Category: Opinion

self-driving cars mean no drunk drivingIt’s still early days for self-driving cars. Inch by inch the technology is improving, such that the idea of sitting back and letting the car do the driving is not nearly so strange as it seemed just a couple of years ago.

Still, every mishap with one of these self-guided wonders raises the question: can we trust these machines to keep us safe? A recent report from Chandler, Arizona has people wondering.

Google reports that three of its vehicles were involved in collisions last month. That might make one uneasy about the readiness for prime time of this technology. But a closer look is instructive: two of the crashes happened while the self-guidance system was being overridden and a human driver was in control.  In one of them the other driver ran a red light.

The third car was rear ended by – big surprise – a drunk driver.

So here’s a question for anyone skeptical about the advisability of self-driving cars: have you looked around at the cars being driven by people, and seen how that’s working out?

Here’s a hint: more than ninety percent of vehicle crashes are caused by human error.

In addition, file these facts away:

  • Alcohol is involved in about 7 percent of all crashes
  • Alcohol is involved in about a third of fatal collisions
  • Alcohol is involved in 44 percent of crashes resulting in pedestrian fatalities

Given the tendency of humans to make mistakes and engage in bad decision making, why do we even want to keep entrusting driving to these flawed, unreliable creatures? Self-driving cars would eventually take drunk driving out of the picture entirely, making the roads safe – if a bit more boring for some.

Will we lose our interest in driving completely? Certainly many people who grew up driving will still want to enjoy the surge of the accelerator and the feel of the car obeying the driver’s whims. Perhaps they’ll be able to enjoy it in a specialized environment – much like horseback riding.

So the news from Chandler is far from alarming. In fact, it’s encouraging that eventually drunk drivers will not be behind the wheel – because there won’t even be a wheel. Until then, DUI patrols and ignition interlocks will have to be our defense against the dangers of impaired driving.

As the digits move on and 2015 turns to 2016, we tend to look back on the year and choose an area in our lives that we might want to improve with our New Year’s resolutions:

  • Lots of people choose health: exercise, lose weight, eat better.
  • Others choose money: save more, spend less.
  • We all want to change habits: stop smoking, manage stress
  • Some of us say this is the year our relationships will change: we’ll find or improve one.

Few people choose their driving as an area in need of improvement, but statistics show us that a lot of people could be making better choices on the road.

And that’s usually all it is: choices. It’s not a matter of taking a driving course, or practicing cornering at high speeds. It’s doing a few things that ensure the safety of oneself, one’s passengers, and others on the road. Here are the 3 pretty simple resolutions that we all should be making:

  1. Not drinking and driving. This is number 1. And we don’t just mean stopping when you’ve had two or three – that’s too many. It’s a bad idea to drive with any alcohol in theblood. This year, switch to soft drinks in plenty of time to let the alcohol process out of your  system. Or else plan for a designated driver or a taxi.
  2. Not driving while distracted. Put down the phone. Driving with half a brain and no eyes on the road is rapidly becoming a frightening public safety problem.
  3. Buckling up. This is so easy, yet we see so many collisions that could have been easy on everyone but for the lack of a seat belt.

There. That wasn’t too bad, was it? A few simple decisions and your road safety is boosted big time Please check in with us from time to time and let us know how you’re doing with your New Year’s resolutions. Until then, Happy New Year from Monitech.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” goes the song. And for many Christmastime is indeed a joy. Even those who aren’t raised with Christmas traditions enjoy the lights, music, parties, gifts and cheer. It’s hard not to think about the holiday in December, so plentiful are the reminders.

Just imagine all that ruined forever due to holiday drunk driving. It could happen – collisions due to alcohol spike during this time. All those celebrations bring more opportunities to drink – and more chances to drink and drive. And even if you’re not driving while impaired, others are.

Suppose you let one of your loved ones leave a party and get behind the wheel – against your better judgment. She’s been drinking, and you know it’s not a good idea, but you don’t want to be a drag on the festivities, so you smile, say goodbye, tell her to be careful, and hope for the best.

Suppose that’s the last time you see her alive. What will the holidays be like from then on?

Every light, every song, every decorated tree will remind you of the one you lost. A season of joy turned into a season of sadness, year after year.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You probably already know what to do:

  • Don’t drink and drive
  • Watch out for other drivers who might have been drinking
  • Don’t let your friends drink and drive. Take their keys if necessary, and organize a ride for them.
  • If you’re hosting friends or family, watch out for them. Make sure they have non-alcoholic options, and have the number of a taxi company ready.

Keep the festive season joyous – forever. Monitech wishes you a safe and happy holiday.

voluntary-ignition-interlock-makes-senseMost users of ignition interlocks have installed the device because they’ve been ordered to by a judge or other official, or they’ve been advised to do so as proof of their good intentions prior to a court appearance.

However, every installer also does voluntary ignition interlock installations on a regular basis. A surprising number of people book an installation without a legal requirement, for several reasons:

  • In order to deal with a DUI habit that hasn’t yet caught the authorities’ attention
  • For a family member who uses the vehicle and tends to drink and drive
  • For a vehicle used by teens and young drivers, who are often pressured into drinking
  • To extend the interlock period after it is no longer required, to ensure sober driving for a longer period
  • For a company vehicle, to prevent employees from driving while impaired
  • To serve as proof of sober driving when dealing with non-criminal court cases, in which the driver’s future sobriety is called into question

Voluntary or court-ordered, the device works the same way: the driver blows into the ignition interlock device, and if it registers over the trigger amount, the vehicle will not start. You will also need to bring the vehicle in every 2 months to have the unit monitored and calibrated. Since you’re installing the device of your own volition, you can receive the monitoring reports yourself, or designate someone else to receive them.

Should you voluntarily install an ignition interlock in your vehicle? Consider doing it if:

  • You know you have an alcohol problem
  • You think it’s only a matter of time before you get behind the wheel while drunk
  • You are in alcohol counseling and treatment, and want a helping hand
  • You have a young driver whom who you think might drink and drive

As you can see, a voluntary ignition interlock device is well worth considering. Your insurance company might agree, and give you a discount if you’ve got a teen driver on your policy. Consider it a guardrail: something you are almost unaware of, but which keeps you safer on the road.

driving drunk on july 4th was not intended by the signers of the declaration

About twelve score and one year ago – time flies, doesn’t it? – our forefathers signed an angry but well-considered document now known as the Declaration of Independence. Essentially, it said that the Colonies were splitting with Britain for:

  • Not letting colonists pass the laws they wanted to
  • Controlling judges and axing them when they didn’t behave
  • Sending troops to the colonies and forcing colonists to essentially run a free B&B for them
  • Messing with American trade
  • Denying  colonists trial by jury

That’s just a few of the infractions that led Jefferson and his pals to blow off King George. Today we celebrate this unprecedented fight for liberty by:

  • Roasting hot dogs
  • Selling mattresses and hot tubs at crazy prices for this weekend only
  • Taking to the roads and crashing our cars

Not everyone does these things, but a distressing number of people still crash their cars and SUVs on July 4th weekend. It’s understandable, considering that you have many stressed-out, tired and distracted drivers (the kids are in the back seat, remember?) on unfamiliar roads.

declaration2And you have alcohol. Independence Day always signals a spike in DUI crashes and arrests.  The barbecue leads to the beer or margarita, and then more beers or margaritas, followed by a very ill-advised drive home.

The event that inspired this weekend’s holiday was, in part, about the right to pass “laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.” It seems strange to pass something as wholesome and necessary as an anti-drunk-driving law, and then defy it because you can’t be bothered getting a designated driver to bring you home.

This Independence Day, you can honor the founding fathers and their bravery by obeying one law that is truly “necessary for the public good”— the law against impaired driving. How? By not driving drunk on July 4th.

  • Designate a driver. If you’re a couple traveling, let one stay sober for this party. You can trade off on Labor Day.
  • If you see a friend about to drive drunk, stop him or her.

Do it for your friend. Or for your own peace of mind. Or, like our founding fathers, for the public good.

Even if no one is injured and no property is damaged, a DWI has lasting consequences for the offender.  After the fine is paid, after the alcohol assessment and treatment, even after the ignition interlock period has been installed, used and removed, anyone who has been caught driving drunk faces long-term problems, of which one of the most disagreeable is the rise in insurance rates.

Take North Carolina, which places the highest burden of all on convicted drunk drivers: a jump in car insurance rates of 337%.

Some offenders ask their attorneys or insurance brokers if installing an ignition interlock before being required to will result in a lower insurance rate. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

The answer is usually no. In some states a discount is possible, and it’s worth mentioning to the insurance company to see if that will help, but the practice is not yet widespread.

But it should be.

Insurance rates go up after a DWI because the driver is deemed a higher risk. In fact, some companies will not insure anyone with drunk driving on their record. But an interlock device immediately lowers that risk. Studies show that drivers who have an interlock installed are much less likely to reoffend.

If insurance companies were to offer lower rates for DWI offenders with an ignition interlock, it would provide these benefits:

  • It would boost the incentive for non-compliant offenders to install the mandated interlocks.
  • Since high insurance rates lasts for at least 3 years after a DWI, offenders could be given the option of a longer interlock term. Keeping the device for the time during which insurance would be safer for everyone.

Legislators, law enforcement, and road safety organizations have been working on ways to reduce drunk driving, with a lot of success. Insurance companies could bring the number of alcohol-related crashes down even more by offering a break to drivers who use an interlock.

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