Scientists call for lowering drunk driving threshold

WASHINGTON — Most women would need to draw the line at two drinks, and men at two or three if states follow a blueprint by a prestigious scientific panel for eliminating the “entirely preventable” 10,000 alcohol-impaired driving deaths in the United States each year.

The U.S. government-commissioned report by a panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine made multiple recommendations, including significantly lowering drunken driving thresholds. It calls for lowering the blood-alcohol concentration threshold from 0.08 to 0.05. All states have 0.08 thresholds. A Utah law passed last year that lowers the state’s threshold to 0.05 doesn’t go into effect until Dec. 30.

The amount of alcohol required to reach 0.05 would depend on several factors, including the person’s size and whether the person has recently eaten. The report cites studies indicating most women over 120 pounds would reach 0.05 after two drinks. Men weighing up to about 160 pounds would likely reach the lower threshold at two, and those over 180 pounds at three.

The panel, in its 489-page report, also recommended that states significantly increase alcohol taxes and make alcohol less conveniently available, including reducing the hours and days alcohol is sold in stores, bars and restaurants. Research suggests a doubling of alcohol taxes could lead to an 11 percent reduction in traffic crash deaths, the report said.

It also calls for cracking down on sales to people under 21 or who are already intoxicated to discourage binge drinking, and putting limits on alcohol marketing while funding anti-alcohol campaigns similar to those against smoking.

All the proposals are likely to draw fierce opposition from the alcohol and restaurant industries. The American Beverage Institute took out full-page newspaper ads opposing Utah’s new law that featured a fake mugshot under a large headline reading, “Utah: Come for vacation, leave on probation.”

The recommendation in the academies’ report for lowering the blood-alcohol threshold would “do nothing to deter” repeat offenders and drivers with high blood-alcohol levels, who represent the “vast majority” of alcohol-impaired driving deaths, the Distilled Spirits Council said in a statement. The council said it also doesn’t support the report’s recommendations for “tax increases and advertising bans, which will have little or no impact on traffic safety.”

The report points out that “alcohol-impaired driving remains the deadliest and costliest danger on U.S. roads,” accounting for 28 percent of traffic deaths. Each day, 29 people in the U.S. die in alcohol-related crashes and many more are injured. Forty percent of those killed are people other than the drunken driver.

Rural areas are disproportionately affected. In 2015, 48 percent of drunken driving fatalities occurred in rural areas.

The report says many strategies have been effective to prevent drunken driving, but “a coordinated multilevel approach across multiple sectors will be required to accelerate change.”

“The problem isn’t intractable,” the report said.

From the early 1980s to the early 2000s, there was significant progress as the result of an increase in the drinking age to 21, decreases in the blood-alcohol threshold, and other measures, the report said. But since then, progress has stagnated and recently has begun to reverse.

Action to address drunken driving can’t wait for the advent of self-driving cars immune to the lures of a cold beer or a fine wine — it will take too long for autonomous vehicles to replace all the human-driven machines on the road, said the panel’s chairman, Steven Teutsch, a senior fellow for health policy and economics at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

“In the meantime, we have 10,000 people a year dying and we ought to do something about it,” he said.

The report cites studies that show the United States lags behind other high-income countries in preventing drunken driving fatalities. More than 100 countries have adopted the lower 0.05 threshold. In Europe, the share of traffic deaths attributable to drunken driving was reduced by more than half within 10 years after the standard was dropped, the National Transportation Safety Board said in 2013. The safety board has also recommended the 0.05 threshold.

Alcoholic beverages have changed significantly over the past 25 years. “They are more affordable, of far greater variety, and more widely advertised and promoted than in earlier periods,” the report said. The lack of consistency in serving sizes and the combination of alcohol with caffeine and energy drinks make it harder for drinkers to estimate their level of impairment.

The report was commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which asked the academies to determine which strategies for reducing drunken driving have been proven effective.

Assistant District Attorney arrested for OUI

SHREWSBURY, Mass. – A Bolton man was arrested on Monday evening for driving under the influence of alcohol with a minor inside the vehicle.

State Police responded to a call from a driver reporting that an Audi A6 was being operated in a highly erratic manner on Route 290 Westbound in Shrewsbury.

Trooper Gregory Zanni from the Holden Barracks responded to the call and observed the man commit multiple motor vehicle violations, including swerving between lanes.

The driver, identified as John A. O’Leary, 48, was questioned by Trooper O’Leary and asked to undergo a field sobriety test.

The trooper then determined the man was in fact operating under the influence of alcohol and transported him to the Holden Barracks.

At the station, O’Leary was charged with an OUI for liquor, child endangerment while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of liquor, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, marked lanes violation, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

The vehicle was towed from the scene and the Audi’s passenger, a 13-year-old girl, was safely transported home.

O’Leary was eventually bailed from the station on a $40 bail fee and was scheduled to be arraigned at the Westborough District Court on Tuesday.

O’Leary has been suspended without pay and his case will now be handled by they Hampden County District Attorney’s Office.

Police seek good Samaritan who assisted officer being strangled by intoxicated suspect

Wednesday, April 23, 2017, marked the first day of operations at 2780 Boston Road, the new home of the Wilbraham Police Department. The phone number for the new station is the same as it was for the old station: 413-596-3837. Here's a quick look at the new station and the old facility. (CONOR BERRY / THE REPUBLICAN) 

WILBRAHAM – Police are seeking to identify a man who assisted Wilbraham officers with the arrest of a violent and intoxicated suspect Friday night.

Police pulled over Derek Dalessio, of Wilbraham, on Old Boston Road around 7:23 p.m., for a number of motor vehicle infractions and discovered that he was impaired.

When police attempted to arrest him “a violent struggle ensued” that led to an officer being placed in a headlock by Dalessio, police said.

The officer was “unable to breath,” and a second officer’s attempts to incapacitate Dalessio by hitting him multiple times with a baton had “little to no effect,” police said.

It was at that time that a good Samaritan apparently got out of his own car and put Dalessio in a headlock, allowing the officer being assaulted to get free and then assist with the arrest.

“He saw what was happening and stepped in,” said Sgt. Mark Paradise of the Wilbraham Police Department, of the man.

“WPD sends a HUGE THANK YOU to this unnamed party who potentially stopped what could have transpired into a fatal encounter,” the Wilbraham Police Department said in a statement over social media.

“WPD would appreciate it if you could make yourself known to us,” the statement reads, while also acknowledging that the man who assisted might want to remain anonymous.

Paradise said that both officers involved in the arrest were not seriously injured.

Dalessio now faces a long list of charges:

Drunk drivers could lose snowmobile, boat privileges

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) Lawmakers say it’s time to stop enabling drunk drivers by changing a law that currently considers drunk driving, drunk boating and operating snowmobiles or ATVs or UTVs impaired, all as separate offenses.

Cropped Photo James Palinsad Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s a problem Target 2 Investigates first told you about last year, where we found 30 percent of the people arrested in Northeast Wisconsin for boating under the influence also had records for OWI on our roadways.

Several of those people had third or fourth offense OWIs, but the violations for operating any of those recreational vehicles while drunk aren’t considered the same thing and don’t increase penalties.

Now lawmakers are trying to change that.

“People are not really going to see significant penalties, and people are aware of that. Unfortunately, there are people that game the system. They know what the rules are,” says Representative Andre Jacgue, a republican from De Pere.

Jacque says current OWI laws are not only not working in favor of victims, he says there are people who downright try to outsmart the system because they can.

Take this example: if a person gets stopped a first time for OWI while operating a car, then another time operating a boat drunk, then a snowmobile, and an ATV or UTV, their record will reflect only one OWI for each, but all would remain a first offense.

“You could literally have four different OWI infractions without any of them counting as a repeat offense,” adds Jacque.

He and fellow republican Representative Cody Horlacher just introduced a bill making the law more consistent, counting every OWI in the last five years as the same, regardless of what you’re operating when you’re stopped.

Under the bill, if a person’s license to drive a motor vehicle has been suspended or revoked, they would also not be able to operate any of these other recreational vehicles or boats.

Right now they can, and Jacque says, often do.

“They’ll take those snowmobiles to the bar after they lose their driving privileges,” he says. “There’s still that same destructive potential, and certainly we’ve seen lives lost.”

Jacque has proposed similar legislation in the past and been met with strong push back, but he feels he has to keep trying for change.–469045883.html

Highway Patrol reports 5 crashes involving troopers in last month

HELENA – The Montana Highway Patrol posted on their Facebook page early on Saturday and said five troopers were involved in crashes that were not their fault just last month.

They reported that on Friday Major Lavin’s patrol car was almost side-swiped while he was out investigating another crash.

There were luckily no major injuries, but in some cases, the troopers were in their cars when they were struck.

MHP said these crashes were all caused by people driving irresponsibly.

Adding that people should be more concerned, If not for their safety but because it’s not just those involved in the crash that will pay for the damage.

These crashes cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars since now these vehicles need to either be fixed or replaced altogether. MHP said that there are easy ways to avoid these situations.

  • Have appropriate tires.
  • Slow down. Even if you’re traveling below the speed limit, it is best to slow down in certain weather conditions.
  • Follow at a greater distance.
  • Make sure your vehicle is cleaned off, and headlights are on to avoid limited visibility.
  • Never drive under the influence.
  • Stay home if law enforcement recommends it unless it is an emergency.
  • Buckle up and slow down for emergency vehicles.

Below is the post from Montana Highway Patrol’s Facebook page.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to report that, within the last month alone, five troopers have been involved in crashes through no fault of their own. In addition to the five crashes, Major Lavin’s patrol car was nearly side-swiped yesterday while he was at the scene investigating a crash (picture below).

In each of these cases, drivers were not driving appropriately for conditions. In some cases, our troopers were in the vehicle when it was struck. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries.

When crashes like this occur, everyone should be concerned, primarily, for the safety and security of themselves and everyone that they share the roadway with. Secondarily though, these senseless and avoidable crashes cost the tax payers money as thousands of dollars are being paid to repair, or in some cases, completely replace these vehicles.

We very deliberately use the word “crash” here because the word “accident” implies an event caused unexpectedly or by chance.

Crashing in winter conditions or sliding off the road is not an unexpected outcome if:

1. you’re driving too fast. Yes, driving the speed limit can be too fast for certain weather conditions.

2. your tires are bald or the tread is worn past legal limits.

3. you’re following too closely

4. you’re voluntarily taking the risk and driving in extreme weather conditions that emergency personnel have warned you to avoid. (Not talking about people who find themselves caught in a sudden storm or emergency situations).

5. You drive impaired. Ever. At any time.

What you can do to be the change:

1. Slow down!

2. Keep your vehicle street legal and in good condition

3. Increase your following distance

4. Turn on your headlights in inclement weather

5. Stay home if the roads are terrible and you don’t need to drive.

6. Slow down and move over for emergency vehicles (or any vehicle on the side of the road, really).

7. Buckle up!

When we all begin to take responsibility for the enormous privilege of operating a motor vehicle and hold ourselves and others to higher standards, change is possible.