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.

Crashes and Collisions, Drowsy Driving, fatalities, Fatigue, Uncategorized

Summer – Worst Season For Car Crashes

Summer has arrived – no snow, ice or other weather-related factors infamous for contributing to road hazards. Summer, however, is the worst time of the year for car crashes.  Summertime means vacation time, where more people are on the road. campingvan_vacationtimeWhether travelling across the country in a travelvan or camper, jumping in your car for a road trip, or just escaping for a staycation around town, people have places to go when the weather gets warm. According to the National Highway & Traffic Safety Administration,  there were 35,092 traffic fatalities in 2015, the latest year for which statistics are available for the entire year. Most (9,708) occurred during the third quarter, July through September, followed by fourth quarter fatalities (9,284) during October through December, second quarter fatalities (8,765) during April through June and first quarter fatalities (7,335) during January through March.

Perhaps more traffic fatalities happen during warm weather months because people tend to stay at home during the cold weather months – it’s not a pleasant ordeal to hit the road when it is freezing outside, not to mention the weather-related factors serving as road hazards. Plus, more people save their vacation time for summer, when the kids are out of school and the weather is great. What can you do to prepare for the warm weather road travel? First and foremost, plan
your trip. Driving for long stretches can cause fatigue and drowsy driving. Beware of the symptoms that should tell a driver to stop and rest.

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids.
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs.
  • Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes.
  • Trouble keeping your head up.

Yawning while drivingAccording to the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll, 60% of Americans have driven while feeling sleepy and 37% admit to actually having fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year. However, many people cannot tell if or when they are about to fall asleep. Studies show that sleepiness can impair driving performance as much or more so than alcohol. The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that one out of every six (16.5%) deadly traffic accidents, and one out of eight (12.5%) crashes requiring hospitalization of car drivers or passengers is due to drowsy driving. (AAA, 2010). One analysis estimated the cost of automobile accidents attributed to sleepiness to be between $29.2 to $37.9 billion.

Research has revealed a few indicators of drowsiness and drowsy driving. that include:

  • Frequent blinking, longer duration blinks and head nodding
  • Having trouble keeping one’s eyes open and focused
  • Memory lapses or daydreaming
  • Drifting from one’s driving lane or off the road

Currently, there is no definitive physiologic test or detection system for drowsiness equivalent to the breath analyzers used to detect drunk driving.

The National Sleep Foundation has published a White Paper on Drowsy Driving, containing more details about Drowsy Driving being a prevalent and serious public health issue that deserves more attention, education, and policy initiatives. Their aim is to avert drowsy driving crashes so a substantial amount of lives can be saved.