Driving while intoxicated (DUI) has produced an epidemic of alcohol-related vehicle fatalities that spawned organizations, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and raised public awareness in hopes of preventing and reducing the number of deaths each year.
Since campaigns such as “friends don’t let friends drink and drive” started in the 1980s, driving under the influence (DUI) has, in fact, been cut in half.
An Ignition Interlock Device is another tool to reduce the number of repeat offenders.
Still, every 2 hours, three people are killed in alcohol-related highway crashes, according to the United States Department of Transportation. The statistics paint a sobering picture.
What is the Data on Drinking and Driving?
- 29 million people admitted to driving under the influence in 2012
- 10,076 people died in drunk driving crashes in 2013
- 2 in 3 people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime
- The rate of driving while intoxicated is highest among 21 to 25 year olds
- An average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before their first arrest
- 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue driving on suspended licenses
Though the consequences for a DUI conviction have increased significantly, some critics argue that drinking and driving laws don’t go far enough.
Nationally, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent, but for someone without a tolerance to alcohol, that level could mean they are fall-down drunk.
For those under the age of 21, zero-tolerance laws make it illegal to have any measurable amount of alcohol in their system.
DUI penalties may vary from state to state, but in most cases, heavy fines are levied against drivers, who might also be responsible for car impound, court and attorney fees, that add up to tens of thousands of dollars. They are also very likely to spend some time in jail.
In California, drivers found guilty of DUI also lose their license for 30 days, have continued restrictions on their driving afterwards and must attend a mandatory 3-month alcohol treatment program.
Local government and law enforcement agencies have also enacted other measures to prevent people from drinking after driving.
Sobriety checkpoints allow police to stop vehicles at fixed locations and administer Breathalyzer tests if they have reason to believe a driver has been drinking.
Another relatively new prevention method is the Ignition Interlock Device.
How Does an Ignition Interlock Device Work?
- Requires the driver to breathe into the device before the car will start
- Interrupts the signal from the ignition to the starter if preset BAC is too high
- Randomly tests after the vehicle has been started to reduce the likelihood of another person breathing into the device to start the car
- In the case of a failed test, the device digitally logs the event, and if the car is not turned off, an alarm flashes lights and honks the horn until the vehicle’s engine is shut off
While blowing into a device to start the car might sound like a major inconvenience, that’s only half the battle.
There is a fee to install the device, a calibration fee by the installer each month it is in service, and a removal fee when the probation period is over.
A typical fee of $75 a month, including installation and removal, puts the total over $1000 during the course of a year.
Ignition interlock devices are the latest way to put pressure on drunk drivers, especially repeat offenders, to make them think twice about drinking and driving.
To say they’re a major inconvenience and financial burden doesn’t quite go far enough when lives are at stake. But if they work to get more people to stop driving while intoxicated, they’re worth every penny.
No DUI prevention methods can replace good judgment, or simply not driving after a few alcoholic drinks.
In many cases, an arrest for a DUI is a sign of a greater problem for an individual, such as alcoholism or alcohol dependency.
Even a small amount of alcohol can impair judgment and lengthen a person’s reaction times behind the wheel. There are too many alternatives available today to take any chances. Ultimately, the financial and emotional savings will be priceless.