Teen Driving Curfews Could Cut Crime, But At What Cost?

Male teen laughing and driving car with two other laughing passengers

Research out of the University of Texas at Dallas say that teen driving curfews can not only curb car crashes, but they could also reduce juvenile crime. That said, should be really we limiting individual freedoms in order potentially reduce crime?

Before we delve into the ethics of the curfew, let’s take a look at the data. For their study, researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas analyzed national FBI data from 1995 to 2011 involving teenage drivers and drivers with an imposed curfew. According to researchers, arrests of teens fell between 4 and 6 percent in states that placed a driving curfew on new and inexperienced drivers. In the strictest states, arrests were down between 5 and 8 percent.

Other findings from the study include:

  • The largest declines in arrests were in states that had graduated license programs (GDLs) in place the longest.
  • The biggest drops in arrests were from crimes like murder or manslaughter (11 percent), larceny (5 percent) and aggravated assault (4 percent).

Researchers say GDL programs and driving restrictions have been shown to reduce the risk of a crash, but this was the first study to examine how these restrictions affect youth crime.

“Being able to drive or having friends who can drive is the difference between going out and staying home on a Saturday night,” said study author Monica Deza, an assistant professor of economics. “It seemed intuitive to us that having a curfew on driving hours affected the probability that teenagers would get themselves into trouble.”

Researchers stopped short of saying the study proves a cause-and-effect link, rather, they just noted that there was an association between teen driving curfews and reduced juvenile crime rates.

Balancing Restrictions and Freedoms

Everyone knows that getting your license is seen as one of the biggest steps towards adulthood a teen can make, but each state handles the provisional license differently. Some states don’t let new drivers hit the road after midnight or before 5 a.m., while other states restrict cell phone privileges while in the car.

The issue arises when we take the association at face value and jump to the notion that there should be a widespread driving curfew to reduce teen crime. While that may be true, there would also be a reduction in crime if we had a mandatory curfew that required all adults to be home by 9 p.m. We can’t use the guise of safety as a blanket rule to inhibit personal freedoms. Ben Franklin said so himself when he wrote “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

We can go back and forth arguing whether or not driving at night is an “essential liberty,” but it speaks to the larger idea that we can’t just restrict personal freedoms in order to feel a little safer. Some checks and balances certainly need to be put in place for new drivers, but I’m not certain a nationwide curfew is the optimal route.

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The Future is Here: Breathalyzer Skin Patches

We all know that if someone is arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, they will be required to take a breathalyzer test, usually later at the police station. And this test result will be the primary evidence used against him in a drunk driving case.

The first problem with this is that the amount of alcohol in the blood is constantly changing — either rising due to absorption from recent drinking or, more likely, falling due to metabolism of the alcohol.

The second problem is that it is only illegal to have a .08% blood-alcohol concentration at the time of driving — not later at the police station.  And this breath test may not be given for an hour or two after the driving has ended — particularly in accident cases, where the police may not arrive for some time.  So the prosecution has to try to estimate what the blood-alcohol level was when the suspect was driving based upon the later test.

The third problem is that because of this, for the test results to be admissible as evidence in court they have to have been obtained within a certain period of time — in California, for example, within three hours.

But what if there was a breath-testing device which could record what the blood-alcohol level was at the time the suspect is actually driving?
Flexible Wearable Electronic Skin Patch Offers New Way to Monitor Alcohol Levels

San Diego, CA.  Aug. 2 – Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a flexible wearable sensor that can accurately measure a person’s blood alcohol level from sweat and transmit the data wirelessly to a laptop, smartphone or other mobile device. The device can be worn on the skin and could be used by doctors and police officers for continuous, non-invasive and real-time monitoring of blood alcohol content.

The device consists of a temporary tattoo — which sticks to the skin, induces sweat and electrochemically detects the alcohol level — and a portable flexible electronic circuit board, which is connected to the tattoo by a magnet and can communicate the information to a mobile device via Bluetooth…
Clearly, the government would be very interested in requiring anyone convicted of DUI to wear such a patch for the probationary period (commonly three years).

 

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Here’s What Happens When Your Uber Driver Gets a DUI

front view of a car driving fast at night

When Katie Gallion’s Uber driver started swerving across the road’s rumble strips only 15 minutes into her ride near Durham, North Carolina, on June 3, she decided to give him a pass. At 10 p.m., it was dark outside and raining hard, she told BuzzFeed News. She didn’t know he’d polished off four beers before starting to drive for Uber that night.

When the car crossed over a grass median, coming precariously close to the oncoming traffic lane, Gallion began considering her options. “I was getting really scared and contemplating that maybe I should nicely ask him to pull over,” the 33-year-old pharmacist said.

But she waited, and after turning onto a two-lane country road, the driver veered off the road and into a ditch, where the ride continued. “I was a crying mess, thinking, Oh my god, what if he doesn’t let me out of the car?” Gallion said. “Then I yelled, ‘What is going on? Let me out!’”

Finally, the driver pulled into the parking lot of a closed minimart and let Gallion out of the car. “I’m a good driver,” Gallion said he told her in a halfhearted attempt to convince her to continue the ride. Then he offered to call her another Uber.

Gallion called a friend instead, and together they called Wake County police. “I really could have died,” Gallion said. “I don’t know what would’ve happened … if I didn’t get out of the car.”

Gallion’s Uber driver was arrested for driving while impaired at 11:09 p.m. — about an hour after her ride began. According to Wake County Superior Court records, he had a blood alcohol level of 0.15 — nearly four times the .04 legal limit for commercial drivers. The driver, who had no prior arrest record, was also charged with failure to heed a light or siren.

Reached for comment, Gallion’s Uber driver told BuzzFeed News he had accepted one other fare on the night of the incident. He said his memory of Gallion’s ride is unclear. “I remember knowing that she was uncomfortable and it was raining,” he said.


Gallion reported the incident to Uber at around 1 a.m., after reaching her friend’s house. About 12 hours later, the company responded with a boilerplate email and a refund of $69.24 for her ride. In a follow-up phone call, a company representative told Gallion it was “working diligently” to investigate the incident but could not discuss it in detail because of its privacy policy. She asked if he had been deactivated. Uber declined to tell her, citing a company mandate “to respect the privacy of all users.”

“Uber has a zero tolerance policy for the use of drugs and alcohol, and upon learning of these allegations, we immediately removed the driver’s access to the platform,” an Uber spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. Uber said this driver in particular had no prior safety complaints and was “highly rated.


BuzzFeed News reported in March that screenshots of Uber’s internal customer support platform showed the company’s instructions for how representatives should handle incidents involving alcohol and drug use. “If rider does not wish to escalate with LE (law enforcement) or media, follow strike system, issue warning, and resolve without escalating.” Under resolution suggestions, the screenshot showed that for the “1st strike,” customer service representatives were instructed to issue a “final warning,” and to permanently ban drivers at strike two.

Emails provided to BuzzFeed News show that Uber first reached out to Gallion’s driver by email at 1 p.m. the following day, about 12 hours after she reported him to the company for drunk driving. Unable to reach him over the phone (he was in jail), a company representative asked the driver when he was available discuss a “concerning report” by phone. When he checked his Uber app, he saw he had already lost access to the platform.

The next day, June 5, Uber conducted a brief interview during which Gallion’s driver was asked to review the details of the allegations against him. The driver told BuzzFeed News that he confirmed to Uber that he had indeed been arrested for driving under the influence. The following day he received an email notification from Uber saying he’d been deactivated and his “partnership” with the company ended. “They handled it quickly,” the driver said.

This isn’t the first time an Uber driver has been arrested for driving under the influence. That said, Uber notes that ride-hailing can be a wise alternative to driving after drinking. According to a study the company conducted with the nonprofit group Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Uber’s entry into a number of markets correlated with subsequent declines in DUI arrests.

Uber says it depends on riders to rate drivers and provide feedback, which its safety team reviews. “Uber may also deactivate a driver who receives several unconfirmed complaints of drug or alcohol use,” the ride-hail giant’s deactivation policy reads. The company told BuzzFeed it has a team of former law enforcement professionals on staff to help with police investigations. When BuzzFeed News asked if it has a system for learning about drivers’ law enforcement incidents instead of just relying on riders’ alerts, Uber said in some states background checks are “periodically” updated. Uber did not respond when asked if North Carolina is included among those states.

On Wednesday, Uber announced it is piloting app features aimed at making rides safer. In several markets across the U.S., drivers will receive daily reports on their braking, acceleration, and navigation. The goal, Uber told BuzzFeed, is to lay the groundwork to eventually create a system that gives the company real-time alerts about erratic drivers.

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Keeping New Year’s Eve DWI Free

a man holding a class of alcohol with car keys in hand. there is a clock turning midnight in the background

New Year’s Eve is the second most likely night for people to receive a DWI charge. Only Thanksgiving sees more DWIs than New Year’s, and the accident rates soar during this time of year, according to official sources. However, it is important to remember that DWIs can happen at any time, and the same rules for keeping New Year’s Eve safe and DWI free apply throughout the year as well.

A DWI conviction can have many life changing consequences including:

  • Having an arrest record
  • Incurring expensive fines
  • Serving jail time
  • Being placed on probation
  • Being required to install an ignition interlock device
  • Being forced to attend mandatory counseling or education classes

A DWI conviction has a serious impact on your life. It is much easier for you to avoid a DWI altogether than to deal with the consequences of such a charge.

What Can I Do To Avoid a DUI Charge?

There are no magic formulas to help you avoid a DWI. Common sense is the best weapon you have in the fight against a DWI charge, but sometimes a bit of knowledge about how the system works can also be beneficial. Here are some tips for avoiding DWI charges:

  • Designated drivers do not get DWIs. It is a simple fact that a designated driver who consumes no alcohol is the best defense against a DWI charge. It is also the best way for you and your friends to stay safe when you are out enjoying the evening. You could also arrange for a cab or other transportation.
  • The less said, the better. It is important not to talk too much to police officers when you are pulled over for any infraction. Police officers are trained to talk to you and get you to say things that can then be used as they build a case against you. While police officers are just doing their jobs, they are not your friends when you are pulled over and you should try to avoid talking to them too much, no matter how polite or nice they seem to be.
  • Call an attorney. If you are charged with DWI, an experienced DWI attorney is your best bet for reduction or dismissal of the charges.

Contact me,  Adam Woody, at The Law Office of Adam Woody if you are arrested or booked on DWI charges. I’m here to fight for you.

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