See a simulation of how alcohol impairs your coordination by @JillCiminillo

This is a video taken of Chicago-based car reviewer Jill Ciminillo of Auto Matters attempting to perform the “walk and turn test” while wearing an alcohol impairment simulation suit.

The suit was designed by Ford Motor Corporation to show how alcohol impairs your motor skills and coordination. Ford has been taking the suit to high schools across the country to demonstrate to teens how alcohol impacts their ability to drive safely.

In the video, Jill wears goggles which blurs her vision, headphones which impairs her hearing to and wears unbalanced body weights which make her wobbly and uncoordinated.

You can try it yourself by going to the Ford Motors Display at the Chicago Auto Show.

Read more about the impairment suit here.  You can get information about the Ford Driving Skills Academy here.

Follow Jill on Twitter at @JillCiminillo

DUI arrests in the Chicago suburbs have dropped in half since 2007

Four years ago, I had a post entitled “Why are DUIs becoming less Frequent?”  I gave five reasons, which I will copy here:

1. The penalties for committing a DUI have gone way up; this includes vehicle forfeitures, fines 2-3 times what they were, mandatory breath ignition interlock devices, mandatory minimum sentencing and expanded eligibility for felony classification. These tough new laws have been heavily advertised.
2. Public attitudes against drunk driving continue a thirty year trend towards less and less acceptance. When is the last time that you saw a “comic drunk” in a movie or tv show?
3. Less people are going out to drink due to the economy and smoking bans. People may also be more risk-averse in these bad economic times and more unwilling to chance the financial, legal and professional costs of a DUI.
4. Less traffic stops due to less police officers on the street and the expanded use of red light and speeding cameras instead of police for traffic enforcement.
5. In Chicago, many of our top DUI officers are no longer on patrol, as many of them were caught exaggerating or making up facts. Other officers have been on an unofficial work stoppage in misplaced solidarity with these officers.

DUIs continue to drop.  According to this Daily Herald story, DUI arrests in the Chicago suburbs have dropped to nearly half of what they were back in 2007.  Jake Griffin reports that:

The number of drunken driving arrests is dropping sharply across the suburbs, although local police say they’re spending as much time on enforcement as ever.

The number of crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers also decreased sharply five years ago and have held steady ever since.

Does that mean the war on drunken driving is being won? And if so, should some of the funds being spent on those efforts be shifted elsewhere? The various camps involved in the issue — law enforcement, lawyers and awareness groups — have differing views.

DUI arrest totals last year in 79 suburbs were about half what they were in 2007, despite only a small drop in police staffing. There were 6,955 arrests last year, compared to 12,166 in 2007, according to annual state-funded surveys compiled by the Schaumburg-based Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists.

Meanwhile, those same suburbs in six counties reported 1,555 crashes involving alcohol-impaired driving in 2007, according to Illinois Department of Transportation crash reports. By 2009, that number was down to 1,012 alcohol-impaired crashes, and it has hovered near that mark ever since, with 1,065 crashes in 2014, the reports show.

Whatever the reason, this is a positive trend, and lets hope that it continues.

Will new car tech put an end to drunk driving?

I have been hearing for years about how automakers have been working on new technology to eliminate drunk driving.  In my opinion, they will need a federal regulation mandating this technology if they want to make this universal.  Otherwise, too many people will not want to pay more money for a feature that gives them less freedom.

From new technology could put an end to drunk driving:

A technological breakthrough that could virtually eliminate the drunken driving that kills 10,000 Americans each year was announced Thursday by federal officials, who said it could begin appearing in cars in five years.

The new equipment won’t require a driver to blow into a tube, like the interlock devices some states require after drunken-driving convictions. Instead, either a passive set of breath sensors or touch-sensitive contact points on a starter button or gear shift would immediately register the level of alcohol in the bloodstream.

Drivers who registered above the legal limit wouldn’t be able to start the car.

“The message today is not ‘Can we do this?’ but ‘How soon can we do this?’ ” said Mark Rosekind, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). “It is a huge step forward.”

Eager to introduce an advance that would rival seat belts or air bags in saving lives, Rosekind said he would push to get the technology finalized, field tested and put into use before the five to eight years anticipated by researchers.

Though no cost-per-car estimate has been made, once the sensors go into general production it’s anticipated the cost will be equal to that of seat belts or air bags, about $150-$200 per vehicle.

Asked whether there would be a federal effort to mandate use of the devices in all new vehicles, Rosekind said he wasn’t sure that would be necessary.

“There’s not going to be a parent who isn’t going to want this in their child’s car,” he said. “There’s not going to be a business that’s not going to want this in their vehicles.”

NHTSA, safety advocates and automakers discussed whether the necessary technology was feasible for years. Researchers funded by auto manufacturers and federal safety regulators now have determined that it works.

They have developed passive sensors that detect how much a driver has had to drink, but are working on how best to package the sensors inside a vehicle. They have determined how to package touch-sensitive devices but still need to refine the technology to ensure accuracy…
The American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade association, opposes the alcohol detection system.

“Today, NHTSA, MADD, and major auto makers presented what they claim will be a voluntary system … a description that directly contradicts their own past statements,” the organization said in a statement.

Though Rosekind said he didn’t think it would be necessary to make the system mandatory, he did not preclude that option. MADD is unambiguous in its belief that the system belongs in all vehicles.

Read the full story here:

Feds release flawed report stating that drunk driving is down, drugged driving is up

First, here is the key quote from a story in today’s Chicago Tribune:

There are fewer drunk drivers on the road, but their place has been taken by people high on marijuana and prescription drugs, according to two reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The number of inebriated drivers has declined by almost a third since 2007, but in a 2014 survey nearly 1 in 4 on the road tested positive for a drug that endangered them or others, NHTSA said.

“The latest roadside survey raises significant questions about drug use and highway safety,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said. “The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes.”

The survey is a voluntary, anonymous effort to collect information from regions across the country. Road signs tell drivers that a data-collection site is ahead of them, and those who wish to participate pull over. The survey has been taken five times in the past 40 years.

The 2014 survey found that about 8 percent of people on the road on weekend nights had alcohol in their system, and slightly more than 1 percent were above the legal limit. That was 30 percent below the 2007 figure, NHTSA said, and an 80 percent drop since the first survey was taken in 1973.

But the number of people with drugs in their system was found to be on the rise. It jumped from 16.3 percent in 2007 to 20 percent of weekend nighttime drivers in 2014. Drivers with marijuana in their system soared by almost 50 percent.

So why do I say that this study is flawed?  Because it equates the mere presence of drugs in one’s system with impairment, which is untrue.  A person could smoke marijuana and test positive for it a month later.  So all this study is showing is that more people are driving around with the residue of drugs in their system, not that they are necessarily driving while impaired from narcotics.

An example of how easy it is to be wrongly accused of DUI

roadblockcheckAs I have said before, there is a common affliction that top DUI police officers have — I call it “DUI on the brain.”  What I mean by that is that these officers are on such high alert to make DUI arrests that they make all sorts of negative inferences whenever they stop a vehicle.  So if a person has bloodshot eyes, or speaks slow or walks wobbly, the officer will be convinced that this means that the person is drunk — even when told that the person has a medical condition.

And here is the latest example, from Arizona:

Jessie Thornton sleeps during the day and runs errands and works out during the night.

“My wife, she’s an ER nurse and works three 12-hour shifts, so I adjusted my schedule to be like her schedule,” said Thornton.

The 64-year-old retired firefighter moved to a retirement community in Surprise, Ariz., from Ohio.

Thornton says his late hours have put him in the police spotlight.

“I’ve been stopped 10 times in Surprise and given four tickets, it’s amazing,” said Thornton.

His latest incident with Surprise police officers prompted Thornton to hire a lawyer with plans to sue the department.

Around 11 p.m. Thornton was pulled over for crossing the white line in his lane, according to Surprise Police Department paperwork.

“(The officer) walked up and he said ‘I can tell you’re driving DUI by looking in your eyes,'” said Thornton.

The 64-year-old says his eyes could have been red because he had just left LA Fitness where he was in the pool swimming.

“I take my glasses off and he says, ‘You’ve got bloodshot eyes.’ I said, ‘I’ve been swimming at LA Fitness,’ and he says, ‘I think you’re DUI,‘” said Thornton. “(The officer) goes, ‘Well we’re going to do a sobriety test.’ I said, ‘OK, but I got bad knees and a bad hip with surgery in two days.'”

Medical documents show Thornton was scheduled to have hip replacement surgery two days after the incident.

According to the police report, the officer notes that Thornton does have a hip and knee problem.

Thornton said two other officers arrived and he conducted the sobriety test.

“At one point, one of the officers shined the light in my eye and said, ‘Oh, sorry,’ and asked the other officer if he was doing it right,” said Thornton.

Thornton said he was then placed in handcuffs and told to sit on the curb.

“I couldn’t even sit on the ground like that and they knew it and I was like laying on the ground, then they put me in the back of an SUV and when I asked the officer to move her seat up ’cause my hip hurt she told me to stop whining,” said Thornton.

According to documents provided to KSHB Scripps affiliate ABC15 from the City of Surprise, Thornton was taken to police headquarters where he took a breathalyzer test.

The test, according to the police documents, came back with a blood alcohol level of 0.000.

“Yes, I do the breathalyzer and it comes back zero, zero, zero,” said Thornton.

While in custody, a “DRE” or drug recognition expert was called to test Thornton.

“After he did all the tests, he says, ‘I would never have arrested you, you show no signs of impairment,'” said Thornton.

The Surprise resident is right. The police documents show the drug recognition officer wrote, “I conducted an evaluation of (Thornton), in my opinion (Thornton) was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

According the documents from the Surprise Police Department, the blood analysis showed no drugs were detected in Thornton’s blood.

Thornton’s car had been impounded and the MVD notified of the DUI charge.

“I then get this message that my license is being suspended and I have to take some sort of drinking class or something,” said Thornton.

According to the police documents, Thornton was later released to his wife.

“She was at work and had to come get me, it was a mess, I couldn’t believe it,” said Thornton. “On top of that my car was impounded on a Friday night and they said I couldn’t get it until Monday.”

Thornton now claims this wasn’t DUI.

“It was driving while black,” said Thornton.

Thornton’s attorney Marc Victor agreed, calling the incident a “DWB” or “driving while black.” Victor’s office has filed a notice of claim against the City of Surprise seeking $500,000.

“It’s not totally about the money, although I’m already out more than $5,000, that’s $5,000 that I don’t have,” said Thornton.

“This is not the way American citizens ought to be treated by officers or treated by anybody for that matter,” said Victor.

To be clear, Scripps’ affiliate station in Phoenix, Ariz., provided the Surprise Police Department an opportunity to talk about Thornton’s incident, however, due to standard policy, the department was unable to comment due to pending legal action.

The DUI charge was recently dropped, but Victor’s office claims it’s not enough.

“Here he is being harassed for no other reason than the color of his skin,” said Attorney Charity Clark. “It’s frustrating that somebody had to go through this type of experience, they poke and prod him and arrest him for nothing.”

Thornton said his daughter, who is in law enforcement, has filed an official complaint with the city of Surprise.

“Listen, I was a firefighter and firefighters work hand in hand with police officers, I have nothing against police officers, this just wasn’t right,” his daughter said.

As for Thornton’s hip, medical documents show he did have hip replacement surgery days after the arrest.

“I just don’t want any of this to happen to somebody else,” said Thornton.

Dash Cam brings down another lying DUI cop

A Sacramento California police officer has plead no contest to making false reports and perjury in DUI cases, resulting in over 70 cases being overturned.  He was brought down in part by his dashboard camera.

From the local ABC affiliate:

A police officer accused of filing false DUI reports, causing the cases to be thrown out, pled no contest more than two years after he was charged.

Former Sacramento police officer Brandon Mullock, 27, was charged with four felony charges – one count of perjury, three counts of filing false police reports, Sacramento County District Attorney Office spokesperson Shelly Orio said.

Mullock resigned from the police department in August 2010.

Orio said during the investigation, the police department and the D.A.’s office found the Mullock lied about DUI suspects refusing to do field sobriety tests, staggering or slurring their speech, and suspects making incriminating statements about being drunk.

In September 2010, the district attorney had to drop 79 cases written by Mullock after discovering inaccuracies in his reports compared to what was recorded by his patrol unit video. The cases mostly involved DUIs and Mullock as the main officer/witness. Orio said 73 of the cases already had convictions, which had to be recalled and set aside.

The trial against Mullock began in May 2011. He was cited in 23 different cases, where he was charged with 33 counts of perjury and filing false reports.

Orio said as part of his agreement with the court, Mullock pled no contest to four felony counts and the judge can consider the dismissed cases when handing down his sentence.

Mullock’s sentencing is scheduled for April 19.

From the original story when this was just breaking back in 2010, also from the local ABC affiliate:

The Sacramento County district attorney’s office is investigating arrests made by a 25-year-old Sacramento police officer after discrepancies were discovered between the officer’s written reports and arrest video from his patrol car’s camera in two cases.  Those two DUI cases have now been dismissed.

Officer Brandon Mullock, who has been on administrative leave since January for brandishing a gun during an off-duty incident, has been with the Sacramento Police Department for three years. He was assigned to DUI enforcement in October 2009.

In one of the two cases,  Mullock wrote he pulled over a silver car on 16th Street in downtown Sacramento on Jan. 9, 2010, for a broken license plate light. Mullock wrote the 24-year-old driver appeared intoxicated, failed a field alcohol screening test and was uncooperative. Jan. 9, 2010 DUI arrest documents

The attorney for Alem Kajmic says the patrol car video shows Kajmic was cooperative.  Alan Donato also says the video clearly shows Mullock did not perform a test he claimed to have administered.

“As you can see, he never explains to him, follow my finger. He never admonished him. he never did the test at all,” Donato said .

The second case involved a woman, then 21, who was pulled over last November near the intersection of L and 15th streets in Sacramento.  Mullock’s police report claims the woman failed five field sobriety tests including counting and balance tests.

The woman’s attorney, Mark Sollitt provided the police report and video.  He says the video shows otherwise.

“The report says her speech was slow and thick.  You can see her speech pattern is completely normal,” said Sollitt. (The woman, who did not want to be identified, is recognizable in the video so News10 is not showing it.).

The district attorney’s office would not say how many of Mullock’s arrest reports were being checked.

The proliferation of dash cam videos, surveillance cameras and cell phone recordings have made it quite commonplace for officers to be exposed for their lying ways.  I have stories about them pretty regularly (here is a link to last month’s).  So take this as a reminder that just because someone is wearing a badge doesn’t mean that they are any more credible than anyone else.

The new prohibition; the next phase commences?

The State of New Mexico is at it again in its war against drunk drivers.  You may recall that New Mexico was the first state in the nation to require breath interlock devices for first offender drunk drivers (and that measure only passed after the state legislature considered and rejected a bill requiring interlocks for all drivers).

Now, a new proposal is making its way through the New Mexico state legislature that would require prohibit most people convicted of a DWI from purchasing alcohol.  This would be done by a special mark on their driver’s license or state ID.

The origin of the bill, according to the story, makes little sense to me:

State Representative Brian Egolf, a Democrat from Santa Fe, said he was motivated to introduce the bill after seeing a man with an interlock device in his car buy miniature bottles of whiskey and a Coke at a convenience store.

The man poured the whiskey into the Coke, blew into the interlock device and started his car. He then placed the drink in the car’s cup holder and drove off.

What’s wrong with this story?  Breath ignition interlock devices (“BAIIDs”) are typically set to prevent the vehicle from starting at 0.025 BAC (this is less than a third of the legal limit).  This means that a person could have a small amount of alcohol in his or her system and still start the motor.  In addition, from time to time, the device prompts for a new breath sample, called a “rolling re-test,” in order to keep the engine running.  So that it is not possible for a person to start up a car equipped with a BAIID, then begin to start drinking alcohol, and drive for any significant length of time.

While drunk driving is certainly a serious problem; and it is especially bad in New Mexico, this strikes me as a very draconian response, akin to using a sledgehammer when a rubber mallet is appropriate.

What do you think?

This week in police getting arrested for DUI

This has been a busy week for police officers getting arrested for DUI.  Here are the most recent stories: