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Category: News

north-carolina-dram-shop-law

Last September a Chevrolet driven by a man named Robert Kite flew off an elevated highway ramp onto the road about 300 feet below. Robert Kite, a father of six, was killed instantly. Since his blood alcohol level was 3 times the legal limit, the North Carolina ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) Commission looked into the situation. It turned out he had ordered 17 shots of bourbon in the 4 hours before driving.

The bar where Kite did his drinking, the Wild Wing Café in Aynsley, had offered to pay a $1,000 fine. The ABC Commission rejected the settlement in light of the revelation that the bar had served Kite 17 shots.

The bar claims that Kite did not drink all 17 shots of Maker’s Mark bourbon – they were just on the bill together. But the ABC notes that no one else was drinking that brand of liquor.

North Carolina Dram Shop Laws

Dram shop law is the term used for laws which determine a commercial establishment’s liability when someone drinks and causes harm. North Carolina is among the US states which have a dram shop law. The law prohibits the saleIt states that it is unlawful to sell alcohol to an intoxicated person. North Carolina laws allow a bar to be held liable if it serves alcohol to a customer who is visibly intoxicated and who then injured or kills someone in a collision.

According to North Carolina dram shop laws, then, the onus is on the server This opens up another question: to what lengths should a server go to in order to ensure that a customer is not drunk?

The $1,000 settlement will not fly, so the ABC will try to negotiate another one with Wild Wing Café, and this one will involve a higher penalty. How high can and should that penalty go?

arizona-wrong-way-drivers

Few things are scarier on the road – for good reason – than seeing a driver come at you on your side of the road. Wrong-way drivers cause collisions that take a particularly horrific toll, and Arizona legislators are concerned that there are too many of them in the state. Which is why they’re proposing new laws to stop this lethal practice.

According to news reports the Governor, Doug Ducey, has recommended adding more troopers and a special patrol to focus on wrong-way drivers. A bill is also in the legislature which would make wrong-way driving an automatic felony.  The measure, House Bill 2243, would mandate a fine and traffic classes for anyone caught driving in the wrong direction.

Another legislator has proposed installing spikes on certain well-traveled roadways which shred the tires of wrong-way drivers – such spikes are used in rental car lots to keep people from stealing vehicles. But such spikes would be dangerous to ambulances and other assistance vehicles which sometimes need to drive against traffic to reach a collision scene.

What Causes Wrong Way Driving?

The problem with these measures is they don’t get at the cause of wrong-way driving, which is usually impairment. If you see a wrong-way driver, the chances are good that he or she is drunk. And since drunk drivers are not aware that they’re driving in the wrong direction, they’re not going to be deterred by fines and felony charges.

Preventing drunk driving, therefore, is a wiser cause of action. Enforcing strictly the state’s ignition interlock laws will keep many DUI offenders from driving drunk. Patrols should be on the lookout for drunk drivers before they turn into wrong-way drivers.

Older drivers are also over-represented among wrong-way drivers. Again, felony punishments will be less effective than better screening of older drivers in the first place.

It’s good that Arizona lawmakers are talking about ways to keep people safe on the road. But they should focus on the cause of the crime, because by the time it occurs, it’s often too late to prevent a crash.

couple-riding-dwi-on-a-moped

A lot of people are riding mopeds in North Carolina because they have DWIs. Since no license or insurance is required to drive a moped in the state, the scooters are a logical means of transport for someone who’s lost his or her driver’s license. The last thing you’re thinking about is the possibility of a DWI on a moped.

But it’s very possible. Just because you need no license to pilot a moped, that doesn’t mean you can drunk-drive it with impunity. A Raleigh man found this out recently.

The man was riding his moped when he fell and injured himself. Police arrived and charged him with a DWI.

No License Doesn’t Mean Drunk Driving is OK

Even though you don’t need a driver’s license to operate a moped in North Carolina, the state’s impaired driving laws still apply. License or not, a moped is considered a motor vehicle according to the statutes.

What Keeps People From Driving Drunk? Interlocks!

Substituting a moped for a car was one man’s method of dealing with license suspension. The sad fact is that most people deal with license suspension by ignoring it and driving their regular vehicles. Statistics tell us that half to three quarters of suspended drivers get behind the wheel at some point. Those that tend to drive while impaired will do so, valid license or not.

That’s why the ignition interlock was invented. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Currently 30 states mandate the devices for all drunk driving offenses, and some require the interlock from the time of arrest – not after conviction. That ensures that the offender will not be drinking and driving.

A DWI on a moped is no joke – fines, imprisonment and other penalties apply. Remember that in cases like this, it’s a repeat DWI offense. Everyone in this case would have been better off if the offender had been in his regular vehicle with an ignition interlock instead. No other measure (apart from imprisonment, which is extreme and also costly to the taxpayer) ensures that a driver will be sober while he or she is behind the wheel. North Carolina should mandate ignition interlocks for all offenders, as 30 other states already do.

know-your-limit

Source: Scottsdale Police Department

The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has been doling out wads of cash lately. The recipients are agencies that promote highway safety in all its forms. Recently the Marana Police Department received, among others, a $15,000 grant to expand its programs that raise awareness of the effects of alcohol.

It’s called the Know Your Limit grant, after the program of that name. The program stations officers at large gatherings where people drink, such has festivals and sports events such as last year’s Phoenix Open. Passersby are asked if they know what their blood alcohol limit is. Then they’re given breathalyzer tests to see if their estimate is correct.

It rarely is, and many people find they’re over the .08 legal intoxication limit. The program can be a revelation to many drinkers who don’t realize how strong alcohol is or how impaired they actually are.

Programs like Know Your Limit are vital because people usually estimate if they are “okay to drive” based on faulty criteria. If they have only had one or two drinks, or are steady on their feet and can speak without slurring their words, they assume they’re sober enough to be on the road.

In fact, almost any amount of alcohol causes some impairment, and that impairment is very much in evidence well below the .08 threshold. If, thanks to the Know Your Limit grant, a few thousand citizens of Marana get a true picture of how alcohol affects them, and as a result some of them might they skip driving. That $15K will then translate to lives saved. Our thanks to GOHS for doing Marana a solid.

alcohol-bad-judgment

Maybe she thought it was dark, so she could get away. It’s hard to know what’s on some people’s minds when they’re intoxicated.

Not long ago a woman crashed into a power pole in Burlington, North Carolina at about 3 in the morning. The crash knocked out power in the intersection.

Sensing that she was in trouble, the driver reportedly left the scene and hid not too far away. The police arrived, looked up the owner of the vehicle, and then searched the area until they found her. She was booked for DWI as well as hit-and-run.

The question is, why would someone flee a crash scene and leave her truck, to be identified by the police? Absolutely nothing is gained by that move, and of course, the charges are compounded by the fleeing.

Judgment – You Notice When It’s Not There

The answer is in the power of alcohol to cloud judgment. Judgment comes into play in many areas of driving:

  • How fast to drive under given road conditions. This includes how much to slow down in areas where pedestrians might pop out, such as school zones and near parks
  • How much time one has to make a left turn against traffic when an oncoming vehicle approaches
  • How much distance should be left between one’s vehicle and the one in front

All of these judgments can spell the difference between a safe trip and one that ends in a collision – or worse. It’s safe to say that someone who judges that it’s a good idea to flee a crash scene is not capable of making good driving decisions. Bad judgment is one of the reasons the charge of DWI exists.

Often people who think they are “okay to drive” are considering their physical coordination after a drink or two. They’re not considering their judgment, which the alcohol would have rendered less effective. And that’s the Catch-22 of alcohol – it robs you of the ability to understand what it’s robbing you of.

nc-drunk-driving-laws

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is tireless in its efforts to get states’ drunk driving laws to conform to the highest standards of effectiveness. Recently the organization released its 2018 Report to the Nation, which rates US states on their anti-impaired driving efforts. According to MADD North Carolina is far from the worst, but there’s some work to be done.

First, the good news: North Carolina has a good system of sobriety checkpoints in place. MADD approves of them as a way of nabbing drunk drivers. The state also criminalizes the refusal of a sobriety test – another measure which takes drunk drivers off the roads.

As to the areas in which North Carolina needs to improve, here is MADD’s prescription:

  • All-offender ignition interlock law. North Carolina needs to mandate the devices, which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking, for all drunk driving offenses, and not just repeat and high blood-alcohol offenses.
  • Compliance-based removing of interlocks. Ignition interlock devices should only be remove when the offender has passed a given number of months (usually four) with no failed tests.
  • Ignition interlocks available upon arrest.
  • Felony charge for child endangerment. North Carolina does prosecute drivers who drive drunk with a child, but it’s a misdemeanor charge. According to MADD, it should be a felony, as it is in a number of states.

The recommendations that MADD has made – not just for North Carolina, but for every state – are the result of a lot of study into what measures work to reduce the number of alcohol-related road fatalities. The general trend is toward the adoption of these laws. We hope North Carolina takes MADD’s recommendation seriously and steps up its anti-DWI game soon.

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