Ignition Interlocks: Is the Media Finally Getting It?

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on February 5th, 2009

As most of you know, MADD has focused on ignition interlock devices (IIDs) as the answer to the drunk driving problem in America.  The organization has even widely trumpted the device as the way to "literally wipe out drunk driving in the United States".  MADD Announces End to Drunk Driving: A Reply.  But there appears to be a growing recognition that the Empress is wearing no clothes…

  
DUI Penalty Should Fit Facts, Not Beliefs

Greenwood, MS.  Jan. 25 — Mothers Against Drunk Driving has done much over the years to reduce the incidence of drunk driving and the terrible consequences that can come from it…

The group, though, has hit somewhat of a plateau. For at least a decade, the numbers have hardly budged. Somewhere around 13,000 people — give or take a few hundred — die every year in an alcohol-related crash in the United States.

When a well-intended advocacy group hits a wall, the danger is that it will go overboard with heavy-handed proposals. That is the case with MADD’s latest push to get judges to order all convicted DUI offenders, even first-timers, to outfit their cars with ignition interlock devices.

The devices aren’t foolproof, however. Despite the efforts of engineers to outwit the ways that a drunk driver might try to circumvent one, MADD’s own statistics put the devices’ effectiveness at 64 percent…

Yet, that seems to be MAAD’s big push this year. Only eight states mandate or allow judges to order ignition interlock devices for a first offender. MADD wants it be an option in every state. The advocacy group has gotten bills to that effect filed in legislatures all across the country, including Mississippi.

As dangerous as drunk driving can be, this remedy still rings of being overblown. It adds another layer of punishment to a crime that the courts are required to take seriously, thanks to mandatory minimum sentences that have been instituted over the years.

Mississippi, like most of the country, already has stern DUI laws on the books that are designed to dissuade those who get caught one time from repeating their mistake…

If, after serving that penalty, a driver gets a second DUI, he either is incapable of learning from his mistakes or he has a drinking problem. Either way, employing an ignition interlock device then becomes a reasonable response to protect the public from what appears to be a persistent threat to its safety.

MADD, though, sounds as if it wants to treat all DUI offenders as if they are repeat abusers. In fact, that’s part of its argument for the interlock ignition proposal. Citing a 13-year-old research study, it claims that on average a person will drive drunk 87 times before he is caught and convicted the first time.

The number sounds inflated. Even if it were close to accurate, though, MADD’s response turns our system of jurisprudence on its head. It presumes a person is guilty of criminal misconduct for which there is no record and penalizes the person accordingly. Is there another crime, large or small, for which that is the case?

Punishment should fit the crime for which there is evidence to prove guilt. It shouldn’t be based on the premise that one conviction is an automatic admission to previous violations of the same law.

 

Hmmm…Interesting concept.
 

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