Crash Rates Jump in Wake of Marijuana Legalization

Story by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

More evidence is emerging that crash rates go up when states legalize recreational use and retail sales of marijuana.

Crash rates spiked with the legalization of recreational marijuana use and retail sales in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and another by the affiliated Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) show.

However, the preliminary results of a separate IIHS study of injured drivers who visited emergency rooms in California, Colorado and Oregon showed that drivers who used marijuana alone were no more likely to be involved in crashes than drivers who hadn’t used the drug. That is consistent with a 2015 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that found that a positive test for marijuana was not associated with increased risk of being involved in a police-reported crash.

“Our latest research makes it clear that legalizing marijuana for recreational use does increase overall crash rates,” says IIHS-HLDI President David Harkey. “That’s obviously something policymakers and safety professionals will need to address as more states move to liberalize their laws — even if the way marijuana affects crash risk for individual drivers remains uncertain.”

More than a third of U.S. states have legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. The hefty tax revenues those states are earning have others exploring similar legislation, and recent polls indicate that 68 percent of American adults favor legalization. Consumption also appears to be expanding rapidly, with self-reports of past-month marijuana use doubling from 6 percent to 12 percent of those surveyed between 2008 and 2019.

That’s a potential concern for those who care about road safety. Driving simulator tests have shown that drivers who are high on marijuana react more slowly, find it harder to pay attention, have more difficulty maintaining their car’s position in the lane and make more errors when something goes wrong than they do when they’re sober. But such tests have also shown marijuana-impaired drivers are likely to drive at slower speeds, make fewer attempts to overtake and keep more distance between their vehicle and the one ahead of them.

To better understand the net impact on safety, researchers at IIHS and HLDI have conducted a series of studies since 2014 examining how legalization has affected crash rates and insurance claims in the first states to legalize recreational use.

The most recent of these studies from IIHS shows that injury and fatal crash rates in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington jumped in the months following the relaxation of marijuana laws in each state.

Combined, the impact of legalization and, subsequently, retail sales in the five states resulted in a 6 percent increase in injury crash rates and a 4 percent increase in fatal crash rates compared with other Western states where recreational marijuana use was illegal during the study period. Only the increase in injury crash rates was statistically significant.

That’s consistent with a 2018 IIHS study of police-reported crashes — most of which did not involve injuries or fatalities — that found that legalization of retail sales in Colorado,  Oregon and Washington was associated with a 5 percent higher crash rate compared with the neighboring control states.

Insurance records show a similar increase in claims under collision coverage, which pays for damage to an at-fault, insured driver’s own vehicle, HLDI’s latest analysis shows. The legalization of retail sales in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington was associated with a 4 percent increase in collision claim frequency compared with the other Western states over 2012-19. That’s down slightly from the 6 percent increase HLDI identified in a previous study, which covered 2012-18.

Despite those increases in crash rates, studies of whether marijuana itself makes drivers more likely to crash have been inconsistent. The latest one from IIHS — which used data collected from injured drivers in three emergency rooms in Denver, Colorado; Portland, Oregon; and Sacramento, California — showed no increased crash risk associated with the drug, except when combined with alcohol.

Researchers conducted surveys for more than a year, interviewing and drug-testing more than 1,200 patients in total. The results showed that the crash-involved drivers weren’t any more likely to self-report or test positive for marijuana alone than other drivers who weren’t involved in a crash and were at the emergency room for reasons other than an injury.

Just 4 percent of the drivers involved in crashes self-reported marijuana by itself over the previous eight hours, compared with 9 percent of those who weren’t involved in a crash. Similarly, 13 percent of the crash-involved drivers tested positive for marijuana only, compared with 16 percent of the control set.

The reverse was true for the combined use of marijuana and alcohol, with 3 percent of the crash-involved drivers and fewer than 1 percent of the control drivers self-reporting use of both substances and 5 percent of the crash-involved drivers and fewer than 1 percent of the control drivers testing positive.

Those combined-use numbers could help explain why crash rates have increased. Legalization may be encouraging more people to drink and use marijuana together.

Studies comparing the simultaneous use of alcohol and marijuana in states where marijuana is legal with states where it is still against the law will be needed to test this hypothesis. But some early evidence has already emerged that shows self-reports of past-month marijuana and alcohol use have increased, while the reported use of alcohol alone has decreased, especially in states where recreational use of marijuana is now legal.

nationally representative survey conducted recently by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also found that drivers who self-reported using both alcohol and marijuana were more likely than those who had only consumed alcohol to say they had driven while impaired and engaged in dangerous driving behaviors such as making aggressive maneuvers or speeding on residential streets.

Other factors related to how legalization has affected the way people use marijuana, rather than the physiological effects of the drug, may also be at play. For example, the larger spike in crash rates in Colorado — the first state to legalize recreational use — suggests a burst of enthusiasm that leveled off as the drug’s new status became more commonplace. The first few states to legalize marijuana even used the legalization as part of their tourism promotions.

It’s also possible that disparities in state and local regulations might be encouraging more travel by marijuana users. For example, marijuana users in counties that do not allow retail sales may drive to counties that do. Their increased travel could lead to more crashes even if their crash risk per mile traveled is no higher than that of other drivers.

 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing deaths, injuries and property damage from motor vehicle crashes through research and evaluation and through education of consumers, policymakers and safety professionals.

Sick of Dangerous City Traffic? Remove Left Turns

Left turns are responsible for 61% of all car accidents at intersections. studiodr/iStock via Getty Images Plus



​By Beth Daley for The Conversation

To reduce travel times, fuel consumption and carbon emissions, in 2004, UPS changed delivery routes to minimize the left-hand turns drivers made. Although this seems like a rather modest change, the results are anything but: UPS claims that per year, eliminating left turns – specifically the time drivers sit waiting to cut across traffic – saves 10 million gallons of fuel, 20,000 tons of carbon emissions and allows them to deliver 350,000 additional packages.

If it works so well for UPS, should cities seek to eliminate left-hand turns at intersections too? My research suggests the answer is a resounding yes.

As a transportation engineering professor at Penn State, I have studied traffic flow on urban streets and transportation safety for nearly a decade. Part of my work focuses on how city streets should be organized and managed. It turns out, restricting left turns at intersections with traffic signals lets traffic move more efficiently and is safer for the public. In a recent paper, my research team and I developed a way to determine which intersections should restrict left turns to improve traffic.

Why are left-hand turns so bad?

Intersections are dangerous because they are where cars, often moving very fast and in different directions, must cross paths. Approximately 40% of all crashes occur at intersections, including 50% of crashes involving serious injuries and 20% of those involving fatalities. Traffic signals make things safer by giving vehicles instructions on when they can move. If left turns did not exist, the instructions could be very simple: For example, a north-south direction could move while the east-west direction was stopped and vice versa. When drivers make left turns, they must cross oncoming traffic, which makes intersections much more complicated.

One way to accommodate left turns is to have vehicles wait until a gap appears in oncoming traffic. However, this can be dangerous as it relies entirely on the driver to make the left turn safely. And everyone knows how frustrating it is to be stuck behind a car waiting to make a left turn on a busy road.

Another way to allow left-hand turns is to stop oncoming traffic and give cars turning left their own green arrow. This is much safer, but it shuts down the entire intersection to let left-turning vehicles go, which slows traffic considerably.

In either case, left turns are dangerous. Approximately 61% of all crashes that occur at intersections involve a left-hand turn.

How would eliminating left turns improve traffic?

Traffic researchers have proposed a variety of innovative signal strategies and complex intersection configurations to make left turns safer and more efficient. But a simpler solution might be the best: Restrict left-hand turns at intersections.

Some cities have already started limiting left turns to improve safety and traffic flow. San Francisco; Salt Lake City; Birmingham, Alabama; Wilmington, Delaware; Tuscon, Arizona; numerous locations in Michigan; and dozens of other cities in the U.S. and around the world all limit left turns in some way. It’s typically done at isolated locations to solve specific traffic and safety problems.

Of course, there is a downside. Eliminating left turns would require some vehicles to travel longer distances. For example, if you wanted to turn left off a busy street to get to your house, you might instead have to take three consecutive right turns. However, research I published in 2012 using mathematical models and in 2017 using traffic simulations showed that eliminating left turns on grid-like street networks would, on average, require people to drive only one additional block. This would be more than offset by the smoother traffic flow.

Which left turns need to go?

Getting rid of left turns would be difficult to implement across an entire city – and at some intersections, left turns don’t cause problems. But if a city did want to remove left turns from some intersections, how should it choose which ones? To answer this question, my research team and I recently developed algorithms that use traffic simulations of a city to identify where restricting left turns will improve safety and traffic flow the most.

The exact answer for each city depends on how streets are laid out, where vehicles are coming from and going to and how much traffic is on the street during the busiest times. But, according to our models, there is a general theme: Left-turn restrictions are more effective at busier intersections in the centers of towns or cities than at less busy intersections farther from the town center.

This is because the busier the intersection, the more people will benefit from smoother traffic flow. These central intersections also tend to have alternative routes available that minimize any additional distance traveled due to the restrictions. Lastly, fewer cars tend to turn left at these central intersections to begin with so the negative impact of removing left turns is relatively small.

So the next time you are sitting stuck in traffic behind someone waiting to make a left turn, know that your frustration is justified. There is a better way. In this case, the answer is simple – get rid of the left turn.

Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety Reminds Pedestrians Every Step Counts

Whether driving a vehicle, walking or biking, keep your head up and be alert – every step counts.

The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety has announced a week-long campaign June 6-12 focusing on pedestrian safety. The campaign will be geared toward pedestrians and drivers, educating both about being alert and what to watch out for to ensure everyone is safe.

Preliminary data from 2020 indicates 128 pedestrians were killed and 316 others were seriously injured in Missouri traffic crashes. The top contributing factors for pedestrians involved in these crashes were failure to yield, alcohol or drug impairment, and distraction/inattention.

You are urged to keep pedestrian safety tips in mind anytime you walk:
· Drivers and pedestrians need to make eye contact with each other. Don’t assume that the other one has seen you.
· If your vehicle is stranded, remain in the vehicle with your seat belt on. If you must exit a stalled vehicle alongside the roadway, do so on the opposite side of traffic and do not attempt to walk across the oncoming traffic.
· Only cross at an intersection or crosswalk. Stepping out from between parked cars or other obstacles by the road can keep a driver from being able to see you and stop in time.
· Look left, right and then left again before crossing an intersection or crosswalk. You always want to double-check the lane that you’ll be entering first.
· Be aware of drivers even when you are in a designated crosswalk. Drivers can look and use their mirrors, but there are always blind spots.
· Avoid walking while wearing headphones. You won’t be able to hear if a car is coming.
· Always wear brightly colored clothing for visibility when exercising alongside a roadway.
· Always walk against the flow of traffic rather than with the traffic.
· Always be cautious when exiting parking lots and be on the lookout for pedestrians.
· Always put your cell phone down and don’t look at it when driving or walking. Stay alert to all the challenges of the road.

Missouri’s new strategic highway safety plan, “Show-Me Zero, Driving Missouri Toward Safer Roads”, identifies four key messages to help turn the tide: buckle up, phones down, slow down and sober up.

For more information on the Show-Me Zero plan, and to check out the Coalition’s new video promoting the plan, visit www.savemolives.com.

Bipartisan Congressional Bills Aim for Drunk Driving Tech in Vehicles

Two bills with bipartisan sponsors in Congress – the HALT Act in the House and the RIDE Act in the Senate – are looking to tap into existing vehicle technology to prevent drunk driving.

 

Story by Maya Rodriguez for KSBY News​

The photo says it all. It shows a beaming Katie Snyder Evans, weeks after giving birth nearly four years ago, finally able to hold her premature twin daughters together for the first time.

It was also the last time.

“On her way home from the hospital, one night after visiting the twins, she was hit and killed by a drunk driver, “ said Ken Snyder, Katie’s father.

Snyder is on the faculty of Utah State University and is now a technology adviser for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“I’ll admit that I’m not an independent commentator on this topic,” he said. “I am a grieving father.”

His latest focus is on two bills with bipartisan sponsors in Congress: the HALT Act in the House and the RIDE Act in the Senate, which are looking to tap into technology to prevent drunk driving.

“The goal is to mandate drunk driving prevention technology as standard as seat belts and airbags on all new passenger vehicles,” said MADD president Alex Otte.

According to MADD, there are currently 241 forms of vehicle technology, like lane assist or driver monitoring, which could be used to combat drunk driving by, in some cases, reprogramming that tech to safely pull an impaired driver over.

The bills in Congress seek to create federal rules so that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) could begin that process.

“It would require NHTSA to figure out what the best technology is,” Otte said. “The bill is tech-neutral, which means that they can look at all the different options and decide what they believe is best and then mandate that technology to be placed on all new cars.”

For its part, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a major auto industry group, said it would like to keep working on it. They declined to do an interview but provided a statement.

“We share the goal of eliminating alcohol-impaired driving. Automakers are working collaboratively with the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other stakeholders, to develop innovative technologies that have the potential to prevent alcohol-impaired driving,” AAI president John Bozzella said in the statement. “We are also committed to working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, members of Congress, and other stakeholders who also prioritize this life-saving goal, as legislation is developed.”

However, the prevention of drunk driving comes too late for many families, including Ken Snyder’s.

“The ​​woman that killed my daughter was driving 95 miles an hour on a city boulevard,” he said. “The veering, the sideswiping, the lane-changing, any one of any one of the simple technologies that are already available on cars would have shut her down if only activated.”

The hope is the technology will help other families from experiencing the loss of a loved one due to drunk driving.

National DEA Drug Take Back Day is Approaching

​​According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.7 million people misused prescription pain relievers, 4.9 million people misused prescription stimulants, and 5.9 million people misused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives in 2019. The survey also showed that a majority of misused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.

​​The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) National Take Back Day, set to take place this year from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 24, ​​addresses a crucial public safety and public health issue by giving Americans the opportunity to clean out their medicine cabinets and turn in — safely and anonymously — unused prescription drugs.

In 2020 alone, Americans returned 985,392 lbs (492.7 tons) of unused prescription drugs at 4,487 Collection Sites across the country.​ ​The DEA, along with its law enforcement partners, has now collected nearly 13.7 million pounds of expired, unused, and unwanted prescription medications since the inception of the National Prescription Drug Take Back Initiative in 2010.
 
​Find a drop-off site near you by visiting https://takebackday.dea.gov/#collection-locator.
 
Law enforcement agencies interested in hosting a collection site should visit https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/poc.htm
 
To learn more about legal and illegal drugs and the effect they can have on your mind and body visit https://www.getsmartaboutdrugs.gov/drugs
 
If no prescription drug take-back program is available in your area, you can find simple steps to throw the drugs in the household trash by visiting https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2018-10/Proper%20Disposal%20Flier%20%28October%202018%29.pdf
 
To learn more about drug scheduling and penalties visit https://www.campusdrugprevention.gov/content/drug-scheduling-and-penalties
 
To locate a treatment facility that addresses substance use/addiction and mental health issues visit https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/

Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Teaches Dangers of Social Media

​During the class, “fidgets” were on the tables hoping it would stimulate brain activity and class participation.​

 

Last week, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office participated in a lesson plan about bullying, cyberbullying and sexting with ninth graders at the Montgomery County High School. The focus for our office was to inform the students of the legal ramifications of related crimes for juveniles and adults.

A social media scavenger hunt was conducted to give us insight on exactly how active our young adults are online. It was a frank conversation, in a safe environment. The students were very forthright about their feelings, outlooks, and opinions concerning these topics. We were impressed with their maturity and the openness displayed by the kids.

The survey showed the average Montgomery County High School freshman is on three to six different social networks; two students were on 11 – the highest number. The majority of students are active – meaning they’re on at least once a week – on one to four networks.

The following is a list of the networks, with the number of students reporting to having accounts:

  • Snapchat – 56
  • Instagram – 48
  • TikTok – 39
  • YouTube – 22
  • Facebook – 18
  • Pinterest – 9
  • Twitter – 8
  • Discord – 4
  • Twitch – 2
  • What’s App – 2
  • Amino, Google, LGBTQ, Shein, and Wave each had 1 student.

The students averaged between 100 and 200 friends on their favorite network. Six students reported having 1,000 or more friends and one reported to having 6,702.

Here’s the interesting part. Out of 74 students, only 22 said they knew every one of their social network friends. Stating the obvious, the higher the number of friends, the less likely the student was to know everyone on their social media account. Yet despite this, they are all aware that the profile of the “friend” they do not know, in all probability, is nothing what the friend claims to be. BUT THEY ACCEPT THEM ANYWAY!

All but 2 students understood that just because something is deleted from a Facebook page, it does not mean it is permanently deleted from the internet.

Of the 74 students participating, 71 said they have witnessed online bullying behavior, and 42 of those students said they have seen online bullying on a daily occurrence while 22 said they seldom witness online bullying. Of those 22, most gave the reasons that they either don’t communicate on their social media accounts or are very selective about their online friends.

When the students were asked if they thought social media was a good thing, 27 felt it was both good and bad. This depended on the factors of who was online, why they were online, and how they utilized it.

Students who felt social media was a good thing, cited reasons like communicating with friends or family that live far away, getting encouragement from others, sharing information and it gave them something to do.

Those who felt it is bad, for the most part, commented on the negativity. There were several students who were very articulate stating:

“Harassment is so prevalent.”

“It’s dangerous because it can lead to suicide.”

“You don’t always know who you’re communicating with.”

Students said they felt people bully online because of jealousy, insecurity, wanting attention, having nothing to do, gamer rage, expressing themselves, people are braver online, low self-esteem, people like to cause drama, or they want to escalate an argument.

Several students provided more profound answers:

“It is a person’s instinct to survive being abuse.”

“There’s pressure to be the best, so they put others down.”

“It’s becoming more often because people have become more sensitive.”

“There isn’t more bullying online, there’s just more hate in society.”

When the students were asked if they felt boys or girls were worse about online bullying, 33 said they felt girls were, and no – those 33 were not all boys. It was actually just the opposite. More females felt girls were worse. The males’ answers to this question were a little more vocal. The reality is that girls are slightly worse about online bullying, however boys are more likely to post a hurtful photo.

What can teachers and parents do to help children navigate the wild, wild, west called the internet? The kids’ suggestions were to monitor activity, block sites, and confiscate electronic devices if privileges were abused. They also said they felt parents and teachers should report to social media authorities, educate their children about online communications, teach children to be more compassionate, stress the importance of the consequences of their actions, talk to them and try to understand. Many said that nothing can be done.

Interestingly, 44 of  the students believe parents don’t know everything their child is doing online because, depending on the age of the parent, most parents did not grow up with social media. Quite a few felt the parents didn’t care or intentionally didn’t want to know.

So, what are some ways parents can guide their soon to be young adults regarding social media?

  1. Familiarize yourself with the state law on bullying and cyberbullying. Know the difference between bullying and when someone is just being unkind. Recognize, this is not a criminal statute, but a statute regarding school district policy.
    160.775. Antibullying policy required — definition — content, requirements. — 1. Every district shall adopt an antibullying policy by September 1, 2007.
  2.  “Bullying” means intimidation, unwanted aggressive behavior, or harassment that is repetitive or is substantially likely to be repeated and causes a reasonable student to fear for his or her physical safety or property; substantially interferes with the educational performance, opportunities, or benefits of any student without exception; or substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the school. Bullying may consist of physical actions, including gestures, or oral, cyberbullying, electronic, or written communication, and any threat of retaliation for reporting of such acts. Bullying of students is prohibited on school property, at any school function, or on a school bus. “Cyberbullying” means bullying as defined in this subsection through the transmission of a communication including, but not limited to, a message, text, sound, or image by means of an electronic device including, but not limited to, a telephone, wireless telephone, or other wireless communication device, computer, or pager.
  3. Search your school website menu for the online bully reporting option.
  4. Monitor your child’s internet activity.
  5. Provide a safe, non- judgmental atmosphere for your child to talk about online communications.
  6. Teach your child the importance of communicating safely with people they know.
  7. Teach your child to disengage from conversations online that are of an unkind nature or are sexually suggestive.
  8. If harassment continues or there is enticement, document the date, time, and content of incidents. Screen shot or print out bullying comments. If obscene materials are found on your child’s electronic devices, wrap the device in aluminum foil, if it is necessary for reporting to law enforcement.

We learned a lot from the kids and hopefully, they in turn learned something from us. We look forward to having more opportunities in the future to pick their wonderful, insightful, introspective minds and continue the dialogue.

We’d like to thank School Counselor Keri Poehlman, Science Department Teacher Matthew Skroblus, and the Montgomery High School faculty for making us feel welcome. (Btw, Mrs. Garrett’s cinnamon rolls are to die for!)

In the near future, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office will have an App for hotline numbers regarding these issues. Until then, please contact the office or submit a question on the website, if assistance is needed or for more information.

Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety Urges Young Drivers to Wear a Seat Belt

Through the end of March, law enforcement will be monitoring the roads in Missouri to ensure everyone is wearing a seat belt. (Storyblocks image)

Wearing a seat belt could save your life.

That is the message the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety wants young drivers to understand.

Car crashes continue to be the number one cause for traffic fatalities, but wearing a seat belt can lower the risk of death.

Through the end of March, law enforcement will be monitoring the roads in Missouri to ensure everyone is wearing a seat belt.

According to Missouri Department of Transportation Assistant Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer Jon Nelson, nationally, 91% of all drivers use a seat belt.

The average in Missouri is lower with only 86% wearing one.

It is only 75.5% when it comes to young adults.

Here are some things to keep in mind before hitting the road:

  • Under Missouri’s Graduated License Law, permit drivers and all passengers must wear seat belts.
  • 185 young adults were killed in traffic crashes between 2017 and 2019.
  • 72% of those were not buckled up.
  • Seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injuries by 45% and moderate-to-critical injuries by 50%.

By Matt Gunn | KTVO News

More info on how you can make a difference:

Missouri has a highway safety plan called “Show-Me Zero.”

Through a collaborative effort of diverse stakeholders, Show-Me Zero takes a multi-disciplined approach to achieving safer roads through education, public policy, enforcement, engineering and emergency response. The idea is simple:  no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.

How can you help? Visit the site and download the full Show-Me Zero plan to learn more about the actions everyone can take to make Missouri roads safer. Find the ways you can help and start making a difference. From there, invite others to do their part as well.

Together, we can continue moving Missouri toward zero deaths on our roadways.

FBI Slayings Show Risk Surveillance Cameras Pose to Law Enforcement

FBI agents console each other as they arrive at the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office in Dania, Fla., after two FBI agents were killed and three wounded while trying to serve a search warrant in Broward County on Tuesday Feb. 2, 2021. (Susan Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)​

 

The child pornography suspect who gunned down two South Florida FBI agents this week somehow knew exactly when they were approaching his apartment.

Authorities are investigating whether he may have used his doorbell’s security camera to time his ambush, firing a high-powered rifle through the door as their team neared to search his home and computer.

That’s a danger police nationwide are facing: As outdoor surveillance cameras now protect about half of U.S. homes from criminals, the criminals are using them to get a jump on officers about to raid theirs. Some doorbell cameras even have motion sensors that alert owners when anyone comes within 100 feet (30 meters).

The cameras, combined with the military-style weaponry many criminals possess, leave law enforcement offers particularly vulnerable. In such situations, the house’s doors and walls offer no protection, noted Ed Davis, Boston’s police commissioner from 2006 to 2013.

“You take a military assault rifle and you add to that a surveillance system that allows (the suspect) to identify where officers are as they approach the house — you are a sitting duck,” Davis said.

The FBI says David Huber, a 55-year-old computer technician with no criminal record, gunned down agents Laura Schwartzenberger and Daniel Alfin and wounded three others. He then killed himself. The agency hasn’t said whether Huber’s camera had a motion detector, but that could explain why he was awaiting the agents Tuesday before dawn — an hour officers often pick for raids because the suspect is likely asleep.

“A child exploitation suspect, he is going to be on his toes all day long — he doesn’t want to get caught because he is going away for a long time,” said New York City Detective Robert Garland.

In the 1980s and ’90s, a home with outdoor surveillance cameras was often a sign the resident was a drug dealer or otherwise a criminal, according to Davis and retired SWAT officer David Thomas, now a criminal justice professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. A good system could cost thousands.

“They were the only ones who could afford it,” said Thomas, who worked for the Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Gainesville, Florida, police departments.

Davis said such cameras were so often an indication of criminality, some judges considered their presence when approving officers’ warrant requests.

The cameras were also large and hard to hide — officers could spot them during pre-raid surveillance and approached accordingly.

But today, a technically savvy person can install security cameras for a few hundred dollars and a good doorbell camera can be purchased for less than $200. Many cameras are small and easy to hide.

Thomas said police tactics often trail new technology and will need to be adjusted to deal with doorbell cameras and other home surveillance systems. He said departments may start having more warrants served by heavily armed tactical units and use diversions, such as breaking a side window before going to the door, to distract the suspect.

Departments might also ask judges to issue more “no-knock” warrants, which allow officers to break down the door immediately and without warning. That would fly in the face of growing calls in some cities to do away with such warrants after they have resulted in the deaths of innocent people.

It was while exercising a no-knock warrant that Louisville, Kentucky, police killed Breonna Taylor in her apartment 11 months ago, sparking nationwide protests.

“The issue is very complex, but the reality is there has to be something” for officers to protect themselves, Thomas said.

Davis said there are some countermeasures officers can take against surveillance cameras but they carry the risk of tipping off suspects, particularly when they believe a raid is imminent. Some police departments have devices that can jam the Bluetooth or other radio-wave systems some cameras use to send images to their monitor. And they can cut the home’s power, although many camera systems have battery backups.

Serving warrants has always been one of law enforcement’s most dangerous jobs, even before sophisticated home security cameras were commonplace. On the Grand Rapids SWAT team, Thomas was the door kicker — the officer who is directly in the line of fire if the suspect is waiting in ambush. He said the door is a particularly dangerous spot.

“You never know what is waiting on the other side,” he said.

Davis said the FBI will do a comprehensive report on the shooting. When other agencies receive it, they will pore over it so they can protect their own officers from gunmen with security cameras.

“It has to be reviewed — there are lessons to be learned from this terrible tragedy,” Davis said.

By Terry Spencer | Associated Press | Police1.com

FMCSA Clearinghouse Records More Than 56,000 Truck Driver Violations in 2020

More than 56,000 drug and alcohol violations were recorded last year in a database intended to track truck drivers’ compliance history and prevent them from job-hopping in the event of a failed drug test.

The number of driver violations reported rose by roughly 10,000 over the final two months of 2020, the first full year of operation for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.

According to a new summary report, just 1,203 of the total driver violations were alcohol-related. Of those, most were for drivers who tested with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater.

Click Clearinghouse Report by Transport Topics on Scribd to see the data.

Of the 45,000 driver violators who lost their jobs due to the violations, 34,000 have not yet completed the return-to-work program — a statistic that has some in the industry concerned that those drivers may be leaving their jobs for good.

The violations overwhelmingly included drivers who tested positive for drug use, but also included those who declined to take a drug test or were suspected of cheating on a test.

“The good news is that the system is working in capturing violations by drivers and allowing employers and enforcement personnel to verify a driver’s status prior to permitting him/her [to drive],” said Duane DeBruyne, an FMCSA spokesman. “Any violation reported is a bad thing; blocking prohibited drivers from endangering themselves and the lives of the motoring public is a good thing.”

DeBruyne said the Clearinghouse is making it more difficult for prohibited drivers to circumvent the required return-to-duty process, thereby preventing them from continuing to operate large commercial motor vehicles and potentially, “endanger themselves and the lives of everyone traveling our nation’s roadways.”

Carriers, state driver licensing agencies and law enforcement officials use the Clearinghouse to check a driver’s violations.

“I believe the 56,000 drivers with violations reiterates the importance of this Clearinghouse, and shines a spotlight on a rather large loophole in the drug and alcohol testing process that has existed for many years,” said Dan Horvath, vice president of safety policy for American Trucking Associations.

Dave Osiecki, president of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, said the return-to-work number is low. “It’s concerning, and it bears watching and tracking,” Osiecki said. “The percentage of drivers with violations who are getting evaluated, and completing the treatment process, has risen slowly over the past several months. This is a good sign, but it’s also clear that many drivers are not entering treatment, which suggests they’ve left the industry.”

Osiecki said that when FMCSA published the final Clearinghouse rule in 2016, the agency used historical industry data to provide an annual violation estimate. “FMCSA’s estimate was 53,500 drug and alcohol violations annually. Their estimate was remarkably close,” he said.

“According to our interpretation of Motor Carrier Management Information System data, there are 5,174,170 truck drivers under the authority of FMCSA,” said Norita Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “Fifty-six thousand drivers represents 1.1% of the available driver pool.” Other trucking groups have differing estimates of the size of the driver pool.

The leading number of drug test failures — 29,500 — was for marijuana, according to the report, which summarized violations recorded since Jan. 6, 2020, when the Clearinghouse officially went into effect.

There were more than 7,940 failed tests for cocaine use, and 4,953 for amphetamines. Also included in the total were about 1,120 tests described as reasonable suspicion of attempts to cheat on a drug test, the report said.

In 2020, about 1.6 million drivers and 197,000 employers registered in the Clearinghouse. Slightly more than 67,000 of the employers registered have identified themselves as owner-operators, according to FMCSA.

During 2020, there were 136,806 full queries on the Clearinghouse, 1.4 million pre-employment queries and 2.7 million limited queries, according to the report.

Besides making pre-employment checks, employers are required by regulation to make checks on the database annually to ensure none of their employees have any drug violations.

“It’s important to note that having a drug or alcohol testing violation is not an automatic end to a driver’s career,” said ATA’s Horvath. “While there is a significant number of drivers who have not yet completed the return-to-duty testing process, that number continues to grow. With continued education about the drug and alcohol testing program, and consequences for noncompliance, we hope to see violations decrease and the number of drivers who have completed the return-to-duty process increase.”

By Eric Miller | Transport Topics https://www.ttnews.com/

Photo courtneyk/Getty Images

Why We Cannot Leave Our Safety to Luck

In late 1992 I was a young E-3 deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia, as part of the U.S. led Unified Task Force (UNITAF), in support of Operation Restore Hope. One day, I was searching for an access point to the roof of what remained of our embassy. I was in a hurry, frustrated, fatigued and focused on what was important to me at the moment.

After searching and not finding an access point for the roof of the embassy, I abruptly walked into the first office I saw, approached a group of men wearing brown T-shirts and asked: “Can you please tell me how to get to the roof.” It was the wrong decision.

The red flags were all there for me to process: the presence of distinguished-looking men who clearly held high rank, hanging maps and planning materials consistent with a command post, and the big one, a white paper affixed to the wall stating, “UNITAF/CC.”

In hindsight, it was likely my self-induced time pressure, frustration and myopic focus of attention that led to the words spoken to me by one of those men in brown t-shirts. That man, USMC Lt. General Robert B. Johnston, said, “Airman, let me educate you on situational awareness.”

What followed was a memorable one-way conversation that I remember with clarity almost 30 years later. I was informed that situational awareness is a person’s perception and understanding of the environment. I was also informed that a failure to maintain situational awareness leads to adverse outcomes. Lesson learned, sir.

A Georgia police officer responded to a burglary call. The officer’s body-worn camera records him locating the suspect as he walks on a set of railroad tracks. The officer is engaged in multi-tasking by simultaneously focusing his attention on the suspect, giving commands and talking to dispatch. In the same 20 seconds, the officer’s bodycam records the alarming sound of a rapidly approaching locomotive. The bodycam video appears to show the officer stepping just to the left side of the tracks before he is violently struck by the train.

The officer doesn’t remember much of the event, but after watching his BWC video stated, “I’m lucky to be alive.

How could he not realize what was about to occur? I turn back to what Lt. General Johnston taught me all those years ago. Maintaining situational awareness is key to better decision-making, which in turn leads to better outcomes. Like my incident, the Georgia officer likely had some excitement or frustration as a stressor. Also, his limited attentional focus was more on the suspect and talking to dispatch than the approaching train.

In hindsight, we could reasonably say that prioritizing his attention on the train, even for a moment, might have changed the outcome. For instance, he might have seen the oversized plow attached to the front of the train, as well as the train’s approach speed. The resulting increase in situational awareness might have affected his decision to step just off the tracks instead of quickly stepping several feet away.

The Georgia officer survived, thankfully, and I wish him a speedy recovery. What happened to him could happen to anyone of us under similar circumstances. It doesn’t matter if you wear an EMS, fire, corrections or police uniform – we are all human beings with a limited capacity to process information. That limited capacity is stretched to the maximum when we operate in fast-paced, ambiguous environments. For our safety and the safety of the public, we should recognize these limitations and work hard toward maintaining situational awareness.  

PRINCIPLES OF SITUATIONAL AWARENESS

Situational awareness has a significant history of study and application to a multitude of fields. There are many influences on situational awareness that range from individual capabilities, organizational influences, training, experience and teamwork. However, there is a real need to focus on how first responders maintain situational awareness from the perspective of individual field personnel, teams and organizations. Here are important considerations for each.

1. Situational awareness for the individual

Realize your limitations. Recognize when the incident or situation is moving too rapidly for you to perceive the changes. When faced with situations that are or becoming unmanageable: back out, ask for resources and re-engage when appropriate.

Do not become overly fixated upon one aspect of the environment. Attempt to keep up a degree of global awareness. If unavoidable, ensure you have adequate resources to watch for changes you may not perceive.
Use caution when engaging. Be mentally primed to look for changes in the environment. Seek out new information, assess that information, look for potential contradictory evidence and then act according to protocol.

2. Situational awareness for the team

Communicate, coordinate and confirm. The recommendations for individuals remain active for teamwork but require significant coordination and communication between team members. Confirmation of group understanding is vital when moving forward in more ambiguous and time-compressed environments.

Leadership is critical in a group environment. A single point of command and control helps to ensure vital oversight to ensure the team is functioning within the vision and mission of the organization.

3. Situational awareness for the organization

Clear direction. Establish a vision and mission that guides individual, team and organizational priorities. This will aid teams and individuals during in-the-field decision-making.

Real-world training. Provide adequate training for real-world situations that operationalize situational awareness at both the individual and team levels.
Culture guides decisions and actions. Create a culture that guides field decision making and ensure accountability. The culture includes proper risk assessment and prioritization of objectives.

By David Blake | Police1

About the author

David Blake, Ph.D., is a retired California peace officer and a court-certified expert on human factors psychology and the use of force. He has significant experience teaching use of force and human factors psychology to law enforcement officers in several states. David has undergraduate and graduate degrees in criminal justice and psychology. He has authored over 30 professional and peer-reviewed journal articles on the application of human factors psychology to first responders and their operational environments. David continues to conduct research on police deadly force and human factors psychology. He is the lead consultant at Blake Consulting and Training.