New Law Places DUI Restrictions on Ridesharing Drivers

California Governor Jerry Brown just signed into law new restrictions for drivers of the popular ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

Under the new law, which was authored by Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) and Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo), ridesharing companies cannot hire drivers who are registered sex offenders or who have been convicted of violent felonies. They are also prohibited from hiring drivers who have suffered a DUI conviction within the past seven years. Companies who violate these rules face fines of up to $5,000.

Another related law passed prohibits rideshare drivers from having a blood alcohol content of 0.04 percent as if they were commercial drivers rather than 0.08 percent which is the current level for non-commercial drivers.

Another non-DUI related law signed by Governor Brown makes it easier for people to work for ridesharing companies. Under the new law, drivers will be allowed to rent cars to work for ridesharing companies.

It makes sense that those entrusted with driving would-be drunk drivers home are not drunk drivers themselves.


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Facing The Consequences And Moving Forward

Each individual has two lives, their professional life and their personal life. They tend to separate the two and not bring any work related problems home or vice versa. No one needs to know what mistakes they have made during their free time, or so that is what we would like to believe. Dr. Monica M. Harms, a family practice physician, from Laguna Hills is currently on medical license probation for two DUI convictions she received in the span of four years. The Medical Board of California did not find it acceptable to have a licensed doctor with two DUI convictions.

Her first DUI occurred in 2009 when she was involved in a collision in the West Covina area. Her second DUI happened 4 years later in Newport Beach.

The Orange County Superior Court sentenced her to a five-year probation in 2014. The Medical Board of California also placed her on a five-year probation in which she has limited practice of medicine.

Her probation consists of:

  • ·         Abstaining from alcohol and controlled substances
  • ·         Informing her office of supervisors and any hospital in which she is providing her services of her probation status
  • ·         Undergoing psychiatric evaluation
  • ·         Drug and alcohol testing
  • ·         Designating a work place substance abuse monitor
  • ·         Attending support group meetings
  • ·         Most importantly, obeying all laws.

Dr. Harms is also not allowed to supervise physician assistants and must notify the medical board if she decides to take a break from practicing medicine, or if she plans to leave the state.

She must follow these rules at all times. If she does not comply, she will face revocation of her practice license.

This is a very tough lesson to learn. Even those who devote themselves to saving lives make mistakes and have to face the consequences. No one is exempt from the law.  

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Do Energy Drinks Contribute to Drunk Driving?

A study recently published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research strongly suggests that popular energy drinks when coupled with alcohol significantly contribute to people driving under the influence of alcohol

Researchers at the University of Maryland followed 1,000 college students over the course of six years. The study found that the more non-alcoholic energy drinks consumed by the participants, the more likely they were to drive drunk.

“[The] results shed light on the complexity of the relationship between [energy drink] consumption patterns and an important public health problem: drunk driving,” noted the authors of the study, led by public health researcher Amelia Arria of the University of Maryland.

Although the reason for the link is unclear since the energy drinks do not contain alcohol, researchers speculated that participants consumed energy drinks to counteract the sedative effects of alcohol and that, since participants felt “more awake,” they were more likely to continue to drink.

Researchers also speculated that college student participants consumed energy drinks to fight the hangover after a night of drinking.

Another possible link between energy drink consumption and drunk driving, according to the researchers, is that participants who are more likely to consume energy drinks are already more prone to drive drunk. Researchers noted that advertisements for energy drinks portray a more “exciting, active lifestyle with a proudly carefree and undaunted attitude of ‘living for the moment.’” The authors went on to say, “In that case, it would be plausible that individuals who identify with such a prototype might also be at risk for drunk driving because they tend to dismiss any potential for harm.”

The recent study confirms the results of previous studies conducted on the same topic.

If you enjoy mixing alcohol with energy drinks, regardless of why, be aware of a few things: you are more likely to over drink, you are probably drunker than you think you are, and you are more likely to mistakenly believe that you’re ok to drive home. 

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Introducing Senate Bill 1046

California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1046, which enforces ignition interlock devices. Starting January 1, 2019, ignition interlocks will be required for DUI offenders. We have been hearing about this program, pushed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, for several years. It has been tested and used throughout the country to see if it was a successful program.

The pilot program started in 2010 and was tested in Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento, and Tulare Counties. The devices have prevented 125,000 attempts to drive by users who had a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent or higher.

The DMV also released a report that found ignition interlock devices are 74% more effective than license suspensions.

How will the Ignition Interlock Devices be enforced?  

            With first time DUI offence that involves an injury, the Ignition Interlock Device will be required for six months.

            First time DUI offender with no injury can choose to have the Ignition Interlock Device for six months with full driving privileges or a one-year restricted license that only allows the offender to drive to work while also taking a treatment program.

            Second time DUI offenders will require the Ignition Interlock Device for one year.

            Third time DUI offenders will require the Ignition Interlock Device for two years

            Individuals who have 4 or more DUIs will be required to have the device for three years.  

The Ignition Interlock Device costs $60 to $80 per month with an installation fee anywhere between $70 to $150. There will be assistance programs for low-income individuals who cannot afford the installation fee.

The Ignition Interlock Device is currently required in 28 states and will very likely be required in all 50 states in the near future.  

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Marijuana Breathalyzers Tested in California

You’ve been hearing me say it for quite a while: Marijuana breathalyzers are coming soon. And it seems as though they’ve arrived.

Police officers in California teamed up with Mike Lynn, CEO of Hound Labs, which developed a marijuana breathalyzer that, not only tests whether a person has recently smoked, but can tell the officers what a person’s THC level is.

With marijuana breathalyzers in tow, officers requested a voluntary breath sample of people who had been observed driving erratically. Only people who were also drunk were arrested. Those of whom had either admitted to recently smoking marijuana or who tested positive for THC were provided safe rides home.

According to Lynn, the handheld device isolates the THC from the breath sample through a disposable cartridge and analyzes it. Following the analysis, the results are displayed on a screen.

“You smoke it, it goes into your lungs, into the blood, and for lack of a better term, comes back around and is exhaled in the breath,” said Lynn. “We’re measuring actual THC from the blood stream.”

Because the device measures the THC from the bloodstream, the breathalyzer can also detect THC consumed through marijuana edibles.

While it looks as though marijuana breathalyzers are on cusp of widespread use, the same oversight that I’ve complained about before remains. THC is not an accurate indicator of impairment. A person can have smoke a day, week, or month ago and yet still test positive for THC. Does that mean that they are unfit to operate a vehicle? No.

So until we can test actual impairment of marijuana, it seems to me as though current marijuana breathalyzers are valueless.

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