A lot of people are riding mopeds in North Carolina because they have DWIs. Since no license or insurance is required to drive a moped in the state, the scooters are a logical means of transport for someone who’s lost his or her driver’s license. The last thing you’re thinking about is the possibility of a DWI on a moped.

But it’s very possible. Just because you need no license to pilot a moped, that doesn’t mean you can drunk-drive it with impunity. A Raleigh man found this out recently.

The man was riding his moped when he fell and injured himself. Police arrived and charged him with a DWI.

No License Doesn’t Mean Drunk Driving is OK

Even though you don’t need a driver’s license to operate a moped in North Carolina, the state’s impaired driving laws still apply. License or not, a moped is considered a motor vehicle according to the statutes.

What Keeps People From Driving Drunk? Interlocks!

Substituting a moped for a car was one man’s method of dealing with license suspension. The sad fact is that most people deal with license suspension by ignoring it and driving their regular vehicles. Statistics tell us that half to three quarters of suspended drivers get behind the wheel at some point. Those that tend to drive while impaired will do so, valid license or not.

That’s why the ignition interlock was invented. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Currently 30 states mandate the devices for all drunk driving offenses, and some require the interlock from the time of arrest – not after conviction. That ensures that the offender will not be drinking and driving.

A DWI on a moped is no joke – fines, imprisonment and other penalties apply. Remember that in cases like this, it’s a repeat DWI offense. Everyone in this case would have been better off if the offender had been in his regular vehicle with an ignition interlock instead. No other measure (apart from imprisonment, which is extreme and also costly to the taxpayer) ensures that a driver will be sober while he or she is behind the wheel. North Carolina should mandate ignition interlocks for all offenders, as 30 other states already do.


If you’re confused about Arizona’s highway safety laws, we understand. Consider these two headlines:

National report card ranks Arizona among worst states for highway safety

Survey shows Arizona has the strictest DUI laws in the country

Both news items showed up within a few months of one another, so there was no landmark legislation to change the legal landscape. Certainly DUI laws are a subset of highway safety. How can a state be tops at one and at the bottom of the other? As it turns out, it’s all in how you look at the data.

Why Arizona is the Worst

Last month Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an organization dedicated to promoting laws and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, rated all the states for the strength of their laws in these categories:

  • Occupant protection
  • Child safety
  • Teen driving
  • Impaired driving
  • Distracted driving

Advocates listed 16 laws which, if adopted, would provide everyone on the road with maximum protection. As it turns out, Arizona only has four, and three of those involved impaired driving. Arizona has no motorcycle helmet law, and does not ticket drivers who don’t fasten their seat belts, or who don’t ensure that others in the vehicle fasten theirs. Arizona also lacks a good distracted driving law which prohibits texting while driving.

These deficiencies and others led Advocates to give Arizona a low rating for highway safety.

Why Arizona is the Best

It has to be said that, if one’s concern is primarily impaired driving, Arizona shines. Last August the insurance site WalletHub compared DUI laws across the country and found that Arizona had just about the least patience with drunk drivers than any other state:

  • Harshest penalties for 1st offense jail time
  • Third highest for first- and second-offense fines and second-offense jail time

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) also gives Arizona high ratings for impaired driving prevention, thanks to its laws:

  • Ignition interlocks for all DUI offenders
  • Sobriety checkpoints
  • Penalties for driving drunk with a minor
  • No refusal of sobriety tests

So how Arizona is doing depends on how wide your view of road safety is. In the world of drunk driving prevention, Arizona driving laws are a role model for other states, particularly in ignition interlock legislation, which has helped reduce dramatically alcohol-related road fatalities in that state.

In other areas of road safety, Arizona has some catching up to do. Maybe it’s time for Arizona to step up and show the country how it’s done.


Source: Scottsdale Police Department

The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has been doling out wads of cash lately. The recipients are agencies that promote highway safety in all its forms. Recently the Marana Police Department received, among others, a $15,000 grant to expand its programs that raise awareness of the effects of alcohol.

It’s called the Know Your Limit grant, after the program of that name. The program stations officers at large gatherings where people drink, such has festivals and sports events such as last year’s Phoenix Open. Passersby are asked if they know what their blood alcohol limit is. Then they’re given breathalyzer tests to see if their estimate is correct.

It rarely is, and many people find they’re over the .08 legal intoxication limit. The program can be a revelation to many drinkers who don’t realize how strong alcohol is or how impaired they actually are.

Programs like Know Your Limit are vital because people usually estimate if they are “okay to drive” based on faulty criteria. If they have only had one or two drinks, or are steady on their feet and can speak without slurring their words, they assume they’re sober enough to be on the road.

In fact, almost any amount of alcohol causes some impairment, and that impairment is very much in evidence well below the .08 threshold. If, thanks to the Know Your Limit grant, a few thousand citizens of Marana get a true picture of how alcohol affects them, and as a result some of them might they skip driving. That $15K will then translate to lives saved. Our thanks to GOHS for doing Marana a solid.


Maybe she thought it was dark, so she could get away. It’s hard to know what’s on some people’s minds when they’re intoxicated.

Not long ago a woman crashed into a power pole in Burlington, North Carolina at about 3 in the morning. The crash knocked out power in the intersection.

Sensing that she was in trouble, the driver reportedly left the scene and hid not too far away. The police arrived, looked up the owner of the vehicle, and then searched the area until they found her. She was booked for DWI as well as hit-and-run.

The question is, why would someone flee a crash scene and leave her truck, to be identified by the police? Absolutely nothing is gained by that move, and of course, the charges are compounded by the fleeing.

Judgment – You Notice When It’s Not There

The answer is in the power of alcohol to cloud judgment. Judgment comes into play in many areas of driving:

  • How fast to drive under given road conditions. This includes how much to slow down in areas where pedestrians might pop out, such as school zones and near parks
  • How much time one has to make a left turn against traffic when an oncoming vehicle approaches
  • How much distance should be left between one’s vehicle and the one in front

All of these judgments can spell the difference between a safe trip and one that ends in a collision – or worse. It’s safe to say that someone who judges that it’s a good idea to flee a crash scene is not capable of making good driving decisions. Bad judgment is one of the reasons the charge of DWI exists.

Often people who think they are “okay to drive” are considering their physical coordination after a drink or two. They’re not considering their judgment, which the alcohol would have rendered less effective. And that’s the Catch-22 of alcohol – it robs you of the ability to understand what it’s robbing you of.


Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is tireless in its efforts to get states’ drunk driving laws to conform to the highest standards of effectiveness. Recently the organization released its 2018 Report to the Nation, which rates US states on their anti-impaired driving efforts. According to MADD North Carolina is far from the worst, but there’s some work to be done.

First, the good news: North Carolina has a good system of sobriety checkpoints in place. MADD approves of them as a way of nabbing drunk drivers. The state also criminalizes the refusal of a sobriety test – another measure which takes drunk drivers off the roads.

As to the areas in which North Carolina needs to improve, here is MADD’s prescription:

  • All-offender ignition interlock law. North Carolina needs to mandate the devices, which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking, for all drunk driving offenses, and not just repeat and high blood-alcohol offenses.
  • Compliance-based removing of interlocks. Ignition interlock devices should only be remove when the offender has passed a given number of months (usually four) with no failed tests.
  • Ignition interlocks available upon arrest.
  • Felony charge for child endangerment. North Carolina does prosecute drivers who drive drunk with a child, but it’s a misdemeanor charge. According to MADD, it should be a felony, as it is in a number of states.

The recommendations that MADD has made – not just for North Carolina, but for every state – are the result of a lot of study into what measures work to reduce the number of alcohol-related road fatalities. The general trend is toward the adoption of these laws. We hope North Carolina takes MADD’s recommendation seriously and steps up its anti-DWI game soon.


You’ve probably got plans for Super Bowl Sunday, and it probably involves friends, food, and drink, as well as, of course, the Eagles-Patriots game.

Here’s something to ponder: have you thought about getting home after the game? Whether you’re attending a party, just getting together with friends, or heading down to a sports bar, if you’re drinking you’ll need a sober ride home. If you’re hosting a party, you’ll need to make sure that your friends get home safely.

Here are the elements of your Post-Super Bowl safety strategy:

  • Designate a driver now. Don’t wait until the party, and certainly don’t wait until everyone has had a beer.
  • If no one agrees to be a DD, then get yourself dropped off at wherever you’ll be watching the game. Arrange a ride for afterwards. You might get hit by surge pricing if you depend on rideshare services, so keep that in mind.

If you’re hosting the Super Bowl gathering, keep these tips in mind:

  • Ask your guests to arrange their designated drivers
  • Serve food with the drinks. This helps the alcohol get absorbed more slowly.
  • Have non-alcoholic drinks available.
  • Stop the alcohol for the last quarter. You can bring out dessert with coffee as your excuse.

If you’re the designated driver:

  • Drive carefully on Sunday. Not everyone has read these tips, so there will be some impaired drivers out there. You need to be on the defensive.

That’s it. Enjoy the game – see you next week!


Sometimes police spot drunk drivers on the road. Sometimes they stake out bars and taverns and wait for patrons to stagger into a DWI arrest. Sometimes they get called to a crash, and the driver turns out to be drunk. And of course, police in states like North Carolina man checkpoints to catch drunk drivers there.

But sometimes a drunk driver just delivers himself to the cops.

A group of Johnston County state troopers were holding their monthly meeting at a fire station when a man named Chad William Johnson walked in to drop off a job application. He immediately started shaking the troopers’ hands and thanking them for his service.

The cops notice the odor of alcohol, so one of the troopers gave Johnson a breathalyzer test, which he failed. In fact, he registered .18 BAC, more than twice the legal limit for intoxication. Since he had driven to the fire station, he was arrested for DWI and released on bond.

Was that fair? Absolutely. A driver who doesn’t notice a dozen or more patrol cars in a fire station parking lot is obviously not equipped to notice pedestrians or other unexpected road obstacles. And anyone who would drop off a job application in that condition is obviously not in possession of good judgment – another requirement for safe driving.

Most impaired drivers give cops more of a run for their money before they are caught. A good many cause damage, injury, even death, so all in all it’s fortunate that this driver was caught and taken off the road before anything happened.

And since the offender’s blood alcohol concentration was above .15, he should be getting an ignition interlock device in his vehicle, which will prevent him from starting the engine if he drinks.

No word yet as to whether he got the job.


Funny about Arizona. We’ve been patting the state on the back for a while because it’s so serious about drunk driving. The was among the first to mandate ignition interlocks for all DUI offenders, including first offenders. Arizona is tough on drunk drivers who are caught with minors in the vehicle. And they don’t put up with open containers of alcohol in cars.

So why did Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an organization which promotes better laws to save lives on the road, give Arizona road safety a failing grade?

The reason is that impaired driving, though a serious issue, is only one part of road safety. Advocates scored all 50 states on a number of criteria:

  • Occupant protection: seat belt and motorcycle helmet laws
  • Child passenger safety
  • Teen driving programs
  • Impaired driving
  • Distracted driving

While Arizona aced the impaired driving parts of the survey, they fell down on other parts. In particular:

  • No primary enforcement of seat belt laws (allowing police to stop and ticket drivers if occupants aren’t belted up
  • No mandatory motorcycle helmets
  • No mandatory child booster seat law
  • Inadequate laws for teen drivers (required number of supervised driving hours, etc.)
  • No law banning texting in vehicles or restricting phone use for new drivers

arizona-road-safetyAll of these failings put Arizona on the “Worst States” list for road safety, despite their excellent efforts on the impaired driving front. And the list is no joke – the lives those laws would have saved would number well into the hundreds.

Advocates lays out its recommendations for Arizona and all 50 states. The work clearly needs to be done. We salute Arizona for its leadership in the fight against drunk driving. Now we look forward to more lives saved as the state gets the rest of its road safety act together.


A glitch in North Carolina’s penal system is short-changing the state’s efforts to reform drunk drivers.

An article in The Marshall Project tells the story of North Carolina DWI offenders who are serving time – years – in jails that are meant for short-term stays. As a result, these offenders have no access to the facilities that prisons offer: drug and alcohol treatment, job training, and education.

Jail For DWI: How Good Intentions Fail

These offenders are in jails because North Carolina decided to reduce the state’s prison population in 2011 with the Justice Reinvestment Act. Misdemeanor offenders, including DWI offenders, were sent to jails instead of state prisons. At the same time, the state was getting tougher on drunk drivers, imposing mandatory sentences on certain DWI offenses. Both these moves had good intentions: the first was designed to reduce state spending and divert funds directly into communities. The second was to reduce drunk driving by getting tough on serious offenders.

There was a problem: as a result of these two moves, repeat DWI offenders, people with alcohol problems and other substance issues, are being sent to local jails where they get no treatment. When they are released, the chances are they will drive drunk again.

What Works: Sobriety Court Plus Ignition Interlocks

The most effective system for dealing with DWI offenders is the sobriety court/ignition interlock combination, which has been praised for the success this method has found in, for example, Michigan:

  • Offenders receive direct supervision by an officer who ensures that all aspects of the program are being followed.
  • Offenders go to regular treatment sessions and the results are shared with officers.
  • The court ensures that an ignition interlock – a device which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking – is installed on the offender’s vehicle. In non-supervised settings, a large percentage of offenders don’t comply with the interlock order.
  • The interlock ensures that an offender retains driving privileges, and can therefore get to treatment.
  • The expense of incarceration is avoided.
  • Offenders can maintain or improve their employment situation, which would not be possible without the interlock and supervision.

Naturally, jail for DWI is sometimes called for. But in cases of long-term imprisonment, offenders must have access to treatment for the issues which caused them to be there. Making people sit in a local jail, without treatment, proper exercise facilities, or opportunities for education or self-betterment, is no way to improve a social ill.

You can’t imprison your way out of an alcohol problem. Better solutions are out there, at least for some of the offenders who are now in North Carolina’s jails.


It takes a lot of things to fight impaired driving: commitment, organization, and public support. Also police officers, cars, technology and good laws.

And money. Can’t do much without money to pay for the police and technology. Fortunately, the city of Mesa, Arizona has received a shot in the arm, in the form of 6 highway safety grants from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS).

The grants, which total well over a half million dollars, are in direct support of six areas of public safety:

  • DUI Abatement: Police personnel overtime, DUI task force events, and employee-related DUI enforcement expenses
  • DUI Enforcement Overtime: Aiding contiuous DUI enforcement, including holidays
  • Traffic Enforcement Overtime: To promote back to school safety and speed enforcement
  • Accident Investigation Training: Collision reconstruction
  • Accident Investigation Releated Materials & Supplies: Computers and monitors for detectives
  • Liquid Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer: 50% funding of a device for screening blood samples for intoxicating substances

The Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety is a linchpin of the state’s highway safety efforts.  The organization promotes public awareness of highway safety issues, and funds programs to fight speeding and impaired driving, and increase seat belt use, among other activities.

Those who think that DUI enforcement is largely a matter of pulling over suspicious drivers and giving them a breath test (though that is part of it) will be surprised at how much else is involved. The GOHS is aware that the better funded anti-drunk driving efforts are, the fewer Mesa drunk drivers will end up on the road. That makes them safer for everyone. We think it’s money well spent.

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