The Reality of Drunk Girl (and How to be a Hero)

drunk girl DUI heroDrinking alcohol is one of those milestones that many young people look forward to. For more than two decades drinking is out of legal reach in this country, so the day we are allowed at the bar is a big one. Unfortunately, drinking alcohol comes with its own set of problems, and too many crimes are committed when people are under the influence of even a small amount of alcohol.

Chris Janson’s song Drunk Girl reads like an instruction manual for a real-life hero.

Obvious crimes like drunk driving make the top of the list of alcohol-impaired behaviors, but so does sexual assault. While we are in the throes of the #MeToo movement, remember that you can be both a designated driver and another kind of hero, anytime you see a “Drunk Girl” or guy who needs a little help.

The CDC reports that alcohol is a factor in 40% of violent crimes, including sexual assault, and DUI fatalities.

What you need to know is that an impaired person is a vulnerable person. They can just as easily make a decision to go home with someone they just met as they can to try to drive themselves home… both while impaired by alcohol. Neither of those situations has a happy outcome, and that Drunk Girl you saw could easily become the victim of a crime, or a victim of their own impaired judgment.

We’ve spent a lot of time learning how to be a designated driver, how to take away the keys of a person who is clearly too impaired to drive, and that consequences like an ignition interlock are in our future if we choose that same path. Ending other alcohol-related crimes is just as easy to do. You offer a ride home, you put the person in their house, you lock up, and you leave. You are a hero and a game-changer and not a person was hurt by your heroics.

Weird DUI: Self-Driving Cars Won’t Cut the Danger

weird DUI self-driving carWe love our technology. From our smartphones that are replacing many of our executive functions, to the idea of self-driving, autonomous cars, technology seems to be saving our lives in so many ways. It is no wonder that, with the success rate of ignition interlock devices in vehicles of convicted drunk drivers, there are people who want the devices installed as standard equipment in new cars. Of course we all want to be safer, and ignition interlock devices do that.

On the other hand, for those people who never drink and drive, that idea can seem fairly offensive. Plus, requiring the devices for everyone means an additional expense that can be uncalled for, particularly in the case of the person who never drinks and drives, or who never drinks at all.

IF we cannot all agree on ignition interlock devices, then maybe we can all get behind the idea of self-driving cars.

Imagine it, you and your friends all head out for a night on the town. You all are safe in the understanding that what happens at Joe’s Bar will stay at Joe’s Bar. You relax, knowing that your self-driving car will be your designated driver for the night. Those weird DUI warnings are all a thing of the past because you have technology and smart cars on your side.

Then, you all get ready to go home, pile into your car and wait. Nothing happens, and your vehicle isn’t magically moving, driving you home to your awaiting bed. The self-driving feature has, for whatever reason, is not working. You and your friends are in a new, weird DUI dilemma: who drives the driverless car home?

Ok, maybe self-driving cars are still not as reliable as ignition interlock devices. 

Even if we had self-driving cars, we never really know how the night will end up, which means that we should always have a plan for a safe ride home. Being prepared for any drunk driving problems is as simple as having phone numbers ready for when you need a ride home, even if your car promises to get you there on its own.

Strengthen Iowa Ignition Interlock and DUI Laws for Safety’s Sake

Iowa ignition interlock and DUI laws need improvmentIowa is trying to get to a better, more sober place in the world. No longer is the state content to be one of the worst states in the U.S. when it comes to ignition interlock and DUI laws. Now the state has a chance to move ahead and get safety right, beyond the approval of a 24/7 sobriety program. We’re talking real change that keeps drunk drivers from making more intoxicated mistakes.

Stronger Iowa ignition interlock and DUI laws would prevent another year of increased road fatalities.

Iowa has a low rating from MADD that gives us insight into effective ignition interlock and DUI laws. MADD doesn’t advocate for 24/7 sobriety programs. Instead, the organization stands behind other legal moves like harsh penalties for DUI child endangerment and expanding ignition interlock access. The rationale is that a person, even one that is monitored throughout the day for any presence of alcohol, can still decide to get in a car and drive. The 24/7 monitoring machine only tests blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and in most cases, those tests only happen twice each day. An ignition interlock device, however, will test BAC no matter how many times an engine is started in a day and then disable the vehicle if alcohol is detected.

Plus, as much as the ignition interlock protects us from more drunk driving, the device also allows a DUI offender the chance to resume life as independently as possible. That can lead to a better recovery with minimal subsequent DUI offenses.

MADD understands that an ignition interlock and DUI driver can move forward after an offense happens. The devices help the offender get back on his or her feet while providing the rest of us with the assurance that no further drunk driving incidents will occur. All progress in strengthening ignition interlock and DUI laws is a good thing, and each step brings us closer to the sober roads we all deserve to drive on.

Ignition Interlock Devices… for Life?

Ignition interlock devices for life?

The more effective a law is, the more everyone wants to share that success. Ignition interlock devices, as consequences for breaking drunk driving laws, are a perfect example. Each year, more states require the devices for even a first-time drunk driving conviction. For a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) conviction or more than one DUI, you’ll have an interlock in all states. Then, there are those discretionary interlock requirements direct from a judge’s order.

So why not have all states require ignition interlock devices for all drunk driving convictions… for life?

Because of constitutional reasons: each state has the ability to dictate its own traffic laws. But, aside from that, a lifelong ignition interlock device isn’t necessarily the answer for the remainder of a convicted offender’s life. A first-time DUI offender is likely to never repeat that mistake after serving out the entirety of their interlock requirement. A lifelong requirement is a bit much when a person has committed to sober driving for life instead.

However, there are three states that do have lifelong ignition interlock requirements. Once you’ve been convicted of several drunk driving offenses in New Mexico, South Carolina or Wyoming, you will absolutely have a lifelong requirement. You will also have several years of possible incarceration time, too. A lifetime ignition interlock makes sense for offenders who show that they are absolutely not willing to drive sober despite other punishments.

Would having all states require a lifetime ignition interlock commitment prevent drunk driving? Probably not. There are always those determined to exercise free, intoxicated will on the roads and drive illegally. Plus, the devices give a boost of self-respect to an offender by allowing a normal life after a DUI. That self-respect grows once the device is removed and the requirement or program has been completed. It may be simple to say all drunk drivers should be required to use ignition interlock devices for life, but that’s not the solution either. Giving a DUI offender the chance to determine their own responsible future is much more promising.

Missouri Needs Fewer Deals, More Ignition Interlock Devices

Missouri ignition interlock devices for DUILaws may be tough, but they are too often subjective when it comes to judging a drunk driver’s intent behind the wheel. For example, Missouri can be tough on DUI offenders, but each incident is open to different interpretations depending on the circumstances. Admittedly, a legal team can find ways around those tough consequences at times, making the DUI laws more like guidelines than mandates. What Missouri and other states need is a better investment in the safety of residents: fewer plea bargains and deals in court, and more ignition interlock devices on the vehicles of DUI offenders.

Ignition interlock devices are technology-based tools that attach to a vehicle and keep it from starting if alcohol is detected in a breath sample. While the vehicle is in motion, more of those samples are required, ensuring the driver is sober and that no more DUIs can occur. The device teaches lessons about sobriety, compliance and commitment while allowing the offender the freedom to drive to work, school and around town, living life as normally as possible.

Plea bargains and probation from a court don’t do any of the above. In fact, when you reduce the serious nature of a drunk driving conviction to a lesser charge, offenders may not see the error of their ways. Instead, they could go on to make another bad call with the alcohol and put lives in danger on the roads. Some could even be responsible for a DUI fatality. Ignition interlock devices, however, stop all of that before it can even start, without fail.

Anyone can make a mistake, and plenty of DUIs are just that – a lapse in judgment. But with the number of DUI fatalities that occur each year, nobody really has the luxury of treating the crime as anything but serious. Missouri needs fewer DUI deals, and an expansion of ignition interlock requirements for drunk drivers.

WWYD: Lose Your Car or Gain an Interlock for a New Mexico DWI?

New Mexico vehicle seizure or ignition interlockIn New Mexico, a DWI can get messy, even before you’re actually convicted of the crime. New Mexico has a policy for habitual DWI offenders that allows the state to take away the vehicle used during the incident. On one hand, the policy makes sense, as it could be seen as one way to prevent any further attempts to drive while intoxicated. On the other hand, the policy also prevents an offender from driving while they’re sober.

That means the offender has a much harder time remaining employed, finding a job, getting to school or helping keep other family responsibilities together. That’s where an ignition interlock device becomes the better tool for helping to rehabilitate a New Mexico DWI offender, even one with several convictions. A person who is able to continue living life as normally as possible has a better outcome after a DWI. That same person can be prevented from repeating their crime, while going about their normal day, by using an ignition interlock device. Vehicle seizures could work adversely to that, encouraging more offenders to drive another car (without an ignition interlock) illegally, while possibly under the influence of alcohol.

Obviously, with a 36-year low in New Mexico DWI deaths, the state is doing something right with all types of drunk driving crimes. But, even Governor Martinez says the state still has a big problem with DWI. By attributing the decline in New Mexico DWI deaths to factors like ignition interlocks, DWI courts and mandatory substance abuse programs, the reliance on older tactics like vehicle seizure could be reduced or eliminated. After all, a DWI driver can have a healthy relationship with alcohol, and a responsible attitude toward driving only if they are still allowed access to their own vehicle where the only thing that could stop their recovery is an interlock test failure.

What Noah’s Law Can Do for Rising Maryland Road Fatalities

How can Noah's Law help road safety in Maryland?Maryland is riding a huge wave of relief from the recent passage of its all-offender ignition interlock law. “Noah’s Law” will continue to protect the state from the dangers of repeat DUI drivers, a move that is long overdue and exciting to see in action this fall. In the meantime, there are other concerns on Maryland’s roads, most notably the rise in road fatalities in the state that aren’t related to alcohol or drugs; a 17 percent rise that follows an unfortunate national trend as well.

According to the Maryland Highway Administration, the increased number of deaths on the roads were for bicycle riders, commercial drivers and young drivers. The reasons for the rising numbers vary, attributed to the rise in prescription drug use or to more people out on the roads. A better economy means more people are driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), and they’re not always driving responsibly. The usual suspect – driving under the influence – wasn’t cited as a reason, perhaps an indication that current ignition interlock policies in Maryland and across the U.S. are keeping those numbers at bay.

The Maryland Highway Administration does caution that fatigue has become a part of road fatalities, and of course, texting while driving is at the top of the list of bad driving behaviors across the U.S. While we are eagerly anticipating the reduction in subsequent DUI incidents on Maryland’s roads with Noah’s Law, we cannot forget that it isn’t always alcohol that causes these problems, and that we can all do more to keep our roads safe.

Since Maryland’s road fatalities follow a rising national trend, perhaps we can reduce those numbers across the country. With Noah’s Law and the example of ignition interlock expansion in Maryland, we already have an excellent road map. We just have to work together to use it.

Do We Want A Lower DUI BAC Limit?

The legal BAC limit is .08 percentIt seems like a pretty simple idea:  lowering the BAC limit will reduce DUIs across the country. Right now, the national limit for a DUI or other drunk driving conviction is .08 percent. The NTSB recommends lowering that limit to .05 percent. M.A.D.D. doesn’t necessarily support this change, a surprise to many. So, what gives? Do we want a lower BAC limit for DUI offenders?

Yes… and no. Lowering the BAC limit will definitely put more drunk drivers in a courtroom. A lower BAC limit could also get more ignition interlock devices on vehicles, preventing subsequent drunk driving incidents. But, even the NTSB cannot confirm how many more drunk drivers will be “caught” under the new guideline (it is estimated that less than 10 percent of drunk driving fatalities fall between the .05 and .08 BAC levels). So, for a national effort that will require time, energy and money – is the juice worth the squeeze?

If you consider that even M.A.D.D. wants more focus on ignition interlock devices and other methods to eliminate drunk driving, there’s a lot to consider in the debate. Studies show that ignition interlock devices reduce repeat offenses by 67 percent or more, leaving little room for error in reducing drunk driving incidents.

Outside of legal issues, lowering the BAC limit starts with us – if we know we’re starting to feel that “buzz” it is on us to find a safe ride home. When we drink responsibly, we’re not concerned with the legality of our level of intoxication because we’re not breaking the law. We are not endangering others on the road, and we are ensuring that a DUI is never a fear we could have to face. Our BAC means a lot when we’re looking at those flashing blue lights in the rear view mirror, but when we know we’re taking the right steps to stay sober, that BAC factor is little more than a headline “buzz” word. It really is that simple.

Why Don’t Bars Have Breathalyzer Tests?

Should bars have breathalyzers?Sometimes, the solution seems so clear, so simple… like it is staring us right in the face. We know that driving while intoxicated is dangerous, and it is pretty common for that intoxication to occur while drinking at a bar. So, why can’t bars be more responsible for their alcoholic beverage services? Don’t breathalyzer tests make more sense before someone has a chance to even get into their vehicle, if they have been drinking? We stop people from shoplifting with alarms at the exit doors, breathalyzers in bars could be no different!

Problem solved… lets move on into a safe world without drunk drivers!

Actually, it is not quite that easy. Putting a breathalyzer into a bar cannot stop a person from drinking and driving, and there are already plenty of bars that have breathalyzers – they are just typically used for entertainment purposes or ignored completely. In some states, a bartender or the owner of the establishment has little to no legal authority to stop a person from driving while intoxicated. There is an ethical imperative, of course, but, once a person heads out of the door with a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC), their “personal freedom” allows them to start their vehicle and drive and there is not a breathalyzer, bar bouncer or a person who can stand in the way. Other states that have “dram shop” laws can hold a bartender accountable for a drunk driver, but, those laws do not require a breathalyzer to determine a patron’s BAC.

The good news is that most drunk drivers are caught before they can do any damage. They are arrested and convicted of their crime, and they face consequences for their “personal freedom” – including a car breathalyzer or ignition interlock requirement. That little gadget can do what nobody else can – it can stop a person from becoming a drunk driver better than anything.

Putting breathalyzers in bars is a great idea – it just will not have the same effect as a breathalyzer in a car. Until that happens, we can only help our friends make better choices when drinking, and make the same commitment to sober driving, ourselves.

New York City’s Ignition Interlock Compliance Problem

Not enough ignition interlocks in New York CityLeading a horse to water and making it drink are two entirely different animals, so to speak. You can demonstrate anything until you’re blue in the face,but, if a person (or a horse) does not want to follow in your footsteps, all of that effort is wasted. That’s the same problem New York City is facing when it comes to their ignition interlock requirement for drunk drivers. Somehow, despite some of the toughest DWI and ignition interlock laws in the country, New York still is not seeing the full benefits of their efforts… because offenders in New York City just won’t install the devices.

It seems simple enough: in New York state, a convicted drunk driver is required to install an ignition interlock device  in order to legally drive. But, a recent audit indicates that no matter how many New York City interlock requirements are handed out… only a few offenders are actually following the rules. Ignition interlock devices only work if they are used as directed, and when a DWI offender is not compliant with the regulation, they are more likely to drink and drive again… and again.

Of course, there is a possibility that with the public transportation and urban lifestyle of NewYork City, it a DWI offender could just take the subway or a taxi to and from their destination. But, that does not mean that offender can eschew their drunk driving consequences. Even when a car is parked “for good,” with an ignition interlock requirement, it seems that the person should still take the appropriate steps to prove that some day, they can drive again without drinking. That means the ignition interlock requirement, while not as convenient as New York City public transit, is still an effective tool in the fight against drunk drivers… even if those drivers are waiting out their suspension and simply walking away from their court-ordered obligation.