NHTSA Reports Increase in DUI Arrests for Women

August 20th, 2009 Allen Trapp Posted in Current Events, Studies No Comments »

A report on DUI arrests was released on August 19th amid fanfare generated by NHTSA for their latest anti-DUI initiative. Speeches by Transportation Secretary LaHood and MADD President Laura Dean-Moody were along the lines you might expect, and there was a press release on the NHTSA website. The study is “Alcohol Impaired Drivers Involved in Fatal Crashes, by Gender and State, 2007-2008.” DOT HS 811 095.

The report indicates that between 1998 and 2007, DUI arrests for women increased almost 29%, while arrests for men dropped about 7.5%. The NHTSA study points out that the latest data shows that traffic fatalities involving women who were allegedly impaired by alcohol increased or stayed the same in 15 states, while for numbers remained the same or increased for men in 13 states. The study claims that this is significant in light of the overall 9% drop in alcohol related fatal crashes. What the NHTSA report did not emphasize is that in 40 states fatalities in “alcohol related” accidents involving women drivers actually declined or was unchanged. It only went up in 10 states. That doesn’t sound as threatening, but numbers that alarm justify NHTSA budget increases and larger grants for MADD. The overall numbers reflect a reduction in fatal wrecks involving alcohol impaired women of 1% from 2007 to 2008, so the trend apparent in the FBI data is a reduction in fatal DUI crashes last year..

CNN quoted the MADD president as blaming the increase in DUI’s among women as possibly attributable to increasing economic pressure (more women in the workforce who then drink to reduce the stress of being in the workplace) and television presentations of glamorous women who stay home and drink.

Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website
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Government says Driving Under the Influence of Drugs is Up.

July 28th, 2009 Allen Trapp Posted in Current Events, Driving under the Influence of Drugs, Studies No Comments »

     Fewer Americans are driving drunk, but roughly one in six drivers on weekend nights is driving under the influence of drugs, according to a data released Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey.  In a survey conducted in 2007, 2.2 percent of drivers had a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher, which would exceed the limit for driving while intoxicated in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the agency said in a news release.

     The first such survey, conducted in 1973, found 7.5 percent of drivers above the 0.08 limit, the release said. Other surveys were conducted in 1986 and 1996.
“I’m pleased to see that our battle against drunk driving is succeeding,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood  said in the news release.  “However, alcohol still kills 13,000 people a year on our roads and we must continue to be vigilant in our efforts to prevent drunk driving.”

     The 2007 survey was the first to also check for drug use while driving. It found that 16.3 percent of nighttime weekend drivers tested positive for drugs, according to the statement.  What the NHTSA report does not explain is what percentage of these drivers was under the influence of drugs or even impaired to the slightest degree.  The drugs used most commonly by drivers were marijuana (8.6 percent), cocaine (3.9 percent) and over-the-counter and prescription drugs (3.9 percent), it said.  The last group would include such popular medications as Xanax, Lorcet, and Valium.  “This troubling data shows us, for the first time, the scope of drugged driving in America and reinforces the need to reduce drug abuse,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

     The survey involved setting up random sites across the country to question drivers who participated voluntarily and on condition of anonymity.  In total, almost 11,000 eligible drivers entered the survey sites, with 9,413 drivers agreeing to breath-alcohol measurements, 7,719 providing oral fluid samples and 3,276 nighttime drivers submitting blood samples, the news release said.

Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website
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Roadblocks: Are Sobriety Checkpoints Effective?

August 20th, 2006 Allen Trapp Posted in Studies 1 Comment »

“Sobriety checkpoints”, better known as roadblocks, might not be reducing the number of “alcohol-related” fatalities on the nation’s highways. A recent study found that states that do not have sobriety checkpoints have a lower number of alcohol-related fatalities than states that do have them. States that do not allow roadblocks include Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

The 11 states that are not using roadblocks experienced a collective drop of 91 fewer alcohol-related fatalities in 2005 compared to 2004. The 39 states, plus the District of Columbia, that operate roadblocks saw a collective increase in alcohol-related deaths, according to the study.

Georgia is one of the states that use sobriety checkpoints. In 2004 in Georgia, there were 461 alcohol-related fatalities in the state, based on blood alcohol content level of .08 or greater, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In South Carolina for the same time period, there were 410 deaths. In 2005, those numbers changed to 463 deaths in Georgia and 396 deaths in South Carolina. In 2004 in Iowa, a non-roadblock state, there were 92 alcohol-related deaths based on a blood alcohol content level of .08 or greater. In 2005, there were 102 deaths.

In 2004 in Michigan, another non-roadblock state, there were 368 alcohol-related deaths based on a blood alcohol content level of .08 or greater. In 2005, there were 363 deaths. A reason why states that do not hold sobriety checkpoints might have fewer alcohol-related fatalities is because checkpoints are in many states highly visible by design and publicized in advance. Chronic alcohol abusers can easily avoid roadblocks, according to John Doyle, executive director of the American Beverage Institute.

“Waiting for drunk drivers to find themselves in a highly publicized roadblock is kind of like waiting for a fish to jump in your boat,” Mr. Doyle said. “(They) are too aware of where the roadblocks are.” Mr. Doyle said it is a waste of time to have 12 or more law enforcement officers standing at a roadblock when they could be out tracking down impaired drivers. Many of the people who are stopped at roadblocks haven’t been drinking.

“The people who are told that drunk driving is dangerous probably already know that,” he said. “But drunks can avoid roadblocks.”


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Bloodshot Eyes: Under the Influence of Alcohol or Allergies

August 11th, 2006 Allen Trapp Posted in PC for arrest, Studies 3 Comments »

Besides the ubiquitous “odor of alcohol,” perhaps the most common observation an officer will recite as an indicator of being under the influence of alcohol will be “bloodshot eyes.” It is very rare that we encounter a DUI case when at least these two boxes (odor of alcohol and bloodshot eyes) on the police report are not marked. When an officer relies heavily on “bloodshot eyes” as the sole basis for continuing the investigation of the driver, the case should be vigorously challenged because even NHTSA has discounted these clues as prejudicial and irrelevant to determining intoxication. NHTSA released a report in 1997 that removes “bloodshot eyes” as an indicator of impairment. The materials provide an excellent resource for cross-examination of an arresting officer. Specifically, the report states:

Finally, some cues were eliminated because they might be indicators more of social class than of alcohol impairment. For example, officers informed us that a flushed or red face might be an indication of a high BAC in some people. However, the cue also is characteristic of agricultural, oil field, and other outside work. Similarly, bloodshot eyes, while associated with alcohol consumption, also is a trait of many shift workers and people who must work more than one job, as well as those afflicted by allergies. A disheveled appearance similarly is open to subjective interpretation. We attempted to limit the recommendation to clear and objective post-stop behaviors.

Jack Stuster, U.S. Department of Transportation, NHTSA,
Final Report, The Detection of DWI at BACs Below 0.10,
DOT HS-808-654 (Sept. 1997), p. E-10

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MADD & NHTSA Cook the Numbers on DUI Fatalities

August 10th, 2006 Allen Trapp Posted in Studies No Comments »

For more than two decades NHTSA and MADD have justified the erosion of Constitutional rights and ever more severe punishment for DUI defendants by claiming there is carnage on our highways caused by drunk drivers.  Year after year they claim that there are approximately 18,000 alcohol related deaths on our highways.  Have you ever asked yourself how they arrived at their numbers?

Before MADD became a growth industry the statistics on traffic fatalities included a category for alcohol caused deaths. In order to build public (and legislative) support for roadblocks, lowered blood alcohol levels, and more severe penalties, NHTSA employed a clever slight of hand that would make a poker cheat blush.  Now we have alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Note that alcohol related does not mean caused by alcohol.

For example, if a sober driver is unfortunate enough to have a drunk run across the street in front of his car and the drunk pedestrian is killed, NHTSA would categorize the death as alcohol related.  It would certainly be alcohol related, but not in the sense that the average reader would expect.  Even if a sober driver’s car was struck by another sober designated driver’s car carrying an intoxicated friend home, NHTSA would call that an alcohol related death.  Perhaps more unbelievable is the case where an officer initially believes a driver is intoxicated but a breath or blood test shows he is not.  NHTSA still categorizes the fatality as alcohol related.  Last, if a test reveals the presence of any alcohol, the death is still regarded as alcohol related.

When the General Accounting Office (GAO) reviewed these figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the GAO reported that they raised methodological concerns calling their conclusions into question .  NHTSA’s numbers, fall short of providing conclusive evidence that .08% BAC laws were, by themselves, responsible for reductions in alcohol related fatalities.  This means that the statistics were not valid when examining alcohol-related fatalities, much less alcohol-caused deaths.

Some independent investigations have come up with numbers much different from those published by NHTSA.  The Los Angeles Times  found that only about 5,000 deaths per year involved a drunk driver causing the death of a sober driver, passenger or pedestrian.  Responsibility in DUI Laws, Inc. put the number at closer to 3,000.  Nevertheless, MADD and NHTSA continue to mislead the public to justify the passage of  increasingly punitive DUI laws.

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The Odor of Alcohol: Enough to Arrest?

August 6th, 2006 Allen Trapp Posted in Studies No Comments »

Police may not be able to detect the odor of alcohol on the breath of drivers who are pulled over for investigation, a recently reported study shows.

The odor of an alcoholic beverage on the breath of a driver is very often used by police to form the reasonable belief that the driver has alcohol in his or her body. An officer who forms this belief can demand that the driver provide a sample of breath into a PBT (portable breath testing device). A driver who registers positive on the PBT will be arrested for driving under the influence and taken for breath tests to determine the amount of alcohol in his or her system.

In a recent study, twenty experienced police officers were asked to detect the odor of an alcoholic beverage on the breath of 14 subjects who had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) ranging from .00 to .130. In the experiment the drinking subjects were hidden from view.  Only the breath from each subject was available to each police observer.

The odor of an alcoholic beverage was detected in two-thirds of the subjects for BACs below .08, and 85% of the time when BACs exceeded .08. After food consumption by the drinking subjects, the police observers were less successful in detecting the odor of alcohol. In addition, the police were unable to recognize what type of beverage was consumed and it was found that the strength of the odor as noted by police bore no correlation to BAC levels.

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