The NFL Has a DUI Problem

First, let’s figure out what these people have in common:

  • Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff
  • Tennessee Titans tight end Brandon Bardenpolice-and-NFL
  • Free agent wide receiver Titus Young
  • Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson
  • Arizona Cardinals tight end D.C. Jefferson
  • San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith
  • San Francisco 49ers cornerback Eric Wright
  • New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard
  • Buffalo Bills fullback Evan Rodriguez
  • New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Morgan
  • Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman Quentin Saulsberry
  • Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Armonty Bryant
  • St Louis Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson
  • San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Al Netter
  • Chicago Bears defensive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff

If you’re thinking superior agility, quick reflexes, strength and athletic prowess, you would be correct. But something else is relevant here: the gentlemen named above were also arrested in 2013 on suspicion of DUI.

The compilers of the NFL Arrests Database, the San Diego Union-Tribune, note that the list might not even be complete, as their information depends on media coverage. But the sheer size of the list (and there have been more arrests this year) points up a problem the NFL are trying to deal with: the number of its star employees who drink and drive. That number is severely out of proportion, and out of control.

At present, a player responsible for a DUI is fined two game checks, i.e. plays two games for free. The word from Pro Football Talk is that the league and the player’s union, the NFLPA, are contemplating a one-game suspension as well as a one-game fine.

The logic is that players would be less inclined to drink and drive if they knew they would be suspended, and thus hurt their team as well as their finances. Perhaps this altered punitive approach will work. But if the league really wants to prevent its members from driving while drunk, they should consider mandatory ignition interlocks for offenders, as state governments are doing in increasing numbers. Because a football player is just as dangerous as anyone else when drunk and behind the wheel.

Surprising Facts about College Age Drinking

girls partyWhat percentage of college students do you think drinks alcohol? Half? More?

In fact, about 80% of college students drink alcohol.  If that doesn’t surprise you, this might: of those, about half participate in binge drinking which, studies show, creates a wide variety of problems. Binge drinking is a major cause of alcohol-related deaths. Students who binge drink are more likely to miss out on classes and score poorly on exams.  They also report higher incidents of assault, sexual abuse, unintentional injuries as well as suicide attempts. 1,825 students between the ages of 18 and 24 die every year from alcohol-related injuries. More than 97,000 students in the same age range are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault. Nearly 700,000 students in that same age range are assaulted or attacked by another student who has been drinking.

Male students tend to drink more. While female students consume about 4 drinks per week. Male students drink more than double that amount. Indeed, students spend an average of $50 a week on alcohol. This, perhaps, isn’t surprising considering that Americans spend $90 billion on alcohol each year.

The following motion graphic tells the story:

Infographic by 12 Keys Rehab

What Police Look for When Giving DUI Tests

DUI Test image Being pulled over by a police officer can be a nerve-racking experience, especially if you have had a glass or two of wine. If you are pulled over for being suspected of driving under the influence (DUI), the breath test is merely the last step in your evaluation. You can rest assured that, from the very beginning, the officer is making careful mental notes of everything you do, starting with how you drive and how you pull over — are you driving safely or erratically? Once you are pulled over, he will be looking for various indicators of intoxication. These include:

  • Your general demeanor—polite or aggressive
  • Alcohol smell on your breath or signs of drinking in the vehicle
  • Speech mannerisms—if you slur or speak too slow or too fast
  • Red facial flush or bloodshot eyes
  • Signs of anxiety or stress
  • Poor reflexes or clumsiness

The officer may have you perform one or more field sobriety tests.  The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established three standardized sobriety tests. These are:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test. In this test, the officer will ask you to track the movement of a pen or finger with your eyes. Nystagmus is the involuntary jerking of the eye when you look to the periphery. This becomes more pronounced when you are under the influence.
  • Walk-and-Turn Test. In this test, the officer will ask you to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, in a straight line—preferably along an already existing line. The officer will look for balance issues or for not following directions.
  • One-Leg Stand Test. In this test, the officer will ask you to stand on one foot, with the other foot six inches off the ground. You will need to count out loud while you do this. The officers will again be looking for balance issues.

There are other field sobriety tests that may be administered outside of the three standard ones. These might include:

  • A finger-to-nose test
  • Reciting the alphabet or counting backward
  • Balancing while standing with your feet together, your head back and your eyes closed

The officer may ask you to take a portable breath test (PBT), in which you directed to blow twice into a breathalyzer. There will be a few minutes’ wait between tests, which determine if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the legal limit for a DUI.

The combination of the officer’s experience reading the signs, your performance on the standard tests, and the result of your breath test determine if your next stop is back home or the police station.

How to Be Arrested for DUI – Without Even Driving

You’ve had too much to drink, and you know it is inadvisable to get behind the wheel. But the bar is closing down, your designated driver failed to show up, and a taxi costs too much. So what do you do?

drunk driverYou get into your car and have a nap, hoping that you will be sober enough to drive in a couple of hours. While you are sleeping, a policeman walks up and knocks on your window. Two minutes later, you are in handcuffs.

What happened?

Something called Physical Control. The fact is, you do not have to be driving to be arrested for a DUI. You just need to be in the driver’s seat of a car and be in possession of the keys. To the law in most states, this means you are in physical control of the car, even though you are not driving. Your keys do not even have to be in the ignition.dui-ends-in-handcuffs

Generally Physical Control violations are misdemeanors, and they do carry penalties including fines and jail time, though usually not as severe as those for moving DUI violations. Physical Control is an offense worth noting, as many drinkers assume that they are abiding by the law when they sit in their cars after a night of drinking without turning on the ignition.

If you think this is a harsh law, you are not alone. Many states have “safe harbor” laws to allow for the driver’s good intentions. If you are safely off the roadway, with the keys somewhere inaccessible (such as the trunk), then courts in some states will look kindly on you.

The laws on Physical Control are just one more factor that drivers should take into consideration when they step out for a drink. It isn’t enough not to be driving while impaired – make sure you’re nowhere near your car.

Will Self-Driving Cars Finally Solve the DUI Problem?

The road ahead for automotive technology is pretty clear, at least to silicon valley types: self-driving cars are in our future. And the California DMV just brought the future one step closer by issuing a set of rules for manufacturers who want to test cars on the state’s roads.

self-driving carThat’s right. California, known for its draconian driving regulations, is about to let self-driving cars on its roads. Of course, of the long list of requirements, some are designed to keep tinkerers and garage-based startups out of the running: massive amounts of insurance, a surety bond, and proof of financial responsibility in case the car gets into an accident.

The cars must be labeled as self-driving, much like cars with student drivers. But the most important requirement is that the person in the car is a licensed and fully-capable driver who is “capable of taking over immediate physical control” of the vehicle. California is notoriously hard on drunk drivers, reckless drivers, unlicensed drivers. The state is not about to give self-driving vehicles carte blanche.

Perhaps someday this technology will be so reliable that people who have had too many drinks at a party can hop in their self-driving cars, click a “Get Me Home” button and snooze in the back seat. But it won’t happen for decades, and perhaps never. Remember, self-driving trains (automated people movers, or APMs) have been in existence since the 1960s, but they are not very common; apart from a few subway lines, they are found mostly in airports and amusement parks. Human-populated roadways, moreover, are much more complicated than rails. One needs not only to navigate the roads but fathom the intentions of other drivers, and bear liability for accidents. It’s a lot to ask of a machine.

Incidentally, one of California’s regulations states that the autonomous vehicle test driver has not been “convicted of driving or operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol” for the preceding ten years.


This Memorial Day Weekend, Police Are Eyeing the Fatal 4

The holiday weekend is wrapping up. A few days ago the Illinois State Police announced they were on the lookout for the driving practices they call the Fatal 4:


  • Speeding
  • Not wearing seat belts
  • Impaired driving
  • Distracted driving

Why those particular practices? Because they’re the ones that cause more road fatalities than any others. Road in a green forest
They’re responsible for making Memorial Day Weekend synonymous not just with remembrance and celebration but with road accidents.

And all of them are preventable with some common sense. Your common sense.

So whether you’re in Illinois or in 49 other states, you can count on police everywhere to be looking out for the Fatal 4. Please look out for them as well. And have a safe weekend.


Why are More Women Drinking and Driving?

women drinking image

Women drinking and driving is on the rise. A recent study by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has found a significant increase in DUIs among women drivers. This increase covers all ages of women, but especially women over 50 and under 30. And California is not alone. Other surveys have found similar results in Michigan, Missouri and New York.

These statistics are particularly disconcerting, especially considering that the rates of DUI arrests among men has been on the decline since 2007.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), Research shows that women start to have alcohol-related problems at lower drinking levels than men do. One reason is that, on average, women weigh less than men. In addition, alcohol resides predominantly in body water, and pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men do. So after a man and woman of the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman’s blood alcohol concentration will tend to be higher, putting her at greater risk for harm. Other biological differences, including hormones, may contribute as well.

According to Gabrielle Glaser, author of Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink—and How They can Regain Control, “By every quantitative measure, women are drinking more. They’re being charged more often with drunk driving, they’re more frequently measured with high concentrations of alcohol in their bloodstreams at the scene of car accidents, and they’re more often treated in emergency rooms for being dangerously intoxicated.”

She continues, “A national analysis of hospitalizations for alcohol overdose found that the rate of young females age eighteen to twenty-four jumped 50 percent between 1999 and 2008. In the same period, the rate for young men rose only 8 percent.”

In 2010, Gallup pollsters reported that nearly two-thirds of all American women drank regularly, a higher percentage than any other time in twenty-five years.

Women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety and depression as men, and are more likely to treat their symptoms with alcohol. Other risk factors include a history of sexual abuse and bulimia, both of which also affect more women than men.

DUI Technology – Smartphone Breathalyzers

breathometerThe increased crackdown on drunk drivers has given rise to a plethora of new mobile phone apps to help drinkers avoid being arrested. These apps come with a range of features. Some helping you measure or estimate your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) to see if it is within legal limits. Some help you find out where DUI checkpoints are being held. Some outline the laws and give you the ability to record being pulled over as well as notify a DUI attorney in the event you are arrested. Some connect you with designated driver services.

Smartphone Breathalyzers

A new breed of gadgets that you can attach to your mobile phone include actual breathalyzers. These devices take readings of your breath to determine BAC.

One smartphone breathalyzer is called the Breathometer™. This device clips into your audio jack and works in conjunction with the Breathometer app. When prompted by the app, you “take a deep breath and whistle blow for 5 seconds about an inch away from the illuminated hole.”  The device then displays your BAC level. The developers claim that the device is registered with the FDA and has undergone extensive government testing to an accuracy of ±.01% BAC. You can even share it with friends.

Similar apps include iBreath, BACtrack and Alcohoot.

Binge Drinking on the Rise

Bartender pouring strong alcoholic drink into small glasses on bOver the past few years, there has been an increase in alcohol-impaired driving. This follows a twenty year decline. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that this increase is due, at least in part, to a recent significant rise in binge drinking.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming 5 or more drinks for men and 4 or more drinks by a woman within 2 hours. Most binge drinkers do so about 4 times a month.

CDC director Thomas Frieden said that “at least 80 percent of binge drinkers are not alcohol-dependent. Yet binge drinking accounts for most deaths from alcohol.”

Binge Drinking Facts

  1. One in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about eight drinks per binge.
  2. While binge drinking is more common among young adults aged 18–34 years, binge drinkers aged 65 years and older report binge drinking more often—an average of five to six times a month.
  3. Binge drinking is more common among those with household incomes of $75,000 or more than among those with lower incomes.
  4. Approximately 92% of U.S. adults who drink excessively report binge drinking in the past 30 days.
  5. Although college students commonly binge drink, 70% of binge drinking episodes involve adults age 26 years and older.
  6. The prevalence of binge drinking among men is twice that of women.
  7. Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers.
  8. About 90% of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.
  9. More than half of the alcohol consumed by adults in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Efforts Increase to Eliminate Underage DUI

Young Driver imageUnderage DUIs are on the rise. This prompted a recent study by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). The study set out to assess teen understanding of drinking under the influence versus actual behaviors.

The survey uncovered a clear discrepancy between the what teens say and what they do. For instance, one in 10 teens surveyed about their driving behaviors responded that they never drive under the influence. At the same time they said they sometimes get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol. In addition, although 86 percent consider driving under the influence to either be extremely or very distracting, 68 percent admitted to driving after having more than three drinks. Also, 21 percent defined designated drivers as those who were “basically sober” and who, they believed, were not too impaired to drive.

Of all the teens surveyed, only 1 percent believed that driving under the influence of alcohol was acceptable. And yet 40 percent claim that alcohol has no impact on their driving. Some said it even helped.

This is a troubling finding. According to Stephen Gray Wallace, senior advisor for policy, research and education at SADD, “With teens reporting these lax definitions of what it means to be ‘under the influence,’ a zero tolerance approach is the only answer to prevent potential tragedy.” He advocates for parents and community to create an open dialog with teen drivers to ensure they understand the true stakes in these definitions.

Underage DUI Education in Action

Some schools are heeding the call for education and providing programs. In Elk Grove, California, the Laguna Creek High School was the site of a law court. This event provided teens a lesson on the consequences of drinking and driving. They witnessed an actual trial of a woman arrested for drunk driving on Super Bowl Sunday.

Hamilton High School near Chico held a similar DUI court as two defendants charged with DUIs faced real-life sentencing.  Students were clearly moved by the reality of the situation.

Still other schools use simulator programs to help students understand the physicality of alcohol impairment. The West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration (WVABCA) in partnership with State Farm and the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program created a DUI simulator. This allows students to experience difficult driving conditions under various blood alcohol content (BAC) levels. The DUI simulator has been to every high school in the state and even to numerous colleges and universities.  Over 20,000 students have participated.

San Jose has several DUI education programs including a “Crash Trailer.” This exhibit contains an automobile involved in a fatal traffic involving a drunk driver. It also provides a 2 day program called Every 15 Minutes involving a staged DUI fatal collision and mock funeral.

At Keyser High School in West Virginia, students witness a lifelike mock DUI accident staged by local first responders. The accident involves a set up involving two vehicles, one on its top, to illustrate the reality of potential dangers of drinking while driving. People portray the victims, replete with blood. The first responders even cut two of the victims out of the car.

Ford has created a new suit that simulates being drunk and can be used to train people, especially young drivers, how it feels before they try it in real life.