Stop and think before you get behind the wheel on New Year’s Eve.
This is the motto of one Georgia funeral home – a family business that has been running Operation Stop and Think for the past 10 years.
According to a CNN report, McGuire, Jennings and Miller Funeral Home in Rome, Ga. has been offering a contract to anyone who wants to sign it up until noon on New Year’s Eve.
What exactly is this contract? It’s a contract stating that the undersigned definitely plans to drink or use drugs and then drive a car on New Year’s Eve.
If someone does sign the contract, McGuire, Jennings and Miller will cover the costs of everything related to their funeral when they are killed from DUI – including a casket, burial plot and even flowers.
Barry Miller, one of the funeral home’s owners, said the program started 10 years ago when he lost a family member to a drunk driver.
In the 10 years the program has been running, not one person has come in to sign the contract.
Miller said he never expects anyone to actually sign it, but they use it as more of a tool with some shock value, in hopes of saving a life.
By Chris Kramer
If you’re drinking and driving in the state of Illinois this holiday season, keep this in mind: When pulled over for DUI, the money you pay in fines will go in part to funding new cop cars and updated breathalyzer machines.
According to a report from the Illinois News Tribune, as much as 20 percent of a DUI fine goes to the arresting county’s police department, while the rest of the fine is distributed to other funds – some of which include new police cruisers and new breath test equipment.
It’s just one more reason to be extra careful on the roads this holiday season – if you don’t get a ticket, you won’t be contributing to state police funding!
The first decade of the new millennium came in with a bang – everyone was freaked out about Y2K, and ringing in the year 2000 might have been the biggest party Times Square has ever seen.
Along with all the fun to be had in the 2000s, there were plenty of celebrities busted for drunk driving.
Among the celebrity DUIs from 2000 – 2009 are actor Rip Torn, busted in Connecticut in December 2006; former basketball star Charles Barkley, arrested in Arizona in December 2008; Stephanie Pratt, “The Hills” reality star, arrested in October 2009; Mike Tyson, former boxer, busted in Arizona in December 2006; George Michael caught in England in August 2009; and actress Heather Locklear, arrested in California in September 2008 – just to name a few.
There were also some close calls that didn’t turn into an arrest and DUI charges, like Jenna Bush’s warning for underage drinking and driving back in 2001.
To help recap the first decade of the new millennium, Total DUI has compiled a list of the Top Ten Most Memorable Celebrity DUIs of the Decade:
- Academy Award nominee Nick Nolte was arrested in September 2002 when highway patrol pulled him over for erratic driving in Malibu. Nolte was described by officers as “drooling” and “completely out of it.” Nolte had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, once referring to himself as a “functioning drunk,” according to CBS News.
- Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan, formerly of Saturday Night Live, had a blood–alcohol level of .13 when he was arrested in Hollywood in December 2005. Morgan was given three years of probation as a result of the DUI offense, and had to attend an alcohol education program, according to an Associated Press report.
- Canadian rock group Nickleback’s front man, Chad Kroeger, was arrested for DUI in British Columbia in June 2006, according to the Canadian Press. Kroeger was pulled over for “excessive speeding and erratic driving,” while in his $175,000 Lamborghini. After the arrest, Kroeger’s main concern was how his car was to be transported home. The officers allowed him to make arrangements and stay with the car until he was sure it would make it safely back to his house.
- In July 2006, actor Mel Gibson was arrested for DUI in California. He also reportedly had an open container in his car, according to CNN. Gibson’s DUI arrest was made memorable after he was reported to have made anti-Semitic and sexist comments, for which he later apologized. Gibson’s DUI has since been expunged.
- Child star Haley Joel Osment, famous for his roles in The Sixth Sense and A.I., was charged with DUI in July 2006. According to People Magazine, Osment crashed his car into a mailbox and flipped over. He was charged with the possession of marijuana and for being under the age of 21 with a .05 blood-alcohol level. Osment was 18 years old at the time.
- Paris Hilton: Singer, actress, comedian, heiress, arrestee? According to MSNBC, Hilton was on her way to In-N-Out Burger after having not eaten all day when she was pulled over and arrested for DUI in September 2006. The heiress said of her DUI arrest, “It was nothing,” and her publicist said he doubted it would hurt her reputation – if anything, it seems like it made her more famous.
- Nicole Richie, star of TV’s “The Simple Life,” was arrested for DUI in California in December 2006. According to an ABC News report, Richie was driving alone in her Mercedes SUV. Officers picked her up after receiving 911 calls about a car driving on the wrong side of the expressway. At the time of her arrest, Richie was said to be 5’1″ and weighed just 85 pounds.
- In July 2007 in Santa Monica, Lindsay Lohan was booked in jail as part of a California DUI investigation after a 911 call from a woman who was allegedly being chased by Lohan’s SUV. This arrest occurred only two weeks after the actress left rehab, according to a Fox News report. Lohan was unable to pass a field sobriety test at the time of her arrest.
- Comedian and former Saturday Night Live cast member, Bill Murray, was traveling abroad in Sweden when was seen driving around in a golf cart in August 2007. Murray was never convicted, according to CBS News, but he refused a breathalyzer when Swedish authorities pulled him over, so they required a blood test. Officials said prison was unlikely, but the actor faced a fine. No one knows where the golf cart came from, but officials asserted that there were no theft charges against the actor.
- The star of the hit TV series “24”, Kiefer Sutherland, was arrested in Hollywood in September 2007 on suspicion of DUI. After making an illegal U-turn, the actor was pulled over by LAPD officials and failed a field sobriety test, according to People Magazine. This was Sutherland’s second DUI arrest of the decade (the first was in 2004), so he served mandatory jail time.
A charity group based in Beverly Hills – the Lev Foundation – has a printable voucher for a $10 cab ride posted on its Web site. The vouchers will be available through the month of December.
According to an Associated Press article, the Lev Foundation was created last year by the friends and family of 25-year-old Daniel Levian after he was killed as a passenger in a drunk driving accident.
The Web site reported that about 200 vouchers have been distributed so far.
The holiday season is definitely a time of heightened DUI arrests and deaths. Taking action to prevent DUIs is commendable, and hopefully the Lev Foundation sees great success with this endeavor.
An Amish man was arrested for DUI when he was discovered sleeping ‘behind the wheel’ of a moving buggy, according to an Associated Press report.
The horse was spotted pulling the buggy at a slow walking pace in the middle of the road on Sunday night.
Police discovered a 22-year-old man asleep in the driver’s seat of the buggy. According to the Associated Press report, officers recorded the man’s breathalyzer test at 0.18 – the legal limit for blood alcohol content in Pa. is 0.08.
According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, the number of deaths caused by drunk driving decreased by seven percent between 2007 and 2008.
The number of deaths in 2007 was 13,041 and in 2008 it was recorded at 11,773, which is 1,268 fewer deaths than the previous year.
This recent decrease mirrors a trend that has been happening in the U.S. since the 80s. In 1982 there were more than 21,000 DUI related fatalities – that number has decreased 44 percent since then.
The states with the most improved rates of DUI-related deaths are Maine, Vermont and Wisconsin. Montana is the state that has the highest rate of DUI deaths – but the Montana rate did drop 10 percent from 2007 to 2008.
DUI-related fatality rates did fall in 40 states from 2007 to 2008.
According to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, each state’s law enforcement actions directly affect the rate of DUI fatalities.
In Oak Harbor, Wash., a small community off the coast of Washington on Whidbey Island, two bizarre incidents occurred on the same day, both allegedly involving driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The first accident involved a 22-year-old woman who was driving her Volkswagen Beetle on Midway Boulevard, a road that travels directly toward the coast of the island.
The woman drove her Beetle straight through an intersection without stopping and “careened down an embankment and ended up in the tidelands,” according to a report from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Luckily for the negligent driver, it was low tide at the time so she did not end up submerged and in possible danger for her life.
On her way into the tidelands, the Beetle crashed through a concrete bench. The bench was part of a memorial to volunteer firefighters. The car also damaged what city officials called a “lift station breather vent.”
According to Oak Harbor Police Chief Rick Wallace, the woman was arrested on suspicion of DUI. A tow truck was able to pull the car from the tidelands. The city will seek restitution for the damaged bench.
The Post-Intelligencer reported the second similar accident that occurred on the same day happened just after midnight on Sunday; a 20-year-old woman drove her car into a two-story apartment building.
“It appeared to be very minor damage,” said Chief Wallace. He did mention that it’s possible there was unseen structural damage to the property.
The driver of the car is a resident in the building that she ran into. She was arrested on suspicion of DUI and underage drinking.
Fortunately, nobody was injured in either of the incidents. When DUI is involved, the results can be far more tragic than those of this odd day of accidents in Oak Harbor.
When the news of DUI accidents is so often more severe than several strange veers off of the road, it can be nice to read about a bad situation that didn’t end up far worse.
In DUI-related news, it seems that a good number of strange stories tend come out of the woodwork.
Poor decisions have a tendency to lead to more poor decisions, and sometimes the results can be pretty weird.
The variety of odd cases is remarkable, from a motorized recliner and a self-propelled barstool to a man charged with DUI while wearing a breathalyzer costume – and another who claimed to be his own country.
A recent story out of Tennessee is the latest entry into the log of strange DUI arrests and incidents.
According to the Johnson City Press, Veletta Cuba Newman from Elizabethton, Tenn., suffered an embarrassing case of mistaken identity after passing out in her car at a Sonic Drive-In.
Moments before, a passerby noticed Newman slumped behind the wheel of her car in a market parking lot. The witness watched as Newman awoke and proceeded to start her engine and drive erratically out of the parking lot, and then the witness called police.
By that time, Newman had parked her car in a spot at the Sonic Drive-In, where she presumably expected a food order to arrive at her window.
When Elizabethton Police Officer Sarah Ellison arrived at the scene, she knocked on the window of Newman’s car. Newman was again slumped behind the wheel.
Newman woke up and attempted to hand Officer Ellison a twenty dollar bill, mistakenly thinking that the cop was a car hop and attempting to pay for an order. Ellison explained that she was not a Sonic employee, but Newman persisted, continuing to hold out the money to the officer.
The story did not end well for Newman, who was arrested for DUI. Officer Ellison searched the car and found drug paraphernalia, including, according to the report, “a used syringe, a spoon with white powdery residue and numerous bottles of prescription medicine.”
Newman recently appeared in Sessions Court following the incident, under charges of a second offense of driving under the influence and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. A hearing for Newman was set for April 6.
The newest reality celebrity to join the DUI arrest list was ‘The Hills’ cast member, Stephanie Pratt.
According to a CNN article, Pratt was arrested last month for a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence while on the way home from a Hollywood nightclub.
Earlier in the evening, Pratt attended fellow cast member Holly Montag’s birthday party. She was pulled over by California police around 3:45 a.m., on her way home from the party.
Pratt was taken to the Van Nuys jail for booking and she was released later that morning.
Pratt’s BAC content was 0.09 percent which was over the legal limit of 0.08 in the state of California. She pleaded not guilty to the DUI charges at her LA court hearing this month.
Pratt decided to enter a 30-day rehab facility. She told PEOPLE magazine that it, “was the worst thing to happen to me and, at the same time, it was the biggest blessing.”
Pratt’s DUI attorney, Jon Bryant Artz, claimed she was pulled over by the police because she has tinted windows on her vehicle. He continued to claim Pratt failed her sobriety tests due to her four-inch heels.
Pratt was not the first of the ‘Laguna Beach’ or ‘The Hills’ cast to run into trouble with the law.
Jason Whaler – Lauren Conrad’s infamous boyfriend on both reality shows – was arrested on a few assault charges and possession of alcohol as a minor.
Jessica Smith – former girlfriend of Jason Whaler and ‘Laguna Beach’ cast member – was arrested in 2007 for driving under the influence, according to an article in PEOPLE magazine.
Smith was driving with one passenger in her vehicle on a freeway near Laguna when she allegedly rear-ended the vehicle in front of her.
Both her passenger and the driver in the other vehicle suffered from minor injuries. Smith did not suffer any injuries.
The California highway patrol said in a statement that incident was caused due to, “the level of intoxication, unsafe speed, and wet roadway conditions.”
Reality celebrities are not immune to DUIs. This latest celebrity DUI arrest serves as another reminder that drinking under the influence imposes consequences for all.
When it comes to DUI, police are concerned primarily with the safety of drivers. However, when that goal starts to impinge upon the interests of local bars and restaurants that depend upon a steady flow of happy customers, a compromise might be in order.
Just such a situation has arisen in the city of Cape Coral, Fla., where a group of downtown bar and restaurant owners were concerned that the frequency of local police’s DUI checkpoints was hurting their businesses, according to a report from ABC 7.
Along the Cape Coral Parkway, an area filled with numerous bars and restaurants, DUI checkpoints were becoming a more and more frequent sight.
While the flagging economy may certainly have contributed to slow business at some of these restaurants, local business owners have recently voiced the suspicion that the DUI checkpoints may also be hurting their bottom line.
Leapin’ Lizards is a bar in the area that has experienced just such a lag in business. Bar owner May Ann Evans told ABC 7 that, rather than the economic conditions, customers are deterred by the police presence on the roads: “They’re just not going through the aggravation. They will avoid going to an area that’s just plagued with constant checkpoints.”
Evans and other business owners in the area have asked police to help find an alternative to the checkpoints that will maintain safety on the roads without compromising businesses in the area.
Recently, according to the report, local police have stated a willingness to massage their strategy by way of compromise.
Cape Coral Police Chief, Rob Petrovich, recently told the media that he is open-minded about compromise, and that he is considering saturation and foot patrols, which help deter drunk driving in a way that bar and restaurant owners consider to be more amendable to business.
“My dream,” Petrovich told ABC 7, “is for their parking lots to be full, for them to be fruitful and at the same time – everybody be safe.”
One local owner welcomes the new strategy. “Hopefully they’ll cut back a little on that and there will be a more personal relationship with the officers rather than a show of force kind of deal,” said Ed Sheridan, the co-owner of Eddie Fishbowls.
The bars and restaurants in the area have agreed, in turn, to explore creative ways to help prevent drunk driving, like taxi shares.
Richard Niemczyk, a resident of Hanover Park, Ill., was recently arrested for and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, according to The Courier-News.
The DUI charge was Niemczyk’s tenth such charge since 1991.
Niemczyk was arrested following an Oct. 21 incident at a local business, where a store employee reported to police that Niemczyk was acting belligerently while attempting to return merchandise to the store.
Police arrived on the scene, and told Niemczyk not to drive out of the business’ parking lot, determining after some investigation that his license had been revoked.
Niemczyk chose to disobey this directive, which proved to be a bad decision.
Police officers saw Niemczyk drive past them at a nearby intersection, a mere fifteen minutes after leaving the store. Driving a 1994 Ford Econoline van, he was arrested not only for driving with a revoked license, but he was also later charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
A DuPage County Grand Jury recently indicted Niemczyk for aggravated driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Because it was his tenth DUI arrest since March of 1991, the charge was upgraded to a Class X felony, which can mean six to thirty years in a state penitentiary, and/or a fine of up to $25,000.
The local police department and the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office have, according to The Courier-News, “charged Niemczyk with a Class 1 Felony for aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, a Class 4 Felony for aggravated driving with a revoked license, a Class A Misdemeanor for driving under the Influence of Alcohol and a Class A Misdemeanor for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol with a blood alcohol content of .08 or more.”
Niemczyk is being held on $100,000 bail at the DuPage County Jail in Wheaton, Illinois, after an October 22 bail bond hearing.
The Courier-News report did not mention what merchandise he was attempting to return, or whether the attempt was ultimately successful.
There are many strange stories involving driving under the influence.
Some are tragic, changing the lives of those involved, while others, like a recent story out of Minnesota, simply boggle the mind.
In the town of Proctor, Minn., a man was stopped for driving drunk after he collided with a parked car, according to the Duluth News Tribune.
The suspect was returning home from the Keyboard Lounge, a bar where he had consumed eight to nine beers.
Unlike many involved in accidents while driving automobiles, Dennis LeRoy Anderson’s vehicle of choice was a supercharged La-Z-Boy reclining armchair.
Nobody was injured in the accident.
Anderson pleaded guilty to DWI in the incident. His blood alcohol content was measured at 0.29 percent. He has a prior DWI conviction on his record. He received a sentence of 180 days in the St. Louis County Jail or at the Northeast Regional Corrections Center, and must pay a $2,000 fine.
As a part of his probation, according to the News Tribune, “Anderson must submit to a chemical dependency assessment, follow all recommendations, abstain from alcohol and not-prescribed drugs, be subject to random testing and undergo 30 days of electronic monitoring.”
The recliner was customized to travel with a lawn mower engine controlled by a small steering wheel, a stereo, cup holders, and even headlights. To complete the décor, Anderson placed a National Hot Rod Racing Association sticker on the recliner’s headrest.
The chair can reach speeds up to twenty miles per hour, with some help, presumably, from the included nitrous booster.
Anderson’s La-Z-Boy was seized following the incident, as is common. It is now up for auction. The story itself has gained international coverage.
The Proctor Deputy Police Chief, Troy Foucault, was unprepared for the attention. According to the News Tribune, Foucault said, “Our secretary wasn’t too happy. She said, ‘What have you created?’ I said, ‘I talked to the News Tribune, and all of a sudden it’s a whirlwind.’ ’’
According to Minnesota law, it is a crime to operate a self-propelled motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Clearly the interpretation of this law extends to even the most unusual vehicles.
Anderson stated that his trip home in the La-Z-Boy was proceeding as he’d planned it until, “a woman jumped on it and knocked the chair off course.” It was at that point that he struck the parked car. Standers-by probably could have told the wannabe passenger that it was only a one-seater.
A recent Pennsylvania court case further proves that driving under the influence can have a profound impact on an individual’s life.
We all know that celebrity DUI arrests make headlines, but too often it is the ordinary citizen whose life takes a wrong turn as a result of an error in judgment. Not to mention, of course, the innocent bystanders who may fall victim to an incident involving a drunk driver.
Daryl Reinhardt, a mother and active community member from Hamilton Township, Pa., recently pleaded guilty to driving her car under the influence of alcohol when she hit a man walking on the side of the road, according to the Pocono Record.
Her blood alcohol level registered at 0.129 percent. The legal limit is 0.08 percent. Reinhardt pleaded guilty to one count each of homicide by vehicle, a class three felony, and first-offense driving under the influence of alcohol, an unrated misdemeanor.
She was sentenced to 11-23 months in county jail, according to WNEP local news.
Reinhardt was driving her Jeep Liberty SUV when she swerved onto the shoulder of the road and struck the victim, Darrin Brown, who was walking home from work.
Motorists who passed the scene of the accident stopped to assist Brown, but despite their efforts, he was later pronounced dead at the Pocono Medical Center. Reinhardt’s 14-year-old child was in the car at the time of the accident.
Reinhardt was not robbing a bank or running from the police. Nothing about the story was remarkable, except one poor decision that perhaps at the time didn’t seem like a big deal.
That one decision will now cost her two years of her life spent behind bars, and the immeasurable pain caused to the victim’s family and to her own.
Teresa Hicks spoke out on behalf of Reinhardt, her friend: “Daryl Reinhardt is a soccer mom, a great neighbor, a wonderful person. She supported me through breast cancer and her own breast cancer fight, my mother passing with cancer and her mother passing with cancer.”
Reinhardt wrote a letter to Darrin Brown’s estranged wife Wendy, but Brown was not sure she was ready to forgive. “I don’t know,” she said. “I have to know she felt bad about it.”
It’s impossible to tell if that forgiveness will come, or if the damage done on that night can be somehow reconciled. In the meantime, at the scene of the accident, several balloons were tied to a street sign to mark the place where so many lives were changed in just an instant.
In Salem, Ore., that’s exactly what happened to a man who dialed 9-1-1 to report his stash of pot missing, according to an Associated Press article.
Salem resident Calvin Hoover, 21, made an emergency call from his cell phone while he was driving down the road vomiting.
Hoover claimed that while he was inside a bar, his car was broken into and a jacket, cash and marijuana were stolen.
When sheriff’s deputies arrived, Hoover was arrested on DUI charges. Officials said there is no record of a defense attorney for Hoover.
Famous actor Mel Gibson recently had his drunken driving conviction expunged, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Gibson was pulled over back in July 2006 by a sheriff’s deputy on the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles, Calif.
Gibson was driving his Lexus Sedan over 85 mph. He was given a breathalyzer test and his BAC content was at 0.12 percent – the legal limit is 0.08 percent.
According to CNN, Gibson was charged with a misdemeanor of drunken driving and an open container of alcohol in his vehicle. The open container charge is considered an infraction of the California Vehicle Code.
This was Gibson’s first offense, which is why he was able to expunge his record – or remove the DUI from his record.
He was eligible to expunge it from his record after he completed the terms of his probation. Gibson attended alcohol anonymous meetings, appeared in public service announcements and paid $1,300 in fines.
After the incident, the celebrity Web site TMZ posted Gibson’s arrest report. The report shows that Gibson did not go peacefully with the officer at the time of his arrest. He allegedly had an obscene outburst and tried to flee from the arresting officer, and then threatened the officer several times.
According to CNN, Gibson also made racial slurs, which became very public after his DUI arrest.
He stated, “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.“ He then continued to ask the deputy if he was Jewish. This one night of drunken rowdiness may be expunged from his record, but not from the public eye.
CNN also reported that Gibson later released a statement after he made the comments: “I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words that I said to a law enforcement official the night I was arrested on a DUI charge.”
He continued to state he blurted the comments out in a moment of insanity.
After Gibson’s arrest, people speculated he would get “special” treatment being a famous star, but an independent review board did find the sheriff’s department handled Gibson’s arrest “in accordance with its policies and practices.”