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Impairment - More Than a Shift

Updated: Mar 6, 2019

In Ohio when one is arrested for impaired driving there are options: three days at a hotel completing a diversion class or three days to six months in jail. Most op for the hotel. The diversion programs operate at the hotel and are called Driver Intervention Programs (DIP). The Driver Intervention Programs exist for the single purpose of educating impaired drivers on how not to re-offend and to screen the participants for potential substance abuse problems.

Generally, one would think gratitude would be the response when given the option of a hotel stay over enjoying 3 days to 6 months in jail -not so much. The consensus of the participants, especially on the first night of the program, is very negative. The first night is difficult putting 25-30 people from different walks of life in a conference room is simply awkward. However, there are always a handful of positive people, but the main stream of thought is how they are being screwed. A second stream of discontent is the participants' sentiment that drunk driving laws are unfair. Usually, as the weekend progresses, there is a shift and most of the participants lighten up, open their minds, and learn some things from the program content. However, about 50% maintain they have somehow been wronged by the criminal justice system as a whole.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 37,133 people died in traffic crashes in 2017 in the United States, including an estimated 10,874 people who were killed in drunk driving crashes involving a driver with an illegal BAC (.08 or greater). The definition of alcohol-impaired driving was uniform for all states until December 2018. In December of 2018 Utah lowered its legal limit to a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.05. Utah also eliminated a legal limit for under 21's to a zero tolerance law position -thus, prohibiting drivers under the age of 21 from drinking and driving. In Ohio and most states the limit for underage drivers is a BAC of 0.02 grams per deciliter. But impaired driving laws now include drugs as well as distractions.

The National Safety Council identify the distracted drivers, those using their cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Nearly 390,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving. 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving. In the past couple of years ARC-ip has been seeing individuals referred to the Driver Intervention Programs for distracted driving and usually cell phone use was the precursor to the arrest.

This past year in 2018 ARC saw a significant increase in clients that were referred to the DIP for some type of drugged driving. In 2015 The Governor's Highway Safety Association reported that 43% of drivers who died in automobile crashes – those who were tested by autopsy – had drugs present in their system; it also reported that drugs were more frequently than alcohol. There are now 30 states that have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, with nine states and the District of Columbia legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia reviewed accident data from six states that perform toxicology tests consistently on drivers who are involved in fatal accidents. These states are California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. Once compiled, the data included over 23,500 drivers who died within one hour of a crash between 1999 and 2010. The alcohol involved traffic fatalities were at approximately 40% throughout that period; however, fatal crashes where the driver was found to have used mood-altering drugs increased significantly and were associated with 28% of traffic fatalities in 2010. The research indicated that marijuana is the most common drug involved in fatal car accidents, contributing to 12% of 2010 crashes compared with 4 percent in 1999.

Combining alcohol and drugs is obviously going to result in increased lethality. The article summarized that drivers who are under the influence of alcohol are 13 times more likely to be involved in a car accident than someone who is sober. And, if a driver is under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, the risk is now 24 times that of a sober person.

Looking at all the data, influences, and potential outcomes, three days at a hotel doesn't seem to bad.

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