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Legal Marijuana Forcing States to Examine Impaired Driving Laws

Concern growing about the problem of smoking and driving.

by on Dec.29, 2014

An increasing number of Americans are concerned about driving while under the influence of marijuana.

How much pot can a person smoke and then drive safely? It’s a question more and more states are grappling with as the legalization of marijuana becomes more widespread.

Those states are not alone as nearly half of Americans express similar concerns and report feeling that drug-impaired drivers are a bigger problem today compared to three years ago, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

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While 85% of Americans support marijuana-impairment laws, according to its latest survey, the definition of “impairment” is a tough one to nail down when it comes to John Q. Public as well as the law enforcement community. (more…)

Feds Want Ignition Interlocks for Drunk Drivers

NHTSA chief aims to protect “sober motorists.”

by on Dec.18, 2013

A motorist uses an ignition interlock that can detect a drunk driver.

The nation’s top auto safety manager wants to ramp up the crackdown on drunk drivers, and is urging that all states begin requiring ignition interlocks for anyone convicted of a driving under the influence, even after a first-time offense.

There has been a concerted effort to keep drunks off the road in recent years, targeting what has traditionally been one of the most significant causes of fatal accidents. And the number of fatalities related to the problem has fallen from more than 21,000 annually in the early 80% — accounting for more than 50% of all road deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – to around 10,000 in recent years, a third of traffic fatalities.

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All 50 states and the District of Columbia now make use of ignition interlocks – which are designed to prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver was drinking. But the rules on who must use the devices varies.  In Michigan, for example, only those convicted of having blood-alcohol levels of 0.17, double the legal definition of driving under the influence, must use an interlock. In West Virginia, an interlock can be used for a first-time offender at a judge’s discretion.   Other states only target repeat offenders.

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New Touch Sensor Could Keep Drunks Off the Road

System could be built into a car’s start button.

by on Sep.30, 2011

A prototype system used to detect drunk drivers might eventually be small and cheap enough to be built into a car's Start button.

Imagine a sensor small enough to slip inside of your car’s Start button that could be used to keep drunk drivers off the road.

That’s the goal of a multi-million-dollar project teaming supplier Detroit automotive supplier Takata and TruTouch, of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  With help from the Automotive Coalition for Automotive Safety, or ACTS, they’re hoping to take the concept and put it into production.

Drunk driving is a scourge of the highway, and while intensive enforcement has helped drive down the numbers drivers over the legal limit are still responsible for nearly a third of all U.S. motor vehicle fatalities – about 11,000 in 2010.

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The challenge is to either convince drivers not to drink and drive or to actively prevent them from doing so.  Takata and TruTouch have come up with a device that could do just that.  Rather than awkward breathalyzers that require a user to blow into a tube, or a truly invasive blood test, their prototype system uses an infrared sensor.

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Elena Ford Given Probation in DUI Incident

by on Apr.21, 2011

Ford heir Elena Ford given probation following a drunk driving arrest in suburban Detroit.

Ford family heir and Ford Motor Co. executive Elena Ford pleaded guilty in a Michigan District Court in connection with a recent incident where she was stopped by police after running over the center median in a Detroit suburb and then found to be under the influence of alcohol.  Complicating the situation, Ford had a child in the vehicle at the time of her arrest.

The 44-year suburban Detroit resident was visibly shaken and choking back tears as a judge placed her on 24 months probation, fined her $1,518 and ordered Ford to perform 240 hours of community service.

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While under probation she will be screened for drug and alcohol use and could be jailed for up to 93 days should she not meet the terms of that probation.  Meanwhile, a second offense involving a child could result in a felony conviction and a prison sentence of up to five years.

“Being here today is something I’ve never experienced, nor will I likely experience today,” a somber Ford told the judge.  “It’s a complete embarrassment to my family –especially to my son,” she said, tears welling up, “And I can’t tell you how sorry I am this happened.

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Highway Deaths Plummet to 60-Year Low

Technology, better drunk driving enforcement play role.

by on Sep.10, 2010

Government data reveals another sharp decline in highway fatalities.

Whether you credit cracking down on drunk drivers, the use of new technology or simply better-behaved drivers, highway fatalities have fallen to a half-century low, according to newly-released government data.

Any way you look at the numbers they’re good news.  Total roadway deaths plunged 9.7%, last year, to 33,808, compared with 37,423 fatalities in 2008.  The latest figures, according to the Department of Transportation, are the lowest since 1950.  The highway death rate peaked in 1988 at 47,087.

And it’s significant to note that there were a lot fewer drivers on the road, six decades ago, clocking far fewer miles each year.  Significantly, the 2009 DoT data show the highway death rate dipped to just 1.13 per 100 million miles driven. That’s down from 1.26 in 2009.

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The news was received with a mix of optimism and caution.  Consider it a “landmark achievement,” proclaimed Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, but he went on to stress “We have a long way to travel” before achieving a goal laid out by the government – and a small but growing number of automakers – to achieve zero highway deaths.

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