Category Archives: Drowsy Driving

Holiday Drinking In The U.S.

Interesting article by Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post discusses how data on total monthly alcohol sales in the United States carries a time-tested seasonal trend: the spikes in December of each year.

Clearly, the holidays are traditionally a time for boozing it up.

For example, the Department of Health and Human Services recently updated the official federal statistics on the percent of state residents ages 12 and older who drink at least once a month. Also, Ingraham’s article discusses how various direct and indirect measures of alcohol consumption, including breathalyzer data, Web searches for hangover relief and alcohol-related traffic deaths all suggest that peak American drinking happens between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

THE NORTHEAST

New England is home to the nation’s heaviest drinkers – New Hampshire, where about 64 percent of residents age of 12 or older drink monthly, is tops in the country. Vermont, Maine and Connecticut also come in at drinking rates above 60 percent. Hard-drinking cheeseheads in Wisconsin see to it that their home is the only Midwestern state in the top tier of American drinkers.

THE NORTHWEST

Ingraham discusses how the next tier of heavy drinking states are all in the northern part of the country. Some researchers posit that there may be a relationship between heavy drinking and latitude. At the country level, alcohol consumption tends to increase the farther you get away from the equator. This could be a function of the potential for boredom and depression during winter months when the nights are long and the days are short. For a prime example of this, see recent stories involving alcohol and misconduct among people who live in Antarctica.

RELIGIOUS STATES

Ingraham discusses other cultural factors affect some States’ attitudes about drinking. On the map above, take a look at Utah and particularly Idaho. They’re in the bottom tier of the states for drinking frequency. Utah, where only 31 percent of adults drink in a given month, comes in dead last. This is almost certainly because of the large Mormon populations in those states — 58 percent of Utahans are Mormon, as are 24 percent of people in Idaho. Mormonism generally prohibits the use of alcohol and other drugs.

There’s likely a similar religious influence in places Alabama, Mississippi and the other Southern states where drinking is low. Those states have large evangelical Christian populations, many of whom are abstainers.

HOLIDAY DUI PATROLS IN WASHINGTON STATE

Image result for wa state patrol target zero

Coincidentally, the Washington State Patrol announced its increased Holiday DUI Patrol campaign of “Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over.” Our State Troopers are extremely proactive in reaching their Target Zero goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2030.

Also, our local police and sheriff’s offices are working very hard responding to incidents of domestic violence, burglary, assault and other criminal incidents associated with holiday celebrations.

SEEK COMPETENT LEGAL REPRESENTATION IF YOU FACE CRIMINAL CHARGES THIS HOLIDAY SEASON.

For many, the holiday season is a joyous time when family and friends get together and celebrate. Naturally, our holiday merriment could involve the libations of alcohol and/or legal (and illegal) drugs.

We must enjoy the holidays safely and responsibly. Unfortunately, incidents of domestic violence, DUI, and other criminal behaviors – intentional or otherwise – can dampen our holiday festivities.

It’s never desirable to face criminal charges which could negatively affect your life for years to come. However, if you, friends or family find themselves in situations involving law enforcement, jail and/or criminal charges then contact the Law Office of Alexander Ransom as soon as possible.  I staunchly defends my clients’ constitutional rights to a fair trial, just proceedings and the suppression of evidence involving unlawful searches, seizures and self-incrimination. My practice involves saving people’s careers and reuniting families by seeking reductions and dismissals of criminal charges when appropriate.

Happy holidays!

-Alex Ransom, Esq.

Drowsy Driving

An recent news article by Krithika Varagur of the Huffington Post discusses the oft-ignored epidemic of how sleep deprivation has severe effects on performance. Staying awake for 24 hours is equivalent to having a BAC of 0.08 percent, which is legally drunk.

The evidence exists. For example, the National Sleep Foundation suggests that drowsy driving is linked to about 100,000 car crashes every year. Also, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined the average number of accidents linked to sleep deprivation between 2005 and 2009 to be about 83,000 per year. Finally, studies by the American Automobile Association estimate that more than 300,000 accidents each year involve a drowsy driver, with 6,400 resulting in someone’s death.

Varagur says that despite these staggering numbers, only two states in the U.S. have any laws against “drowsy driving,” and even these are largely symbolic and tough to enforce.

Problematically, it’s difficult to prove that drowsy drivers were, in fact, asleep at the wheel while driving. “The burden of proof in drowsy driving cases falls almost totally on police officers,” Jeff Evans, program manager of the National Sleep Foundation, told Varagur of The Huffington Post. “Barring a confession from the accused driver, it is very difficult to prove that someone was sleep-deprived.”

New Jersey became the first state to pass drowsy driving legislation in 2003 with “Maggie’s Law,” which says that if a driver kills someone after not sleeping for more than 24 hours, the driver can be charged with vehicular homicide.  “Maggie’s Law” was the result of a campaign by Carole McDonnell, whose daughter Maggie was killed in a 1997 car crash by a van driver who had smoked crack and hadn’t slept in 30 hours. The driver’s case resolved with him paying a $200 fine because the jury could not consider driver fatigue as a factor of guilt.

Again, however, the law is difficult to enforce because it requires the driver to admit sleeplessness in court. Also, there’s no test yet to prove someone is sleep-deprived. In the decade since the law’s passage, only one person has been prosecuted under it for driving while fatigued.

In 2013, Arkansas passed a similar law that allows the state to charge a driver with “negligent homicide” in a fatal crash if the driver hasn’t slept in 24 hours.

At the moment, the issue of drowsy driving lacks the strong political will that drunk driving had. Mothers Against Drunk Driving helped reduce alcohol-related accidents dramatically in the 1980s, and in the 1990s, Harvard public health professor Jay Winsten led a national “designated driver” campaign to popularize one possible solution for the drunk driving crisis. Both these efforts elevated the problem of drunk driving in the American public consciousness.

My opinion? It’s terrible to say, but I don’t know if criminalizing this behavior through legislation is the proper solution. Again, “drowsy driving” is very hard to prove unless a police officer or witness actually saw the driver asleep. And although police might get the driver to admit they were sleeping, these incriminating statements can be suppressed, explained away or justified at trial.

There’s a range of opinions on how best to address the problem, and not all of them include legislation.