Category: News

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.

Marijuana leaf with white outline

Scientists 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 and cognition. 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, half fullYou 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.

Texting-While-Driving-NCPolice have had many years to learn how to catch drunk drivers. There are many signs of impaired driving, as well as breathalyzers and field tests to confirm the offense once the driver is stopped. We even have good technology – ignition interlocks – to prevent drunk drivers from starting their car.

Texting while driving, though widespread, is a recent phenomenon, and police must now develop ways to identify and catch distracted drivers. Some of the same warning signs can be useful – if a driver is too slow, or erratic, for example. But something more is needed.

The Randolph County office of the North Carolina Highway Patrol came up with something more. They sent out NCDOT pickup trucks with plainclothes officers in them to watch for texting drivers. When they spotted one, they contacted troopers in nearby unmarked vehicles to issue a ticket.

Texting while driving is illegal in North Carolina. Offenders face fines and court costs.

Like other states, North Carolina is just beginning to come to terms with the menace of distracted driving. This program has promise, since the pickup trucks blend in and catch texting and phoning drivers off their guard. Until automotive technology catches up, and we adopt an “ignition interlock” that prevents people from using their phones while driving, Randolph County drivers are on notice: that yellow pickup truck might get them picked up if they make the bad decision to text and drive.

13 years old and drinking alcohol? It might sound shocking for some of us, but that’s what’s happening every day across the United States. But these minors are too young to purchase alcohol on their own, so where are they getting it?

If a Davidson County couple is any indication, minors are receiving alcohol from their parents. They’ve been charged with 7-counts of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor after they were found providing alcohol to minors as young as 13-years-old at their home.

The couple has broken several laws in North Carolina, and the first was the zero tolerance policy for underage drinking. The zero tolerance policy states that anyone who allows minors to drink or assists them in drinking will be prosecuted in criminal and possibly civil court.

The couple could also be liable under social host laws. The law states that if you are a social host of any kind, including bar owners, restaurant servers, and even those who just host a party, you have a responsibility to those you are serving. That means if someone decides to drink and drive and causes a crash, you could be liable for their actions because you served them alcohol in the first place.

Although social host laws are supposed to apply to adults, they may apply to those who serve minors as well. In the case of the Davidson County couple, it was fortunate that no one was injured or killed after the party due to binge drinking or drinking and driving.

Parents need to think about legal responsibility if they decide to provide alcohol to a minor, but they should also be questioning why they feel it’s OK for a minor to drink in the first place. Studies have shown teens that starting drinking young are more likely to have a problem with alcohol as they grow older, and they’re at an increased risk for death, injury, and sexual assault. Instead of giving them alcohol at a party, responsible parents should be standing at the door with a breathalyzer ensuring no one has drank before driving.

There’s a lesson in this story for all parents – you might want to look cool by providing alcohol to your child or your child’s friends, but it’s a bad idea all around. Think about the legal consequences for yourself and the potential outcome for your child, and then make the right choice and work to help them avoid underage drinking.

Today’s post comes to us from fellow ignition interlock provider, LifeSafer. Apparently, men across the world have been getting pulled over for drunk driving any number of weird “vehicles” lately. We’ll let LifeSafer take it away from here.


Here’s the rule: if it has wheels, someone will have too many drinks and then take off on it. The results are not always as funny as the newspaper headlines suggest.

We’ve covered some unusual DUI arrests in the past, most notably a snowmobile in summer.

DUIs on tractors are standard in some parts of the country. The reason might be that tractor owners don’t consider their tractor a motor vehicle, but rather a farm implement (not that those should be used while impaired either).

The tractor’s little sister, the riding mower, also seems to draw pilots who have had a few too many. In fact, Pulaski County, Kentucky saw two lawnmower DUIs in one week recently.

In Virginia a man on a moped – that’s right, a moped – led the police on a chase.

Approaching the heights of absurdity, a man in Australia (the unusual vehicle DUIs invariably involve men, for whatever reason) was arrested for driving a motorized beer cooler drunk. One needs to question not only the driver’s judgement, but the reason for the vehicle’s existence in the first place.

And then there is the vehicle that is itself a punchline, the Segway. Norway finally legalized the two-wheel scooters, and had immediate reason to regret it.

If there is a lesson to be learned from all this, it’s that if you’re farming, or mowing, or moping, or scooting, don’t drink.

Your Hump Day Recess: Every Wednesday LifeSafer brings you something a little different, related to the worlds of road safety, to ease your progress over Hump Day and through the week.

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