Archive for June, 2008

A Car That Combats Drunk Driving

Japanese carmaker Nissan is developing a new car with breathalyzer-like detection systems to help stop drinking and driving.

Nissan’s alcohol-detection sensors check odor, sweat and driver alertness to keep the alcohol-impaired off the road.

Odor sensors on the driver and passenger seats read alcohol levels, issuing a voice alert on the navigation system and locking up the ignition if needed.

Another high-sensitivity alcohol sensor in the gear shift knob measures perspiration on the driver’s palm when trying to start the car.

Nissan technology chief Kazuhiro Doi says the car is still in development, but a facial monitoring system will also keep an eye on who’s behind the wheel.

[Kazuhiro Doi, General Manager Technology, Nissan Motors]:

“We’ve placed odor-detectors in the car and sweat-sensor on the gear shift, but in addition to these, for example if the gear shift sensor was bypassed by a passenger using it instead of the driver, the facial recognition system would act as a back up.”

A mounted camera monitors driver alertness by an eye scan, responding with bells and a voice message if it’s time to pull over and have a rest.

The driver’s seatbelt will also tighten to gain immediate attention, while an on-road failsafe is a sensor that monitors if a car is wobbling out of its lane.

Warnings and lockdowns come in English as well as Japanese.

Nissan intends to drive this technology to global markets in the next few years, looking to reduce the number of fatalities in its automobiles by half by 2015.

This year’s proms featured pat-downs and Breathalyzers, so as our kids were getting ready for their respective evenings, I gave them some personal prom history.

Surprisingly, I did not get a rolling of the eyes or an “Oh, Dad.” I actually got questions when I was finished, a sure sign that someone is listening.

Unless, of course, the question is, “Did you say something?”

When I graduated from high school in 1973, proms were just coming back in vogue, after being avoided for many years because they were not cool. That uncool attitude, which held that proms were old-fashioned and sexist, was a leftover from the ’60s.

Going to the prom was not an easy decision. Because my girlfriend attended a different high school, I was obligated to attend two if I went at all. That meant twice as many expenses.

Fortunately, in 1973 no one thought of taking a limousine to proms, and I did not incur that expense twice. Oh, I suppose there were one or two who wanted the deluxe ride, but for most of us, the freedom of driving ourselves to and from the event was more important than showing up in a land yacht.

Today, limos are routine.

My high school prom was at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, which is where my daughter’s high school held hers.

Kaitlyn has been attending the Orange County High School of the Arts (OCHSA) in Santa Ana since the eighth grade.

Among the school’s many unique characteristics is the fact that the overwhelming majority of the students are girls. I don’t have any statistics, but based on my visits, I’d say the majority is about 75%.

As you can imagine, it makes it hard for girls to get dates with the boys in school, so many girls end up going to the prom with female friends.

At the OCHSA prom, the boys were patted down, presumably to check for drugs, alcohol and weapons.

My son attended the Estancia High School prom as a sophomore last Saturday night. The event was held at Crevier Classics in Santa Ana, and many kids there were given Breathalyzer tests as they arrived.

The location of this prom was interesting. According to Klaus Kindor, Crevier sales manager, the facility started out 16 months ago as a membership-only garage for fine cars but evolved into a venue for parties.

“My understanding is that one of our members wanted to have a birthday party here and that persuaded us to hold more events, and it has become a very successful venue here in Orange County,” said Kindor.

During the prom, kids were allowed to stroll among the cars, with a few exceptions.

“Most of the cars that are here do not belong to us, they belong to our members, so some of the cars were behind ropes,” said Kindor.

It should be noted the ropes were not set up only for the high school guests. Kindor assured me they are there for adult events as well.

There is nothing wrong with roping off cars only for high schoolers, but I have to smile when I realize that an adult who has been drinking and did not have the benefit of a Breathalyzer was more likely to have an accident around the cars than one of the teens last weekend.

Kindor told me he believes this prom may have been the first one they have hosted.

So I asked if, based on the experience, Crevier would host another prom.

“We think so. The event went off very well, and the kids were really well-behaved.”

Except for pat-downs, Breathalyzer and the proliferation of limousines, proms have not changed much over the years. But it’s all happening so quickly now.

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Serial car crasher charged

 A nasty crash surprised Barrie’s Cumming Drive residents just before 11 p.m. Friday night.

Witnesses in the Ferndale Drive-Essa Road-area neighbourhood saw a vehicle hit  cars parked along the street, until it finally stopped between two homes. A fire burst out on the vehicle, so the fire department was called to put it out.

The driver was arrested and charged with impaired operation of a vehicle. Police said the driver was taken back to the station for a Breathalyzer, which read twice the legal limit of alcohol; he was held in custody until he sobered up.

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MILAN – Village of Milan residents and officials could soon be welcomed with a breathalyzer as they stroll into regular monthly meetings at Village Hall. Trustee Ellen Baca brought up the subject of the breathalyzer at last week’s workshop.

“I am very serious about the subject,” Baca said on Monday morning. “We have a zero tolerance for employees, why couldn’t we as officials lead the community and live by example.” As discussed on Wednesday, the breathalyzer would not be required for people to attend the meeting.

“A good faith gesture,” Sandoval said. “By law we couldn’t enforce it, we would simply give people and officials the opportunity to be tested before the meeting.”

Baca had suggested a resolution. Other officials suggested that they look into the matter to see if a resolution if needed.

“It’s time we expect more from our politicians,” Baca said. “We’d be the first in New Mexico, and maybe the first in the nation, but I think it is a good idea.”

Baca told the Beacon that one of the agenda items on an upcoming Municipal League Conference is drugs and alcohol.

“It’s (drugs and alcohol) all over the place,” Baca said, “we need to do something about it and being a good example is a start.”

Mayor Tom Ortega and Trustee Vivian Brumbelow were absent from the meeting. Trustees George Knotts and Manuel Molina, along with Village Manager Marcella Sandoval and Clerk Theresa Garcia, were at the meeting. Knotts and Molina told Baca the breathalyzer was “a good idea.”

“I wouldn’t have any problem taking a breathalyzer test before a meeting,” Molina said. “I have nothing to hide.”

The discussion item will be on Thursday evening’s regular monthly meeting agenda at 6:30 p.m.

“I’d just like to show the Village of Milan community and its employees that we are the leaders,” Baca said, “and that is no tolerance from all aspects.”

Baca added that she had already spoken about the breathalyzer to fellow Trustee Brumbelow and that she supported the item at monthly meetings.

Other workshop

item of interest:

Trustee Ellen Baca updated other Village of Milan officials of the negotiations between the Milan, the City of Grants and Mount Taylor Addition residents. Baca and Village Manager Marcella Sandoval attended a negotiation meeting between the parties involved on Friday, June 6. The meeting began at 9 a.m. and lasted through 7 p.m.

“We’ve committed to taking care of our portion of the settlement,” Baca told her fellow Trustees.

Baca added that Risk Management will be contributing to the settlement on behalf of Milan and Grants and that Cibola County had no representative at the meeting that could speak of behalf of the county.

“Everybody seems to be blaming the county by their building disturbing the natural acquifer flow,” Baca said. “According to officials it is going to take some pond leak repair, reengineering, condemnation of some property and significant dirt work in order to fix the problem.”

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Dallas County ADA Resigns After DWI Charge

A Dallas County assistant district attorney has resigned following his weekend arrest for DWI. 43-year-old Thomas Gatlin resigned as a county prosecutor Monday.

On Saturday evening, police say he lost control of his car in Far North Dallas and struck a house.

Neighbor Rob Stanley was among the first to find Gatlin’s car smashed into his neighbor’s brick home on Misthaven Place. He claims Gatlin was passed out at the wheel, with his foot still on the accelerator.

Stanley says he had to break a window to get to the driver and turn off the car.

He also says Gatlin was in a drunken stupor.

“He did not know where he was,” said Stanley. “He did not know where he lived. He did not know what day it was, didn’t know his name. Then I saw the bottle of Smirnoff on the floor and I thought, ‘Okay, you know, that explains a lot.'”

Police confirm an open bottle of liquor was found in the car.

Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price says Gatlin should be treated like any other suspect.

“Whether they’re a U.S. Attorney, whether they’re a district attorney, whether they’re a police officer. I mean, the law doesn’t exempt anybody,” Price told FOX 4.

The Dallas County district attorney’s office won’t comment on any of Gatlin’s pending cases.

“I can confirm his resignation which was effective yesterday,” said spokesman Jamille Bradfield, “but beyond that, as a matter of policy, we do not comment on personnel matters.”

Gatlin was freed on a $500 bond early Sunday.

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AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — A Central Texas man thought he had found a way around blowing into his car ignition’s Breathalyzer.

Witnesses reported seeing James Rethi, 55, make his 13-year-old son blow into the device to get the car started outside of a restaurant.

Police caught up with Rethi turning into his subdivision in Hutto.

Rethi failed the field sobriety test and was arrested.

His son admitted to police that his father had asked him to blow into the device.

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An Alisal Union School District bus driver was arrested today after he finished his morning route and was found to be under the influence of alcohol, police said.Frankie Mata, 48, who had driven about 50 students to school, tested positive for alcohol with a blood-alcohol content of .12 when district officials conducted a random drug and alcohol test of bus drivers, said Cmdr. Bob Eggers.

District officials notified police about 12:40 p.m. who arrested and booked Mata into Monterey County jail on allegations of driving under the influence and 50 counts of child endangerment.

Eggers said Mata was tested by officers two hours after the initial test done by the district and was found to have a blood-alcohol content of 0.07. In California the presumed level of intoxication is 0.08.


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WINNIPEG — The 23-year-old son of a Manitoba woman killed in a crash with an off-duty police officer says he was angry when a prosecutor told him that drunk-driving charges would be dropped.

Crystal Taman was driving north of Winnipeg on a sunny day in February 2005 when her tiny car was rear-ended by a pickup truck driven by Derek Harvey-Zenk.

Charges against Harvey-Zenk initially included impaired driving causing death and refusing a breathalyzer.

But he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death in a controversial plea bargain that is now under scrutiny at a judicial inquiry in Winnipeg.

Jordan Taman told the inquiry that Crown prosecutor Marty Minuk informed his family there wasn’t enough evidence to prove alcohol was a factor in the crash.

The son also said his father was angry at the news because the family had hoped the alcohol-related charges would send a message.

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Spurs guard Johnson arrested on DWI charge

Police arrested Spurs guard DerMarr Johnson over the weekend and charged him with driving while intoxicated.

Johnson, 28, was released Sunday morning after posting $1,000 bail. A breath test showed the 6-foot-9 basketball player had exceeded the legal limit of 0.08 percent, police said.

“I just had a few cups of wine,” Johnson said as he left the city’s detention center.

About 11:30 p.m. Saturday, a traffic officer pulled over a black SUV on Loop 1604 near Interstate 10 West because it was traveling 20 mph over the speed limit, weaving and following other vehicles too closely, police spokesman Joe Rios said.

The officer noticed that Johnson, the driver, smelled of “intoxicants” and his speech was slurred, Rios said. After a field sobriety test, Johnson was taken downtown, where he submitted to a breath test.

“He was very cooperative,” Rios said.

Asked if he believed the arrest would affect his position with the Spurs, Johnson said, “I don’t know. Probably so.”

Tom James, a spokesman for the Spurs, declined to comment, citing a lack of details.

“At this point, our main focus is working to gather more information,” he said.

Johnson’s career has been bumpy. Two years after joining the Atlanta Hawks as a first-round draft pick, he crashed a Mercedes-Benz into a tree and broke his neck in 2002. The injury kept him off the court for more than a year, and Atlanta let him go. Police said alcohol was not a factor in the wreck.

Last year, police stunned Johnson with a Taser and charged him with resisting arrest and interfering with police during a disturbance outside a Colorado nightclub, according to the Associated Press. A lawyer for Johnson at the time said he had been breaking up a fight between two women.

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Woman at .462 after tree crash

A WOMAN was a record nine times over the legal blood-alcohol limit when she crashed her car into a tree, a court heard yesterday.

A lawyer for Heather-Ann Higgins told Frankston Magistrates’ Court Ms Higgins would plead guilty to seven driving offences after recording .462 – believed to be an Australian record reading for a female driver.

Ms Higgins, 49, allegedly told police she drank four cans of a vodka-based mixed drink shortly before she hit a tree and rolled her car on a road in Moorooduc, on Mornington Peninsula, on February 15.

The force of the impact was such that her hat ended up in a tree at least 6m off the ground.

Ms Higgins’ blood-alcohol level was tested after a sample was taken while she was treated at the Frankston Hospital.

Constable Phil Frith said outside court the reading was believed to be the highest recorded for a woman in Victoria.

“I was dumbfounded, to put it politely,” Constable Frith said.

“I rang forensic science straight away to confirm it and they said it was definitely correct.”

Ms Higgins, of Somers, appeared in court yesterday on charges including reckless conduct endangering life, careless driving, driving under the influence, exceeding the prescribed concentration of alcohol and driving in a dangerous manner.

Her lawyer, Neil Falconer, indicated she would plead guilty and asked the court for an adjournment to allow her to be psychiatrically assessed and medically treated.

A police statement before the court alleged Ms Higgins’ car veered on to the wrong side of Stumpy Gully Rd, Moorooduc, before it hit a tree, rolled and landed on its roof.

Pictures of the mangled car wreckage were included with the police statement.

Constable Frith, who was one of the first to arrive at the scene, said the woman was trapped in the wreckage and police helped an ambulance crew free her.

He said she was very lucky to be alive.

Ms Higgins broke down in tears as she left the court after magistrate Ross Betts adjourned the hearing to July 15.

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