessarily kill you, either. Over half of the people treated in emergency rooms for drowning incidents are admitted for further care. They most often suffer from brain damage and some never recover, remaining in a vegetative state for the rest of their natural lives. Since a quarter of hospital-treated drowning accidents involve alcohol use, the pool incidents are largely avoidable. When in doubt, simply remember that pool parties and drinking don’t mix.

The fact is that alcohol consumption negatively impacts a person’s self-control. Drinking makes it easier to have falling accidents and slippery, wet surfaces increase the likelihood of falling even more. Drinking also makes it more difficult to exercise good judgment. Many risky behaviors, like binge drinking may seem like a good idea after a few beers. The negative effects of drinking alcohol are exacerbated by sun and heat exposure. The hotter it is by the pool, the more easily alcohol can inebriate you and disturb your equilibrium.

America’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) will tell you: pool parties and drinking don’t mix. In fact, alcohol consumption around bodies of water is so dangerous, the CDC’s website advises people to refrain from drinking even while simply supervising children. The negative effects of alcohol can result in you drowning, but alcohol consumption while babysitting or the like can also make it more difficult to give a child proper care should a pool accident happen. The best advice is simply to never drink alcohol when doing anything recreational and fun with water.

Ignition Interlock Devices on School Buses

school bus ignition interlockNew York State is deciding whether or not to install ignition interlock devices (IIDs) on school buses. In the wake of a recent Long Island accident involving an intoxicated bus driver, many parents and community leaders say that installing IIDs on school buses is an excellent safety measure. Of course, not everyone agrees. Bus unions and others contend that most school bus drivers do not operate the vehicles while impaired and it is unjust to impose a restriction for criminals onto them. The New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) made specific recommendations to the State Senate Transportation Committee earlier this month regarding the issue.

Ignition interlock devices (IIDs) are usually only ordered to be installed on vehicles driven by people who have been convicted of driving under the influence. The offenders are responsible for the costs related to the devices, which include installation, maintenance, and removal. Some experts say that installing IIDs on school buses in the state of New York would cost taxpayers about $100 million per year. Defenders of the proposed requirement maintain that if the proposed bill becomes law, only school buses manufactured after the year 2015 would need to have the IIDs installed.

Of course, this argument only addresses when the installation of the IIDs on school buses would occur, not the actual costs involved. Some say that the devices would cost about $200 per bus. With 58,000 school buses in use in the state of New York, that would mean the devices would cost taxpayers about $12 million per year. While considerably less than $100 million, it is still a sum worth discussing. Outside of the issue of funding, there is the fact that no children have ever been seriously hurt in any school bus accident caused by an intoxicated bus driver. However, child endangerment is still a serious issue.

While the recent DWI arrests of school bus operators understandably haunts parents and encourages them to push for improved safety measures, the issue is a divisive one. Parents and other supporters of the measure insist that when technology exists to help make school bus trips safer, it should be used. For them, IIDs on school buses are a common sense move. For people who don’t support installing the devices, there are other changes they recommend, such as increased random drug and alcohol testing of school bus operators and daily observations. Some say a law requiring IIDs on school buses is long overdue. Others think it is a step in the wrong direction.

DUI and Child Endangerment

child car dui endangermentWhen we think of drunk driving accidents, our minds may flash upon stories we have heard about children getting hit while crossing the road or something similar. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was started by a mother with such an experience. However, there is another type of story starring inebriated drivers and children and that story involves drunk driving with children as passengers in the vehicle. It is just as dangerous for a child to be in the car with an inebriated driver and many states are holding these drivers accountable for child endangerment.

According to MADD, 62% of children ages 0-14 who were killed in alcohol-related traffic accidents in 2010 were passengers of the inebriated driver at the time. This is partially due to the fact that inebriated parents are less likely to buckle their children in, since only 18% of inebriated drivers in fatal crashes had properly restrained their children. So far, forty-three states and the District of Columbia give more severe penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) convictions involving child endangerment.

While every state handles the DUI child endangerment issue differently, there are some common tendencies. For instance, most of the DUI state laws define “child” as a youth age fourteen or younger. Also, there are harsher penalties enforced, whether the conviction is considered a misdemeanor or felony. A DUI child endangerment conviction is a permanent part of your criminal record. This, of course, affects many other aspects of a person’s life, regardless of the positive changes the person attempts to make later.

New York, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Texas have some of the most severe DUI child endangerment penalties. In fact, New York’s Leandra Law is considered the desired model for these laws nationwide. In New York, a person can be charged with DUI child endangerment if the child is age sixteen or younger. The penalty is a felony charge and punishable by up to four years in prison. The driver’s license is automatically suspended and the individual is ordered to use an ignition interlock device for at least six months once driving privileges are reinstated. If the inebriated adult is a parent, guardian, or custodian of the child in question, the person is reported to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Mistreatment.

As you can see, DUI child endangerment laws add a level of severity to an already difficult situation. It is not easy to deal with any DUI charge and adding child endangerment to it can have more lasting effects than one might expect. It is simply not worth it. The easiest way to avoid any sort of DUI conviction is to simply refrain from drinking and driving. It is a healthy and responsible choice, for you, your community, and the ones you love.

“Brielle’s Bill” Backed by Some North Dakota Lawmakers

Increasing penalties for those convicted of DUI/DWI is on the legal agenda for several states across the country. In North Dakota, where DUI laws are less restrictive than other states in the U.S., the death of a toddler in a head-on collision attributed to a drunk driver has prompted a stronger stance against drinking and driving. WDAY News reports that “Brielle’s Bill” would not only impose higher fines on those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, but would also increase jail time. Read more here:  West Fargo infant’s death sparks bill to change drunk driving charges

Underage Drinking and Driving

underage drinking and drivingEveryone knows that drinking and driving is not a smart thing to do. Everyone also knows that people do it, anyway. Laws stating that drivers have to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level below .08 in order to be considered sober enough to drive often send mixed messages about the safety of drinking and driving. However, when it comes to underage drinkers, the message is much clearer.

Underage drinking is illegal. Period. So, when it comes to drinking and driving, the BAC level of .08 has no bearing. Every state in the United States has set the legal drinking age to 21 years old, so anyone caught drinking while younger than 21 is automatically breaking the law. If that person is also caught driving after having a drink of alcohol, the penalties will be much stiffer than for someone of legal drinking age.

Every state in the United States also has a Zero Tolerance policy when it comes to underage drinking and driving. How this looks varies from state to state. In California, for example, anyone younger than 21 who is caught drinking and driving faces loss or suspension of driving privileges for one to three years and is eligible for prosecution at .05% BAC. In fact, if you are younger than 21 and convicted of an alcohol-related offense, your driver’s license is automatically suspended for one year, even if you weren’t driving at the time of arrest.

In addition to the Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) penalties incurred from underage drinking and driving, other drinking charges are usually added to a minor’s record when caught drinking and driving. Some of these charges are:

  • Minor in possession of alcohol
  • Soliciting alcohol from an adult
  • Distributing alcohol to minors, if other drinking minors are found with the offender
  • Child Endangerment

DUI/DWI convictions stay on your record for up to ten (10) years and usually include some jail time, massive fines, and probationary periods that might last three (3) years. There may also be school- and work-related consequences, since underage drinking is often seen as a symptom of poor character development.

It is important to remember that no amount of alcohol is okay for a minor. Anyone under age 21 who takes even a sip of alcohol is breaking the law and taking a huge risk. When we add driving to that scenario, it only gets worse for both the minor and society, since teens who were drunk-driving represent a large percentage of fatal vehicle crashes each year. Underage drinking and driving is simply not a risk worth taking and if we can all agree on that, more of us will make it to the legal drinking age safe and sound.

Impaired Driving and Child Passengers

Intoxicated drivers who are arrested for DUI with a minor under the age of 16 in the vehicle are usually charged with child endangerment or child abuse in addition to a charge for drinking and driving.  Child endangerment is defined as the act of placing a child in a potentially harmful situation, either through neglect or misconduct.

The statistics for a DUI with a minor in the vehicle reveal how prevalent and dangerous the issue has become.

Impaired Driving and Child Passengers

  • Over half of all children killed in impaired driving crashes are killed while riding with the drunk driver. Most of the time, that person is old enough to be a parent or caregiver.
  • From 1988 through 1996, an estimated 149,000 child passengers were non-fatally injured in crashes involving a drinking driver. Of these, 58,000 (38.9 percent) were riding with a drinking driver when injured in the crash.
  • A 2004 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 2,335 children were killed in drunk driving accidents between 1997 and 2002. Of those children who were killed, 68 percent of them were in a vehicle driven by an impaired driver.

Those arrested for child endangerment and/or child abuse (in addition to DUI) face a slew of legal consequences as well as personal consequences. Even a charge of child endangerment or child abuse that is eventually dismissed may be registered in a statewide database of offenders against children.  Because of the nature of the charge, some states will not allow these types of charges to be expunged or erased from a person’s police record.

Most states have laws enhancing consequences for those who drive drunk with a child passenger in a motor vehicle.  Visit your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website for more information on the consequences of child endangerment and/or child abuse.

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