IIHS Claims Marijuana Legalization Causes Crashes
It’s always nice to get a break from the endless stream of industry marketing materials about electrification, though this week’s impromptu theme still involves going green. Following news that General Motors is considering changing its drug testing policies to exclude marijuana, there has been heavy coverage of an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study claiming states that have legalized recreational use of cannabis are seeing more crashes.
But the framing seems wildly irresponsible as it fails to highlight the problem being heavily tied to individuals operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana and alcohol combined. It’s more or less what the IIHS attempted to do in 2018 with help from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). Our guess is that the duo is seeking out fresh reasons for insurance companies to raise rates in regions that have legalized pot because even their own research complicates the issue.
Tapping Into Technology: Congress Considers Terrifying New Solutions for Drunk Driving
U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rick Scott (R-FL) plan to introduce new legislation forcing automakers to install hardware that would effectively stop intoxicated individuals from operating motor vehicles by the middle of the next decade. The stated goal is to prevent the thousands of fatal crashes stemming from drunk driving each year. It’s similar to a bill introduced by House Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI), which aims to have advanced DUI prevention devices in all cars by 2024.
While it’s difficult to get bent out of shape over any system that curtails drunk driving, we’ve managed to find a way. As usual, it plays into your author’s ever-growing phobia of surveillance-focused technologies.
Supreme Court Rules Police Can Draw Blood From Drivers Without Warrant
The Supreme Court has ruled that police may order blood drawn from an unconscious person suspected of driving under the influence without a warrant. While that sounds like a possible violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches, justices in support of the practice claimed individuals consent to blood tests just by being on the road.
Their rationale? Wisconsin and a bunch of other U.S. states have laws that already make this legal and there’s a national precedent allowing for exigent circumstances. But let’s start with America’s Dairyland for some background.
Another Tesla Driver Arrested for DUI While Using Autopilot
California Highway Patrol arrested a 45-year-old man early Friday morning under the suspicion of driving under the influence while his 2017 Tesla Model S was operating in Autopilot on Highway 101.
While condemned previously for its misleading marketing, Tesla has been clearer of late that Autopilot is not self-driving. Likewise, anyone who owns one of its vehicles should be able to understand that the feature has limitations necessitating regular human involvement to complete any journey.
However, none of this has stopped individuals from abusing the driving aid. In August another motorist was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol after his Tesla collided with a fire truck. Earlier in the year, a Tesla owner passed out while behind the wheel. Fortunately, Autopilot brought the vehicle to a stop in the middle of the Oakland Bay Bridge.
Higher Risk: Study Claims States That Legalized Marijuana Have More Traffic Accidents
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute announced Thursday that auto crashes in states with legalized recreational marijuana have increased 6 percent. Both groups will be on hand at the Combating Alcohol-and Drug-Impaired Driving summit at IIHS’ Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville, Virginia to present two studies on the issue. Perfect timing, considering Canada just became the second country to legalize the substance and support for decriminalization continues to grow in the United States.
Of course, things are rarely so simple. While the IIHS and HLDI remain confident in their research, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claimed marijuana use was unlikely to contribute to traffic mishaps in any meaningful way back in 2015. And that’s just for starters. There is so much conflicting information on this issue, it’ll make your head spin harder than the most savage bong rip of your life, bro.
QOTD: The State of a Scarlet Letter?
Last week’s QOTD post about states and their respective license plates generated a few comments about a particular plate issued by the state of Ohio. In today’s question, we dive a little deeper and focus solely on this Ohio plate, which just happens to be more unique than every other license plate in use today.
It's Looking Like Virginians Won't Get a Chance to Legally Drink and Drive at Home
A bill seeking to amend Virginia’s DUI laws passed through the state Senate last month, but don’t expect the law to make it onto the books. The legislation aimed to make intoxicated driving legal if a driver performed the boozy feat on his or her own private property, with all other existing laws remaining the same.
As you might expect, this didn’t go over well with law enforcement, politicians, safety advocates, and various other concerned citizenry.
Sorry, Canadians - You'll Still Lose Your Driver's License for Being Tipsy in a Rowboat
Some might quibble over where “the limit” should be when we’re talking drunk driving — 0.05, 0.08, 0.10 — but few responsible people would argue against the need for impaired driving legislation. Until smartphones and other distracting electronic accoutrements came along, boozy drivers were the leading cause of carnage on the roads.
Now, many of us our personal vehicle to drive to the lake, the seaside, or perhaps a nearby river, where our boat, be it large or small, awaits. Maybe it’s a canoe or kayak. Maybe — because cabin cruiser dollars are hard to come by — it’s an inflatable mattress or inner tube where you can use your feet for propulsion.
Well, if you reside north of the border and were thinking of popping a few beers and paddling about in your human-powered floatation device (after hearing Canada’s recent announcement that drunk driving laws would no longer apply to unmotorized boats), think again. Special interest groups have intervened, and that law will remain on the books.
Drunk paddling? There goes your Chevrolet.
Freaky Friday: Cops Stop Lincoln Town Car With No Doors or Windshield, Axe Stuck in Roof
When Jared Price tooled through a small town on Monday in a Lincoln Town Car missing all four doors, bereft of any license plate, and with a gaping hole where the windshield was supposed to be (but equipped with an axe embedded, Excalibur style, in the roof) it’s not surprising the local sheriff’s department received a report of a “suspicious vehicle.”
Georgia Police Occasionally Placing Innocent People in Jail for 'Drugged Driving'
It’s estimated that roughly 28 people are killed every day as a result of drivers intoxicated on alcohol. In 2015, 10,265 people died in alcohol-related incidents, accounting for nearly one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities within the United States. However, the Department of Transportation shows the number of deaths associated with drunk driving trending downward since 2007. Likewise, the number of annual self-reported alcohol-impaired driving episodes recorded by the CDC have diminished to record lows in that same timeframe — and so have arrests.
Law enforcement likely played an important role. Police departments take drunk driving seriously and decades of aggressive actions have made the risks involved less than appetizing to even those whose judgement is clouded by booze. But as alcohol-related arrests have plummeted, drug-related arrests have gone up.
While much of this can be attributed to drunk drivers who decided to double-down with marijuana, drugs are estimated to be a factor in 16 percent of motor vehicle crashes where alcohol isn’t present. This has resulted in some police departments implementing special task forces designated to identify and arrest “drugged drivers.” But there is a problem — officers in Georgia have been arresting innocent people.
Tennessee Tug-of-War: State Could Lose $60 Million in Federal Funding Over DUI Law
State lawmakers in Tennessee weren’t expecting to have the financial rug pulled out from under them when they passed a new DUI law earlier this year.
The law, which boosts penalties for younger drivers caught with alcohol in their bloodstream, is in violation of federal standards. Now, the state is scrambling to stop the loss of $60 million in federal road funding.
Denver Police Know How To Catch Stoned Drivers, Feds Want To Learn More
The joke that spotting a high driver is as easy as looking for the car safely going 7 mph on the interstate isn’t entirely accurate, according to Denver police.
“You’d be wrong. We’ll see the same levels of intoxication between someone who’s been using alcohol and someone who is on drugs,” Denver police Captain Mark Chuck said Wednesday. “There’s virtually no difference.”
Spotting those signs of impairment could become very important as federal regulators devote resources to developing nationwide standards and training tools for law enforcement. The recently signed federal highway funding bill, dubbed Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, directs the Transportation Department to study how to spot marijuana-impaired drivers as more states legalize the drug.
How Stoned is Too Stoned to Drive? The Feds Want To Know
Puff, puff, pass that bill. Federal authorities want to know how stoned is too stoned for drivers, according to a provision in the recently signed Federal Highways Bill.
The new law directs U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to study the effects of marijuana on drivers and present those findings to Congress by the end of 2016.
As more states legalize marijuana — Oregon and Alaska joined Washington and Colorado with legal pot, and 12 states have decriminalized possession — Congress asked the department to determine how to train police to spot stoned drivers and how to test them.
According to a Gallup Poll this year, 47 percent of American surveyed said they thought marijuana would make the roads less safe in states with legalized cannabis.
Arrested for DUI, Woman's Probation Becomes Nightmare
Over the weekend, the New York Times detailed the story of a black woman in Baltimore who, 18 months after being arrested for driving with a blood-alcohol level of .09, has endured more than a year of unusually stiff penalties and harsh treatment.
The story highlights the tale of 40-year-old Donyelle Hall who had a clean criminal record before her arrest on Christmas Day 2013 for drunken driving. After her arrest, the woman was forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in attorney and court costs, spend more than a month in jail and lost her job. Monthly probation costs for the woman were $385 a month alone.
"I Really Do Think This Is Going To Be The DUI Of The Future"
I am utterly convinced that our descendants will look on the aggressive prosecution of “distracted driving” the way hipster kids today look at the “Reefer Madness” scare of the Thirties. As police departments across the nation weigh the relative rates at which smartphone owners and career drunk drivers pay their court fines in a timely fashion (hint: it’s heavily weighed in favor of the former category), the shrill call to take additional action against people holding phones for any reason including navigation will reach a fever pitch not seen among American law enforcement since an idiot named Jack Anderson told them the Glock 17 could sneak through a metal detector. A claim, by the way, that Rachel Maddow repeated a few years ago, presumably because Maddow is either a deliberate liar or an unknowing dupe.
American drivers with more than a few days’ experience will note that the police tend to choose their speedtrap locations not by the risk that speeding in a given location poses to public safety but rather by ease of access and proximity to well-heeled drivers who are likely to quickly pay their tickets. In my hometown of Columbus, for example, speed enforcement on Route 315, which runs from the wealthy suburbs to the downtown offices, is constant and vigilant. Speed enforcement on Route 71, which runs parallel through the city but has exits leading to the ghetto and the truck stops instead of the ‘burbs, is nonexistent with the exception of the short stretch that connects the outerbelt to the upscale mall. As a consequence, Route 315 is an orderly low-speed commuter parade every day and Route 71 looks like a scene from Mad Max: Fury Road.
This cash-directed approach to safety has reached a new nadir, however, with a distracted-driving program that targets drivers who are incapable of doing any harm whatsoever.