It seems like there is a smartphone app for everything these days, from silly video games to powerful GPS navigation systems. Now, several state governments are working to build apps that can help people stay safe on the roads and avoid being arrested for DUI title.
According to a story from GovTech.com, government agencies, with the help of average citizens who know how to create smartphone apps, are figuring out ways that they can use smartphone apps to cut down on drunk driving.
The Colorado Department of Transportation, for example, recently released an iPhone application called R-U-Buzzed. This app can estimate blood alcohol content by allowing the user to enter their weight and the number of drinks and alcohol type they’ve consumed. If users register as having had too much to drink and the app displays the message: “Don’t even think about it!”
Another app, created during the Apps for Democracy contest hosted by iStrategy Labs, is called Stumble Safely. This app is designed to help pedestrians walk home safely after a night out at the bars.
The app factors in crime rates, neighborhood information, bar locations, public transit options, and time of day to provide a safe path home for users.
The Office of Traffic Safety in California also announced a no-cost partnership with an app called Taxi Magic, which helps users to find a taxi cab. This app promotes finding a cab driver to drive you home instead of making a bad decision and getting a DUI or causing damage from behind the wheel.
“It gives those who need to get someplace when they’ve had too much to drink an easy way to do it,” said California OTS Spokesman Chris Cochran. “It’s one more tool in the anti-DUI tactics we have.”
He said that all a user had to do was get in the cab when it arrived, helping out anyone who can’t otherwise find a safe ride home.
Taxi Magic is a free application that was released in January of 2009. It became one of the top applications in the iTunes store. Customers with iPhones can summon a cab to their location with the press of a single button.
In a surprising move, Colorado’s Governor Bill Ritter plans to divert more than $1.3 million intended to fight drunken driving to help fill the state’s budget gap estimated at $318 million.
A recent Denver Post article stated that the $1.3 million, which is raised by a surcharge imposed on everyone convicted of a DUI offense in Colorado, has been used to “pay overtime for cops working the ‘Heat Is On’ crackdowns on long holiday weekends.”
This is particularly relevant as the recent Labor Day Weekend statistics are being tabulated and due to be released shortly.
For Colorado, their planned campaign for Labor Day weekend was to be the last funded by those grants if the legislature approves Ritter’s plan, and as of Tuesday, Sept. 8th, the decision has yet to be made.
As of now, in Colorado everyone convicted of an alcohol- related traffic offense pays a $90 fine, roughly 1/3 of which goes to the Transportation Department to fund grants for DUI enforcement.
The money is then dispersed throughout the local law enforcement agencies. For 2009 a total of $1.4 million was available to 56 police and sheriff’s departments. Nearly $375,000 is expected to be left after the Labor Day enforcement campaign.
This being the money that Ritter reportedly froze in an executive order.
Larimer County sheriff’s Sgt. Gerald Baker, who is the head of the department’s traffic unit was quoted as saying, “It’s going to have an impact on our numbers, and it’s a little too early to say whether it’s going to have an impact on injury accidents or fatalities.”
In 2008, within the state of Colorado, nearly 40% of all DUI related traffic fatalities occurred within a 24 hour window of a holiday; the same time period which is now under jeopardy of losing heightened patrolling.
Last November, Lawrence Trujillo needed a drink, so he and friend stopped a downtown bar and had a few. Unfortunately, he did not get a cab.
About six blocks from his home, he ran over a family, killing two children and their mother. Trujillo then drove home. When police arrived four hours later, he had a blood alcohol level of 0.17. The father escaped serious injury.
Trujillo was charged with 13 counts, including vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, and child abuse.
In a surprise, Trujillo pled guilty to all counts. According to the Denver Post, his DUI attorney, Rob Bernhardt, said Trujillo had wanted to plead guilty since the day after the accident, but Bernhardt wanted to review the prosecutor’s evidence first.
Prosecutors had offered him a deal to 40 to 60 years in prison, but Trujillo decided to skip the deal and plead straight up.
Trujillo faces 16 to 176 years in prison. KTVD reported that Denver District Court Judge Morris Hoffman told Trujillo his practice is to impose consecutive sentences.
The family father, Frank Bingham, said that while Trujillo’s plea brought some degree of closure, “if Mr. Trujillo ever comes out of prison, he should be quite an old man when it happens.”
On March 13th of this year, an SUV crashed into a car, killing 17-year-old Samara Stricklen of Lakewood, Colorado. When police arrived at the scene, they found 16-year-old Alison Bowen behind the wheel of the SUV.
However, police learned during their investigation that 16-year-old Nanette Lafluer was actually operating the Ford Explorer during the fatal drunk driving accident.
With that said, Lafluer was recently charged with vehicular homicide while DUI. As for Bowen, she has been accused of drinking and driving sometime during the night of the fatal accident and thus is still facing a DUI charge.
And for her deception, Bowen has been charged with trying to influence a public servant.
A liquor store clerk is also facing charges in this unfortunate Colorado DUI case. The grand jury investigation has accused 44-year-old Pham Van Thein of repeatedly selling alcohol to minors, including one of Lafluer’s friends on that night.
Authorities have also determined that Lafluer drank some vodka purchased from Van Thein’s liquor store prior to getting behind the wheel of the SUV on that fatal night.
A Jefferson County, Colorado liquor store clerk was sentenced to home detention and probation for selling liquor to a minor who later died in a DUI accident. Loc Quang Truong was given 120 days home detention and 18 months of probation.
Loc had pled guilty to providing alcohol to a 20-year-old minor using his older brother’s expired Michigan driver’s license. Paul Ondrish later rolled his vehicle, killing himself and a passenger.
They were not wearing seatbelts. Three teenagers, riding in the back seat and wearing their seatbelts, suffered minor injuries.
The boys’ families said they were satisfied with the sentence which includes 120 hours of community service in a trauma facility, restitution, a $1,000 fine, orders to obtain a GED, to not work in a liquor store, and to attend a victim-empathy panel.
Colorado law enforcement agencies made 625 arrests for drunken driving over the Memorial Day weekend. Across the country, states conducted well publicized DUI crackdowns over the holiday weekend.
Following the weekend, states announced crackdown arrest statistics.
Before the weekend, Colorado aired television commercials announcing its “Heat In On” campaign. Over the weekend, eight people died in traffic related accidents. According to state officials, half of the deaths were alcohol related.
Last year, there were 708 DUI arrests over the Memorial day weekend. Officials say the next Colorado Heat Is On campaign will be over the Independence Day weekend.
Colorado Representative Joel Judd has proposed an extreme DUI measure to reduce drunk driving after a driver hit and killed a mother and her two children in Denver. Under Judd’s DUI law, first-time DUI offenders, regardless of BAC, would lose their driver’s license for five years unless they agreed to addiction treatment and to putting an ignition interlock in their car. A driver convicted of DUI must keep the interlock in his car for five years.
Second time DUI offenders would lose their driver’s license for twenty years or install an interlock for two decades.
As with many DUI proposals, Judd’s law disregards the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the driver. Being stopped with a BAC of 0.08 does not necessarily indicate an alcohol addiction. Many states are instituting Extreme DUI laws (BAC over 0.15-0.20 depending on the state) to combat the drivers who cause most injuries and deaths. Judd’s law ignores findings that most injuries and deaths are caused by drivers with a BAC over 0.15, but rather, punishes every DUI offender equally. When having two drinks in a hour can cause a BAC over the legal limit for DUI of 0.08, any DUI law needs to differentiate between the careless and the reckless driver.
Denver, Colorado law enforcement officials are alleging that a driver who is accused of running down a family, injuring the father and killing the mother and her two children, is alleged to have been driving under the influence (DUI) at the time. Denver TV stations have reported that a breath-test given to the driver four hours after the accident showed a BAC of 0.15 to 0.16, twice the legal limit in Colorado. The driver had fled the scene and was picked up hours later at his home in suburban Westminster. His license plate had come off his truck in the accident.
The driver is already facing charges including child abuse resulting in death, and vehicular homicide.
Lawrence Trujillo, of Westminster Colorado, appeared in court Sunday, to hear charges of three counts of vehicular homicide involving driving under the influence, four counts of vehicular assault while driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. The accident occurred in downtown Denver, no more than 4 blocks from my home.
According to reports, Trujillo blew through two red lights and was traveling between 30 and 40 miles per hour when he struck a family crossing the street, killing three and leaving only the father to grieve. Trujillo was easily located through a license plate that fell off his truck during the accident. He and his passenger were arrested about five hours after the accident. Police are still investigating the incident, including trying to determine where the men had been drinking and how much they had.
“As a neighbor, he’s a good guy,” said a neighbor who lives across the street from Trujillo. “I don’t have anything bad to say about Larry.”
Colorado DUI laws require that all drunk driving suspects be fingerprinted and photographed. However, the Rocky Mountain News reported this week that Denver DUI enforcement officers have been ignoring that aspect of Colorado DUI law for more than a decade.
Most Denver DUI officers reportedly allows Denver DUI suspects to be driven home by a sober friend or family member without formal booking.
Officials are concerned about the risks of this process. For instance, a Denver DUI defendant who used a fake ID could avoid detection.
And, in at least one recent Denver DUI offense, charges were dropped after the defendant claimed mistaken identity and there were no photographs or fingerprints to tie him to the arrest.