Dashboard warning signal in your car might stop you from driving drunk

WASHINGTON – The time spent on research by the government on safety systems that automatically stop drivers from driving their motor vehicles under the influence of an intoxicant or when they are not wearing a seat belt has been increased.

Last Thursday, officials said that they hope to decide by the end of the year how to encourage and support automakers to make some special safety systems already in certain high-end vehicles available in more vehicles. Those systems give warning to motor vehicle drivers prior to an accident that they are about to collide with another vehicle and can brake automatically to avoid an accident or make it less severe with minimum injuries and damage.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that the new and creative systems such as collision avoidance, seat belt interlocks and driver alcohol detection systems can decrease the number of traffic accidents and deaths caused by them.

As they looked forward to creating safety technologies, data showing the increase in highway fatalities since 2005 was released by the officials. In 2012, the number of road accident deaths was 33,561 and this number was 1,082 more than 2011.

David Strickland, the agency’s head told reporters in a conference call that despite the government’s best efforts, some Americans are still driving under the influence of alcohol, driving distracted and not wearing seat belts while operating a motor vehicle. He said, “These technologies are within reach. They address the top three highway safety threats. They have the potential to significantly decrease those deaths. We only need the will to act”.

The 3% rise in highway deaths may be due to last year’s unusually warm winter season that increased the motorcycle riding season. 72% of the rise occurred in the first 3 months of the year. According to the government, most of the individuals who died in the accidents were motorcyclists or pedestrians. Strickland said that the data of this year shows traffic accident fatalities may be decreasing again.

The seat belt interlocks will stop cars and trucks from being driven when the driver or a passenger is not wearing a seat belt or properly buckled in the vehicle. This could save about 3,000 people a year, according to the agency.

Strickland said that automakers prefer to install automatic systems that ensure all the passengers are belted, which is cheaper than spending money on designing the interiors of cars and trucks to ensure unbelted passengers, who get thrown around in accidents, are not injured. The safety administration is attempting to know whether the interlocks can be made tamper-proof and highly trustable.

The “driver alcohol detection system” is different from devices already required by some states for drivers taken into custody or convicted of DUI. To start a motor vehicle, drivers usually have to breathe into a tube to test their BAC level content. Detection systems like those NHTSA is researching with automakers don’t require any action from the driver other than putting his hands on the steering wheel, pressing a start button with a finger or simply breathing. The systems can check with the help of touch or air samples whether the driver’s BAC level content is above the 0.08% which is the legal limit. The idea is to include the systems as standard or optional equipment in new vehicles, even if the driver has a history of DUI or not.

The agency said, “The automatic system would be enabled every time the car is started, but unobtrusive so it would not pose an inconvenience to the non-intoxicated driver”. According to Strickland, the technology is still at least 5 years away.

Last year, 10,322 individuals died in driving under the influence accidents according to the agency. It is a 4.6% rise from 2011. Most of the drivers who died had a Blood Alcohol Content level of 0.15% or higher, almost double the legal limit for driving. The agency said, “Such technology could save thousands of these victims every year”.

Jan Withers, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said that after 6 years of declines, the rise in DUI fatalities is “alarming”. “This news is frustrating because we know what works, and we know how to stop these senseless tragedies,” she said

The collision avoidance systems focus on one of the most common types of motor vehicle accidents. One-third of all police reported last year were the accidents that began with one vehicle striking the rear end of another vehicle, the agency said. Last year motorcycle deaths were increased 7.1%, the third annual increase. Pedestrians also experienced a huge increase in deaths which is 6.4%. Most of the pedestrian fatalities occur in urban areas at night time and involve alcohol. Mostly pedestrians die when stepping into the street in the middle of the block rather than at intersections.

Credits: www.DelcoTimes.com

Patients in NJ prescribed medical marijuana resorting to buying street pot

With only 1 medical marijuana dispensary in NJ and the sky high prices of medical marijuana program in NJ, most of the patients in critical condition are resorting to street pot because they simply just cannot wait or afford to pay such a high price.

Patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma, and other terminal illness, including children cannot get the medical marijuana they are prescribed through the medical marijuana program in NJ. Most of these patients are literally dying to get some marijuana and they and their loved ones are willing to do even something illegal to save their life.

70-year-old Betty found out that she was suffering from a rare form of liver cancer which would kill her in a few months. She filled a medical marijuana prescription in New Jersey in the hope that she will be treated, but she got nowhere. There are three medical marijuana dispensaries in NJ but only one of them is operating which has a long list of patients waiting.

Patients suffering from chronic illnesses don’t feel like eating much and throw up constantly. They are also in a lot of pain most of the time, and marijuana can help such patients in giving them a life back. Betty found out that THC in marijuana, which is an active chemical, brought back her appetite and also cut down her dependency on pain medication. Her tumor also shrunk after taking the drug. Betty said, ” Without it, I’d be dead. I couldn’t eat, I was throwing up constantly. I lost 45 pounds.”

The marijuana has allowed her to get her appetite back, gain weight and become healthy. She can now have her tumor removed and can live for another 20 years.

64-year-old Suzette Roberts, another patient, would rather not break the law. Going by the rules has so far not gotten her anywhere except for $500 in doctor bills and a $200 ID card which she has yet to use. The waiting list is too long and the only licensed dispensary operating in NJ is swamped with patients.

Roberts is undergoing treatment for stage 4 breast cancer and she says that marijuana lessens her pain and increases her appetite. She also buys the drug illegally because she cannot afford to wait.

“This is a disgrace,” Roberts said. “I am upset and angry that I laid out $700 and I am not getting any answers. I am upset with the state, too, and they don’t seem to care.”

New Jersey’s first licensed marijuana dispensary, Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair started in December 2012, and in the eight months of its operation, both patients and providers have learnt that their medical marijuana program is the most expensive in the nation. 10 other states permit medical marijuana retail sales and costs include fees, doctor visits, sales tax and the price of pot. None of this is covered by insurance.

The $200 registration fee for two years is the second costliest in the nation. The state also has the third-highest sales tax at 7 percent and the steep marijuana prices add to the cost. According to a survey carried out, patients visiting Greenleaf have to pay from $440 to $560 for an ounce of marijuana. Other states are relatively less expensive, Montana providing the best bargain at $261 an ounce on average.

However, NJ medical marijuana plan is much more expensive, with a new patient starting the program paying $700 for an ID card and an ounce of marijuana. In other states, the starting cost is much lower, $300 in Colorado, $510 in Washington, D.C., $531 in Arizona, and $460 in Michigan.

Jay Lassiter of Cherry Hill, who is a registered patient and marijuana activist, said that he spent nearly $1,000 on doctor visits, state registry fees and the drug before he took his first puff. “It’s a rich man’s game,” he said.

News Source: www.NJ.com   –   www.Pix11.com

Several arrests made during Drunk Driving-Drugs Checkpoint by Lacey Police

A drunk driving and drugs checkpoint help by Lacey police from Friday 26 July 10 p.m. to Saturday 27 July 3 a.m. resulted in several arrests.

During the five-hour checkpoint, police looked for drivers showing signs of intoxication. The checkpoint was planned along Route 9 South in Forked River according to Police Chief David A. Paprota.

The checkpoint was coordinated by the Lacey Township Police in collaboration with five other law enforcement agencies. According to the chief, the checkpoint was planned in a continued effort toward inter-agency cooperation. The other law enforcement agencies included Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, Ocean County Sheriff’s Department K‐9, Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) from the Manchester Township and Jackson Township Police Departments. Officers and detectives from these agencies worked with patrol officers and DREs (Drug Recognition Experts) of the Lacey Township Police Department. Federal agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arm of the United States Department of Homeland Security were also part of the team at the checkpoint.

News Source: www.Patch.com

Attempt to lower DUI levels falls flat with states

An attempt by the Federal capital to lower DUI blood alcohol limit has fallen flat in the states. What’s even surprising is that groups like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) are not advocating for it.

The current legal limit for intoxication is 0.08 percent in most states, which has been recommended to be lowered to 0.05 percent by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). This is to reduce the number of accidents caused as a result of intoxication as drivers with a 0.08 percent alcohol level in their system are twice likely to get involved in a wreck as compared to drivers driving with a 0.05 percent blood-alcohol level.

According to The Hill, neither MADD nor the Governors Highway Safety Association is endorsing the attempt to lower the legal limit for driving.

Jonathan Adkins, deputy executive director for the governor’s safety group, in The Hill said, “We don’t see any state going to .05. This doesn’t seem to be getting any traction.”

Terri Austin, an Indiana state representative also said that the legislators will have to have a pretty compelling case for it to be approved as a law to lower the legal BAC limit. However, according to him, that doesn’t look likely.

News Source: www.WashingtonTimes.com

Study reveals that designated drivers often drink themselves

A recent study carried out reveals that a lot of designated drivers also drink themselves, hindering the effectiveness of most drunk driving campaigns.

The study was carried out in a Florida city on more than 1,000 drivers, and their breath tests were taken. These drivers also included 165 designated drivers who said they had just left a bar.

Researchers interviewed the candidates and conducted the tests six times over a period of three months.The results from the research were not encouraging at all. According to statistics, only 65% of designated drivers interviewed and tested in the study revealed a zero blood alcohol content. The remainder 35% showed some amount of alcohol present in their system from which 17% designated drivers registered BAC levels between 0.02 to 0.049 percent and 18% of them measured a blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent or higher.

According to drunk driving laws, it is illegal for anyone to drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher in most states and this legal limit may be reduced to 0.05 percent as recommended by the National Highway Transportation Safety Board.

Adam E. Barry, assistant professor of health education at the University of Florida and also the lead author for the study said, “When you look at evaluations of designated driver campaigns, they’re really ineffective. Often people choose designated drivers because they’re the ones who’ve drunk the least. The most practical recommendation is that if you drive, you shouldn’t drink at all.”

The results of the study were published in the July issue of The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. The average age of the group of people sampled in the study averaged 28 years and the ethnicity of those studied was not diverse, so the results of the study cannot be generalized to other populations.

News Source: www.NYtimes.com

Texting while driving kills more teens than drunk driving

In the United States, a new study shows that texting and talking on a cell phone while driving has now become a primary cause of death among teens in the country, killing 3,000 people a year. Drunken driving is a secondary cause with which nearly 2,700 people die every year.

The study carried out by the Cohen Children’s Medical Centre in New Hyde Park on Long Island found that the ratio of male teens who continue texting while driving is 57% in those states in which it is banned and 59% in those states in which it is not banned. According to an NBC News report, the findings of the study by Cohen Children’s Medical Centre are similar to the study published in the US by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year which found that 58% of high school seniors accepted having texted or emailed while driving during the previous month.

In charge of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center and the author of the latest study, Dr Andrew Adesman told CBS, “The reality is kids aren’t drinking seven days per week — they are carrying their phones and texting seven days per week, so you intuitively know this a more common occurrence”. He said that there is a way to cope with the dangers associated with texting while driving which is to develop those kinds of mobile phone apps that sense when a motor vehicle is in motion and prevent a cell phone from making or receiving text messages such as the Otter app.

Road safety charity IAM conducted a research using the Transport Research Laboratory’s DigiCar simulator and it published results of research last year in the UK. The results showed that using social networks while driving was more dangerous than driving under the influence of an intoxicant. This year, a survey on Smartphone use while driving from Halfords found that 57% of youngsters under the age of 25 years accepted reading text messages while driving. The results are similar to the US report’s findings. May be there are some underlying differenes such as the age groups are different and that in many US states teenagers can drive at a much earlier age than in the UK.

The company’s In-Car Technology Manager, Dave Poulter said that the survey findings “paint a disturbing picture of what is happening on the UK’s roads and the emerging trend towards using mobile phones to link with social media while driving is extremely worrying”.

Reaction on radio phone-in shows to the Cohen Children’s Medical Centre’s survey reflected a lack of surprise about the results of the survey.

A caller told WCBS 880 that “Every single day I see it, people driving along, texting, talking on their phone. They’re not supposed to do it, but they do it — kids, grown-ups, everybody does it”. A former police officer told 1010 WINS, “I’ve seen it first-hand, it does cause accidents, it’s dangerous and it’s irresponsible. A vehicle is a weapon, just as a gun or a knife, and you can kill people. You don’t deserve to have a driver’s license and that level of responsibility where you can kill people if you’re not willing to take precautions, such as not texting and driving”.

The results of the study show that people texting or talking while driving are up to 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident, according to CBS New York. It also reported that Schools including the New York Institute of Technology and Freeport High School have had students take part in driving simulations that highlight how dangerous it is to text or talk on a cell phone while driving.

Florida became the 40th of the 50 states of the USA which banned texting while driving a motor vehicle, earlier this month. One senator said to make the texting while driving laws stricter and tough laws to be imposed on offenders.

In March, fines for texting while driving offenders should be increased and there should be harsher penalties for repeat transgressors, said Senator Charles Fuschillo who represents Long Island in the New York State Senate. He also said that “It goes up to $400 but all the penalties in the world aren’t going to stop someone from being irresponsible”.

Drowsy driving worse than Drunk Driving?

Drowsy drivers mostly reach their destination safely but sometime the results are ruinous. Going home after an overtime job with tired eyes, spending all the night with a sick baby and you rest your eyes for a second on the way to dropping off your children at school can be disastrous.

The widow of a New York police officer, who died in 2011 when a suspected drowsy driver crashed into his parked cruiser, Jackie Califano said, “To this day I still hear my boys crying out, yelling for Daddy, when they were told the news. The pain we experienced is beyond description and continues to be”.

The federal statistics show that from the time span of 2000 to 2010, more than 11,000 people died due to drowsy driving. According to experts, the problem of drowsy driving cannot be solved easily by just making and implementing new laws, it is not impossible but it is very difficult to prove sleepiness while driving. It can be easily determined by the authorities if a person is driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs and how much is the person’s BAC level. The authorities can also determine if someone has been texting or talking on the cell phone while driving.

Laws that ban commercial truck and motor coach drivers from driving more than 11 hours a day and requiring 10 hours between shifts are imperfect because the drivers themselves report those hours, said the prosecutors.

Last year, a tour bus driver was proved innocent and freed from the charge of manslaughter and negligent homicide in a 2011 Bronx accident in which 15 people died. The prosecutors’ arguments that Ophadell Williams was so sleep-deprived from overtime that it affected his ability of thinking more than if he was under the influence of an intoxicant but the jury rejected the arguments.

Patrick Bruno who defended Williams in the bus accident case said, “If you are going to try and make fatigue — sleepiness — a criminal legal issue in a motor vehicle accident, you have a lot, lot more to prove”.

That decision of the jury affected a Long Island prosecutor’s decision this year to remove the negligent homicide charges against the truck driver that caused the fatal accident in which Califano’s husband died. The truck driver paid a $500 fine and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor reckless driving charge.

Maureen McCormick said that to obtain a conviction in the police officer’s death, she would have had to prove “serious blameworthiness”, “moral blameworthiness” or “dangerous speeding,” a standard she said is impossible to meet. McCormick heads the Nassau County vehicular crimes bureau. “Drowsy driving is something that generally has happened to everyone. The question is what do we do as a society when that feeling starts to come?,” said McCormick.

At the truck driver’s sentencing, McCormick read a statement for supporting Jackie Califano, Officer Michael Califano’s widow. “Michael, Christopher and Andrew now have to grow up without him. No more doing homework with his help. No more sports with him. No more family vacations. No more horsing around with dad. No dad for Father/Son Night at school. No dad at home to turn to when they need advice”. Jackie Califano was sitting in the front row of the courtroom with his 3 sons. Her sons are 16, 13 and 8 years old.

According to a member of the National Sleep Foundation board of directors and Atlanta attorney Dan Brown, the state in which the legislation related to drowsy driving is successfully passed is New Jersey but he observed that it cannot be solved by Maggie’s law because prosecutors must show that a driver had been awake for 24 consecutive hours to prove possible recklessness which is a very difficult task. The law was implemented in 2003, since then New Jersey court officials didn’t have statistics available on the number of arrests that were made due to drowsy driving and the successful prosecution. It was said by Massachusetts state Sen. Richard Moore that he considered legislation in 2002 after a constituent’s son died in a drowsy driving accident. “It’s not as easy as drunken driving; there’s not a good deal of research,” said Moore. Manager of research and communications at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Bruce Hamilton who pays attention on issuing brochures advising on the dangers and public education campaigns said, “There’s not a way to legislate against sleepiness”.

Drivers in Tennessee’s 4 biggest cities saw message boards last summer, appealing citizens not to drive while drowsy.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which was released this year shows that in the previous month, 4% of U.S. adults felt drowsy or fell asleep at least once while driving.

Different activities like eating or chewing gum, singing in a loud voice, listening radio in a high volume cannot help and are not effective but drinking 2 cups of coffee and taking a 15-to-20-minute nap can refresh some drivers for a short period of time, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. A National Transportation Safety Board member, Mark Rosekind said drowsy driving is a big problem and to solve it, cultural change is needed. “For some reason people in our culture think it’s OK to lose sleep and get behind the wheel. It’s just as bad as drinking and driving. As far as public awareness, drowsy driving is in the dark ages compared to that, but it’s just as dangerous. The issue has been around for a while and we need to get the word out. Clearly it has not penetrated our culture,” said Rosekind.

NTSB recommends lowering BAC level to 0.05 from 0.08

The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended to decrease the BAC level allowed for driving. Presently, in all 50 states, the legal driving limit of BAC is 0.08 percent. If police finds any person driving under the influence of alcohol with a BAC level equal to 0.08% or above, then the offender is arrested and charged for it. The National Transportation Safety Board recommends lowering the BAC level from 0.08% to 0.05%.

According to the NTSB, almost 10,000 people die in accidents in which alcohol is involved and nearly 170,000 are injured every year. 30 years back, 20,000 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, so that’s a big improvement. Alcohol and drunk driving are a threat to public safety and to the lives of people on the roads. Different studies show that approximately four million people accept to driving while intoxicated.

The restaurant trade groups criticized the recommendation.

Managing director of the American Beverage Institute, Sarah Longwell said, “This recommendation is ludicrous. Moving from 0.08 to 0.05 would criminalize perfectly responsible behavior. Further restricting the moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults prior to driving does nothing to stop hardcore drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel”.

United States, Canada and Iraq are some countries that have set the BAC level at .08% while most countries in Europe, including Russia, most of South America and Australia, have set BAC levels at .05%. When Australia decreased its BAC level from .08% to .05%, provinces reported a 5-18 %decrease in traffic accidents and deaths caused by drunk driving.

It is reported by NTSB that when any person has BAC level of 0.05%, he/she begins having difficulties with depth perception and other visual functions while with a BAC level of 0.07% or more, cognitive abilities become impaired. With a BAC level of 0.05%, the risk of having an accident increases by 39% and at 0.08% BAC, the risk of having an accident increases by more than 100%.

The NTSB believes that if all 50 states changed their standard BAC legal limit to .05, approximately 1,000 lives can be saved every year. It is also a struggle to help bring down the death rates on the road in America.

The last time when BAC level was decreased from .10% to .08%, it took 21 years for each state to implement.

The National Transportation Safety Board is an investigative agency and it is up to individual states whether to accept the NTSB’s recommendation. It has no legal authority to order any change in state or federal law.

News Source: www.NBCnews.com

Drunken Man Allegedly Assaults Police Officers Who Gave Him Ride Home

Mount Laurel Police reported the arrest of a Township man, Gary F. Piserchia, 56 for resisting arrest and assaulting police officers.

Police say they were alerted by a report of an intoxicated and disorderly person on Route 73 near Lukoil gas station. When the officers responded, they found Piserchia under the influence of alcohol.

The officers gave him a ride back to his house, but apparently he wasn’t particularly grateful. Once they arrived at his residence, the officers say he became disorderly, resisted arrest and assaulted the officers while he was being taken into custody. No officers were injured.

Piserchia was committed to Burlington County Jail in lieu of $12,000 bail. He was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest and driving while intoxicated.

The US Supreme Court rejects routine no-warrant DUI blood tests

WASHINGTON – The US Supreme Court has ruled that police officers must try to get a warrant before taking blood samples from suspects charged with drunk driving.

The ruling was issued for Missouri v. McNeely, 11-1425, in which the justices sided with a Missouri man who was forced to submit to blood testing without a warrant. The case came from Cape Girardeau County, where, on Oct. 3, 2010, Missouri State Highway Patrol Cpl. Mark Winder pulled over Tyler McNeely. McNeely, had slurred speech, the odor alcohol on his breath, and failed field sobriety tests.  Moreover, he twice refused to take a breath test.  Blood tests revealed he had nearly twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood.

Writing for the court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that the natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood is generally not sufficient reason to remove the requirement that police get a judge’s approval before drawing a blood sample.

Missouri and the Federal government had asked the court to endorse a blanket rule that would have allowed the tests without a warrant.

Eight of the nine justices rejected this argument. Only Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with Missouri and the U.S. government that the metabolization of alcohol in the blood created the kind of emergency that does not require a warrant.

Justice Sotomayor wrote, “such emergencies must be determined by the circumstances in a case-by-case examination and rejected the notion that officers face a “now or never” situation in obtaining blood-alcohol tests.”

“In those drunk-driving investigations where police officers can reasonably obtain a warrant before a blood sample can be drawn without significantly undermining the efficacy of the search, the Fourth Amendment mandates that they do so,” Sotomayor wrote.

Chief Justice John Roberts agreed with the outcome of the case, which affirmed a decision from the Missouri Supreme Court, but criticized the vagueness of the majority’s test as not offering much guidance about when police may dispense with a warrant. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in a separate opinion, stated a later case may give the Court the opportunity to comment more on that subject.