MADD: Car-locking systems stopped 1.77 million drunk drivers in US

By Brian Witte


ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Car-locking systems have stopped more than 1.77 million people from driving drunk since some states first passed laws requiring offenders to install them in 1999, Mothers Against Drunk Driving said in a first-of-its-kind report on the devices in the United States.

The data come from the 11 major manufactures of the ignition interlock systems, and the report was released Wednesday. The devices, the size of a cellphone, are wired into vehicles. A convicted drunken driver must blow into the device to get a blood alcohol content reading before the vehicle will start. The system sends a signal back to its manufacturer with the reading.

Twenty-five states have laws that require ignition interlocks for all offenders following any drunken-driving offence. Every state has enacted some kind of ignition-interlock law, but some require the devices only for certain levels of offences and blood alcohol levels, or give judges discretion. MADD is calling on those other states to tighten their laws.

“MADD knows ignition interlocks save lives, and they could save even more lives if every offender is required to use the device after the first arrest,” said Colleen Sheehey-Church, MADD’s national president.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommends states require mandatory ignition interlock devices for first-time offenders. NTSB vice chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr said the technology enables people to continue driving to make a living and get around, but it separates the person from his or her drinking and driving.

“Ignition interlock, although many people may think it’s an extreme measure for people who are first offenders, it prevents them from becoming a second offender or a third offender,” Dinh-Zarr said.

Sarah Longwell, managing director of the American Beverage Institute, said expanding state ignition interlock mandates is extremely expensive and burdens state parole and monitoring budgets.

“Instead of expanding interlock requirements to include low-BAC, first-time drunk drivers, states should focus their resources on the most dangerous drunk drivers,” Longwell said.

In Maryland, where the MADD released the report, lawmakers are pushing to require all drunken drivers with blood alcohol contents of 0.08 or greater to have the devices. State law now requires them for those with a BAC of 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit for driving.

The systems stop drivers with a BAC of .025 or higher. The report says more than 1.77 million people have been stopped from driving with a BAC of 0.08 or higher, but the figures are higher for those who blow at least 0.025: More than 12.72 million stopped.

Lawmakers sponsoring the Maryland bill noted they have been trying to tighten the law since 2009, but they have faced opposition from lobbyists for the alcohol industry.

“There is no grey area. Either you’re on the side of the angels or you’re with the liquor lobby,” said Del. Ben Kramer, a Democrat who is sponsoring the bill.

Sheehey-Church said residents and visitors in states such as Maryland, Florida, California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania “deserve the same protection offered in states with strong ignition interlock laws — such as Texas, Arizona, West Virginia and New Mexico.”

The group also is focusing on Maryland because of the December death of Officer Noah Leotta. He was killed while working on a driving-under-the-influence assignment. The Maryland measure is dubbed “Noah’s Law.” At a news conference, Noah’s father, Rich, tearfully described the pain of losing his son, who police say was hit by a drunk driver with two previous convictions.

“It’s a very simple thing, and it saves lives,” Leotta said. “It could have saved Noah’s life. He might be here today if this was in that person’s car.”



Self-Driving Vehicles Meet Their Match When Snow Creates Sensor Blindness

Insurance Journal

In Jokkmokk, a tiny hamlet just north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, where temperatures can dip to 50 below, Volvo Cars’ self-driving XC90 sport-utility vehicle met its match: frozen flakes that caked on radar sensors essential to reading the road. Suddenly, the SUV was blind.

“It’s really difficult, especially when you have the snow smoke from the car in front,” said Marcus Rothoff, director of Volvo’s autonomous-driving program. “A bit of ice, you can manage. But when it starts building up, you just lose functionality.”

After moving the sensors around to various spots on the front, Volvo engineers finally found a solution. Next year, when Swedish drivers take their hands off the wheel of leased XC90s in the world’s first public test of autonomous technology, the radar will be nestled behind the windshield, where wipers can clear the ice and snow.

As automakers race to get robot cars on the road, they’re encountering an obstacle very familiar to humans: Old Man Winter. Simple snow can render the most advanced computing power useless and leave vehicles dead on the highway. That’s why major players including Volvo Cars, owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.; Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc.; and Ford Motor Co. are stepping up their efforts to prevent snow blindness.


Taxi Associations call upon Aviva to make new insurance available to cab drivers

The Toronto Taxi Alliance (TTA) today repeated requests for information it sent to Aviva’s CEO on January 29th.

In a letter to Aviva CEO Greg Sommerville signed by TTA President Gail Souter and Canadian Taxicab Association (CTA) President Marc Andre Way, the TTA and CTA wrote:

“We in the legal, regulated taxi industry are perplexed as to how it is possible for any Ontario insurance company to insure an illegal activity, such as UberX. In fact, one of our city councillors has written Finance Minister Charles Sousa to inquire as to how his ministry could approve an insurance product for an activity which violates the Highway Traffic Act.”

Among the requests the TTA and CTA made of Aviva were:

  • That Aviva agree to release the number of such endorsements actually sold: “As we have been informed by a number of insurance professionals, the fact that a commercial endorsement (for example, the OPCF 6A) is AVAILABLE does not mean any UberX drivers will purchase it.

“We are very concerned that an Aviva announcement that ‘an approved product exists and is available for purchase’ will be misconstrued by politicians to mean ‘20,000 illegal UberX drivers are now insured.’

“The fact that a product is available does not mean that thousands of UberX drivers are going to announce that they are picking up paying passengers, and purchase Aviva insurance with the new endorsement.

“More likely, they will continue to do what they are doing now: carry only a personal policy and refrain from notifying their insurance company they are carrying passengers for compensation. Release of information on the actual number of endorsements purchased will give politicians more accurate information on which to base their debates and decisions.”

  • That when this new hybrid endorsement is actually available, Aviva make it available to licensed, regulated taxi drivers who meet the same conditions being set out for UberX drivers.

“I trust you will agree that everyone – consumers, service providers, elected officials and the insurance industry itself – will be well and fairly served with the release of the above information.”

SOURCE Toronto Taxi Alliance

For further information: contact Rita Smith at 647 242 5505 or

Aviva keen on bringing ride-sharing insurance to Alberta

By  | Global News

Another insurance company has already set the wheels in motion to bring ride-sharing insurance options to drivers in Alberta.

Aviva Canada has developed coverage for drivers who carry paying passengers in their own vehicles. It will be available to drivers in Ontario this month, and the Ontario regulator approved the product Tuesday.

The company is also in discussions to offer coverage out west.

“We are absolutely keen – and have intentions to come to Alberta,” senior vice president Jason Storah said, adding Aviva would like to offer coverage in any city where customers need it.

On Jan. 26, Edmonton city council passed a bylaw that will make ride-sharing companies like Uber legal. The move was the first of its kind in Canada.

City council became the first Canadian city to legislate ride-sharing. The new bylaw will come into effect March 1. However, in order to operate legally, drivers still must have appropriate insurance coverage.

“We made this decision based on the current environment,” Storah said.

Aviva was responding to the growing use of ride-sharing services and the need to protect both passengers and drivers, the company explained. Storah said there was a need for clarity when it came to insurance.

“When consumer needs change, we must evolve our insurance solutions to respond,” Aviva president and CEO, Greg Somerville, said. “We’re excited to offer a simple and affordable solution.”

Storah said the cost of insurance would vary depending on factors like the driver’s experience, driving history and type of vehicle.

He stressed the cost wouldn’t be prohibitive for those who didn’t pick up fares often. In fact, the coverage was created for those who spend a maximum of 20 hours a week ride sharing.

“This is an affordable solution for ride-sharing for people doing it on a part-time basis,” he said.

Intact is also working on a ride-sharing insurance product.

Aviva believes more options mean healthy competition and market practice.

“It’s always good when customers have choice,” Storah said.

Uber issued a statement to Global News Monday night, indicating the interest from another insurance provider is a promising development.

“We are encouraged to see a growing number of Canada’s insurers show interest in innovation in the transportation space,” the email read. “Uber and Intact have been working with provincial regulators for a number of months and Intact has completed their full submission for approval. As of yet, we have not reviewed the details of the new insurance policy proposed by Aviva.”

While Aviva has already had preliminary talks with the Alberta regulator, there are still a few steps to go before ride-sharing insurance is available. The company must have more formal discussions with the regulator and then submit an official proposal. The entire process – from start to finish – could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

In Ontario, it took a couple of months, Storah said.

‘This isn’t just an Uber problem. If they get away with it, every company will do this.’

Read more

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