The Truth About Ignition Interlock Devices

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on May 6th, 2008

For the past year now, MADD has trumpeted its latest solution to the drunk driving problem.  After 13 years of essentially unchanged DUI-related fatality statistics (they have actually increased), MADD is now promising in its recent solicitations for money (average $52 million a year) that their latest weapon will eliminate drunk driving once and for all.  And in recent press releases, MADD's national president is promising that it will “literally wipe out drunk driving in the United States”.

Pretty grandiose claims.  So what is this new miracle weapon?  The ignition interlock device, or "IID". 

Problem #1: They don't work.  See my guest editorial in Business Week, MADD Announces an End to Drunk Driving: A Reply. They are, however, very profitable (see my earlier post Ignition Interlock Devices: Dangerous but Profitable).  If you review MADD's Annual Report, you will find a list of their top contributors – those "Platinum Corporate Donors" who have paid MADD at least $100,000.  There are six:  Dial America Marketing, Nationwide Mutual Insurance, Nissan North America, Daimler Chrysler Corporation, Car Max Foundation and General Motors Corporation (makers of Saab).  Yes, three car manufacturers…and a telemarketer heavily used by MADD.

Problem #2: What about drivers who haven't been arrested before?  How do you “literally wipe out drunk driving" by installing IIDs only in cars operated by drivers who have already been convicted?  Most drivers arrested for DUI are first offenders.

MADD understands this, and is pushing further — to have all vehicles mandatorily equipped with IIDs.  (Now you understand why the car manufacturers are investing heavily in MADD.)


New Tech Push Against Drunk Driving

MADD seeks spread of ignition interlocks that

prevent driving with high blood alcohol levels

CBS News. You have a few drinks, climb behind the wheel of your car, turn the key and — nothing. The engine doesn’t turn over, the car doesn’t move.

If Mothers Against Drunk Driving has its way, a device that checks a driver’s alcohol levels will be mandatory in cars owned by anyone ever convicted of drunk driving, and, eventually, every automobile…(Emphasis added.)

There are nearly 1.5 million drunken driving arrests last year, but only 100,000 ignition interlocks are currently in use, so even tagging first offenders isn’t really enough, says MADD…

“There are going to be different types of technology, such as trans-dermal detection that will have sensors to detect the blood alcohol level of an individual before he starts the car, so it doesn’t allow the car to start,” said (MADD President Glynn) Birch.

Another system has a Breathalyzer tube that the driver must blow into before starting the car, The (New York) Times reports. A third detects that a car is weaving down the road, and possible driven by an impaired driver.

“Biometric detection or identification will work like a thumbprint to identify and also give us an idea of who the driver is,” Birch said.

Those systems might eventually test all drivers, whether or not they have ever been convicted of drunken driving…

And as I've mentioned in past posts, automakers Nissan (a MADD "Platinum Donor") and Saab (owned by "Platinum Donor" General Motors) are the two pioneers, having already produced working IID technology for their future cars…once MADD has succeeded in getting the needed legislation mandating an IID in your car.

To more clearly understand the nightmare of driving with an IID-controlled vehicle, see this Japanese TV news broadcast on YouTube (and imagine all that can go wrong).  Now also consider the $1500 or so added to the car's sticker price, along with the periodic required calibration, maintenance and repairs.

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