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.

Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, Field Sobriety Tests, Technology

Laser technology pegs drunk drivers

infrared laser thermometer in hand
Laser Technology designed to check a driver’s blood-alcohol level from afar

Gotta love technology. Researchers at the Military University of Technology in Poland have come up with a laser-based device that can measure blood-alcohol levels through a car window. It is the same technology, referred to as standoff detection, the military uses to find weapons, hazardous materials and explosives and where lasers and optical techniques are of critical importance for their ability to passively and actively probe threats near and far. Standoff detection can take place at distances from several centimeters up to a kilometer.

How does it work? According to an article in Smithsonian.com:

A laser emitter and receiver sit on one side of the road, while a mirror sits on the other. As a car passes, the emitter sends a laser beam through the vehicle’s window and bounces it off the mirror. The beam is sent at a wavelength that can be absorbed by any alcohol vapor—so, any power loss equates to the presence of booze in the car. If there is no alcohol, there is no absorption. The higher the concentration of the alcohol inside the car, the lower the power measured, because the beam is absorbed by the alcohol.

This laser technology could make checkpoints a thing of the past. But first, there are a few legal hurdles to overcome, including securing a ruling on whether the technology can meet the reasonable doubt test officers must have to pull over a suspected drunk driver. Researchers of the technology must also fix challenging bugs in the system, for example the device giving a false alarm if only the passenger is drunk, and failing to give a reading if the window is open.