In-car breath test is promising as DUI deterrent
Once is enough. It may be the new mantra for those who believe that in-car breathalyzers should be required for all convicted DUI offenders, even first-timers.
Once the domain of judges as a little-used sentencing option relegated to only the worst repeat offenders ignition interlock devices have grown up and are now used in 17 states for every driver convicted of driving under the influence. More states are paying attention.
Theres growing evidence to show that ignition interlock devices can reduce the rate of rearrest among drivers convicted of DUI by a median of 67 percent, making them more effective than other prevention methods. Research shows that theres a net cost benefit to using these devices. In addition, ignition interlocks prevent impaired drivers from heading down the road in the first place.
If theres any doubt we have a problem, just look at the relentless, near-daily online arrest reports, booking photos and accounts of drivers apprehended after reckless and more than occasional wrong-way drives down the interstate. Frequently, these drivers register blood alcohol content levels two to four times the legal limit.
Despite multitiered state laws aimed at a decades-old problem, one in three fatal crashes still involves impaired drivers. Tough talk isnt enough when you consider that 9,878 U.S. fatalities last year involved a driver with a BAC of .08 or higher. Thats one fatal occurrence every 53 minutes.
Its not surprising that a recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Survey found that nine of 10 respondents felt that impaired drivers pose a serious threat to their safety.
AAA is a recent convert in a movement that is gaining steam at state legislatures, joining Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) and others to advocate for ignition interlock devices for all first-time offenders.
Idaho crash data are sobering. Just fewer than 40 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2011 were the result of a crash involving an impaired driver. And officers were kept busy with nearly 9,700 DUI arrests.
New Years Day consistently ranks among the years deadliest for alcohol-related fatalities, and its a good time to recall the longstanding education efforts embodied in AAAs venerable First a Friend, Then a Host program.
First, partygoers and hosts should designate nondrinking drivers before any celebration begins. Never get behind the wheel of a car when youve been drinking alcohol, even after just one drink. Do not hesitate to take the keys from friends or family members who might be impaired.
Good judgment goes out the window after one drink, so none of us can afford to depend on our integrity or great reputation to save ourselves and perhaps someone else from a bad outcome. Maybe nows the time to add another tool to the arsenal to address this serious problem.
- Dave Carlson is director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Idaho.