August 20th thru August 26th in the year Two Thousand and Eighteen
Sunday August 26th, 2018DUIs are down in Philly, but the influence of Uber and Lyft remains blurry
Arrests for intoxicated driving dropped more precipitously in Philadelphia over much of the last decade than in any other Southeastern Pennsylvania county. At the same time, use of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft skyrocketed.
So what is the connection, if any?
What’s the price of driving into the scene of a shooting? Lyft says $5. | Helen Ubiñas
Uber and Lyft are hurting bus ridership and worsening traffic, new study finds
Where are you most likely to be killed by a car in Philadelphia? (Hint: Not Center City)
From 2009 to 2017, arrests for driving under the influence of drugs or drink dropped 33 percent in Philadelphia, compared with 13 percent decline statewide, according to the latest data from the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Report. No other county in the region reported that significant a drop. The number has fallen 14 percent in just two years, from 2015 to 2017.
Drunken driving crashes also show a dramatic decline in Philadelphia from 2015 to 2017, according to AAA, though fatality numbers haven't dropped. In the last five years, an average of 17 people each year have died in the city's drunken driving crashes.
During that 2015 to 2017 span, Uber and Lyft took off in Philadelphia, according to recently obtained data from the Philadelphia Parking Authority. From July through September 2016, the two companies provided 4.6 million trips in Philadelphia. During the same time period a year later, that number jumped to 7.6 million trips.
Ride-share apps now provide more than 10 million trips a quarter, the PPA reported — more than double the number of just two years ago.
So the ride-share and DUI data are related, right?
Uber certainly thinks so. The San Francisco-based tech company reports that trips peak nationwide at times when people are typically drinking, such as Fridays and Saturdays. In Philadelphia specifically, six of the top 10 destinations after 9 p.m. are places that serve alcohol, and trips departing bars peak around the time the city's watering holes close, the company reported.
Uber Ridership in Philadelphia
Number of pre-arranged rides per quarter, fiscal year 2017 to FY 2018
The company also noted that riders reported in a national survey that they chose Uber as a safe way to get home, something independently supported by a recent study from New York City transit researcher Bruce Schaller. That study found that ride-share users most often used the service to avoid drinking and driving or to avoid the cost and irritation of finding parking.
DUI Arrests Down Since 2010
The total number of DUI arrests by state and local police shows a downward trend in Philadelphia and surrounding counties.
The question of whether ride sharing is reducing drunken driving came through Curious Philly, a forum where readers can ask journalists about their communities. It turned out to be an inquiry with answers more nuanced than a simple yes or no.
The general sense is that ride sharing is helping, but it's unclear to what extent.
"It's possible that there's a reduction in alcohol-related crashes in Philadelphia that is attributable in part to ride sharing," said Christopher Morrison, a Columbia University professor who has studied the issue. "We just don't know that for sure."
>> MORE CURIOUS PHILLY: This is the last summer Jersey Shore drivers will see Egg Harbor Bridge construction
Muddying the waters are the many other factors that affect drinking and driving — and a lack of data. Alcohol consumption among young people is down, for one thing. Drinking and driving has also been in an overall decline since 1998, according to PennDot data, a trend that's held even as vehicle miles traveled in the state have increased. Also in decline are motor vehicle violations issued by the Philadelphia police overall. Doing less traffic enforcement would likely lead to fewer DUI arrests.
Saturday, August 25th, 2018>Mixed findings on Colorado marijuana, traffic deaths
The number of highway deaths involving Colorado drivers who had marijuana in their system grew again in 2017, a new state study shows.
At the same time, traffic fatalities in which drivers had enough marijuana in their bloodstream to be deemed legally impaired dropped sharply, from 52 in 2016 to 35 last year.
The reason for this seeming contradiction: Marijuana can remain in the bloodstream for weeks, so a positive blood test may not mean a driver was stoned at the time of a deadly crash.
As the Colorado Department of Transportation study notes, “The presence of a cannabinoid does not necessarily indicate recent use of marijuana or impairment.”
More than 90 percent of Coloradans suspected of DUI had been drinking, only 6 percent used marijuana, state study shows
Overall, the number of fatalities involving positive tests for marijuana has nearly doubled since recreational legalization in 2014, from 75 that year to 125 in 2016 and 139 last year.
Colorado law specifies that drivers with five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a milliliter of their blood can be prosecuted for driving under the influence of marijuana.
A striking finding in the new study was the death toll involving people driving around with a cocktail of drugs in their bodies. In one year, deaths where drivers tested positive for cannabis, any alcohol and other drugs tripled — from eight in 2016 to 25 last year.
The report also found that drunken driving deaths had increased again. Twenty-six percent of those killed in crashes, or 171 people, had blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or greater, Colorado’s drunken driving limit, compared to 161 in 2016 and 151 in 2015.
Meanwhile, traffic deaths generally continued to increase on state roads, going from 546 in 2015 to 608 in 2016 and spiking to 648 last year.
CDOT spokesman Sam Cole said the department considers the number of deaths in which the driver was marijuana-impaired under state law to be the most reliable indicator of its impact on the highways.
By that measure, marijuana-related deaths are clearly down.
“Presence does not indicate impairment,” he said. At the same time, “two years does not make a trend.”
Kristi Kelly, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, welcomed the state finding that marijuana-impaired highway deaths declined last year.
She added that the industry intends to keep campaigning against smoking and driving.
“We don’t think our job is done,” she said.
Henny Lasley heads Smart Colorado, a group concerned about the effects of legalization on children.
She worries that the latest highway death statistics will be used to loosen state regulations and promote public consumption of marijuana products.
First, “The science of impairment is lacking,” she said.
“More concerning is why people are combining” marijuana, alcohol and other drugs, she said. “The combination is very concerning.”
Before fatal drug-related crashes, “drivers do tend to combine,” he said. “When you combine, it will amplify your impairment.”
Friday August 24th, 2018Beto O'Rourke arrested in 1990s for burglary and DWI
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke of Texas has said that in younger days he was twice arrested in his hometown of El Paso--once, he says, for leaping a campus fence and the other time for driving while intoxicated.
Readers have asked us whether the third-term congressman challenging Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has a criminal history. We decided to fact-check mention of the arrests in a 2012 TV ad that also was screenshot for an April 2017 Texas Tribune news story.
In the ad, sponsored by then-U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, text next to what looks like O’Rourke’s mugshot states that the "facts" are that O’Rourke has a "criminal record" including burglary and DWI. The ad’s narrator says O’Rourke "has a criminal record that includes DWI and burglary arrests."
That he does, we confirmed, which he’s acknowledged since his first run for office.
We tried to phone and email Reyes about his claim and failed to connect. Next, we attempted to get our own fix on the facts by seeking documentation of the DWI arrest through a public information request to the El Paso Police Department. Martin Rodriguez, a department records specialist, said by email the agency had no responsive records. We similarly queried the University of Texas at El Paso about the earlier arrest and didn’t immediately hear back.
Separately, we ran a background check of O’Rourke using the LexisNexis service. According to the results, O’Rourke’s May 1995 misdemeanor arrest on the UTEP campus was later declined and his September 1998 misdemeanor DWI arrest in El Paso was dismissed.
The check gave us case numbers for the arrests enabling us to fetch an El Paso County record stating that O’Rourke was initially arrested in May 1995 and that case was disposed of in February 1996. We saw too that after the DWI arrest, according to another county record, O’Rourke was referred to a misdemeanor diversion program in March 1999 and completed "DWI school" in May 1999. That document’s last entry, dated Oct. 20, 1999, says: "Misdemeanor diversion completed successfully."
Campaign: O’Rourke often confirms arrests
When we sought detail from O’Rourke’s spokesman, Chris Evans, he said by email that O’Rourke had consistently addressed his arrests, notably during campaign stops in Paris, Sunnyside, San Antonio and Houston, where O’Rourke told a group in August 2018 that he spent a night in the El Paso County jail after what he referred to as his 1995 arrest for criminal trespass.
In San Antonio, a resident told O’Rourke she’d seen what someone described as his mugshot. O’Rourke replied: "More than 20 years ago, I was arrested--not once, but twice. So you should know that and we should all own that, if asked." O’Rourke specified that he’d been arrested for attempting to hop a fence at the University of Texas at El Paso and later, he said, for a "far more serious mistake: I drove under the influence of alcohol. There’s no justifying that."
April 1995 news story
The oldest published account of the arrests appears to be an April 2005 El Paso Times news story about O’Rourke’s successful run for a seat on the El Paso City Council. The story, which we found by searching the Nexis news database, quoted the incumbent, Anthony Cobos, stressing O’Rourke’s DWI arrest. Cobos, who later served as county judge before being convicted on embezzlement charges, said at the time: "I think you lead by example and his example speaks for itself."
According to the story, O'Rourke was arrested on a DWI charge in September 1998 that was dismissed in 1999 after he completed a court-recommended DWI program. "I've been open about that since the very beginning. I have owned up to it and I have taken responsibility for it," O’Rourke told the paper.
The Times further reported that court records showed that O’Rourke earlier was arrested in 1995 at UTEP on a burglary of building charge, which was later dropped. O’Rourke told the paper: "That happened while I was in college. I along with some friends were horsing around, and we snuck under the fence at the UTEP physical plant and set off an alarm. We were arrested by UTEP police. ... UTEP decided not to press charges. We weren't intending to do any harm," he was quoted saying.
O’Rourke’s campaign later provided a photo of a document Evans described by email as the original UTEP police report on O’Rourke’s arrest there. It says O’Rourke and two other students were arrested at the university’s Physical Plant under the "burglary" portion of the state penal code, section 30.02, for "attempted forcible entry."
Congressman Reyes’ TV ad
Seven years later, then-Rep. Reyes unveiled his ad, which was still viewable online as of Aug. 22, 2018.
A May 2012 Times news story on the ad quoted O’Rourke saying that he was driving an intoxicated friend home when he was arrested for DWI. The story said that according to police records, O’Rourke completed a diversion program and the charge was dismissed.
In August 2017, more recently, O’Rourke described the arrests to an East Texas newspaper. The Palestine Herald-Press quoted him saying: "Some 20 years ago, I was charged with driving under the influence and, during my college years, I jumped a fence at the University of Texas at El Paso which resulted in a burglary charge," O'Rourke said. "I was not convicted of either.
"Both incidents were due to poor judgement and I have no excuse for my behavior then. However, since then, I have used my opportunities to serve my community and my state. I'm grateful for the second chance and believe that we all deserve second chances."
A 2012 Reyes TV ad still viewable online six years later said O’Rourke "has a criminal record that includes DWI and burglary arrests."
O'Rourke's comments and records indicate that UTEP police arrested O'Rourke in 1995 for burglary, a misdemeanor charge disposed of the next year. In 1998, El Paso police arrested O'Rourke for DWI, a misdemeanor charge that was dismissed after he completed "DWI school" the next year.
We rate the claim True.
Thursday, August 23rd, 2018FDLE: Hundreds of Northeast Florida DUI cases may be wrong
Breathalyzer tests in Duval, Nassau, St. Johns purchased from unofficial vendor
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Imagine getting arrested for driving under the influence, only to later learn you weren't actually over the legal limit. It could happen to hundreds of cases in Northeast Florida.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement discovered more than 250 Breathalyzer tests distributed by the Florida Highway Patrol within Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties weren't completed properly. Despite that, it says there's no way to know for sure those tests are inaccurate.
"It's junk. It's just plain junk," said David Robbins, a DUI attorney. "They are playing with people's lives and it's reckless."
According to the FDLE, the breathalyzer tests administered October 2017 to July 2018 may have been calibrated using unapproved methods as they were purchased from an unofficial vendor. That means they could be wrong.
As attorney Susan Cohen explained, whether the case is admissible depends on what's known as the alcohol reference solutions. Those are used to determine the results of the breathalyzer in the field.
Still, Cohen said, the outcome doesn't mean all affected DUI suspects will avoid conviction.
"The only thing this impacts is the breath test result." Cohen said. "While that is significant, there may be other evidence, there may be a video, there may be sufficient other evidence that the state can still prosecute the case."
Robbins said in many instances, it wouldn't make a difference if the case was thrown out.
"People lose their jobs, people get jail sentences. You can't give them back a jail sentence. They're not going to get their job back," Robbins said.
FDLE said it's unclear why the solutions were purchased from an unapproved vendor. FHP said going forward officers will be using the approved solution.
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018Deputy arrested for drunk driving and fighting officers in Auburn Hills
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (WXYZ) - A Wayne County deputy was arrested early Saturday morning after being caught driving drunk and fighting officers in Auburn Hills.
According to police, 27-year-old Deputy Robert Nathan Fontana was driving at excessive speeds on I-75 near University.
Police say Fontana told them he had been drinking in Hamtramck and was driving home to Lake Orion.
Fontana was pulled over around 1:10 a.m. Saturday near the Lapeer Road exit after officers observed him speeding at 90 mph and almost hitting another car on northbound I-75.
Deputy Fontana told the arresting officers he was armed with a pistol, as he was arrested.
While en route to the police station, Fontana was able to get his handcuffs in front of his body and tried to choke himself out, officers say.
The officers pulled over to re-secure Fontana, and he became combative.
Police also say when Fontana fought with officers he bit two of them. However, the arresting officers did not suffer any serious injuries. He's facing three counts of resisting arrest. Fontana also faces a drunk driving charge, charges for possessing a firearm while intoxicated and resisting arrest, according to officials.
The fire department was called and the crew strapped Fontana to a gurney, took him to a Pontiac Hospital and with a search warrant drew his blood. Toxicology can take weeks to complete.
The Wayne County Sheriff's Spokesperson tells 7 Action News Fontana has worked in the department three and a half years as a jail guard. He is currently suspended without pay pending the outcome of the case.
Fontana was taken to Oakland County Jail. His bond was set at $20,000, officials say.
Tuesday, August 21st, 2018Former local DJ Zachary Babb sentenced to probation for wrong-way OWI crash
A former Indianapolis radio personality who pleaded guilty to hitting multiple cars in Fountain Square while driving under the influence will spend the next two years on probation.
Last week Zachary Babb, 30, was sentenced to serve 714 days on probation and perform 64 hours of community service on one count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated while endangering a person, according to online court records.
The man previously known as to listeners as "Zakk On Air" on WZPL-FM was also originally charged with operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent of 0.15 or more with a prior conviction, but online records indicate that the charge was dismissed as part of a plea deal.
Why #AndyGrossIsGross is a thing: Purdue students walk out of offensive Andy Gross comedy set during Boiler Gold Rush
Fans remember the voice of the Colts: Retired Indianapolis Colts play-by-play man Bob Lamey: 'The Heart and soul of the team'
The incident that led to Babb's arrest and charges happened around 10:30 p.m. at Woodlawn Avenue and Shelby Street on Aug. 4, 2017, according to court documents.
Police said Babb was driving his 2016 Chevrolet Equinox in the wrong direction down one-way Shelby Street. Babb slammed his vehicle into five parked cars along Shelby Street, court documents said.
A police report lists one of the victims as chef and restaurant owner Neal Brown.
When police arrived at the scene, they approached Babb and smelled alcohol on his breath. Police then took Babb into custody. Court documents said that is when Babb "became belligerent toward officers." He told investigators that he was a radio DJ and said that he was being treated unfairly.
He then refused to take sobriety tests both at the scene and at the hospital, court documents said.
This is not the first time Babb was placed on probation for driving under the influence. Jail records show that Babb was booked for operating while intoxicated in June 2016. He eventually pleaded guilty to that charge and was sentenced to a year of probation.
Monday, August 20th, 2018OVI suspected after underage teen crashes truck into parked cars
DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) -- An underage teen crashed a pickup truck into parked vehicles on a Dayton street early Friday morning.
Officers responded to reports of a crash on Wyoming Street around 1 a.m. Friday.
When officers arrived, they found the actual crash scene on nearby Hawker Street.
Police say a 15-year-old boy crashed a pickup truck into parked vehicles.
OVI is suspected as a factor in the crash.
No one was injured.
Police did not release how much damage was caused in the crash.