Category: Offbeat

ignition interlock breath testsIf you’re ordered to install an ignition interlock in your vehicle, there’s a good reason for that: the courts and the public want reassurance that you won’t drive again while impaired.

And we’ll assume you’re a responsible driver who won’t have any more violations. But you’ll still have the problem of explaining to your friends and other passengers what the device on your dashboard is for. Here are a few suggestions to make that part of your interlock program a little easier:

  1. “Did you know I’ve got breath-assist on my car? It’s the latest thing. Saves ten percent on fuel bills.”
  2. “This? Oh, this is an anti-theft device. It’s programmed with my individualized breath pattern. If anyone else tries to drive my car it calls the police.”
  3. “Can you wait a second? I need to call Toyota on the intercom. I think I heard a funny noise in the engine on the way here.”
  4. “Oh man, I could use an oxygen boost right now.  I used to buy the cans, but it was cheaper just to put a tank in the trunk. Just a second …”
  5. “Hey, is your seat feeling kind of under-inflated? Mine is. Let me just blow it up a little…”
  6. “Hydration, my friend. That’s the key. I keep water in my car so I can sip on the go. Did you know that 75% of Americans don’t get enough water?  That can lead to rapid heartbeat, fever, muscle cramps. Ask me about muscle cramps sometime.”
  7. (For women) “How’s my lip gloss? Hmm, needs a bit more. Just got this new color. Crazy dispenser, right? There, that’s better…”
  8. “Hey, my nephew left his bubble pipe in the car. Wonder if there’s any soap left? (blows). Guess not. Okay, let’s go.”
  9. “We’ll be departing shortly. In the unlikely event of a water landing, a scuba unit will deploy. NHTSA regulations require me to test this. It just takes 6 seconds. Thank you for your patience.”

There are plenty of reasons not to drink and drive. First among them is the harm you can do to yourself and others. Ten thousand people are killed each year, many more injured, and countless others harmed in other ways through the crime of drunk driving.

There’s also the cost in money and time. And finally, there’s the humiliation. Having an ignition interlock is a good thing – the devices have been proven to reduce recidivism dramatically in states where they are required and interlock laws are enforced. But many people are uneasy about having the devices in their vehicles, and unsure of how to explain it to others.

We hope these explanations help. If they are a bit far-fetched, make up your own. As long as you use it and stay on the road safely and legally, what you tell your friends is up to you.

phoenix-dui-meme-yodaAs expected, the The City of Phoenix Police Department were out in force on Cinco de Mayo, ready to apprehend any drunk drivers who might have made it onto the road.

This time the police also sent out another kind of workforce to aid the fight against drunk driving: they released a set of drunk driving memes to persuade people to use designated drivers.

Memes, as you know, are images taken from readily-recognized pieces of popular culture, to which messages have been added. The idea is to make a point, get a laugh, or possibly both.

On their Facebook pagedrunk driving memes dos equis, the City of Phoenix Police Department released 14 memes intended to remind revelers not to drive drunk. Anyone who spends time on social media will recognize them. Yoda, Napoleon Dynamite, the Dos Equis man, Liam Neeson, and others have been pressed into duty under the hashtag #NoDuisTonight.

The hashtag goes with the department’s expressed wish not to arrest anyone for DUI on Cinco de Mayo.

drunk driving memes neesonIt’s hard to know how effective the campaign was. In truth, behavior doesn’t usually change overnight. Drunk driving has been on the decline for years because of better laws – including ignition interlock requirements – and intensive public education. It was an effort that began in earnest over thirty years ago, and the task is far from complete.

Still, back when MADD began campaigning for stronger anti-DUI laws and the Ad Council first told people that friends don’t let friends drive drunk, there was no World Wide Web and no memes. Times change, and so do the tools of persuasion. Perhaps the drunk driving memes will add a little extra volume to the torrent of sober driving messages, in which case the The City of Phoenix Police Department did well. If Yoda can the message across can get, then a good job they did.

flat-tires-duiIt has to be a record of some sort. Not too long ago, a man in Maynard, Massachusetts was arrested for Drunk Driving. Police knew something was up because the front right tire was completely gone.

Back last November, a man in Riverside, Illinois was arrested for driving without two front tires – and, of course, for driving drunk.

But the Shoeless Joe Jackson award for rubberless road navigation goes to Tristan Roderick Anagal, 24, who was recently extracted from his Dodge Challenger after being stopped in Scottsdale. The car had four flat tires. Needless to say, only an impaired driver would be able to ignore such a bumpy ride, and in fact the evening ended in a booking for DUI, among other offenses.

We don’t really need a reminder that drunk driving is illegal, or that alcohol impairs judgment so severely. But think for a minute – if a person can ignore a condition as obvious as four – four! – flat tires, what else will he or she ignore? Traffic signals? Pedestrians?

Depending on the amount, booze can remove everything ability that one needs for safe driving. At the legal limit of .08 these faculties will be impaired:

  • Reflexes
  • Judgment
  • Coordination
  • Vision
  • Motor control
  • Reaction time
  • Alertness
  • Depth perception
  • Managing multiple tasks

Of course, at a higher limit you’ll lose even more, including a possible understanding of where you are and what you’re doing. It would appear that the driver in this incident had little control of the situation, or else the lack of four tires would have caused him to stop.

While this is an extreme case, there are many drivers on the road who think that they’re okay because they’ve only had one or two drinks. They don’t have slurred speech, and they would notice if a tire blew out, but they are still unfit to drive. Even at a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, some of the above faculties are compromised enough to greatly increase the chance of a collision.

In fact, drivers with a BAC of .01 are 46 percent more likely to be blamed for collisions they’re involved in. A 2014 UCSD study showed that there is no safe level of blood alcohol when it comes to driving.

And that is why we advocate ignition interlocks, or car breathalyzers, for all drunk driving offenders. And why we support efforts to educate young people on the dangers of drunk and buzzed driving, so they don’t grow up thinking that “a couple of drinks are okay.”

There’s a lot of work to do to raise awareness of the issue of buzzed and drunk driving. Fortunately, we’re tireless.


This story doesn’t take place in the U.S., or even North America. It’s from Prague in the Czech Republic, where recently a police officer had too much to drink and got behind the wheel of a Jeep Cherokee. Before he was apprehended by colleagues, he managed to crash his SUV into 51 parked cars.

Clearly we have learned something:

  • This is a world’s record of some kind.
  • Jeep Cherokees are used by Czech Police – who knew?

More telling is the fact that the Czech Republic has a zero alcohol tolerance policy for driving: the permissible blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level for drivers is 0.0. Yet this policy does not bring drunk driving to a standstill.

The driver in this case had a history of impaired driving. Perhaps, if an ignition interlock had been ordered the first time around, this incident would not have happened. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. No other anti-drunk-driving measure can actually prevent a driver from driving under the influence.

While our focus is on the US, it’s not a bad idea to look at what other countries are doing to make the roads safer. Europe had a very serious drunk driving problem, and authorities have tackled it over the years with success. One of the ways was random breath testing, which has helped bring down the alcohol-related road fatality rate all over Europe. Europe generally has lower BAC limits for drivers as well. Though as we have seen, even lowering the limit to zero does not stop a driver who is determined to drink and drive. Only an ignition interlock can do that. In fact, a 2012 report by the European Transport Safety Council recommended ignition interlocks for offenders as a way to reduce recidivism among drunk drivers in the Czech Republic.

So what we learn is that there’s no one solution to the problem of drunk driving. Lower limits help attune the public to the need to watch their drinking; ignition interlocks prevent offenders from reoffending. Awareness and education help make drunk driving less fashionable. Zero alcohol tolerance is not a magic bullet.

Many solutions are needed because alcohol is a strong drug which leads to bad judgement. As 51 car owners in Prague can now testify.

Some laws are just weird.

They’re either weird because they’re so random (Ohio has a law that you can’t get a fish drunk) or so ludicrous (It’s illegal to sneeze on city streets in Asheville, NC). North Carolina has it’s fair share of weird laws, including the illegality of rollerblading on a state highway in Southern Shores. And when it comes to drinking laws, the weirdness keeps on coming. Check out these eight, weird drinking laws in North Carolina.

1. Serving alcohol at a bingo game is not allowed. As a side note, bingo games can’t last longer than five hours (unless at a fair)…I don’t know.

2. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have an entirely separate set of laws concerning alcohol, but the government can pretty much veto any of them.

3. The following are considered vehicles sufficient to support a DWI conviction — stand-up scooter with electric motor, a farm tractor and a horse (why anyone would ride a horse drunk is beyond me, but I guess it’s cool the state has thought about how it would handle it…maybe).

4. Happy hours are actually illegal in North Carolina. Bet you didn’t know that one.

5. In North Carolina, you must be 21-years old to consume alcohol but can become a bartender at 18. Wait, what? Definitely don’t want to ask my 18-year-old bartender what he’d recommend.

6. In Wake County, there are limits to how much alcohol a person can purchase at one time. Except for draft malt beverages. Technically speaking, you could buy all the draft malt beverages in the county…at one time.

7. North Carolina is the only state in the country in which alcohol is controlled by both the state’s ABC Commission and a council of more than 160 local boards. Trying to figure out exactly what that means will kind of give you a migraine.

8. The North Carolina Alcohol Commission has the authority to prohibit or regulate advertising of alcoholic beverages by mail. Alcohol advertisements by mail? Do people still get mail?


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