Alcohol, cocaine and amphetamines – a deadly cocktail at any age

Kansas City Police took to Twitter @kcpolice  to announce the death of Toni Anderson, the missing woman from Wichita who was found dead in her submerged car in the Missouri River. Medical examiners reported ethanol, cocaine and amphetamine intoxication were contributing factors to the cause of death from hypothermia and drowning. She had turned 21 just last month.

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The victim had been pulled over hours before she drove into the river for driving the wrong way on a Kansas City street. In the video captured from the police officer’s dash cam, Anderson can be heard giggling and her speech slurred as she tells the officer that she wasn’t drinking. “I just feel really sick,” she said. The officer instructed Anderson to drive to the parking lot across the street to gather herself. It was not apparent whether the officer conducted any field sobriety tests or had Anderson take the breathalyzer, which would have detected the alcohol but probably not the cocaine or the amphetamines in her system. Unless the newest breathalyzer on the market was in use.

In a study published in the Journal of Breath Research, researchers tested apparatus designed to detect drugs on a person’s breath.  The device, designed in Sweden, can detect 12 different controlled substances, such as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, morphine, and marijuana. While not 100% accurate, it can supplement the current blood and urine samplings used by law enforcement to detect blood alcohol levels.

Whether or not it would be helpful for officers to have a breathalyzer test that can show more than just alcohol is not enough to stem the occurrences of lethal cocktails like the one contributing to Toni Anderson’s death. Drivers should be aware that mixing drugs with alcohol can be fatal, producing synergistic effects that multiplies the individual effect of each drug by four. For example, one beer plus one barbiturate could equal the same effect as four beers. The combination of drugs with alcohol has been the cause of many hospitalizations – and accidental deaths, as was the case for Toni Anderson.

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Watch the video of the Kansas City police officer stopping Toni Anderson for going the wrong way on a two-way street, heading into oncoming traffic

 

Pillion and Pilot

In continuing celebration of Motorcycle Safety Month, we explore the joys of doubling up in the saddle – the pillion and the pilot, two minds on one bike. By planning a motorcycle ride for two, you can expect to have the best ride possible, especially if that means sharing the ride with the special person in your life. Grab your helmets and gloves, check pegs down, let’s go!

The person holding the handlebars is usually known as the pilot. But when you add a passenger – the pillion – it is important that both know what the other person expects during the journey, not just arriving at the destination.  The pillion is not baggage, and shouldn’t be along just for the ride. The two of you should agree on a destination, a reasonably flexible time frame, rest stops, fuel stops and possible points of interest that you would like to visit along the route. Both should have an equal say in planning the ride, and both should still be enjoying each other’s company at the end of the trip.

How much trust does the pillion have in the pilot for making the right decisions for keeping them upright and on course?  After all, the pillion is turning over all control of the ride to the pilot, so trust is ultra important.  A pre-ride discussion will allow both to express interests, needs and concerns, and should encompass a review of the following:

  • Destination and Route to follow
  • Rest stops along the way where you can stretch your legs or explore new environments
  • Motorcycle safety rules you will be following, including a crash course on imitating the pilot in leans, a review of hand signals and intercom communication, and how to avoid bumping helmets when decelerating
  • Procedures for safe riding, including waiting until you are seated, kickstand is up and the pilot gives the nod to step on the peg. This includes the pillion not removing his or her boots from the pegs until the motorcycle is completely stopped and engine is off, and placing hands around the pilot’s waist – not on shoulders and not on the seat strap.

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These pre-ride discussions should take place before any ride begins, regardless of the miles traveled together. Remember, the journey is as important or more so than the destination.

Planning your trip also means carrying the right tools for the mechanical problems that can happen along the way, carrying the tools you normally use for maintenance and repairs on your bike at home. Even if you don’t do your own maintenance and repairs and your motorcycle does develop a problem, a good samaritan who knows how to use those tools may come along and get you back on the road again. Also carry a small roll of duct tape, electrical tap, zip ties, both a hand held and head mounted LED flashlight, extra batteries, various fuses, sharp knife, nitril gloves, clear safety goggles, disposable wet wipes, a flat tire repair kit and a small first aid kit. Three folding reflectors are helpful if a mechanical problem were to happen night.

Check the weather forecasts as well as road conditions along with any highway construction or hazards scheduled on your route. Dress for the weather and for the fall.

  • For the weather:  motorcycle_snow_smif cold temperatures or rain are forecast along the route, the wet and cold weather gear should be easily accessible if you anticipate riding through it. Dressing in layers is important for both comfort and safety. Knowing where your gear is packed will keep you from rummaging through the luggage or saddlebags when the thermometer plunges.
  • For the fall:
    MOTORCYCLIST_downMake sure your helmet is DOT-approved, wear abrasion-resistant textile or leather jacket, chaps or heavy denim pants, good quality over the ankle boots and full finger gloves. Boots should be broken in and comfortable for walking around, as you won’t always be sitting on the bike. Make note that fashion leather, suede or plastic boots do not provide protection from hot exhaust or asphalt in the event of a fall. Gear is the only thing that separates riders from the asphalt at high speeds that produce serious road rash.

GPS can make traveling a bit easier, but having a printout of the route will help mark the locations and telephone numbers of dealerships or repair shops along the route. Always carry a cell phone – turn off one of them to have a fresh battery.  Also, carry cash or your credit card in a handy place, like the outside zippered pocket of your jacket, to avoid having to search for your wallet.

Conduct a pre-ride maintenance of his machine – inspection the tires and correct tire pressure for the extra weight, adding preload tension to the shocks, oil, fluids and lights. If your machine has hard mounted luggage and saddlebags, take a moment to demonstrate how latches work. Also, point out the hot parts of a bike the pillion will want to avoid touching or stepping on.

Decide where you are going, how many miles you want to travel over what period of time, and how long you want to spend in the seat. Are you going on a day trip or will you be riding together over several days? You’ll want to assure the ride is comfortable enough to avoid fatigue and keep the enjoyment factor alive along the route. Maybe there are interesting places to explore along the way…… The key is to be flexible with motorcycle_couple_restingeach other and take into consideration different factors that will influence the ride: How’s the weather? What kind of machine will you be riding, and how comfortable are the seats? Are the riders older or younger – will they need more rest stops planned throughout the journey?

Fuel stops shouldn’t determine your choice of rest stops. Estimate your average mileage and then mark the location of gas stops along the way and save the rest stop for a more appealing location. A good guideline to follow: 45 minutes traveling followed by ten to 20-minute rest stops will keep the ride enjoyable. While each couple can pick the ratio of ride time to rest time, both travelers should agree to be flexible if something unexpectedly catches the other’s interest… tourist sites and taking picture-taking, shopping, eating, or even a quick nap on the grass – don’t forget your blanket! Don’t forget to remain hydrated and take in a few calories at stops to help to ward off fatigue and irritation commonly experienced on long rides.

Wired and Bluetooth communication is a nice way for couples to enjoy trips together. But unless the bike has electronic communication mechanisms, questions and answers on the road tend to be limited to one or two words. There is where pre-determined hand signals come in handy:

  • Slow down – tap on the shoulder
  • Bathroom stop – a quick squeeze to the pilot’s thigh
  • Need a drink of water – a cupped hand
  • Leg cramp – a clenched fist and slow down can be a tap to the shoulder.

If the passenger needs to stop immediately, create a signal you both will understand. A commonly-understood sign language can avoid lots of frustration and limit conversations that can distract the pilot while riding, especially when the pilot has to take eyes off the road.

 

Beverly Hills noted for something else besides A-listers

“Attempted murder” was the charge for two women in Beverly Hills for an incident described as road rage. The suspects have been identified as Jamika Marie Abair, 22, and Sarah Huerta, 19. Both are currently being held on a $2 million bail. The incident caught on tape  took place in a shopping center parking lot after an argument over littering, where the black car slammed the man into a side rail before driving off. The victim was hospitalized with critical injuries.

Another Beverly Hills road rage episode took place in 2013 was not so lucky. Sasha Gibson was killed and three occupants of her car landed in the hospital with injuries that have been termed non-life threatening when a Mercedes slammed into the unsuspecting victims. Police suspected drugs or alcohol were involved.

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Beverly Hills road rage incident (Source:  Canyon News)

Witnesses reported that the fatal crash was proceeded by a road rage incident in which the Mercedes had a hit-and-run collision with a taxi cab. “Speeding off from the scene of the first crash, the Mercedes Benz plowed into the the victim’s car, a number of trees, and a concrete wall,” the newspaper reported. Apparently Gibson was not wearing her seat belt.

In a second Beverly Hills incident that same year, police were on the lookout for a suspect of road rage for attempted murder when surveillance cameras caught a white BMW car ramming the victim on a bicycle against a garbage bin. The victim had gotten into a dispute with the driver, lost his cool and punched the suspect in the face. The driver then chased the bicyclist into the alley, tried to kill the victim and then peeled away.

 

No restraints = 5 month-old ejected during car crash

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Marcus Green, 52, pleads not guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter and felony child endangerment charges after the death of his infant daughter riding unrestrained in his Porsche that crashed against the guard rail and into a ravine.

A warrant is out for a 23 year-old ‘s arrest. The charge: murder and felony willful child cruelty. The cause: holding her 5 month-old child on her lap without a seat belt.

Five month old Armani Green of Rancho Mirage (California) died when she was ejected from the car her father was driving when it crashed against a guard rail and plummeted down an embankment. Marcus Green, 52 years old, was arrested for murder and other charges days after the crash. He is being held on $1.86 million bail.  Her mother, Kristen Leigh Lauer, was also charged with murder and is being sought by Riverside County (CA) sheriffs.

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among those aged 1-54 in the U.S. Most crash-related deaths in the United States occur to drivers and passengers. For adults and older children who are big enough for a proper fit, seat belt use is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes. For infants and young children, securing them in restrained seats and carriers is the best defense for safety in a car collision. Yet millions do not buckle up on every trip.The cost of non-fatal crash injuries is high: in 2013, non-fatal crash injuries to drivers and passengers resulted in more than $45 billion in lifetime medical and work loss costs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention21,022 passenger vehicle occupants died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2014, the latest statistics available. More than half (range: 53%-59%) of teens (13-19 years) and adults aged 20-44 years who died in crashes in 2014 were unrestrained at the time of the crash. More than 2.3 million drivers and passengers were treated in emergency departments as the result of being injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2014, and young adult drivers and passengers (18-24) have the highest crash-related non-fatal injury rates of all adults.

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It was not known if drugs or alcohol were a factor in the crash, but California Highway Patrol officers suggest that speed may have caused the crash. Original story reported by the LA Times and KTLA Channel 5 News.

A School Bus’ Front Seat View to Head-On Collision

School Bus view of head on collision

An SUV crosses into oncoming traffic, colliding with a car head-on and stops just short of a school bus with student passengers

In Oklahoma, 19 students on their way to an after-school program had a front seat view of a head-on collision.  A black Ford SUV crossed the left of center yellow line and hit a Volkswagen sedan head-on. The drivers of the cars involved in the collision were expected to survive.

Not so with a similar collision earlier this year. It involved a small passenger car in Missouri driving the wrong way on the freeway, hitting a school bus head-on and killing the driver. This bus was carrying 25 students to a basketball game.

In both videos, you can see people rushing to the scene of the crash, trying to help. This is the GOOD SAMARITAN law, generally providing basic legal protection for those who assist a person who is injured or in danger. In essence, these laws protect the Good Samaritan, i.e. individuals trying to help victims of crashes, from liability if unintended consequences result from their assistance.  All 50 states and the District of Columbia have some type of Good Samaritan law.

In the case of the first collision, these Good Samaritans set up a “GoFundMe” page to help cover medical expenses. This is an example of crowdsourcing, a popular practice of raising money for a project, task or service from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. In just 24 hours they raised almost $1,500 of the $50,000 goal to help pay the victims’ medical bills. “The driver of the car struck by the SUV is lucky to be alive and doing as well as she is, but the medical bills are piling up,” the fundraising page states. Adding insult to injury, the woman that hit them let her insurance lapse and at the time of the accident was uninsured.

 

Drunk drivers will drive 80 times under the influence before their first arrest.

According to Do Something, a global movement activating young people in every US area code and in 131 countries, on average, a drunk driver will drive 80 times under the influence before their first arrest. That equates to someone being killed in a drunk driving crash every 51 minutes in America alone.  Today in Colorado, a man notorious for driving drunk was sentenced to 10 years in prison when convicted of his eighth DUI.

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Albano Bustillos 8x DUI arrests, now serving 10 years in prison – Weld County Sherrifs photo

The Daily News reported that Albano Bustillos, 53, was arrested on his first drunk driving charge over 20 years ago and has been picked up eight times since then. “In his most recent arrest, Bustillos had a blood alcohol level of .227. He was found sitting in his car with his head down,” said Weld County (Colordao) District Attorney Rourke. In Colorado, drivers with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
of .17 or higher, even if it is the driver’s first offense, will
be labeled a PERSISTENT DRUNK DRIVER (PDD) and
sentenced as strictly as a repeat-DUI offender.

DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) means driving a vehicle when a person has consumed alcohol or one or more drugs, or a combination of both alcohol and one or more drugs, affects the person to the slightest degree. A person DWAI is less able to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.  The Division of Motor Vehicles has the legal authority to suspend a driver’s license for DWAI regardless of any criminal charges a driver may face through the courts. These penalties, known as Administrative Penalties, can cause an automatic suspension of a driver’s license as well as fees and points, depending on the offense:

DWAI 1st Offense: 8 points toward license suspension; $200 to $500 fine; up to 180 days in jail; up to 48 hours community service.

DUI 1st Offense: Administrative license revocation for 9 months; $600 to $1,000 fine; up to 1 year in jail; up to 96 hours community service; alcohol education.

DUI/DWAI 1st offense under 21 years old: Drivers license suspended 3 months and 4 points added to driving record.

The penalties increase substantially for repeated offenses and, in some cases, you may be required to install an ignition interlock device on your car. The only way to challenge Administrative penalties is to request an alcohol hearing.

Alcohol Hearings

Drivers have seven days after receiving a revocation/suspension notice to request a hearing. You must go in person to the DMV to put in a request. You will also be required to turn over your license if you did not do so at the time of the violation. You may also be eligible for a temporary driving permit while you wait for your hearing.

An Arrest

  • If you fail the roadside sobriety test, which could entail anything from standing on one leg while answering a barrage of questions to touching your nose and walking a straight line, you will be read your rights.
  • You will be handcuffed and taken to a city or county jail.
  • A tow truck will take your car and impound it.

Criminal Penalties

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s HEAT IS ON brochure states that 30,000
motorists are arrested for impaired driving in Colorado each year at a cost of $10,270  for a first-offense DWAI:  $10,000 including lawyer fees, rising insurance rates, fees to get a license back, probation supervision fees, all the way down to the brain injury surcharge and court costs. This figure is based on the minimum fine.

It is easy to see that drinking and driving is not worth any cost.

 

A very good detective with an alcohol problem

 

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Walking Home from the Bus Stop – Scattered Like Bowling Pins

 

…..”a drunk man running over children, scattering them like a bowling ball through bowling pins”, was the description Polk County (Florida) Sheriff Grady Judd gave for the incident of a suspected drunken driver hitting six middle-school students as they walked home from the bus stop.  One of the children, 13, died of his injuries; another student, also 13,  remains in intensive care with orbital fractures. Three other children, ranging in age from 12 to 15, suffered minor injuries.  And the driver?  A 48-year old former law enforcement officer, who also hit another car about 4,000 feet (1,219.2 meters) down the road, injuring a woman who was four months pregnant.

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The suspect refused to take a breath test after his arrest. Upon learning that the victims of his drunk driving were in critical condition, he agreed to take a breath test and a blood draw. Seven hours after the crash, he still read a Blood Alcohol Level of 0.14 – DUI threshold in Florida is .08. He faces 11 charges, including DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide, and is being held on $600,000 bail.

This suspect was apparently a good law enforcement officer, receiving acolades from his former employers. There is no record that he ever had a problem with the law, and had no record of being convicted of a felony. On the contrary was praised as being a good detective, but apparently had a drinking problem.

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Original story reported by the Associated Press.

 

#JustDrive distracted driving campaign in April

 

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April 30th, and we have come to the end of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, 2017 – how did we do as a nation? CNN began the month by posting a story about David Teater, who travels the country to educate children about the dangers of using a phone — even a hands-free device. He is on a mission, raising awareness about the deadly problem of distracted driving, in tribute to his 12-year-old son who died because of a distracted driver.

NPR ended the month with a story about textalyzers aiming to curb distracted drivers under their All Tech Considered section. Modeled after the Breathalyzer that determines blood alcohol concentration or levels, a textalyzer would determine if you had been using your phone illegally on the road.  As in the case of David Teater, the tragedy of losing a son served as the impetus to do something about the problem. Ben Lieberman’s 19-year-old son was killed in a car crash caused by a driver who was texting, drifted over the center line and hit the other vehicle head-on. Lieberman — along with the advocacy group he co-founded — has been working with a company called Cellebrite to develop a “textalyzer.” It would be able to determine whether a driver illegally was using a phone in the moments before a crash. While the technology still isn’t fully developed, Cellebrite engineers report it would be tailored to what is legal in each jurisdiction that approves its use.

Lawmakers are interested in the device in several cities as they consider ways to get drivers to focus on the road instead of their phones. According to the National Safety Council, sponsors of the April Distracted Driving Awareness campaign #JustDrive,  a significant number of the close to 40,000 fatalities are attributed in part to distractions from phones. The textalyzer is going to be a game-changer when it comes to handheld devices and potentially even in-vehicle systems. “It will be the Breathalyzer of our electronics.”

Hit & Run – Against the law in all states

 

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“Hit and Run” leaves tractor in ditch and driver dead

 

Hit and Run, or Leaving the Scene of an Accident,  is not just against the law, it is not good karma. And in the end, they always get their man, even if it is with a warrant. Take the case of former Bachelor reality star Chris Soules. According to police reports, Soules’ truck collided with a tractor, killing the driver. Although Soules was not charged with driving under the influence, Buchanan County (Iowa) Sheriffs charged him with allegedly leaving the scene of a fatal car accident that left one individual dead.

The media announced the story as a freak accident. It was thought that the deceased driver of the tractor was going home from a long day at work – it’s corn-planting season in Iowa – when the defendant plowed into the back of his tractor, sending both vehicles into roadside ditches. Accidentally harming another human being, and in this case causing the death of an innocent victim, is one of the most distressing experiences most of us can ever imagine. The experience can trigger a wide range of emotional and cognitive difficulties, and no one is immune. We hear of cases all the time of people who know the law and leave the scene of an accident anyway – from judges to certified driver instructors.  Causing a fatal collision is a major trauma –  the offender may feel numb, disconnected, detached, or dissociated from the scene, and even from themselves. Fear jumps to the top of the list for most offenders.  But these are no defense for leaving the scene of a car crash, and more-so if there are fatalities involved.

It is a criminal offense to leave the scene of an accident. Nevada law requires both drivers to stay on the scene, even if the collision or crash is not their fault. If either driver willfully leaves, they are committing a crime.

DUI’s Scarlet Letter

 

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DUI Offenders Carry the Scarlet Letters

 

What does Ohio and Nathaniel Hawthorne have in common? Both use the scarlet letter to convey a message of shame and embarrassment. The red-letter license plates became mandatory for Ohioan DUI offenders on January 1, 2014, although have been issued since 1967 as a means to publicly identify drunk drivers. The plates serve the purpose of warning both motorists and law enforcement officers to be alert for drivers with a history of driving under the influence. Georgia enacted a similar law in 2013, but the law specifies numbers, not colors, making it harder to identify DUI offenders with a history.

In Ohio, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) are grouped under the umbrella heading of Operating a Vehicle under the Influence (OVI). According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, there were 8,330 OVI Enforcements in 2016, and that many and then some during the first four months of 2017. Ohio also has the Habitual Offender Registry that lists DUI offenders with a total five convictions or more for OVI (or equivalent) within 20 years. At least one conviction must be after the law went into effect on September 30, 2008. Being on this list allows the public to see your name, date of birth, home address, and your OVI convictions. Your information remains on this list until you no longer have 5 convictions for OVI within the past 20 years.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) publishes a list of DUI-related statistics that will shock most people:

  • Drunk driving costs the U.S. $132 billion per year and each adult in this country almost $500 per year.
  • 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license.
  • An average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before first arrest.
  • On average, one in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime.
  • Every day in America, another 28 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes.
  • In 2012, 10,322 people died in drunk driving crashes, one every 51 minutes.
  • Almost every 90 seconds, a person is injured in a drunk driving crash.
  • About one-third of all drivers arrested or convicted of drunk driving are repeat offenders.

In a CBS article of the states with the highest DUI arrests that do not include fatalities, Ohio ranked 14th. North Dakota was #1, with a rate of drinking and driving significantly higher than the national rate – 988 out of 1,000 people admitted to alcohol-impaired driving. Are the scarlet letter/number tag, offender registry and other programs effective deterrents to drunk driving, or could a bright yellow tag with bright red letters be more effective in alerting law enforcement and increasing DUI arrests? What about states with license plates already showing red lettering? Opponents of Ohio’s “scarlet letter” plates – mainly those forced to carry them on their cars – feel that individuals are unfairly marginalized or embarrassed because of their easily-recognized status as DUI offenders. That is precisely the point.