12/12/2011 5:29 PM ET|
New DUI strategy: Your car won't start
In their campaign against drunken driving, safety advocates are focusing their efforts on ignition interlock devices, which make sure drunks can't start their cars.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving believes technology can do what state laws, public opinion and stern car-insurance penalties have not: Keep first-time drunken drivers from repeating their offenses.
While drunken-driving laws across the United States have changed radically since MADD's founding in 1980, progress stalled in the mid-1990s.
"Initially, states focused primarily on either repeat offenders or first-time offenders who had a very high blood-alcohol content of 0.15 or 0.20," says Anne McCartt, the senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
MADD, the IIHS and other groups were pushing hard on many fronts, encouraging police, lawmakers and courts to:
- Impound and even sell convicted drunken drivers' vehicles.
- Revoke drunken drivers' licenses for longer periods.
- Toughen penalties for first-time offenders, including mandatory jail time.
- Require convicted drunken drivers to use an ignition interlock device, a piece of high-tech auto equipment meant to prevent a drunken driver from operating a vehicle.
Five years ago, proponents of stiff punishment for drunken-driving offenses decided to recalibrate their approach, says Frank Harris, the state legislative affairs manager at MADD. They stepped back to see what worked.
By far the best results came from ignition interlock devices. That's why safety advocates have recently put most of their energy into making sure drunks can't start their cars.
An ignition interlock device is an in-car Breathalyzer. The driver blows into a device the size of a chunky mobile phone. If a measurable amount of alcohol is detected, the car simply won't start.
You can't drive drunk if you can't drive
Data like these are what convince the advocates:
- New Mexico's 6-year-old law requiring ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunken drivers, including first-time offenders, is credited with a 35% reduction in drunken-driving deaths.
- Arizona, with a similar law, has reduced drunken-driver deaths by 46% since 2007.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reviewed research on interlock devices and concluded they reduce re-arrest rates by 67%. The CDC now recommends the devices for every convicted drunken driver.
Since states make the drunken-driving laws, McCartt and Harris say, the push now is to persuade every legislature to require every single person convicted of drunken driving to use an ignition interlock device for at least six continuous months.
Such laws would apply to everyone convicted of driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or more. There would be no exceptions, not even for first-timers.
"From MADD's perspective, as long as that offender is learning to drive sober and the car is not being driven drunk, then the role of the ignition airlock is effective," says Harris.
At this point, only a small proportion of convicted drunken drivers actually end up using the devices, says the U.S. Department of Health's Task Force on Community Preventive Services.
Even though most states use interlocks, they require them only under certain circumstances -- for example, with a particularly high blood-alcohol count or on a second conviction. (You can see your state's penalties -- and calculate your own safe-driving limit -- with CarInsurance.com's "What's Your Limit?" tool.)
Today, 14 states -- Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah and Washington -- require ignition interlock devices for every convicted drunken driver.
Car insurance won't pay the bill
As you'd imagine, wily drivers try to fool ignition interlock devices, getting others -- even children -- to blow into the devices for them. They also try using canned air and other evasions.
But device makers keep improving the technology. Devices now include "running retests" -- drivers are periodically required to pull to the side of the road and submit to another test within a brief time span. If a driver flunks the retest, the car keeps running -- it might be dangerous to immobilize it -- but the horn honks and the lights flash to summon police. (Here's a MADD FAQ on the devices.)
You not only blow into the device but also pay for the privilege. Private companies usually provide the services. Installation can cost as much as $200, and monthly fees range from $50 to $100.
The cost of an ignition interlock device isn't covered under your car insurance policy, which, of course, you'll be paying more for as well. Analysis of rates pulled through CarInsurance.com's car insurance comparison tool suggests you should expect your insurance rates to double. Surcharges for a drunken-driving conviction do vary widely from state to state and even more so from insurer to insurer.
Although makers of ignition interlocks have proposed otherwise, no insurance company offers a discount for installation of a device.
How about some old-fashioned jail time?
Despite the apparent effectiveness of interlocks, many other tactics still are in use. They include:
License suspension and jail time. In all states but Wisconsin (where it's a traffic ticket), driving while intoxicated is a crime. Officers make 1.4 million DUI arrests each year, says MADD. Every state defines drunken driving as having a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more. In all states and Washington, D.C., it's illegal to buy alcohol before age 21, and the legal blood alcohol limit is lower for teens -- 0.02% for drivers under 21 vs. 0.08% for those over 21.
But beyond that, penalties -- and their application -- diverge a lot. Some states let you refuse a Breathalyzer test please submit to having your license revoked. Some mandate jail time, even for first-time offenders, but in practice offer diversion programs with alternative penalties like community service, monitoring, treatment or license revocation.
Vehicle seizures. Some states allow communities to seize -- and sometimes even sell -- vehicles belonging to people convicted of driving drunk. Stiff impound fees and penalties must be paid to redeem the vehicle. But the approach isn't catching on, Harris said, probably because exceptions -- other family members need to drive, for example -- make the programs difficult to enforce.
Special license plates. A few states assign special vehicle plates, or a series of license-plate numbers, to convicted drunken drivers. Ohio uses red and yellow plates different from other state licenses on vehicles that have been impounded for drunken driving. Georgia and Minnesota use special plates on a limited basis. Oregon and Iowa have experimented with similar programs that aren't currently active. Special plates aren't a widely used tactic. Here's a roundup of state special license laws, from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The bottom line, interlock advocates say, is that even when jail time is served, it doesn't teach the convicted person how to drive sober. It is hoped that ignition interlock devices will do so.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
Why don't they arrest somebody for the way they drive rather than a substance in their blood?
If I run a stop sign when I've been drinking is it worse than running a stop sign stone sober?
If I weave between lanes while texting sober is it better than driving straight as an arrow after a drink or two?
I don't believe there should be a double standard, if I cause an accident while drunk, the penalty should be the same as if I caused the same accident while sober under the same circumstances.
Let the flaming begin!
For you idiots who keep saying "take a cab", I pay taxes that the government uses part of to subsidize public transportation. The subsidies have put the cab companies out of business but the public transportation shuts down at 6 pm and doesn't operate on the weekends.
Decide to nap in your car after having an extra drink? Better not, sleeping or sitting in your car over the dui limit will get you arrested. Leave the car parked over night? Ticket and tow.
Maybe if MADD was smart enough to figure out real solutions instead of more penalties, the problem might become less.
We waste so much effort on a small part of the problem.
Drunk Driving represents under 20% of traffic accidents. Yet that 20% is punished more than the other 80% combined.
Think about it - you can cause a wreck (eating, sleeping, poor car maintenance, cell phone, radio, inattention) and get NO PUNISHMENT. If you are sober, you can kill people and get less punishment than a drunk driver with no wreck who has a taillight out.
So we punish the likelyhood of a drunk causing a wreck, but then don't punish other people for actually causing wrecks.
The Equal Protection Clause is very clear - the punishment and law should be the same for Jews, Christians, Blacks, Whites, Drunks, Druggies, the tired, the lazy, the hardworker, the teatotaler, the young, the old - making seperate laws that only apply to certain people has always been wrong. Remember when it was a bigger crime for a black to steal than for a white? Those laws were also wrong and unconstitutional.
I also agree the main service this law provides is revenue to the local gov't. I'm also in AZ and DUI to "the slightest degree" is the most asinine concept ever. If you drink 1/2 a beer, you can be arrested for DUI with mandatory 12 month interlock device ($1,200), mandatory 24 hrs in jail which you pay for ($550), fine to the arresting community ($1,750), mandatory alcohol classes ($740), Driver Survival School ($320), blood test ($35), loss of license privileges for 90 days, all for drinking 1/2 beer and for first time offender.
We all also know that if the person is the uncle or cousin of the arresting officer no offense would be recorded, they would simply be let go. It's a bunch of BS. I, like everyone here, do not condone driving drunk but there is a big difference between driving drunk and having a drink. MADD mothers are just that, crazy. Why our politicians have to go from one extreme to another instead of going to the common sense solution in the middle, continues to baffle me. The lawyers/law makers, when asked to address an issue, always find a solution that will line their pockets while exempting themsleves.
Join DAMM, Drinkers Against MADD Mothers.
We went through this crap a long time ago...they called it Prohibition. It was overturned by an AMENDMENT to the Constitution. MADD is nothing more than a group of people that are supposedly a non-profit but about 70% of the money they get goes to SALARIES. They don't give a DAMM about anyone. They are just like Congress. And Congress continues to allow them to have their Non-Profit status.
This is supposed to be a free society. It's laws are being dictated by a bunch of a--holes. They keep trying to get the alcohol level lowered more very year. They want you ticketed and thrown in jail for having a beer on the golf course. To hell with these people.
I'm 40 years old and never posted anything to the internet, but this is a bone I have contention with:
Look people, if the good ol USA did not want you to drink and drive, then you, and others, would not drink and drive. Just like the war on drugs with Nancy Regan; did it do any good? There are more people on drugs than ever....so, is there really a war on drugs?? Let me answer that for you...NO.
Drunk driving is a money maker....; like LC646 posted, irresponsible driving is what it is....irresponsible driving, whether you are tired, not attentive, stoned, drunk, ...its all irresponsible behavior. It's just that alcohol is measurable; therefore, it is profitable. ...and they will profit from it. MADD is just another way of saying its wrong....and we will still profit. Drunk driving has been illegal for 30 plus years, and guess what, people are still drinking and driving. I've done it for 40 years and have not killed anyone....but I'm responsible driver....there is a difference people. WAKE UP!
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