blood alcohol concentration - BAC, blood alcohol levels - BAL, cannabis, Crashes and Collisions, Drug-Impaired Driving, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, DUID, DWAI, FARS, fatalities, Field Sobriety Tests, Legislative Affairs, marajuana, medical marijuana, NHTSA, Road Safety Research, traffic fatalities, Traffic Safety, Victims of DUI

Happy 4/20, Prepare for DUIs

420

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.

Drug-Impaired Driving, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, DUID, DWAI, fatalities, Victims of DUI, Wet Reckless

“Wet Reckless” same as “DUI”?

dui_vs_wetrecklessMost states have laws that prohibit prosecutors from reducing DUI charges for suspected drunk drivers. Under California law, however, a plea bargain can be negotiated for impaired drivers to  reduce DUI penalties in exchange for a guilty plea, or to reduce  charges from a DUI/DWI to wet reckless, even though there is technically no actual law on the books that defines what a “wet reckless” charge would be.  If you have been charged with a DUI, DWAI or OWI in Colorado, Florida, Texas or Wisconsin,  you may also be able to have the charge for driving impaired under the influence of drugs or alcohol reduced to wet reckless. In Washington State, DUI charges can be pleaded down to “Wet Negligent Driving” (Negligent Driving in the 1st Degree), which is a misdemeanor in that state.

A person suspected of driving under the influence may take advantage of a wet reckless charge when his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) is close to 0.08%. Prosecutors in states where plea bargains are permitted can also pursue a lesser charge of wet reckless if they have a weak case that can be lost at trial.  If someone pleads guilty to a wet reckless charge, they are pleading guilty to a charge of driving recklessly where a prosecutor may have stated for the record that alcohol or drugs were involved with the charge.  Other advantages of pleading guilty to a wet reckless:
–  Unlike a second and third DUI where progressive penalties become harsher, there are usually no mandatory sentencing enhancements for a wet reckless charge.
–  There is also a  shorter jail term associated with a wet reckless charge as compared to a charge of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
–  With a wet reckless charge, in most cases there is no automatic suspension of your license, although the DMV may still do so. Normally, in order for a person who is offered a wet reckless plea bargan to keep their license, they must win their DMV hearing.
–  Generally, the probation period for a first time DUI is anywhere from three to five years. The probation period for a wet reckless is generally one to two years.
–  Although the fines for a wet reckless charge are less than the fines associated with a DUI charge, the increased insurance rates and/or policy cancellations caused by either will be the same, as insurance companies treat DUI charges and wet reckless charges equally.

The consequences of a crash caused by an impaired driver are also the same, whether he or she is charged with a DUI or with wet reckless driving. The latest statistics available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report that in 2016, there were  10,497 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentration, content or levels of .08  or higher.

Child Neglect, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI

DUI lawyer arrested for DUI and child neglect

joshua-hauserman-DUI_lawyer_arrested
Joshua Hauserman, a DUI lawyer, was charged with DUI and child neglect. (Photo: Palm Beach County Sheriffs)

Joshua Todd Hill Hauserman, a lawyer from West Palm Beach, was suspended for 30 days placed on two years’ probation for failing to complete treatment for alcohol problems. Hauserman, managing partner of the Hauserman Law Group, admitted to violating the terms of the Florida Lawyers Assistance by testing positive for alcohol on five different occasions and failing to timely remit his monthly monitoring fee.

Hauserman pleaded guilty in 2014 to driving under the influence and his driver’s license was suspended for five years. At the time of his current arrest, he was driving on a suspended license with a 3-year-old child and had two flat tires. This was his second DUI,

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Details for this article taken from the Sun Sentinel

Drug-Impaired Driving, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, DWAI, Repeat DUI offender

Drunk drivers reported driving impaired 80 times before their first arrest

According to Do Something, a global movement activating young people in every US area code and in 131 countries, on average, a drunk driver will drive 80 times under the influence before their first arrest. That equates to someone being killed in a drunk driving crash every 51 minutes in America alone.  Earlier this month in Colorado, a man notorious for driving drunk was sentenced to 10 years in prison when convicted of his eighth DUI.

The Daily News reported that Albano Bustillos, 53, was arrested on his first drunk driving charge over 20 years ago and has been picked up eight times since then. “In his most recent arrest, Bustillos had a blood alcohol level of .227.

Albano_Bustillos
Albano Bustillos 8x DUI arrests, now serving 10 years in prison – Weld County Sheriffs photo

He was found sitting in his car with his head down,” said Weld County (Colorado) District Attorney Rourke. In Colorado, drivers with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .17 or higher, even if it is the driver’s first offense, will be labeled a PERSISTENT DRUNK DRIVER (PDD) and
sentenced as strictly as a repeat-DUI offender.

In Colorado, DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) means driving a vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of both alcohol and one or more drugs, affects the person to the slightest degree. A person DWAI is less able to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.  The Division of Motor Vehicles has the legal authority to suspend a driver’s license for DWAI regardless of any criminal charges a driver may face through the courts. These penalties, known as Administrative Penalties, can cause an automatic suspension of a driver’s license as well as fees and points, depending on the offense:

DWAI 1st Offense: 8 points toward license suspension; $200 to $500 fine; up to 180 days in jail; up to 48 hours community service.

DUI 1st Offense: Administrative license revocation for 9 months; $600 to $1,000 fine; up to 1 year in jail; up to 96 hours community service; alcohol education.

DUI/DWAI 1st offense under 21 years old: Drivers license suspended 3 months and 4 points added to driving record.

The penalties increase substantially for repeated offenses and, in some cases, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device on your car. The only way to challenge Administrative penalties is to request an alcohol hearing.

Alcohol Hearings

Drivers have seven days after receiving a revocation/suspension notice to request a hearing. You must go in person to the DMV to put in a request. You will also be required to turn over your license if you did not do so at the time of the violation. You may also be eligible for a temporary driving permit while you wait for your hearing.

An Arrest

  • If you fail the roadside sobriety test, which could entail anything from standing on one leg while answering a barrage of questions to touching your nose and walking a straight line, you will be read your rights.
  • You will be handcuffed and taken to a city or county jail.
  • A tow truck will take your car and impound it.

Criminal Penalties

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s HEAT IS ON brochure states that 30,000
motorists are arrested for impaired driving in Colorado each year at a cost of $10,270  for a first-offense DWAI:  $10,000 including lawyer fees, rising insurance rates, fees to get a license back, probation supervision fees, all the way down to the brain injury surcharge and court costs. This figure is based on the minimum fine.

It is easy to see that drinking and driving is not worth any cost.

Drug-Impaired Driving, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, Holiday Travel, Sobriety Check Points

A time to remember the fallen from DUIs and DUIDs.

graveyard

Today is Memorial Day, when we honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. The presidential proclamation for the commemoration emphasizes the meaning behind the holiday:

Memorial Day is our nation’s solemn reminder that freedom is never free. It is a moment of collective reflection on the noble sacrifices of those who gave the last measure of devotion in service of our ideals and in the defense of our nation. On this ceremonious day, we remember the fallen, we pray for a lasting peace among nations, and we honor these guardians of our inalienable rights.

Memorial Day is also a time to remember the fallen at the hands of drunk and drugged drivers – DUI/DWI/OWI and DUIDs. Car accidents kill more people than wars do, except for the Civil War where 620,000 soldiers lost their lives in battle. Every 53 minutes in America someone is killed in a drunk driving crash – that amounts to 28 people who die every day in motor vehicle crashes that involve a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol with annual costs of alcohol-related crashes totalling more than $44 billion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) give us more somber facts to contemplate as we celebrate the official kickoff of summer:

 

  • In 2014, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
  • Of the 1,070 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2014, 209 (19%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
  • Of the 209 child passengers ages 14 and younger who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2014, over half (116) were riding in the vehicle with the alcohol-impaired driver.
  • In 2014, over 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. That’s one percent of the 121 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year.
  • Drugs other than alcohol (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16% of motor vehicle crashes.
  • Marijuana use is increasing and 13% of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their system.
  • Marijuana users were about 25% more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use, however other factors – such as age and gender – may account for the increased crash risk among marijuana users.

Law enforcement around the country are targeting drunk and drugged drivers on this first holiday weekend of the summer driving season, and local police, sheriffs and highway patrol officers are on full alert. So if you celebrate Memorial Day by getting drunk or high, please don’t get behind the wheel. There are so many ways to get home safe – call a taxi, get a sober friend or family member to drive you home, schedule a ride-share service, or crash on the sofa.

 

 

Drug-Impaired Driving, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, Holiday Travel

#MemorialDay – Countdown to 100 Deadliest Days

NHTSA_QuickFacts_Fatalities_2013-2015

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), between 2013 and 2015,  92,424 fatal crashes occurred resulting in 100,729 fatalities and 7,094,000 injuries. At certain times of the year, such as holidays and summertime, the numbers spike with a higher volume of road travelers, including a significantly higher number of alcohol-impaired drivers, causing nearly twice the number of automotive deaths during summer months than during the rest of the year combined. The summer and early fall are the most dangerous times of year on the nation’s roads, according to an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) analysis. Two important holidays fall within this timeframe for increased travel – Memorial Day and Labor Day. This period is often referred to as the 100 Deadliest Days for teens,  summer vacation for most students and the time most will drink and drive. Fatalities also are higher on weekends and in the late afternoon and evenings. The trends reflect the fact that Americans drive the most miles during the warm summer months. Weekends and certain holidays with increased alcohol consumption also see spikes in deaths.

Traveling on a major holiday is risky for many reasons. In general, there are more people on the roads, and drivers may be navigating areas beyond their regular commuting routes. There’s a high incidence of alcohol use, which sharply raises the risk of crashing.  IIHS Research and Statistical Services

Delays
With almost 40 million people sharing the roads, skies and buses, best plan for delays

According to the AAA annual forecast, 39.4 million people are expected to travel more than 50 miles from their homes  over the Memorial Day weekend, the highest in 12 years. Of these, 34.6 million Americans (88.1 percent of travelers) will drive to their destinations, an increase of 2.4 percent over last year. But Memorial Day weekend is not the most fatal for drivers. According to IIHS, on average, more people die in motor vehicle crashes on Independence Day than any other day of the year, with motorcycles and alcohol both being big contributors to the Fourth of July toll. In an analysis of the five most recent years of available fatal crash data indicates, IIHS researchers found that each year on the Independence Day holiday in the U.S., an average of 118.4 lives are lost in crashes, making it the most consistently deadly day of the year across the five-year study period. This is 28 more deaths than the overall average daily toll during 2010-14. The second worst day for crash deaths during 2010-14 was January 1, with an average toll of 118.2 deaths – almost as high as the Fourth of July.

Alcohol is a factor in a greater proportion of crash deaths on both July 4 and January 1. Forty-seven percent of the deaths on July 4 and 62 percent on January 1 involved at least one driver, pedestrian or bicyclist with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.08g/dL. The average across all days in these years was 35 percent for deaths in crashes involving alcohol.

 

 

Drug-Impaired Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, Field Sobriety Tests, Sobriety Check Points

Synergistic effects of mixing drugs and alcohol contribute to death of 21 year old

Toni_Anderson

Kansas City Police took to Twitter @kcpolice to announce the death of Toni Anderson, the missing woman from Wichita who was found dead in her submerged car in the Missouri River. Medical examiners reported ethanol, cocaine and amphetamine intoxication were contributing factors to the cause of death from hypothermia and drowning. She had turned 21 just last month.

The victim had been pulled over hours before she drove into the river for driving the wrong way toward oncoming traffic. In the video captured from the police officer’s dash cam, Anderson can be heard giggling and her speech slurred as she tells the officer that she wasn’t drinking. “I just feel really sick,” she said.

Toni_Anderson_police_stop_videoWatch the video of Toni Anderson being stopped by Kansas City Police Officer for driving the wrong way toward oncoming traffic

The officer instructed Anderson to drive to the parking lot across the street to gather herself. It was not apparent whether the officer conducted any field sobriety tests or had Anderson take the breathalyzer, which would have detected the alcohol but probably not the cocaine or the amphetamines in her system. Unless the newest breathalyzer on the market was in use.

In a study published in the Journal of Breath Research, researchers tested apparatus designed to detect drugs on a person’s breath.  The device, designed in Sweden, can detect 12 different controlled substances, such as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, morphine, and some marijuana components. While not 100% accurate, it can supplement the current blood and urine samplings used by law enforcement to detect blood alcohol levels. Additionally, it may not detect THC, the poison in marijuana.

Whether or not it would be helpful for officers to have a breathalyzer test that can show more than just alcohol is not enough to stem the occurrences of lethal cocktails like the one contributing to Toni Anderson’s death. Drivers should be aware that mixing drugs with alcohol can be fatal, producing synergistic effects that multiplies the individual effect of each drug by four. For example, one beer plus one barbiturate could equal the same effect as four beers. The combination of drugs with alcohol has been the cause of many hospitalizations – and accidental deaths, as was the case for Toni Anderson.

Drug-Impaired Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, Legislative Affairs

New report on drugged-impaired driving

 

GUIDE_Drugged_Impaired_Driving_edited-2
Download the Report “Drug Impaired Driving:  A Guide for States

A report released in April, 2017 from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) in response to legislatures, law enforcement, and highway safety offices being urged to about drug-impaired driving. It includes information obtained by GHSA from a survey of state highway safety offices. According to the report, drug-impaired driving is more complex than alcohol-impaired driving for many reasons:

 

  • Hundreds of different drugs can impair drivers. Some drugs that can impair driving are illegal to use, some are legal to use under certain conditions, and some are freely available over-the-counter.
  • For many drugs, the relation between a drug’s presence in the body, its effect on driving, and its effects on crash risk are complex, not understood well, and vary from driver to driver. Additionally, some drugs – especially cannabis – attach to the fatty tissues of the body and therefore cannot be measured as blood concentration levels as is done with alcohol.
  • Data on drug presence in crash-involved drivers are incomplete in most jurisdictions, inconsistent from state to state, and sometimes inconsistent across jurisdictions within states. Additionally, laws regarding driving while under the influence of drugs (DUID) vary across the states.
  • It is more difficult for law enforcement to detect drug impairment at the roadside than alcohol impairment. There are no BAC charts or understanding the stages for becoming impaired while using some drugs such as cannabis as there are for alcohol.
  • Data on drug presence in crash-involved drivers are incomplete in most jurisdictions, inconsistent from state to state, and sometimes inconsistent across jurisdictions within states. While laws regarding driving while under the influence of drugs (DUID) vary across the states, it is still more difficult to prosecute and convict a driver for DUID than for alcohol-impaired driving (DUI/DWI/OWI).

Drug-impaired driving is an increasingly critical issue for states and state highway safety offices. As of April 2017, marijuana may be used for medical purposes in 29 states and the District of Columbia, although these states are still struggling with legislating its use, cultivation, and sale. While these states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, it is still a federal crime and cannot be transported across state lines. Furthermore, in every state it is still a crime to drive impaired under the influence of drugs or alcohol, including marijuana. In 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) reported that drugs were present in 43% of the fatally-injured drivers with a known test result, more frequently than alcohol was present. NHTSA’s 2013–2014 roadside survey found drugs in 22% of all drivers both on weekend nights and on weekday days. In particular, marijuana use was cited as increasing.

Congress identified drug-impaired driving as a priority in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015. This multi-year highway bill directed NHTSA to develop education campaigns to increase public awareness about the dangers associated with drugged driving. The Act also required the Department of Transportation to study the relationship between marijuana use and driving impairment and to identify effective methods to detect marijuana-impaired drivers.

Legislatures, law enforcement, and highway safety offices in many states are urged to “do something” about drug-impaired driving, but what to do is far from clear. While the report does not attempt to be a complete review of the extensive information available on drugs and driving, it does provide references to research and position papers, especially papers that summarize the research on drugs and driving that have appeared in the last 20 years.

Watch the CNN video, “Your Brain on Weed” for an insight on marijuana and TCH, the chemical that gets you high.

Child Endangerment, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, First Responders

EMT Firefighter on the other side of 2 DUIs

First_responders_EMT

Emergency personnel are usually the first on the scene of a collision involving drunk and drugged drivers. Their role is to help save lives if possible or mitigate the trauma experienced by survivors when the crash scene results in death.  Memories of the crash site details are seared into their minds, just as vivid as the pictures EMTs take for the record  – a head piercing the windshield, a body thrown like a projectile several feet from the car because the victim wasn’t wearing a seat belt, severed limbs, blood everywhere… They suffer the same trauma as the horrors they see at a DUI crash site. These experiences should be enough to dramatically instill EMT personnel with the dangerous consequences of driving impaired. Samantha Lopez must have been absent from these real-life lessons.  The EMT firefighter from Kissimmee, Florida, was pulled over twice in two months for a DUI, the second time with a 3-year old in the back seat.

Samantha_Lopez_EMT_Double_DUI_edited-1
EMT Ambulance Driver – Arrested for a second DUI in two months

The arresting officer identified the give-aways of drunk driving – the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, glassy eyes and flushed skin, with difficulty maintaining balance. Lopez was arrested on a DUI charge with a blood-alcohol level of 0.182, more than twice the legal limit in Florida.

Lopez shouldn’t have been driving, as she had been arrested on a DUI charge less than two months prior to this recent arrest. Records show that Lopez was accused of rear-ending another vehicle while driving with a 0.204 BAC. In the time between her first and second arrests, Lopez was allowed to continue to perform her duties as a firefighter/EMT at the Kissimmee Fire Department.

Hopefully, this latest arrest will take Samantha Lopez off the job and off the road. It is reported that her 3-year old was entrusted to Lopez’ ex-husband.

Watch the video of Lopez failing the field sobriety test here.

 

Drug-Impaired Driving, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, Victims of DUI, Vulnerable Road Users

A very good detective with a very bad drinking problems

 

walking_home_from_bus

…..”a drunk man running over children, scattering them like a bowling ball through bowling pins”, was the description Polk County (Florida) Sheriff Grady Judd gave for the incident of a suspected drunken driver hitting six middle-school students as they walked home from the bus stop.  One of the children, 13, died of his injuries; another student, also 13,  remains in intensive care with orbital fractures. Three other children, ranging in age from 12 to 15, suffered minor injuries.  And the driver?  A 48-year-old former law enforcement officer, who also hit another car about 400 feet down the road, injured a woman who was four months pregnant.

Drunk_Driving_Suspect_Polk_County

The suspect refused to take a breath test after his arrest. Upon learning that the victims of his drunk driving were in critical condition, he agreed to take a breath test and a blood draw. Seven hours after the crash, he still read a Blood Alcohol Level of 0.14 – DUI threshold in Florida is .08. He faces 11 charges, including DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide, and is being held on $600,000 bail.

This suspect was apparently a good law enforcement officer, receiving alcolades from his former employers. There is no record that he ever had a problem with the law, and had no record of being convicted of a felony. On the contrary was praised as being a good detective, but apparently had a drinking problem.

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Original story reported by the Associated Press.