Category: News

arizona has the toughest DUI penalties in the nationMost people have a vague idea of what happens after a DUI, but the people that know exactly what happens tend to be those that have had the misfortune (and bad judgment) to get a drunk driving conviction of their own. And while they will suffer the consequences, which might include fines, jail time, ignition interlocks, higher insurance rates, and other setbacks – they probably don’t know if they’re better off than their neighbors in other states.

The answer is yes, unless they live in Arizona. Because Arizona has the toughest DUI penalties in the country, according to a recent wallethub survey.

The reasons Arizona takes the brass ring:

  • Jail time. Arizona imposes a minimum of 10 days in jail, the highest by far in the country. Many states have no minimums.
  • Automatic felony for 3rd DUI. A fairly common penalty, though some states are more lenient and just four are tougher.

Arizona also fines offenders  $1,250 for a first offense – a stiff automatic penalty – and requires mandatory screening and/or treatment for alcohol abuse.

Arizona is one of 24 states that requires an ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, to be installed after a first offense. An ignition interlock prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

So, while the high minimum jail term clinches the title for Arizona, its DUI laws are thorough and well-thought-out.

For the record, South Dakota wins the prize for the state that offers drunk drivers the fewest repercussions: no minimum jail sentence for first or second offenses, and no license suspension.

The upshot: don’t drink and drive anywhere, because it’s foolish and dangerous. Most states are in agreement with this proposition, and one state clearly has its head on straighter than the rest. Hats off to Arizona.

There’s some good news for safe, unimpaired drivers in North Carolina: your state has the lowest auto insurance rates. According to Charlotte’s NPR station, a recent survey by North Carolina has cheap auto insurance rates - unless you get a found that North Carolina gives drivers the best deal for insuring their ride, including a variety of discounts for certain drivers and situations, thanks to a competitive market.

Some ways you can get discounts:

  • New Car. The advanced safety equipment on a new car will mean lower rates.
  • Safe Drivers. If you don’t have an accident on your record, you’ll be treated as a better risk.
  • Driver Safety Courses. Completing certain safety courses can gain you a small discount.
  • Certain Professions. Nurses are thought to drive more safely. So are teachers and good students. These people can often shave a few points off their rate.
  • Organizations. Certain professional clubs and organizations are favored with insurance discounts.

Your auto insurance will go up in NC if you get a DWIIt’s a buyer’s market for insurance, which makes North Carolina the envy of drivers in many states. However, all that does a 180 if you drink and drive. As has been noted before, North Carolina slams convicted drunk drivers with the highest insurance rates in the nation. If you have a DWI on your record you can expect to pay three times what you’re paying now.

So if you want to save money, ask your auto insurer about special discounts. With or without them, you’ll be getting a better deal than the rest of the country.

But if you want to throw money away in North Carolina, get a DWI.

“On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive.”

drinking and driving is not OK in North CarolinaThat’s the slogan that the State Highway Patrol, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission want you to take to heart this summer. Recently those organizations launched their annual safety campaign to persuade people to make the right choices regarding drinking and driving.

Drinking and driving a boat or car is dangerousWhy summer? Lovely as they are, the summer months can be dangerous times. Barbecues, garden parties, sports events, and the July 4 holiday are occasions for drinking. Most people are sensible; they avoid driving a car while chilling with a beer or margarita.

But it’s worth remembering that there are other things that you shouldn’t try to pilot while drinking this summer:

  • Boats
  • Riding mowers
  • Golf carts
  • Snowmobiles (not a big issue in summer, but it’s happened)
  • Segways
  • Horses

In fact, you’ll find DUIs on record for all of these vehicles, and that’s because all of them can be dangerous to you or others if you’re driving or riding them while impaired.

So On the Road, On the Water just about covers things – it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be in the cockpit of your plane if you’ve been drinking, of course.

The message from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, MADD, and the State Patrol: enjoy the summer. Safely.

Every year North Carolina loses a hundred young people to underage drinking – two kids per week. Many parents and community leaders this figure is intolerable. And now, the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission wants to do something about it.

This month the Commission began a  dialogue with community leaders to remind them about their campaign to raise awareness of underage drinking. The Commission maintains a site,, which offers parents tips on how to talk to their kids about alcohol.

The site presents some dire facts, such as the information that kids, on average, try alcohol for the first time before they are 14. Worse, North Carolina parents are less likely than their kids to view underage drinking as a problem.

In addition to these facts, offers helpful advice to parents on the subject, including the need to start the conversation early – before age eight – and to talk about the subject often. Neither of those tactics come naturally to many parents, so it’s important to use the site’s info to approach the task systematically.

The Commission has also produced some excellent, disturbing video ads, aimed at parents. They center around a parent’s worst nightmare – the death of a child – and do it effectively.

Peer pressure is a tough nut to crack, but parents’ efforts appear to be the only line of defense against it. Kudos to North Carolina ABC Commission for starting the conversation.

Scientist have studied the effects of alcohol for generations. In recent years the rise in the use of cannabis has prompted new studies on the effects of marijuana on health, cognition, and . One thing is certain: neither drug is a good mix with driving. Both alcohol and marijuana impair one’s judgment,  diminish motor coordination, and slow down reaction time.

And what about doing them together? A new study funded by the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) centers around the simultaneous use of alcohol and pot.

Among the disturbing findings was that those who both drank and smoked marijuana were likely to do both at the same time. Moreover, those who smoked marijuana while drinking were likely to drink more than those not smoking.

One particularly sinister finding involved impaired driving. From the abstract:

“…compared to alcohol only, simultaneous use approximately doubled the odds of drunk driving,”

whiskey-glass-transYou don’t need to be a biochemist to know how poorly someone will drive with a system full of both alcohol and marijuana.  The Catch-22 here is that the impaired faculties that make a person a bad driver also make it more likely that he or she will get behind the wheel.

It’s hard to say what the solution is at this point. Awareness is the first step. People need to know that if they smoke pot and drink, they are going to be more tempted than usual to drive. Friends need to be doubly vigilant. Eventually legislators might have to look at special laws and ordinances that deal with the alcohol/pot combination.

It’s early days, but not too early to watch out. If drinking while smoking pot is on your agenda, hand over your car keys first. Science is not on your side.

The use of ignition interlocks is growing in the USA. The devices, which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking, are mandatory for certain DWI offenses in North Carolina. Most other states require them for at least some offenses.

Using-Monitech-Ignition-InterlockRight now a bill is being discussed which will make the devices mandatory for all drunk driving offenses, including first offenses. If statistics are anything to go by, the state can count on a reduction in alcohol-related fatalities.

A recent study by the University of Michigan Injury Center and the U-M Transportation Research Institute suggests that even this law doesn’t go far enough. The study proposes that all new cars should have ignition interlocks installed in them. That way no driver could take to the roads if he or she had been drinking.

No doubt the savings in life, limb and property would be dramatic. More than 10,000 people die in alcohol-related crashes each year, and more than a million
are injured. And the savings in medical and legal expenses – well over $300 billion over 15 years – would pay for the extra costs of putting in the devices.

So, is this extreme move a no-brainer?

Dont-Drink-And-drive-North-CarolinaNot so fast, says another faction. While under the current system the cost of the interlock is borne by the offender, if the devices became universal then every driver would have to pay, teetotalers included.

Perhaps the best system, for now, is the one that North Carolina legislators have proposed: require all DWI offenders to install an ignition interlock for a set period. Once all 50 states have a solid, working all-offender ignition interlock law, the government and the people can decide if they want to take the next step.

For the moment, the car or truck you buy will not come equipped with an ignition interlock. You can keep it that way, by choosing not to drink and drive. But many will choose to take to the roads after too many drinks, and they will be a danger to themselves and others. We can be thankful that ignition interlocks and interlock laws exist to make us all safer.

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