Walk Like MADD Tampa Friday Evening: 11 Years of the Good Fight

Tampa-walk-like-maddThe army that battles drunk driving has many outposts. One of the most stalwart of them is the Tampa, Florida branch of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). This Friday evening, 23 March, the office will hold the 11th annual Tampa Walk Like MADD, one of the oldest and longest-running MADD walking events in the nation.

The walk will take place on the main campus of the University of South Florida in Tampa. Participants are encouraged to obtain sponsorship from employers, friends, and family members to raise money for MADD’s activities. Companies can create teams, and other sponsors generously donate to the cause.

The funds go to further MADD’s goals:

  • Raise awareness of impaired driving and its costs to society
  • Promoting more effective anti-drunk driving legislation, including ignition interlock laws and high-visibility law enforcement
  • Helping victims cope with the effects of drunk driving crashes

This year’s event is presented by Burnetti PA, and the event’s honorary chairman is Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.  Sheriff Chronister, who oversees one of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies, is dedicated to eradicating impaired driving.

Larry-Morrell-walk-like-madd

Hillsborough Sheriff’s Deputy Larry Morrell

The 2018 Tampa Walk Like MADD is dedicated to Hillsborough Sheriff’s Deputy Larry Morrell, who died of cancer last summer. A MADD supporter and a larger-than-life character, Larry worked on the DUI enforcement unit, taking a unique approach to educating students about drinking, and also schooling bartenders and store clerks in not selling to underage and impaired patrons. MADD named him Florida Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in 2016.  The award is now called the “Deputy Larry Morrell Law Enforcement Officer of the Year”.

Law enforcement officers will be walking to show their support for MADD’s Campaign to End Drunk Driving. There will also be victims’ families and friends, and many well-wishers and those who simply see drunk driving as a serious problem that needs eradication.

“MADD is needed. MADD is necessary. MADD is relevant,” says Larry Coggins, Jr, Executive Director of the West Central Florida branch of MADD. “ MADD has singlehandedly changed the American culture to recognize that drunk driving is unacceptable, 100% preventable, and is a violent crime.”

Since its inception MADD has helped reduce drunk fatalities from 25,000 per year to just over 10,000, but Coggins sees the success as incomplete until that number is zero. That is the reason for the 11th Annual Tampa Walk Like MADD.  If you’re in or near Tampa and you think No More Victims is a goal worth pursuing, you know where to be this Friday evening.

Tampa Walk Like MADD
Where: University of South Florida
Registration: 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Walk: 6:30pm – 8pm

More information about the event can be found here.

Cops: When Truck Hits House, “The House is Rarely At Fault”

Some collisions are hard to figure out. Others seem to scream out the cause. That’s the case with a truck that was recently found inserted into the side of a house in Moses Lake, Washington. Anyone looking at the scene would immediately conclude: drunk driver.

And that’s the correct conclusion. The driver was arrested for DUI last week. Fortunately, no one was injured, though the house and the truck will need a lot of repair.

truck-hits-house

Image: Moses Lake Police Dept. Facebook Page

The Moses Lake Police Department documented the incident with a bit of dry humor on their Facebook page, noting, “In our experience with these situations, the house is rarely at fault.”

So the driver, and not the house, will have to face the consequences of a Washington DUI, which includes an ignition interlock requirement, even for a first offense.  There is a minimum fine of $940, which could go as high as $5,000, as well as probation. If this is not the driver’s first offense, the penalties go much higher.

Amusing as the Facebook comment is, let’s remember that if the house is rarely at fault, neither are the people inside the house. They might have been severely injured or killed if the pickup had been going faster. It’s sad to note, but you might not even be safe from drunk drivers inside your own home.

A Millionaire’s Blood Feud with Florida Court Ends in Defeat

blood-test-for-alcoholA millionaire who is now in prison for DUI manslaughter recently tried to challenge Florida’s methods of collecting and testing blood for alcohol levels. It did not go well for him.

John Goodman, who was convicted in 2014 for DUI manslaughter, is serving a 16-year prison sentence. His lawyers recently challenged the rule that forced him to give a blood sample after the crash.

The defendant’s attorneys argued that people who were tested had no opportunity to ensure that the blood samples were collected in a reliable way. There are no guidelines for the type of needle that is used, for example.

The argument didn’t wash. The Florida Supreme court found that only medical experts collect blood, and standard laboratory practices are already in place to ensure that testing is accurate.

Blood Test for Alcohol Levels – Reliable Evidence

Breath tests give a good indication of a suspect’s intoxication, but a blood test for alcohol gives a 100 percent accurate and therefore uncontestable result. That is why blood tests are sought after by the prosecution (and the defense, when they are confident that a suspect was not impaired).

Calling the accuracy of blood tests into question might have endangered many cases that rely on them for evidence. But that is not going to happen anytime soon. Blood tests for alcohol levels remain a vital element of DUI prosecutions in Florida and elsewhere.

What Good Is a Designated Driver Who Drinks?

designated-driverThere is only one rule that a designated driver has to follow, but it’s a crucial one: do not drink. You’d think that it would be obvious, but a surprising number of so-called designated drivers end up in handcuffs.

It happened recently in Riverside, California. A police officer saw a Volkswagen doing 57 in a 30 mph zone. As it turned out, the speeder was also a drinker, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .182, more than twice the legal limit. As per the law, his car was impounded.

The driver had been the designated driver for his 3 passengers. Why did he drink?

One possible explanation is that he thought that a designated driver meant someone who drank less than his passengers. This is a common mistake. In fact, to be worthy of the name, a designated driver should stay off the booze entirely.

Perhaps he had “just one drink,” and the diminished judgement from that led to a second drink. That’s the procession that leads to a DUI.

When you agree to be a designated driver and you drink, you’re not just letting down your friends – you’re endangering them. If you’ve agreed to do the job for the evening, take it as a matter of trust. Do the right thing and stick with soft drinks. You’ll wake up the next day still having friends, your freedom – and your vehicle.

Scary: Florida Man Drove Child to School While Drunk

florida-dui-child-endangerment

The man was driving recklessly enough that the 911 line was swamped with calls. They were telling the operators that a man was running off the road, that he almost hit other cars head on.

One caller had an even more chilling report: there was a child in the car, and the boy was afraid.

As it turned out, the driver managed to drop the child off at a Fruitland Park school, and then stopped and fell asleep at the wheel. That might have been the end of the danger, but there was one more scare left in the man. When officers tapped on the window glass, the man woke up, stepped on the gas and drove into a fence.

There’s lots to terrify anyone here. Possible head-on collisions. An unexpected charge into a fence  – what if someone had been in front of the car then? And worst of all, the presence of a child.

The driver, Christopher Beauchemin, was found to have a blood alcohol level of .233, about three times the legal .08 limit. That is a massively debilitating amount of alcohol, rendering a person totally incapable of piloting a car. At that level vision is impaired, and concentration is so poor that a car will continually veer off the road as the driver’s attention waivers.

Is Florida Tough Enough on Child Endangerment?

Driving drunk with a minor is a uniquely cruel and reckless act. Children depend on adults for security and guidance. This kind of child endangerment is a betrayal of trust as well as an overtly criminal act.

At present, Florida does indeed punish DUI offenders who are caught with minors in the vehicle. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which has rated all the states for their anti-drunk-driving measures, would like to see those punishments increase. Endangering a minor while driving impaired should be a felony, the organization says. According to MADD, only 7 states currently treat this crime as a felony. More information about the states’ ratings can be found in the 2018 Report to the Nation.

Man Gets DUI on California Freeway – On a Horse

 

California-dui-on-a-horseRecently the California Highway Patrol made one of the thousands of DUI arrests it makes each year. What was different was that the driver was on a horse at the time.

A man rode his horse onto State Route 91 in Long Beach. Upon his fairly immediate arrest  he was tested and found to be  more than twice over the legal .08 limit, with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.21.

The charge was riding a horse under the influence: RHUI?

In California, you are technically allowed to ride an animal on a highway, believe it or not. California Motor Vehicle Code 21050 says:

Every person riding or driving an animal upon a highway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.

Those duties include not obstructing traffic. Since any horse will block traffic on a fast-moving Los Angeles freeway, it’s safe to say that horses are unwelcome. Apart from that, riders must obey the rules of the road, which include signaling turns and stops, obeying signs, and of course – not being drunk. The driver in this case was in clear violation.

Hence the CHP’s tweet:

And that is as it should be. A drunk horse rider is a danger to himself and others in most circumstances, and even more on State Route 91. For that reason, the rider will face some sort of DUI-related charges.

Note: Los Angeles is one of four California counties which requires ignition interlocks – devices preventing a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking – after a DUI.

Anyone know how to put an ignition interlock on a horse?

Drive High? Yes, You Can Be Arrested For California Drunk Driving

California drunk driving It’s been a big month in California: on January 1st, marijuana became legal for recreational use. While people who enjoy using cannabis are celebrating the legalization, anti-drunk driving advocates are concerned that people don’t understand California drunk driving laws. They’d like to remind everyone that if you drive high, you’ll get a DUI.

DUI is defined as driving under the influence, and that includes driving under the influence of alcohol, opiates, and yes, marijuana. As soon as the calendar flipped over to January 1st, the state switched from preparing for legalization to preparing for a flood of high drivers to hit the roads.

To fight back against drugged driving the state has taken a few immediate steps.

Freeway signs broadcast an anti-drugged driving message

If you’re driving on the freeways in California you may have seen new messages broadcasting across the Amber Alert display signs. Certain areas have the message, “Drive high, get a DUI,” scrolling on repeat so drivers are reminded that it might be legal to smoke marijuana, but it’s not legal to drive after you do.

They’re on social media

Law enforcement like the LA County Sheriff’s office are online and sharing a hashtag via sites like Facebook and Twitter. The tag #DUIDoesntJustMeanBooze has been shared and retweeted widely, and they’d like drivers to know that any drug, including over the counter medications and prescribed medications, can impaired your driving skills.

California was the sixth state to legalize marijuana. Although the process of legalization may have been relatively easy, it’s not easy to curtail those people who don’t think that driving high is as big of a deal as driving under the influence of alcohol.

Keep in mind throughout this year and beyond that driving high is just as dangerous as driving drunk, and you can be charged with California drunk driving if you are drunk or high. If you’re planning on using marijuana or you’ve taken prescription drugs, you shouldn’t drive at all.

The Kansas House Passes Some Schizoid Drinking Bills

jekyll-and-hyde-kansas-alcohol-lawsThe Kansas House of Representatives recently passed two bills regarding alcohol. The bills might not be designed to achieve opposite goals, but that’s effectively what they’re doing.

One bill would increase penalties for habitual drunk drivers who are judged guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

The bill was passed in the wake of a tragic crash in which a 24-year-old woman, Caitlin Vogel, was killed by a repeat drunk driver who had several prior offenses. The offender, James McAllister, was sentenced to less than 10 years in prison, a fate which enraged Vogel’s family and friends. The new bill is an attempt to fix what was regarded as too-soft treatment of persistent drunk drivers who harm or kill.

The other law has the no-doubt unintended effect of increasing drunk driving. It allows restaurants to begin serving alcohol at 6 a.m. rather than 9, as is currently allowed. The reasoning is that Kansas is losing breakfast and brunch business to surrounding states.

A Jekyll-and-Hyde View of Drunk Driving

Taken together, the bills reflect a strange split-personality view of drunk driving. On the one hand, the practice of serving alcohol in restaurants at 6 a.m. does not seem to suggest an increase in drunk driving to the Kansas legislators who voted for that bill. Experts would disagree. A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine states unequivocally that “state and local governments should take appropriate steps to limit or reduce alcohol availability, including … the days and hours of alcohol sales.”  This is one of several strategies for reducing drunk driving in the US. Others include more taxes on alcohol, ignition interlocks, and a lower blood alcohol concentration limit.

On the other hand, those who actually drink and drive should be severely punished – but the bill only addresses those who are already repeat offenders and who do serious harm. This is the extreme end of the spectrum. There’s a good case for strong punishments for those who kill while driving drunk, but mainly to take such dangerous offenders off the roads. It’s doubtful that other drivers will learn of the extreme punishment of a DUI killer and decide not to have that extra beer before getting behind the wheel. In other words, the DUI manslaughter bill will probably not reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road by more than one.

Meanwhile, selling alcohol at 6 a.m. might put a few more on the road.

Kansas legislators need to read the reports by the National Academies, MADD, the NTSB, NHTSA, and other safety organizations. All of them recommend a well-administered all-offender ignition interlock program, more restricted alcohol sales, and prevention wherever possible. Boosting liquor sales and then coming down hard on DUI killers isn’t a strategy that works.

When Will The US Finally End Drunk Driving?

end drunk driving Drunk driving has been a problem for as long as cars have been on the road, but no one managed to get a handle on it until the 1980s. That’s when Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) stepped in and brought an about face to the growing issue of drunk driving in the United States. Since that time lawmakers, law enforcement, anti-drunk driving groups, and health experts have all been pushing to end drunk driving for good.

One set of experts just released a report and recommendations that they feel will eventually end drunk driving in the United States. Put out by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the report is called, “Getting to Zero Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities.”

The three main recommendations of this report including lowering the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC), eliminating off-site alcohol sales, and passing sweeping ignition interlock reform.

Lowering the BAC in the United States

The report recommends that all states should drop their legal BAC to .05. This isn’t a new idea, because the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been asking states to lower the BAC for several years.

Utah was the first state in the US who listened to this advice, and they’ve already stepped up and become the first to officially lower their legal BAC to .05. The change isn’t due to take place until December 30th, 2018, and there has been opposition to what some see as a drastic change.

But the reasoning behind dropping the legal BAC is solid: because alcohol affects everyone differently, one person may only need one or two drinks to be legally impaired. Any amount of alcohol has the power to affect your driving skills, and lowering the BAC would mean people may really think before they drink and drive.

Removing alcohol sales from gas stations

It’s easy to buy alcohol when it’s as available as gas for your car, and when you put alcohol in a gas station, it makes it all too tempting to drink it while you’re driving. The report stated that removing alcohol from gas stations and drive-through stores would make it less likely people would drink and drive.

Ignition interlocks in all states

All states have some sort of ignition interlock law, but not all states require ignition interlocks for all offenders. The report recommends that all offenders, even first-time offenders who are arrested with a .08 BAC, are required to use the device to prevent them from driving drunk again.

There’s hope in the fact that drunk driving in the United States has decreased since the 1980s. It’s just disheartening that there’s still thousands upon thousands of people who make the choice to drive drunk every year considering the public education, strict laws, and technology like ignition interlocks to stop them. If the recommendations from this report are taken seriously and put into place by lawmakers in the USA, this could be the first glimmer of hope that they can actually end drunk driving sooner than later.

How Not to Pass a Sobriety Test: Cartwheels and Chardonnay

It happened in Florida, as many such things do: a man was found passed out at a McDonald’s drive-thru after placing an order. The relationship between drunk driving and fast-food drive-thru windows is a long and sorry one, a phenomenon which has yet to be explored.

When the police arrived, the driver, one Christopher Bidzinski, was eating his food. He stepped out of the car, stumbled, and told the cops that he was unlikely to pass a sobriety test. He was correct.

For some reason, Bidzinski decided to do a cartwheel during the procedure. The result did not help his case, especially since it was recorded on video:

The suspect admitted to drinking Chardonnay (Chardonnay, seriously?) and asked to be taken to jail.

If you’re thinking that this is the first cartwheel during a sobriety test to be captured on video, you should see this clip from Albuquerque, taken last year in a similar situation:

It’s hard to say what makes a DUI suspect want to do a cartwheel during a a sobriety test, but that’s alcohol for you. Its capacity for helping people make poor decisions is almost limitless. But that’s why drinking and driving is illegal: on the road, poor decisions and lack of coordination lead to disaster. At the roadside it’s just another dumb DUI story.

No doubt when you think about this video you’ll think about the pratfall. But had the police not stopped the driver when they did, things might have ended differently. A wrong turn in a car at night can be a serious thing indeed. We have the crash statistics to prove it.

800-499-0994