Designated Driver Study

Adam E. Barry, Ph.D., et. al. of the Department of Health Education and Behavior, University of Florida, published an article titled, “Breath Alcohol Concentrations of Designated Drivers” in the July, 2013 edition of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.  The study sampled 1,071 bar patrons and identified 165 designated drivers.  They found that 40% of designated drivers did not abstain from consuming alcohol and 18% recorded BrACs at .05 g/210 L or greater.  The study concludes that, “These findings identify the need for consensus across researchers, laypersons, and communication campaigns that a DD must be someone who has abstained from drinking entirely.”

State of Arizona v. Hon. Butler/Tyler B.

The Supreme Court of Arizona released it's opinion in State of Arizona v. Hon. Butler/Tyler B. on May 30, 2013.  Tyler B., a juvenile, was placed under arrest for DUI.  After being read an implied consent warning, he consented to having his blood drawn.  Prior to trial, he moved to suppress the blood evidence based on his consent being involuntary due to his age and the lack of a parent being present.  He also challenged the warrantless blood draw as a violation of the Fourth Amendment.  The Supreme Court of Arizona said:

We hold now that, independent of § 28-1321, the Fourth Amendment requires an arrestee’s consent to be voluntary to justify a warrantless blood draw. If the arrestee is a juvenile, the youth’s age and a parent’s presence are relevant, though not necessarily determinative, factors that courts should consider in assessing whether consent was voluntary under the totality of the circumstances.

Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to sustain the ruling of the trial court, the Supreme Court of Arizona found that there was a sufficient basis to support the ruling.  Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall told the Arizona Daily Sun on May 31, 2013 that “her office will advise police to get a court-ordered warrant whenever possible before drawing blood, even when a motorist -- and now, especially a juvenile -- gives approval for a blood draw…that eliminates any possibility of having that consent later ruled involuntary.”

Upcoming Webcast: "Compliance: State DMV Perspectives"

The National Center for State Courts is pleased to announce the fourth in a series of six webcasts addressing critical commercial driving issues facing state courts.

Join the Commercial Driving Resource Center for the fifth webcast in the series entitled, "Compliance: State DMV Perspectives" to be broadcast on July 11 at 2:00 p.m. EDT.

This webcast series is funded by a grant from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the Department of Transportation.

Distracted Driving Study

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a study conducted by David L. Strayer, et. al. of the University of Utah titled, “Measuring Cognitive Distraction in the Automobile” (June 2013).  The study tested three groups of individuals, one group drove an automobile thru a residential part of a city, one group drove in a simulator and one group was the control group and didn’t drive.  All three groups performed eight tasks which ranged from listening to music to the use of speech-to-text emailing.  The study was able to quantify the level of distraction for each type of activity performed.  It concluded that “in-vehicle activities, such as using a speech-to-text system to send and receive text or e-mail messages, which produced a relatively high level of cognitive distraction. The data suggest that a rush to voice-based interactions in the vehicle may have unintended consequences that adversely affect traffic safety.”  The authors hope their research will help “to establish a systematic framework for measuring and understanding cognitive distraction in the vehicle.”  This work is very informative.

Language Access Issues in Traffic Cases

Language access issues may arise in traffic cases where the litigant often brings a family member.  Because litigants may not want to come back when a court interpreter is available but would rather pay and be done with the case they may ask that family members be allowed to translate.  Family members rarely have the requisite skills to effectively translate which can lead to miscommunications, conflicts and other problems, therefore this practice is not recommended.

Some states use telephonic transaltion services for traffic cases and others provide an in person interpreter.  Providing translation of common traffic court related information or forms online is another way to assist with language access issues.  Similarly, online payment options should include instructions in other languages. Online translated material should first be converted into plain language so that it is understandable to self represented litigants.

Language access issues can occur in traffic cases at many points in the process. These may include the initial traffic stop; telephone contact with the clerk’s office, face to face contact at the counter, and in the courtroom or hearing room itself.  If an arrest is part of the traffic stop then the jail poses another place where language access issues can occur as well as with  appointed counsel. Other contact points that may raise language access concerns in traffic cases include presentencing interviews, probation, and treatment.  Language access issues include not only the limited English proficient but can include the deaf or hearing impaired or litigants with language processing disorders or cognitive disabilities that may make it difficult to understand.

States are beginning to address these issues with language access plans or policies and translated documents that specifically include traffic cases:


Gilbert Arizona Language Access Plan


Translated Court Publications DV, dependency, traffic and unlawful detainers (Hmong, Korean, Lao, Russian, Spanish, Tongan, Ukrainian, Urdu)(See slide 12)

Recommended Guidelines for Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)for ASL-Interpreted Events (2012)

California developed guidelines to help courts and judicial staff identify when Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) may be appropriate for American Sign Language (ASL) interpreted events.  The guide stipulates that a limited range of courtroom events are appropriate including “events involving uncontested infractions that require no testimony, like traffic cases.”


The Ninth Judicial Circuit provides a remote centralized interpreting system that includes traffic cases.


Language access ordinance debate

New York

Nassau County Police Department (traffic stops)


Newberg Municipal Court   

The Municipal Court acts as the judicial function of the City and has original jurisdiction over all 3,800 municipal code offenses, minor misdemeanor crimes and traffic violations cited by the Newberg-Dundee Police Department. The City has a part-time City Prosecutor to provide services specific to Municipal Court. The City also provides Spanish interpretation services at every court session.  For other interpretation services please call the Court Office in advance.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Office of Court Interpreters (OCI) Monitoring and Reporting of Language Access Services (January 28, 2013)

Two part-time interpreters worked exclusively in the traffic tribunal. Traffic cases comprised about 20% of the 4,024 interpreter events during a six month period.


Utah had 241 interpreted traffic hearings out of a total of 5819 interpreted events in 2012.


Circuit Court of Trempealeau County Language Access Plan Block Scheduling: Court hearing for Spanish speaking individuals in traffic court are scheduled the 1st and 2nd Tuesday of every month


Sample for Discussion Purposes Planning Tool:  Considerations for the Creation of a Language Assistance Policy and Implementation Plan for Addressing Limited English Proficiency in a Law Enforcement Agency.

This planning tool provides information for law enforcement agencies to address language access issues including the creation of:

  • A general Policy could include the brief policy statement, as well as background information and as many specifics as appropriate for the agency. This policy statement could be the overarching document from which a management plan would flow.
  • An Implementation Plan for managers could identify operational and management strategies and planning options for implementing the Policy. The Plan could be attached to the Policy once developed.
  • Shorter directives [substitute policy guidance, general orders, or other types of direct communication with staff and managers regarding protocols and procedures, as appropriate for your Department] could be created to flow from the Plan. These directives could set forth clear expectations and procedures for staff and managers on how and when to access language service options.Where appropriate, different directives might be issued to cover different types of encounters, such as traffic stops, arrests, custodial interrogations, witness interviews, detention, etc.
  • Language resource lists, signs, instructions on internal websites, training, videos, and other tips and tools could be created to help staff understand how and when to access and provide language assistance.

Veterans and Aggressive Driving

Several articles and studies examine the relationship between returning veterans and dangerous driving:

Back From War, Fear and Danger Fill Driver’s Seat

The Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs are also supporting several new studies into potential links between deployment and dangerously aggressive or overly defensive driving. The Veterans Affairs Health Center in Albany last year started a seven-session program to help veterans identify how war experiences might trigger negative reactions during driving. And researchers in Palo Alto are developing therapies — which they hope to translate into iPhone apps — for people with P.T.S.D. who are frequently angry or anxious behind the wheel.

Lew, H.L. et al. “Prevalence and characteristics of driving difficulties in Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom combat returnees,” Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development, Volume 48, Number 8, 2011.

Abstract—We studied the prevalence and characteristics of self-reported driving difficulties and examined their association with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and/or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) veterans who were seen at a Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient polytrauma clinic. In this study, we used a brief driving questionnaire and chart reviews to assess the prevalence and characteristics of driving difficulties in the following four groups of patients: TBI only, PTSD only, TBI + PTSD, and Neither (neither TBI nor PTSD). Compared with before deployment, 93% of OIF/OEF veterans seen in the polytrauma clinic reported more difficulties with driving in at least one domain, with the most common areas of difficulty being (1) problems with anger or impatience (82%), (2) general driving difficulties (65%), and (3) experiences with near misses (57%). Patients with PTSD (with or without TBI) reported the most significant driving impairments, whereas respondents with a history of only TBI endorsed driving difficulties similar to veterans without either diagnosis. Qualitative analysis of veterans’ comments also revealed similar patterns. Self-reported driving problems were common among OIF/OEF returnees. Respondents who had a diagnosis of PTSD (with or without TBI) reported the most severe driving difficulties since returning from deployment. The association between PTSD and driving problems warrants further investigation.

Kuhn E, Drescher K, Ruzek J, Rosen C. Aggressive and unsafe driving in male veterans receiving residential treatment for PTSD. J Trauma Stress. 2010 Jun;23(3):399-402.

Abstract--Aggressive and unsafe driving was examined in 474 male veterans receiving Veterans Affairs residential treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Specifically, the authors evaluated if PTSD was associated with aggressive and unsafe driving and if Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans were at higher risk than other war veterans. Approximately two thirds of the sample reported lifetime aggressive driving and one third reported current aggressive driving. Posttraumatic stress disorder severity was associated with aggressive driving, but not other forms of unsafe driving. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans endorsed higher rates of and more frequent aggressive driving than did other veterans. After accounting for PTSD severity, age, income, and marital status being an Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran predicted aggressive driving frequency and infrequent seatbelt use.

What’s Happening in the States?


State of Arizona v. Hon. Butler/Tyler B., see description above.


The Palm Beach Post published an article on May 30, 2013 that describes the contempt of court charge against a juror whose conduct resulted in a mistrial in a high profile DUI manslaughter case. The charge is based on a drinking experiment he conducted the night before voting to convict the defendant and the fact that he withheld information about his ex-wife’s DUI charge.


This letter to the editor in a Gloucester MA newspaper from a member of the bar attempts to explain to the public and the media that the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure is not a mere “technicality” in a DUI case.  The letter goes on to quote Kimball v. Commonwealth 37 Mass. App. Ct. 604 (1994):

The police and the public may wonder why the end product of a hunch, sharpened by experience, should be undone by what the media like to call "a technicality." One of the factors that most differentiates a free society based on law from an authoritarian society is that police may not act on mere suspicion or by random dragnet. As a people we have been instructed by colonial experience, refreshed by repeated experience elsewhere in the world, that in the absence of standards -- "technicalities" -- there is soon no protection from arbitrary invasion of home, automobile, or other places where men and women are entitled to think themselves safe. Disregard those standards, and law enforcement officers will be as vulnerable as the ordinary citizen to the knock in the night.


The Oregon Supreme Court overturned a DUI conviction in State v. Newman on May 31, 2013.   They ruled that the defendant should have been allowed to proffer evidence that he was “sleep driving” and so not voluntarily driving under the influence.

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