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Happy Birthday America – Avoiding a DUI

Happy_4th.jpg

Are you prepared for the biggest birthday bash of the entire year? Fourth of July holiday means picnics and beach parties where drinks are readily available – so know your limit and avoid going over the point where you are impaired to drive.

Lots of road trips are planned over the Independence Day holiday – kids are out of school, the weather is great, and the road conditions are optimal. According to AAA, a record-breaking 107 Million Americans to Celebrate Holidays Away From Home

This includes 97.4 million Americans traveling by automobile – so be prepared to experience travel times during the holidays as much as three times longer than the normal trip.

Last year, Americans spent an estimated $1 billion on beer to celebrate Independence Day, and beer will be served to many of the 64% of Americans of legal drinking age who are planning to attend a cookout of barbecue this weekend. According to WalletHub, a growing portion of that is craft beer, which continues to make impressive gains despite its higher cost.  More beer is sold on Uncle Sam’s birthday than on any other holiday,  including New Year’s Eve.

This beehive of activity means more drunk drivers on the road. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that the Fourth of July is the worst day of the year for fatal car crashes – there are nearly 200 traffic deaths over the usual 4-day holiday across the country.

The costs of a DUI

Besides the criminal charges and possible victim impact an impaired driver might face, there are other costs that cannot be overlooked, starting with insurance.  A DUI can triple your car insurance premium for as long as five years. That extra money adds up fast, into the thousands of dollars. Once you have a DUI on your record, your car insurance company considers you a high-risk driver and will charge you a higher rate to offset the added risk.

Let’s add up the average costs associated with a first time DUI Arrest, which averages over $6000, not included lost wages:
– Court fines? Varies from state to state, but an offender can expect fines starting from an average $400 for a first DUI to $5,000-$8,000 for a third DUI
– Attorney – $1000+ for public defenders, much more for a privately-hired attorney.
– Alcohol and Drug Education – Again, these charges vary from state to state, but you’ll probably not find a DUI course for under $100, to a high of $360 for a Level 1 DUi course
– Victim Impact Panel – $50 average
– Drivers License reinstatement fee at the DMV – $100-$250
– Victim Compensation Civil Penalty – Depends on the jurisdiction
– SR-22 Certificate of Insurance – $150 – $250 for three years on top of increased insurance premiums averaging $800 per year
– A BAL of .18 at the time of arrest results in a mandatory alcohol evaluation that costs approximately $200Of course, the numbers vary by state and circumstance, but after you add in fines, court costs, and DMV fees, the average DUI costs between $5,000 and $25,000. Compound all that needless expense with the inherent dangers of drinking and driving — along with the fact that you could lose your life, take someone else’s, or wind up spending time in jail — and the reasons for staying smart and safe this weekend become more than evident.

Is that drink or drug before driving really worth it?

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Happy 4/20, Prepare for DUIs

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Today, April  20th (4/20 or 420), is marjuana’s high holiday for the eight states and the District of Columbia that now allow recreational use of marijuana, and 30+ states that  allow its use for medical purposes.  There is even talk from Democrats about introducing a bill in Washington to remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances. But today, cannabis is still a controlled illegal substance at the Federal level, it is still illegal to transport cannabis products across state lines, still produces effects on driving that can lead to a DUI or DUID arrest, and it still incredibly difficult to standardize for safety and quality controls. Cannabis is the most phyto-chemically complex plant on the planet. It is an impossible task trying to ensure all plants, even of the same cannabis genotype, have all the same chemical profile.

Some might make the comparison between alcohol prohibition and cannabis, both Federal legislative measures prohibiting the production, importation, transportation and sale of related products on a national level. History has shown that lifting alcohol prohibition has not eliminated the abuse – and resulting consequences – that leads to impaired driving. According to the NHTSA, in 2016 there were 10,497 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentration of .08 g/dL, the minimum legal limit for DUI nationwide for adults over 21. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System,  the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes testing positive for marijuana rose 88 percent from 2013 to 2015. A Denver Post  analysis of data and coroner briefings report the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana had risen sharply each year since 2013, more than doubling in that time; state law, however, does not require coroners to test deceased drivers specifically for marijuana use in fatal crashes.

Starting with Oregon in 1973, individual states began to liberalize cannabis laws through decriminalization. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, sparking a trend that spread to over 30 states by 2017. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Have roads in these states become more dangerous since the drug’s legalization in its various forms? The Post’s findings include:

  • Marijuana is figuring into more fatal crashes overall. In 2013, drivers tested positive for the drug in about 10 percent of all fatal crashes. By 2016, it was 20 percent.
  • More drivers are testing positive for marijuana and nothing else. Of the drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 who tested positive for cannabinoids, more than 52 percent had no alcohol in their system. By 2016, it had grown to 69 percent.
  • The average age of drivers in deadly crashes in 2015 who tested positive for marijuana was nearly 35, with a quarter of them over 40.
  • In 2016, of the 115 drivers in fatal wrecks who tested positive for marijuana use, 71 were found to have Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in their blood, indicating use within hours, according to state data. Of those, 63 percent were over 5 nanograms per milliliter, the state’s limit for driving.

Both alcohol and marijuana can affect a driver’s ability to think and solve problems, coordination, reaction time, judgment, memory and mood. While science has figured out just exactly how alcohol impacts the body’s organs, systems and functions, the same cannot be said of cannabis. Results of field sobriety tests, including blood and urine sampling as well as breathalyzers, can tell if a driver’s blood alcohol level is over the legal limit. No test can tell whether a driver is too high to drive because of smoking or inhaling, popping pills, eating or vaporizing cannabis products. Unlike alcohol, the active ingredients that cause the cannabis high can remain detectable in the blood stream for days or weeks; unlike alcohol, the impairment does not wears off in a matter of hours, and no amount of food intake will change the effects. Law enforcement officials, prosecutors and public policy makers concede there’s still too little information about marijuana and how it is detected to understand just how much the drug is affecting traffic fatalities.

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Another state where voters might support legalization of marijuana

 

While the cultivation, trafficking, sale, or possession of cannabis products is a crime in Illinois under the state’s Controlled Substances ActIllinois marijuana laws are rather lax. Possession of less than 2.5 grams of cannabis is a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine. Illinois also allows the use of medical marijuana for eligible patients as part of a pilot program slated to run through 2018; marijuana possession, use, cultivation, and sale remain federal crimes.

Marijuana laws are subject to rapid change at present. Although the trend has been toward decriminalization and even full legalization in several states, there are some states looking at significant change in legislative attitudes, such as the case in Illinois.

There is a ballot measure in Cook County — the nation’s second-most-populous county, which has more residents than 27 U.S. states — that sends a strong message to state lawmakers about ending cannabis prohibition. Approved by voters with a greater than two-to-one margin, the ballot question reads:

“Shall the State of Illinois legalize the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?”

 

Politicians are climbing aboard the cannabis-support bandwagon,  supporting both the legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana, which is estimated to generate as much as $700 million a year for the state.  Illinois Attorney General Republican nominee Erika Harold suggested officials should begin the process of methodically analyzing and negotiating appropriate safeguards and regulatory frameworks for the legal recreational use of marijuana – the state has already decriminalized medical cannabis. Few are asking voters to consider the ramifications of driving under the influence of marijuana (DUID), especially since the THC in cannabis – the main mind-altering ingredient found in marijuana and the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects – does not have the ability to raise your blood alcohol measurement. This is because THC does not remain in the blood but rather finds its home in the body’s fatty tissues like the brain. While in sufficient quantity, using cannabis products can increase your level of impairment, there is currently no scientific bases to create legal limits for marijuana impairment in the same manner blood alcohol concentration determines drunk driving. as used by law enforcement for BAC/BAL.
According to Herb, the website for cannabis news, THC is present in the blood for about 4 to 12 hours post-consumption. If you’re a heavy user, THC might hang out in your bloodstream for up to a few days. Effects, doses, metabolism, body weight, mind state, environment, blood sugar levels,  age, and certain other factors all affect these numbers, and each individual/every situation is unique. Thus, it is a driver’s responsibility to know when to engage in smoking, eating or inhaling cannabis products so that it doesn’t impair their ability to drive safely.
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