Category: News

drunk-drivers-hits-police-carWith over 2 million vehicles registered in Arizona, the chance that a drunk driver in one car will collide with another vehicle are pretty good.

But what are the chances that a drunk driver would hit a patrol car – there are not that many of those, comparatively speaking. Nevertheless, it happens more often than you’d think in every state, including Arizona.

Phoenix’s most recent incident happened near 26th Avenue and Bethany Home Road, where an intoxicated man rear-ended a police vehicle.

Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. But one of the officers was standing beside the vehicle at the time of impact. Had the drunk driver veered a bit, it could have been disastrous. The charges were DUI and endangerment.

A drunk-driving crash into a police car is unique only in that the victim is able to give a sobriety test and make an arrest. Otherwise, it’s just another one of Arizona’s 5,000 alcohol-related crashes each year, in which some 300 people die.

That number is one the state has been struggling with for years, with some success. In 2007 Arizona became one of the first states to pass a law mandating an ignition interlock for all DUI offenders. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

The ignition interlock law has saved lives, and other actions – DUI patrols, sobriety checkpoints, laws prohibiting the refusal of a sobriety test, for example – have also helped bring down the number of lives lost due to impaired driving.

Yet drunk drivers ply Arizona’s roads every day, and while they’re not likely to plow into a police car necessarily, they’re very liable to hit someone, and that someone might be you. Be safe out there. Don’t let friends drive drunk, and if you’ve been drinking, get a sober ride. If you hit a cop car, you’re not talking your way out of it – guaranteed.

rideshare-cuts-arizona-drunk-driving-arrestsA couple of days ago we gave you the bad news: DUI arrests were up over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in Arizona. But there’s some good news too: overall, Arizona drunk driving arrests are down. The director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Alberto Gutier, gives some of the credit to Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare services.

In an interview with Fronteras Desk, a network of public radio stations in the American Southwest, Gutier noted that five years ago Arizona saw more DUI arrests despite having fewer officers on patrol.

In 2012, 32,000 were arrested for drunk driving in Arizona. By 2016 that number had dropped about 18 percent to 26,000.

Beyond Rideshare: The Deterrent Factor

Rideshare services can take some of the credit. As Mr. Gutier said, they are convenient and not very pricey – certainly a lot cheaper than an Arizona DUI conviction. However, there are other factors in play. For one, the reason so many people chose a safe ride home with a Lyft or Uber car is that the state’s drunk driving laws are among the strictest in the country. That’s a good incentive to avoid getting behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking.

The Ignition Interlock Factor

Another contributor to the downturn in drunk driving numbers is Arizona’s strong ignition interlock law, which mandates an ignition interlock for any DUI offense, including a first offense. As a result, fewer repeat drunk drivers are on the road in the first place. Their devices won’t let their cars out of the garage if they’ve been drinking, so they never become a statistic again.

What’s Next?

26,000 Arizona drunk driving arrests are still too many. One think that remains to be done is to continue strengthening the enforcement of the ignition interlock law – to ensure that every single offender who has been ordered to install an interlock does so. Nothing can prevent drunk driving altogether, but a strong, well-enforced ignition interlock program assures us that offenders don’t get a second chance to drive while impaired.

Arizona-dui-on-thanksgivingThe reason governments compile numbers on every conceivable facet of public life is to answer the perennial question, “How are we doing?”

On the question of holiday drunk driving, Arizona can answer, “Not too well, thank you.” A recent report by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety found that arrests for DUI on Thanksgiving weekend are up from last year – 377 as opposed to 333 in 2016.

But one number denoting an increase does not answer the question. In fact, an increase in DUI arrests could indicate either that more people are driving drunk on Thanksgiving, or more drunk drivers are being taken out of action on Thanksgiving by DUI patrols.

The GOHS seems to be taking the latter view. According to news reports the agency is attributing the rise in arrests to increased funding from holiday patrols.

And that is good news. What would be better news is if the DUI patrols increased but the arrests went down anyway, because people were getting the message that Monitech and others have been trying to hammer home: that drunk driving is a reckless crime that wastes lives. The agencies themselves have gotten the message: jurisdictions are trying new types of patrols and making intensive sweeps to bag drunk drivers.

But it’s clear that too many drivers are still operating under the assumption that drunk driving is a valid option.

Until the day that all motorists are sober, we’re happy that funding is helping to take drunk drivers off the roads. All we need to do is figure out more ways to keep them off Arizona roads in the first place.

chandler-chase-dui-warrantsPolice in Chandler, Arizona work hard to catch drunk drivers. That’s why, presumably, they find it galling that people arrested for DUI manage to escape the consequences.

How do they escape? Some don’t show up for their court appearance. Others don’t follow the orders given by the court: do community service, install an ignition interlock, or take the required DUI class.

Those who skip out on these requirements have DUI warrants out on them. If stopped, they’re liable for arrest.

To ensure that at least some of these scofflaws do the right thing, Chandler Police officers started a full-day sweep yesterday to find drivers who had active Chandler City Court DUI warrants out on them.

Compliance – A Vital Part of DUI Law

Drunk driving laws are even more linked to social engineering than most: their intent is not just to punish, but to alter a strain of behavior that can be very stubborn. Repeat drunk drivers are a common threat. One report stated that about a third of all drunk drivers arrested are repeat offenders.

Given the number of DUI arrests each year in this country – about 1.5 million – that’s a frightening number of people who need the full attention of the court: counseling, ignition interlocks (devices which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking), and monitoring.

That, in a nutshell, is the reason that Chandler sent out its officers to round up 1,900 people with outstanding DUI warrants. It’s an effort that will, if successful, make the roads of Chandler safer for everyone.

unmarked police cars

In an effort to catch more drunk drivers, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department DWI Task Force is going incognito. All of its officers now drive unmarked police cars.

The purpose of the change is obvious – to catch more impaired drivers. And so far, according to news reports, the method is working. Arrests are up.

Are Unmarked Police Cars Better?

There’s no doubt that unmarked police cars are great for catching offenders, particularly speeders, who tend to slow down when a police car is in view. But it’s not exactly clear how they would stop more impaired drivers, since generally people who have been drinking don’t scan the road before making their decision to drink and drive. Moreover, the things they do that reveal that they’re drunk are generally involuntary – weaving, hopping the curb, or otherwise driving inconsistently.

There is, in fact, a case for marked police cars: they advertise a police presence, which makes people think twice about driving drunk in the first place. A person who sees a police car on the way to a restaurant is more likely to avoid the risk of an arrest, and will refrain from drunk driving.

The final proof will be in the numbers. We await the statistics on DWI arrests and crashes in Charlotte-Mecklenburg when the unmarked cars have been operating for a year.

Until then, don’t drink and drive, in North Carolina, or anywhere else. That police car you don’t see might be on your tail.

drinking vanilla extractToo much vanilla extract can do more than give your custard an aftertaste. It can also give you a police record.

A man recently crashed his truck in Morganton, North Carolina. Police noticed an odor in the cab, but not the expected smell of beer or vodka: they detected vanilla. As it turned out, the driver had been drinking vanilla extract – a lot of it – and had ended up with a blood alcohol concentration of .26, more than three times the legal limit.

It was clearly no accident – to have that much vanilla extract in your system, you need to drink it deliberately. But how much did he have to drink?

Alcohol: Forbidden for Drivers, Mandatory for Vanilla

Federal law states that vanilla extract must be at least 35 percent alcohol, and have 100 grams of vanilla beans per litre.

vanilla cone35 percent alcohol is 70 proof – five times an average beer, well over twice what most wines have. You can buy rum or liqueurs with a similar alcohol content, and most people who like to drink do that instead of drink vanilla.

It is unlikely, however, that the vanilla extract in your bread pudding will get you drunk, or even register on a breathalyzer. Most recipes call for a teaspoon or two at most which, when spread out over a  whole dessert and baked to boot, will yield no more than a trace amount of alcohol.

Drinking vanilla extract, however, is another matter. In the Morganton case, the offender probably downed a whole bottle – and a good sized one, perhaps 12 ounces or more – in order to reach such a high alcohol level.

North Carolina imposes strict penalties on DWIs, including fines, license suspension, imprisonment, community service, and an ignition interlock requirement (because of the .15 BAC level).

Vanilla extract is great stuff. But it belongs in the kitchen, not on the road.

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