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February 2012 

Arizona authorities dismantle 'extensive' drug cell

by Jim Walsh - The Republic


A simple traffic stop touched off the largest drug investigation in Tempe police history, making in-roads into a Sinaloan cartel that distributed drugs in several Western and Midwestern states, officials announced Tuesday.


Following a 15-month investigation, a task force of police agencies made 203 arrests and seized $7.8million in cash, 650 pounds of marijuana, 435 pounds of methamphetamine, 123 pounds of cocaine and 4.5 pounds of heroin.


The haul included the removal of $1.1million in cash and 156 pounds of methamphetamine from a south Phoenix home, Tempe police Commander Kim Hale said.


"It's one of the largest in Arizona history. When you are talking about hundreds of pounds of meth, it's significant," Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff said.


Ryff said drug addicts desperate to support their addiction are responsible for a large amount of street-level property crimes. He said every person arrested in a string of burglaries in a central Tempe neighborhood was a methamphetamine addict.


"I don't think the average person understands the impact on our streets," he said.


The case began when Tempe police found a small quantity of drugs during a routine traffic stop at McClintock Drive and Elliot Road. That led detectives up the distribution ladder to dealers in Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, Chandler and Avondale and eventually to the cartel connection.


"There's a lot of drugs coming across the border," Hale said.


Although drug trafficking is far more dangerous than most businesses, it revolves around supply and demand like anything else, he said.


"As long as people are willing to buy it, they are willing to sell it. That's why drug campaigns are important in the schools. Enforcement is one part of that," Hale said. "They regenerate as quickly as they can. We take people down and they start replacing them."


Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said, "When they buy drugs, they are feeding the cartels that are murdering people."


Doug Coleman, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's special agent in charge, said the Sinaloan cartel has tentacles nationwide, but they are deepest in Arizona.


He said the ring targeted by Operation Crank Call and Hornswaggle not only distributed drugs throughout the Valley but to other states, including Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Wyoming.

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Gray Highways: The New Driving


You may live, as I do, in fear of teenage drivers, with their divided attention and inexperience behind the wheel. However, in the next 20 years another threat is due to hit the American highway en masse: elderly drivers. In April of 2010, there were over 40 million Americans over the age of 65, and in the next ten years, another 35 million will reach that mark.


Back in 1997, a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that, while the population of drivers over 70 represented 9% of all drivers, they accounted for 14% of all traffic fatalities. It concluded that, "On the basis of estimated annual travel, the fatality rate for drivers 85 and over is 9 times as high as the rate for drivers 25 through 69 years old." This despite being the soberest age group and the one most like to be using seat belts.


As the boomer generation grays, its driving abilities will inevitably wane. While many will self-police by driving fewer miles and avoiding busy traffic times and darkness, they still will pose an elevated threat.


If you are a member of this group, or have a loved one that is, it might be useful to ask these questions, suggested by NHTSA:

  • Do you get lost on familiar routes?
  • Are there new dents in your car finish?
  • Have you recently been warned or ticketed for bad driving behavior?
  • Have you had a near-crash experience lately for which you were at fault?
  • Has your doctor advised you to limit or cease your driving?
  • Are you overwhelmed by signs, signals, and the like on the highway while driving?
  • Do you take medications that affect your ability to drive safely?
  • Do you drive so slowly that traffic builds up behind you?
  • Do you suffer from ailments (glaucoma, arthritis, diabetes, etc.) that compromise your driving abilities?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it might be time to reconsider your driving habits.

A good place to start might be with AAA's Roadwise Review, an online test of your physical and mental abilities that can help you determine the wisdom of continuing to drive. The organization also offers online and classroom education to help older drivers learn coping skills that can help them drive more safely. AARP offers similar programs.


Many driving schools also offer training for older drivers to help rehone those skills and develop compensatory ones. You may even qualify for an insurance discount by taking one.


Another useful program offered by AAA is CarFit, helping older adults choose personal vehicles that fit them. (One has to wonder just how safe the combination of an elderly drive and a land cruiser like the Crown Victoria is on the highway.)


When the time comes when you feel it's time to have the driving discussion with a loved one, check out AARP's "Talking With Older Drivers" free online seminar for tips on how to broach the subject.


Mobility is a tremendously important part of life in the U.S However, there comes a time when car travel involves such risk for the driver and those around him that it's time to hang up the keys. Make a wise choice. It could save your life.

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LAPD tries new policies to cut costly, dangerous traffic crashes 


LAPD officers are involved in an average of one traffic crash a day - they cost taxpayers millions of dollars a year and in some cases result in serious injury or death to other drivers.


By Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times


At any given moment in Los Angeles, scores of police cars are out on the streets - either rushing to calls for help or prowling around in search of trouble.

Despite the training cops receive in how to speed safely through traffic, they are an accident-prone bunch. Police were involved in traffic accidents more than 1,250 times in the last three years - an average of about one a day.

Most of the crashes were minor, but some resulted in life-threatening injuries or totaled police cars, or were the result of the officer violating traffic laws, according to LAPD records. In at least two incidents, the driver of another car was killed.

And at a time when the Los Angeles Police Department is trying to stem the steady stream of lawsuits filed against officers that cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year, traffic accidents remain a significant and costly obstacle. They represent nearly one out of every four lawsuits filed against the department. The city has paid nearly $24 million in settlements or verdicts in about 400 LAPD traffic-related lawsuits over the last nine years and must contend with dozens more cases that remain unresolved, city records show. In all but a few of the closed cases, city officials opted to pay a negotiated settlement instead of taking their chances at a trial - a strong indication that the officers were in the wrong.

"It is a top priority for us to get a comprehensive risk management plan in place, and addressing traffic accidents has to be a big part of that," said Richard Drooyan, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, the civilian board that sets policy for the LAPD. "We need to look at what kind of training, supervision and policies could be implemented to prevent these accidents."

In a recent article, The Times highlighted a 2009 traffic collision in which a 25-year-old woman was killed when her car was broadsided by an LAPD police cruiser without its emergency lights and siren on. The officers claimed that they were driving between 40 and 45 mph, but after data from an onboard computer showed the car had been traveling nearly 80 mph, the city settled last year with the woman's family for $5 million.

And next month a civil trial is scheduled for another deadly crash involving an LAPD squad car. In that 2010 collision, 27-year-old Jovanna Lugo had backed her car out of her driveway onto the street at night and was hit by a police cruiser. Attorneys representing Lugo's young son and husband alleged in court filings that the officer was speeding without the car's headlights or emergency lights and siren on. Attorneys for the city did not respond to a request for comment.

Lugo's death spurred LAPD officials to reconsider the way the department investigates serious accidents in which officers are suspected of negligence or other significant misconduct, said Cmdr. Andrew Smith. Such investigations now are treated like typical misconduct inquiries, but the department is considering whether to treat them similarly to officer-involved shootings. In shooting inquiries, officers are separated from each other at the scene to avoid collusion, and special teams of detectives spend months gathering evidence and witness testimony. The commission ultimately rules on whether the officers were justified in using force.

In nearly all traffic accidents, the officers are not accused of serious breaches of conduct but instead are faulted for being inattentive. With hundreds of such cases each year, the workload was a major drain on Internal Affairs investigators. So in late 2008, the department switched to a point-accrual system similar to the one the state Department of Motor Vehicles uses for driving violations and accidents.

Under the LAPD's point system, in accidents determined to have been their fault, officers are assigned one, two or four points, depending on the seriousness of the crash. If an officer is issued 3 points in a 24-month period, he or she is required to undergo driver retraining. Cops lose the right to drive for six months if they acquire five points over three years.

Commissioner Alan Skobin, who helped write the new procedures, said that beyond reducing the caseload for Internal Affairs investigators, the plan addresses a fairness issue. "Minor things happen, and we shouldn't always be taking a punishment mode," he said during a discussion of the plan at a recent Police Commission meeting.

Skobin added that he is hopeful the point system will lead to a reduction in the number of crashes caused by officers. With only a few years of statistics, police officials said they cannot yet determine whether the points system is, in fact, contributing to a decrease in the number of accidents. The preliminary figures indicate it has done so, as the number of crashes each year appear to have declined between 2009 and 2011.

However, the point system appears to have done nothing to help the department as it tries to slow the number of lawsuits people file against it. In a three-year period since the point system was implemented, 205 traffic-related lawsuits were filed, according to city records. That is 40% more lawsuits than were filed in the three years before the points plan went into effect.

Drooyan said he plans a thorough review of the points system to determine whether more changes are needed in how the department deals with traffic accidents.

Crashes account for about a quarter of the nearly 1,900 lawsuits brought against the Police Department since 2002, city records show. Large numbers of lawsuits involve civil rights violations and workplace issues, such as harassment and retaliation, and can result in tens of millions of dollars in payments.

In cases that have been closed, the city has paid a total of $138 million of taxpayer money in settlements and verdicts - more than the combined cost of resolving lawsuits brought against all other city departments. Elected officials have long criticized the LAPD for its inability to address problems that lead to lawsuits.

Repeatedly over the past year, Drooyan and Chief Charlie Beck have identified lawsuits as one of the most pressing issues facing the department. Beck has said the department needs to be better at identifying problem officers and correcting behavior before lawsuits result. Coordination between the LAPD and the city attorney's office, which defends the city in lawsuits, has also been uneven. Beck recently created and filled a new risk manager position, saying he is hopeful the addition will help matters.

Database: All legal payouts in LAPD lawsuits

Copyright 2012, Los Angeles Times


'Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving' Campaign Unveils New Television PSAs for the Holidays


TVB Teams Up With Ad Council and NHTSA for the Eighth Year to Encourage Drivers Not to Drive Buzzed


NEW YORK, NY (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- Most people know about the dangers and consequences of drunk driving but few know that "buzzed" driving can get you busted, too.

For the eighth consecutive year, TVB ( ), the not-for-profit trade association of America's commercial broadcast television industry, has joined forces with the Ad Council and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to launch Project Roadblock, a public service advertising (PSA) initiative launching December 26, to remind holiday revelers about the dangers and consequences of not planning ahead and designating a sober driver before you go out.


Continuing the theme "Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving," the campaign will debut two television PSAs created pro bono by Merkley + Partners, targeting men, aged 21 to 34. The PSAs illustrate that a single careless moment can not only be life-altering but expensive. The financial consequences of being stopped for driving buzzed can be around $10,000, including costs for posting bail, towing, fines, attorney fees and higher insurance premiums.


"Drunk driving is a preventable crime that can have tragic consequences for victims and offenders," said David L. Strickland, Administrator of the NHTSA. "We want to make sure everyone understands that buzzed driving is drunk driving -- never get behind the wheel if you've had too much to drink."


During the holiday week of December 26 through New Year's Eve, one of the deadliest auto-fatality weeks of the year according to the NHTSA, local broadcast TV stations nationwide are encouraged to air the "Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving" PSAs with a concentrated rotation of the on-air spots and online banner. Additionally, TV stations will also support the critical campaign message via text message, Facebook posts and tweets to their viewers.


"Awareness about this issue has increased every year since the first Project Roadblock in 2004, and it has had the desired effect with increased mindfulness on the roadways during the holiday season," said TVB President and CEO Steve Lanzano. "Last year over 1,000 primary and digital sub channels participated in this initiative -- demonstrating the power of the medium and its effect on social change."


The Ad Council has conducted surveys following the campaign every year since January 2006 of adults over the age of 21, and results continue to show more of them refraining from drinking and driving. The most recent results in January 2011 demonstrated:


        --  Increased awareness of the campaign. Nearly one-half of adults ages

            21+ (49%) and 56 percent of men ages 21-35 are familiar with the


        --  Increased commitment to avoiding buzzed driving. About half of adults

            ages 21+ (47%) said they would 'always' get a ride from a friend, take

            a taxi or public transportation rather than drive buzzed,

            significantly higher than 2006 (41%). There has been similar growth on

            this measure among men ages 21-35, from 39 percent in 2006 to 47

            percent in 2011.

        --  Changed behaviors following the holiday season. The percentage of

            adults 21+ reporting that they had refrained from driving after

            drinking in the past month rose from 9 percent in January 2006 to 13

            percent in January 2011. The growth was also significant among men

            21-35, from 17 percent to 25 percent.


Most important is the decrease in auto fatalities. In 2005, about 13,500 people died in car crashes involving a driver or motorcycle rider with a blood-alcohol level of .08+. That number has declined steadily every year, decreasing to 10,228 in 2010. The Buzzed Driving campaign, in concert with stepped up law enforcement initiatives and other messaging programs, has contributed to this welcome trend.


"Our research has shown that we need to reduce the target's confidence level about driving after drinking, so that we can help decrease the number of fatalities and injuries linked to impaired driving," said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. "We are grateful to local television nationwide for coming together to donate their valuable inventory to support this critical safety message during this time of year."


About TVB TVB is the not-for-profit trade association of America's commercial broadcast television industry. Its members include television broadcast groups, advertising sales reps, syndicators, international broadcasters, associate members and over 500 individual television stations. TVB actively promotes local media marketing solutions to the advertising community, and in so doing works to develop advertising dollars for the medium's multiple platforms, including on-air, website and mobile. TVB provides a diverse variety of tools and resources to support its members and to help advertisers make the best use of local ad dollars.  

1.3 million crashes per year caused by calls or texting


The National Transportation Safety Board called for states across the nation to outlaw all cell phone usage for drivers, on top of the complicated web of phone laws already in place in many states.

  • An estimated 1.3 million crashes per year caused by calls or texting
  • Fifteen states still have no state-wide laws against distracted driving
  • Fines vary; tickets can be difficult to fight in court

Safety First

Distracted driving laws are becoming more and more widespread, and for good reason. According to the National Safety Council, 23 percent of car crashes, or 1.3 million per year, are caused by phone calls or texting. Phone use was involved in 3,092 highway deaths, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates.


"No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said in a press release last week. "It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving."


Many states already have laws in place against certain cell phone uses behind the wheel, and more are expected to follow the NTSB recommendation. How can you avoid a ticket for improper cell phone use? Easy. Know your state and local laws, and follow them. If you have to make a call, find a safe place to pull over, or let a passenger handle the phone.

New laws crack down on distracted drivers

U.S. and state regulations seek to curb drivers' use of cellphones, and some states target driving under the influence.

By Stephen Ceasar, Los Angeles Times


If your New Year's resolutions didn't include hanging up that cellphone when behind the wheel, several states plan to do it for you. A slew of new laws taking effect this year aims to curb distracted driving.

Beginning Tuesday, all commercial drivers - including truck and bus drivers - are banned from using hand-held and push-to-talk cellphones.

The new law will affect an estimated 4 million commercial drivers, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which instituted the ban.

New automotive laws are taking effect in a variety of states too.

In Nevada, those who violate a 3-month-old law that bans texting while driving will receive tickets instead of warnings; a grace period for residents to familiarize themselves with the new law had ended as of Sunday. Authorities in Pennsylvania will begin enforcing a similar ban in March.

In Oregon, a loophole will be closed in the state's ban on using cellphones while driving.

A portion of the law allowed a driver to use a cellphone if it "is necessary for the person's job." Intended to exempt law enforcement and emergency workers, the provision also allowed some motorists to have their citations dismissed by claiming they were using the phone for work.

The new law allows only emergency responders and roadside assistance workers to use hand-held cellphones. All drivers can use hands-free devices.

The National Transportation Safety Board last month called for a nationwide ban on drivers' use of portable electronic devices. The agency urged states to ban the nonemergency use of hands-free devices as well as hand-held cellphones.

NTSB Chairwoman Debbie Hersman, speaking at an agency board meeting in December, said the exponential growth of cellphone use has made distracted driving a rapidly growing problem. In 2010, more than 3,000 people died in crashes believed to have been caused by distracted driving, according to the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"How many more lives will be lost before we, as a society, change our attitudes about the deadliness of distractions?" Hersman asked.

Under a new law in Illinois, all back-seat passengers will be required to wear seat belts, except those in taxis or emergency vehicles. If caught, passengers face fines beginning at $25.

Another new Illinois law permits school bus companies to require drivers whom they suspect of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol to submit to testing. If drivers fail the test, or refuse to take it, they can lose their school bus permit for three years.

In California, children will be required to use a car seat until they are 8 years old or at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall. The previous law required children to use car seats until they were 6 years old or weighed 60 pounds. Fines for violations begin at $475.

In Oregon, anyone convicted of drunk driving - including first offenders - will be required to install an ignition interlock in their cars. The devices check the driver's blood alcohol level before the engine will start and keep checking it, at random, for the engine to keep running.

Oregon will also require engines in large commercial trucks to be turned off while idling to reduce air pollution.

Copyright 2011, Los Angeles Times

Falling asleep while driving is a crime Over 100 thousand accidents happen every year

Amy Phillips


CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) - If you get into an accident because of falling asleep while driving, you could face some big penalties.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says annually there are over 100,000 police-reported accidents due to driver fatigue.

The result is more than 1,500 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12 billion in damages.

Loretta Dorn of Indian Orchard told 22News, "I just pull over. Sometimes you get out, walk around, do something, and get a cup of coffee or whatever, but get off the road."


"If I'm ever driving tired what I usually do is just roll down the window and put the music on and just try to get through it," said Donna Skinner of Westfield.


According to Doreen and Chris Bassett of Southampton, "Don't drive. Just have somebody else drive for you or don't do it. Stay off the road."


"Normally I don't drive if I'm tired," said Anne Depelteau of Chicopee. "I'll just stay where I am, but if I am tired and I'm driving I will open the window, let the air in, put the music on and try to stay stimulated."


In Massachusetts, getting into an accident from drowsy driving is a criminal offense. You can be charged with "operating to endanger," face hefty fines, and possible jail time.