thanksgiving-drunk-driving-problemThanksgiving is considered a long weekend holiday. But it’s also the beginning of a season that is anything but festive: the DUI season. Thanksgiving drunk driving is well-known to police. And it doesn’t stop there – arrests tend to stay elevated from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.

The reasons for this increase aren’t hard to understand. Families and friends get together for Thanksgiving weekend, and then holiday celebrations start by mid-December: office parties, cocktail gatherings, social evenings. There is mulled wine, egg nog, punch, and hard cider, as well as whatever red and green cocktails a creative bartender can dream up. And then, too often, people try to drive home after drinking all that good cheer.

This is not a plea to stop enjoying Thanksgiving. Just to stop Thanksgiving drunk driving. By all means celebrate. But please have a plan in place to keep from having to get behind the wheel if you want to drink.

Line up your designated driver now. Or announce when you arrive at a party that you’re calling a taxi or rideshare home, and you want the world to know it. Your friends will be more relaxed as well, knowing that you’ve got a sober driver lined up.

“Tis the season for drunk driving. But you don’t have to be a part of it.

Happy Thanksgiving from Monitech Ignition Interlock.

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.


We’re the first to admit that having an ignition interlock takes a bit of getting used to, though the most advanced devices are designed to be accurate and easy to use. At the very least, you’re adding a new habit – the breath test – to the ritual of driving a car.

Some people wonder what happens if you’re out in traffic, and for some reason, your vehicle stalls. Will you be forced to stop and take a breath test out in the middle of an intersection, while people honk at you?

Stall Protection to the Rescue

The answer is no. If you’re using a Monitech ignition interlock, you have built-in stall protection. If you stall the device gives you two minutes to re-start the vehicle before you have to take a test. That’s plenty of time to get going again.

With a Monitech ignition interlock device, the procedure is simple. If you stall, just turn the ignition switch off and then start the car as you normally would. Even if you stalled during a test request – while the device was requesting a rolling re-test – you can still start after a stall.

Keeping You on the Road

Stall protection is an example of a feature which helps Monitech ignition interlocks do what they’re designed to do – keep you rolling. Once you’ve regained your driving privileges, an ignition interlock isn’t there to prevent you from driving – it’s there to make sure you stay on the road, safely, legally, and a hundred percent sober – every day.

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.


Charlotte NC Walk Like MADD

Yes, you can fight while you walk. You can fight drunk driving, which takes some 10,000 lives each year. You fight by helping to raise funds for programs that prevent drunk driving.

You walk by … well, by walking.

It’s happening in Charlotte, North Carolina this Saturday, November 11, 2017. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is staging the Charlotte Walk Like MADD in gorgeous Freedom Park.

All you need to do is register – online or at the event – and join the people who have come together to end drunk driving in North Carolina. You can join a team, or create one, and get friends and colleagues to sponsor you.

The funds go to support MADD’s efforts: first, fighting drunk driving by promoting more effective legislation (ignition interlocks, checkpoints, child safety laws, and other measures) and second, helping the victims of drunk driving crashes, who face a great deal of pain and adversity.

Veterans Honored, Victims Remembered

Teams with veterans participating will be given a special shout-out before the start of the event. All participants will also receive American flags to carry as they walk.

Expect to see signs reminding us of those who were lost or injured because of the actions of drunk drivers. It’s for these people that MADD has worked tirelessly since 1980 on behalf of those who share the road.

Music and Fun

A Walk Like MADD is not a solemn occasion – it’s great fun, a chance to enjoy a walk in a beautiful spot, see old friends and make some new ones, and do something positive for society while you’re at it.

T-shirts will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Music and fresh are free to all. Don’t miss this chance to enjoy a peaceful morning walk in the park – while you fight the good fight against drunk driving.  Check the MADD site for more details.

Charlotte Walk Like MADD 2017

When: Saturday, November 11, 2017

Where: Freedom Park, Charlotte, NC

Check-in: 9:00am – 9:45am

Event: 10:00am – 12:00pm

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.

halloween designated driverIt’s Halloween, your chance to be someone you can’t normally be: Wonder Woman, Deadpool, Captain America, Catwoman…go ahead, indulge your fantasy.

But consider being, at the same time, a superhero that doesn’t require a costume. You can be a Halloween designated driver at tonight’s party.

No need to buy a costume, or duct-tape one together frantically at the last minute. Just make a pact with yourself not to drink, so your friends can do so and get home safely.

If you like, give them a chance to return the favor later – Thanksgiving, New Year’s, whenever. There are plenty of occasions and your giving up alcohol for one will make life merry and safe for your friends.

Maybe there should be a costume for Halloween Designated Driver. Until then, be an unsung hero and stay off drinking – completely – for one night. Make sure your friends are safe where they should be at the end of the Halloween festivities. Even if you’re not dressed as a superhero, you’ll be one.

Think of it as a secret identity.

Happy Halloween from Monitech Ignition Interlock

super extreme DUIIn fixing drunk driving charges, most states make a distinction between run-of-the mill intoxicated and extremely drunk. The principle is that it’s worse to drive if the alcohol level is high enough to make a driver unable to control his or her vehicle at all.

Some states use “drunk” and “super drunk.” Arizona, however, has three levels of inebriation that its courts recognize:

  • DUI: Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 08 percent or above
  • Extreme DUI: Driving with a  BAC of  .15 or above
  • Super Extreme DUI: Driving with a  BAC of  .20 or above.

What a BAC of .355 Means

Recently a woman was arrested for killing a motorcyclist while speeding at more than 80 miles per hour, and being drunk at the time. Her blood alcohol level was .355, more than four times the legal limit, and more than twice the Extreme DUI level.

At that level, a person is unable to walk unassisted. They are disoriented, depressed, and usually racked with nausea. Blackouts are common – at this level alcohol poisoning is very possible.

Yet it might be possible to step on the gas and reach 100 miles per hour, as the offender did.

A super extreme DUI is fairly rare, only because most people with that much alcohol in them are not coordinated enough to drive. But when a person can get on the road with a BAC that high, the results will almost certainly be disastrous, as they were in this case.

And though the crime is not common, it makes sense for Arizona to employ the distinction, so that those who do drink such staggering amounts and drive face consequences that are more severe. Extreme DUI is truly drunk driving on a different and more lethal level.

scottsdale-know-your-limit-programThousands of people visit bars in Scottsdale, Arizona every weekend. A staggering number of them will decide to drive home drunk.

There will be some hard-core drunk drivers who haven’t yet been caught. A few newbies, too. But a lot of those drunk drivers won’t realize they’re too impaired to drive. They have a very fuzzy idea of what constitutes impairment.

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is out to rectify the latter problem. Recently the organization offered the city a $150,000 grant to help support a program called “Know Your Limit.” The idea is to enlighten  drinkers who think that they are fit to drive.

Know Your Limit: Catch Them Before They DUI

The Scottsdale Know Your Limit Program will up stations in downtown areas on weekend evenings and offers free breathalyzer tests to bar patrons. Those who are tested and found to be over the legal limit are not penalized in any way. Rather, they’re informed of their alcohol level and also of the consequences should they try to drive.

Many participants are genuinely surprised that what they consider a relatively small amount of alcohol – two or three drinks’ worth – has impaired them to the degree that they are a menace on the roads.

The officers also give out rideshare vouchers to drive home the point – if you have been drinking, find a safe way home.

The safe, non-judgmental way that Know Your Limit operates makes it popular with people who regularly go out on the town.

Arizona has done a good job pursuing its goal of eliminating drunk driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) gave it a 5-star rating in its last report, thanks to its strong ignition interlock laws, visible law enforcement, and other measures. Teaching drinkers, particularly young, inexperienced drinkers that they are more impaired than they think they are is a good way to keep the state’s DUI numbers falling. We have high hopes for the Scottsdale Know Your Limit program.

arizona-drunk-driving-crashesTrying to make sense of road safety data can be a frustrating exercise. A new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration (NHTSA), for instance, notes that road deaths in Arizona rose last year by more than 7 percent. The total number of fatalities was 962, up from 897 the year before.

Cause for distress? Certainly. But it can’t be overlooked that fatal Arizona drunk driving crashes are down. Two years ago about 30 percent of road fatalities could be chalked up to alcohol. That jibes with national numbers. But last year alcohol could only be implicated in about 24 percent of deaths on the road.

That number is in opposition to national numbers, which rose for the second year in a row.

What is Arizona Doing Right?

Some of the success in driving down drunk driving numbers is probably due to the state’s no-tolerance attitude towards DUI.

A standard (alcohol level of .08 to .14 percent BAC) first DUI will result a fine of $1,250 and up to 10 days in jail. An ignition interlock is also mandatory for all DUIs.

An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Extreme DUIs (with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 percent or greater result in greater penalties: a $2,500 fine and a month in jail. Repeat offenses require even stiffer punishments.

The Turning Point: The All-Offender Ignition Interlock Law

Arizona’s ignition interlock law is not only one of the best in the country – it’s also one of the first, having been passed in 2007. The state got serious about making its roads safer, and its citizens are still reaping the benefits.

No one can be sure that this trend – if it is a trend – is the result of laws, or some other as-yet undiscovered factor. But in general roads don’t get safer by themselves. Hard work by legislators, courts, police and public safety advocates was what brought about the state’s decline in alcohol-related road deaths.

Let’s watch the numbers and see if Arizona continues to resist the disturbing national rise in drunk driving deaths.


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