Monitech
american-drunk-drivers

How many American drunk drivers are there? It’s a tricky question to answer, since we usually hear only about the ones who are arrested. There are many more who don’t make it into the news, even though they are guilty of the same crime.

The Centers of Disease Control did a survey to find out how many adults admitted to driving drunk during a given month. The answer was chilling: an estimated 4.2 million adults said they had driven while impaired by alcohol.  Multiply that by 12, and you get 121 million episodes of drunk driving each year.

That doesn’t give us the number of people who drive drunk – many of those episodes will be repeats by the same drivers. A more conservative, but still chilling, estimate was proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in a survey they did. They found that 8 percent of drivers, or 17 million Americans, admitted to driving under the influence that year (2008).

Country of the Drunk Drivers

If all American drunk drivers – those who admitted to NHTSA that they drove impaired – were given their own country to live in, what would it look like? For one thing, the population would larger than quite a few countries, among them Belgium, Greece, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Portugal, and Sweden.

It would not only be large, it would be dangerous. On any particular day, 46,500 people would be driving drunk. That would make for some pretty hairy driving unless the country had a very large land mass and low density – something like Greenland.

The country would not be a dating paradise for men, as the population would be two-thirds male. It would be a young country, though: 33 percent of residents would be under 35, and half would be 44 or under.

Here’s the strange thing: about 80 percent of females and three-quarters of males in that fully-drunk-driving population thought that driving under the influence was a threat to their safety and the safety of others. That didn’t stop them from doing it, apparently.

And why do fewer males believe that drunk driving is dangerous? What kind of fake news are they consuming in that place?

Of course, there is no country of drunk drivers – those 17 million people are scattered all over the United States. Most of them get away with their crime – at least for a while – but a still-staggering number cause injury and death, and still more are arrested before they have a chance to do harm. We have to deal with them in our country, by catching them, punishing them, preventing further offenses with ignition interlocks, and when possible, by educating them to choose alternatives like designated drivers.

But the best thing we can all do for the Country of Drunk Drivers is not to visit it – ever.

ignition-interlocks-on-motorcycles-nc

Ignition interlock providers in every state get calls regularly asking, “Can I put an interlock device on my motorcycle?” In most states the answer is no, but North Carolina bikers can install ignition interlocks on motorcycles and keep moving on two wheels. Here’s what you need to know

Yes, You Must Install One On Your Bike

If you have an ignition interlock requirement in North Carolina, the mandate applies to all vehicles registered to you. So if you have, say, a car and a motorcycle registered in your name, you must put an interlock on both if you intend to use both. The alternative, if you wish to give up riding for the duration of your interlock period, would be to de-register the bike.

Take note: if you register the bike in someone else’s name – a spouse, say – you still cannot ride it unless there is an interlock on the bike. In North Carolina an ignition interlock restriction applies to any vehicle you drive.

Rule One: Pull Over for Re-Tests

The demands of motorcycle riding are unique, and you need to make some accommodations if you have an interlock on your bike. Most important: when you get a signal that it’s time for a re-test, you must pull over to perform the test. This is a vital safety precaution, and is non-negotiable. In a car it’s a simple matter to take a breath test while driving. You can keep a hand on the wheel and your eyes on the road. But motorcycles demand two-handed control, so there are no rolling re-tests, as in a car: it must be a side-of-the-road re-test.

Weather and Your Ignition Interlock

As a motorcyclist, you’re more aware than most of the weather. Ignition interlock devices are durable, but they’re not weatherproof. If you leave your bike outside, your device can get exposed to the elements. This could cause problems with your device. Always remember to bring your handset inside when you park your bike in the open air.

Happy Riding

Ignition interlocks are designed to enable driving, not restrict it. At Monitech we’re dedicated to keeping you on the beautiful roads of North Carolina, while making those roads safer for everyone. To everybody in the state with ignition interlocks on motorcycles: we wish you happy and safe riding. To learn more about ignition interlocks in North Carolina, call Monitech at 800-521-4246. The roads are out there, waiting for you.

repeat-dui-offenders-arizona

A recent arrest in Arizona highlights one of the problems that states have with their DUI laws: creating  ones that keep repeat offenders off the road. In El Mirage a man was arrested for his fourth DUI, just five days after pleading guilty to his third.

Repeat drunk driving is a complex problem, partly because it’s not the whole problem. A study by the American Psychological Association noted that repeat drunk driving is part of a larger pattern which often includes other crimes and disorders. This condition – what psychiatrists called psychiatric comorbidity – is the reason that measure that punish drunk driving on its own don’t always work.

Ignition interlocks have a good record of reducing recidivism because they don’t work by punishing the offender, but by disabling the vehicle directly if the driver has been drinking. Many offenders, faced with this obstacle, re-evaluate their life choices and stop driving drunk.

Repeat Offenders Have Multiple Issues

There are persistent repeat offenders, and they must be dealt with differently, because they are very different people. The problems that lead to repeat drunk driving need to be addressed. In the study by doctors from Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance, repeat DUI offenders were placed in a 2-week in-patient treatment program. The program addressed not only alcohol abuse and dependence but also depression, gambling disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD, attention deficit disorder, and other conditions.

Then came the work: lengthy treatment and follow-up. The result was that within a year, only 2.6 percent of the group had been arrested for another DUI. Within 5 years, only 7.5 percent had.

The Role of Ignition Interlocks

Ignition interlocks play a vital role in preventing first DUI offenders from becoming repeat offenders.  Extensive research has shown that the devices save lives by keeping drunk drivers off the road. While they work on their own, they are even more effective when part of a sobriety court or other program that includes treatment for the issues that accompany drunk driving behavior. Only when all-offender ignition interlock laws are accompanied by thorough mental health treatment will we make headway with serious repeat DUI offenders.

North-Carolina-Ignition-Interlock-Questions

For most people, getting an ignition interlock is a new experience. Chances are, if you’re required to install an interlock in North Carolina, you’ve got some questions. You’ll find a lot of answers at the Monitech website. But sometimes some pretty specific questions come up, and it’s worth repeating them. Here are some of questions we hear from prospective customers:

Can I install an ignition interlock on a motorcycle? Yes! North Carolina is one of a very few states that permit ignition interlocks on motorcycles.

Can someone else take my vehicle in to install the interlock? No. If you’re the one with the ignition interlock requirement, you need to be present for the installation.

Do I need to be the registered owner of the vehicle to get an ignition interlock put in? No. You can have it installed in someone else’s vehicle (say, a spouse or parent) as long as the third party signs a form agreeing to it. Monitech will provide you with the form.

If it’s really cold, can I disconnect the handset and bring it inside at night? If it’s a Monitech handset, the answer is Yes – they are detachable. It’s a good idea because extreme cold can cause a delay in starting.

I lease my vehicle. Can I install an ignition interlock on it? Yes. You’ll want to notify the leasing company, but it’s fine with us.

I’m under 21. Can I get an ignition interlock? Yes. If you legally drive a vehicle, we can put an interlock on it.

I drive a commercial vehicle. Can an ignition interlock be installed on it? Yes. If you drive for an employer, you should notify them first.

Got more questions? Give us a call.

If you have any other questions about using or installing an ignition interlock in North Carolina, give Monitech a call at 800-521-4246. We’ll get you on the road quickly.

arizona-wrong-way-driving-law

It’s no surprise that Arizona’s Governor signed the wrong-way driving bill. No one likes wrong-way driving, which is dangerous and usually the result of alcohol. Thanks to the law, Arizona wrong-way driving is now an automatic felony, garnering between four and 30 months in prison.

The question remains, was this law the one the state really needs to fight drunk driving? Probably not. As we noted before, anyone drunk enough to drive the wrong way on a highway is not thinking about the consequences. The law might have some small deterrence effect – people might see that someone was put in prison after the DUI felony and resolve to be more careful about drinking and driving – but it’s not going to boost road safety significantly.

The Problem: Drinking and Driving

As some critics have noted, the root of the problem is drinking and driving, a problem Arizona has been wrestling with for a long time. In 2007 the state became one of the first to mandate ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenses, and this did bring down the toll of alcohol-related fatalities. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

The question, then, is what is left to do?

Enforcing Ignition Interlock Laws

It’s not enough to pass good ignition interlock laws – the states’ ignition interlock programs must be well-run. Arizona’s laws are good. One addition worth making would be an indigent fund to help subsidize those who cannot afford the cost of the program. The alternative for those people is either to stop driving and possibly lose their livelihood, or to drive in violation of the law.

Another would be to have the ignition interlock device available upon arrest, rather than waiting for conviction. That way, those who have a genuine alcohol problem would be prevented from driving drunk. They could also demonstrate their willingness to obey the law.

A Few Fixes On The Way

Arizona Senate Bill 1401 is working its way through the legislature. The bill would make some useful refinements to the state’s ignition interlock program. Among them is the provision for interlock providers to report in real time to AZDOT whenever a driver fails three rolling re-tests (tests while driving) in a row.

Like the Arizona wrong-way driving law, SB1401 will not shake things up. It will take better enforcement of existing laws – and not new ones – to further lower the DUI fatality rate on Arizona’s roads.

second-degree-murder-dui

We know that drunk drivers cause deaths all the time – some 30,000 each year in this country. But is that murder? According to the law books in many states, it is – of a sort. A recent case in Winston-Salem shows that a murder charge is a definite possibility if you kill someone while driving drunk in North Carolina.

Last year, according to news reports, Roberto Jose Lemus Martinez was driving drunk the wrong way on U.S. 52. Police reports say he crashed his SUV into a Camry with three people in it. Jean Lawrence High, 80, was killed in the crash. Recently Martinez was indicted on a charge of second-degree murder for his role in High’s death.

Second-Degree Murder: Yes, It’s Intentional

First-degree murder is a charge we all know well from Law & Order: intentional, premeditated, with malice aforethought. The grand jury, however, is not saying that this crime was premeditated.

Second-degree murder is intentional, though, and with malice aforethought. One might wonder why killing someone while driving drunk would be considered an intentional crime. The offender doesn’t start out with the intention of killing another person. But the fact is, impaired driving is a conscious decision, one that disregards the well-known dangers to others on the road. You can’t get behind the wheel while drunk and claim that you don’t intend to do others harm – it’s obvious to everyone that drunk driving ends up doing harm every day. The legal definition of “malice” includes an utter disregard for another’s welfare.

Different states’ laws use different language – some call it “extreme  indifference.” California calls it “implied malice.”

In North Carolina it’s an act “done in such a reckless and wanton manner as to manifest a mind utterly without regard for human life and social duty.”

We can’t think of a better description of drunk driving that results in death. As long as there are those who are without regard for human life and social duty, some drunk drivers will be facing a charge of second-degree murder.

prom-night-drinking

Let’s ditch the suspense: the answer is no. Prom night might be a few weeks off, and perhaps you were thinking of having a heart-to-heart with your teen right before he or she heads off to the prom. You were going to issue a warning about prom night drinking, and especially, drinking and driving.

If you want to find out why you should be worrying about prom night drinking, ask a patrol cop. They’ll tell you stories about what they’ve encountered in the wee hours during prom season. Those stories include fights, date rape, alcohol poisoning, and, of course, drunk driving.

Why Teens Insist On Drinking

Many teens drink because it’s fun. It’s an adventure, a way of gaining status in a peer group. Prom night adds another factor: it’s a rite of passage. It’s something that happens only once, and it’s held as significant both by teens themselves, the school, and parents. The dance and parties afterwards are mirrors of adulthood, one of the first social experiences they have that resembles what goes on in the adult world. For many students, making the most of that rite of passage includes getting drunk.

Why Prom Night is Too Late

If your plan is to talk to your teen about prom night drinking at 6pm, before he or she takes off, dressed to the nines, remember this: your teen has been planning the night for a while. Somebody has been planning on scoring some booze, and someone has figured out a place go to drink away from the gaze of adults. With all that pre-arranged, a last-minute warning to abstain won’t hold much sway.

Now Is the Time

Talk now. If you need some topics, consider these:

  • It’s more than just drunk driving – being drunk is an invitation to various kinds of harm.
  • It’s not just “don’t drink and drive.” It’s “don’t drink and drive, don’t ever get into a vehicle driven by someone who’s been drinking, and do what you can to prevent that person from driving. If you can’t, call the police. This is non-negotiable.
  • Alcohol poisoning is a major hazard. You need to be emphatic that drinking competitions and beer bongs lead to the emergency room.
  • Even if they’re not the type to drink, they need to be wary of spiked punch bowls and drinks. Tell them if they leave their drink somewhere, to get a fresh one.
  • Let them know you are available to drive them, or will call a taxi for them, no questions asked.
  • If you’re still stuck for what to say, there’s a lot of information online to help you.

Even if your teen gets what you’re saying, chances are someone in his or her group is making plans that could put some kids in danger. The better – and sooner – you can connect with your teens the more likely they’ll make the right decisions on prom night.

alcohol-bad-judgment

It started when Vicki Susan Poitinger hit a car with her Camaro and kept driving. That was bad decision number 2 in a string of bad decisions. What was number 1? It will be obvious.

She threw a can of Mikes Harder Lemonade (8 percent alcohol by volume) into a neighbor’s yard and asked the neighbors to hide the can. Bad decision number 3.

When the neighbors refused to hide the can (good decision), Poitinger hid it under the neighbor’s porch. You guessed it – bad decision number 4.

It keeps going, A police officer gave her a breathalyzer and she put her mouth on it but didn’t blow. BD5.

She refused a breathalyzer test at the jail. Different attorneys might have different ideas on this point, so we’ll give it a pass. At any rate, the point is already made.

Bad decision number 1, of course, was drinking and driving. It’s the decision that set the other bad decisions in motion. And judging by the offender’s claim that she had previous DWI convictions, it’s one that she’s made before.

When Alcohol Takes the Wheel

Some people just seem to be good at making bad decisions. Alcohol, it must be said, makes people better at it, by removing inhibitions and making people care less about the consequences of what they do.

What will be the consequences? Multiple DWI offenders in North Carolina are required to use an ignition interlock, as are all people arrested for drunk driving who refuse a breath test. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

The interlock will not improve a person’s judgement, alas.No technology exists to do that. The device will, however, prevent a person from acting on the foolish desire to drink and drive, by incapacitating the starter motor while there is alcohol on the offender’s breath.

And while that won’t change a personality, it will protect society from one drunk driver and possibly aid in that person’s recovery, if she wishes to pursue that.

North Carolina’s ignition interlock law, then, was a good decision, one that the state’s residents benefit from each day. A stronger one – one that applied to all offenders and not just repeat drunk drivers – would be a better one. Let’s hope the state doesn’t put off that decision much longer.

backing-into-a-police-car

You normally would not consider backing into a police car as beneficial to you or society at large. Especially if the police officer whose car it is watches you do it. But it was a fairly good outcome for one man in Morganton, NC.

To understand why, you need to understand the situation. Not long after midnight a while back a member of the Morganton Department of Public Safety (that means she’s a cop) hunted down a gray Honda that had been driving erratically and found it stopped in the middle of the road.

The driver, one Rodney Allen Carter, had the radio on loud. When Officer Kania approached, he began doing weird things: turning the headlights off and on, mumbling, staring at the window buttons. The odor of alcohol was present.

The officer noted that the car wasn’t in park – the driver just had his foot on the brake. When asked to put it in park, he reversed it instead and hit the police car.

Carter tested at .25, more than three times the legal limit for intoxication. That meant he was not in any condition to drive a car.

It Could Have Been Worse

In fact, the driver was a menace who could have easily killed himself or someone else, judging by the fact that he couldn’t even operate a gearshift properly. Backing into the police car was good because it ended the incident with no injury.

What if the officer had been behind the car? What if, instead of backing into the car, he had sped forward and hit someone?

As it was, no one was hurt. The toll of North Carolina alcohol-related road deaths – currently 389 per year or about 28 percent of all road deaths – did not change as a result of anything going on in Morganton.

We all know that the perfect is the enemy of the good. Sometimes the bad is the enemy of the truly disastrous. So we welcome a DWI crash that might have prevented a DWI death. Though a better idea would be no DWIs at all.

A body which advises legislators on child safety has recommended that all North Carolina drunk drivers be required to use ignition interlocks. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Currently repeat DUI offenders, and first offenders whose alcohol level is .15 or above, are required to use interlock devices. The Child Fatality Task Force voted to support a bill mandating the devices for all offenders with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more.

North Carolina is playing catch-up in this regard. Currently 30 states have all-offender ignition interlock laws, and several states have similar bills moving through their legislatures.

About 400 North Carolinians die each year as a result of alcohol-related road crash. Ignition interlocks are known to reduce the number of DUI deaths, because repeat offenders are kept from starting their vehicle. As a result, many intoxicated people are kept off the roads. In a recent report Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) noted that ignition interlocks have prevented well over 2 million incidences of drunk driving.

The Evidence Mounts

There is more evidence that the devices work – evidence that backs the Child Fatality Task Force’s conclusion.

Month by month, the evidence mounts, and experts weigh in. It’s hard to avoid their conclusion: all states – North Carolina included – should be saving more lives by requiring all drunk drivers to use ignition interlock devices.

If you’re in North Carolina, now is a great time to contact your legislators and add your voice the the others who are demanding safer roads in the state.

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