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.

  • joe

    This is nothing new, people attempting to profit off of the misery of others. Attorneys who represent these folks should fight like heck to make sure that unnecessary items aren’t placed on their cars, items made by businessmen in order to make a dollar. Effective tools to battle against alcoholism is one thing, but punishing people simply for the sake of punishing them isn’t constitutional at all.

  • koivisto

    I will agree to this under the following conditions: If you go to a restaurant you are weighed and your BMI is calculated, if high you won’t be able to order food, same goes for the grocery store. This way we can stop all the needless deaths related to obesity. When buying cigarettes, you need to have a lung exam and a doctor needs to analyze your x-rays to determine if you can purchase said pack. Or we can reintroduce prohibition, that went well back in the 1920’s if I recall. OY VEY!

  • starman

    I imagine that would not be an incentive to purchase models which contain this oppressive BS. And car sales may dip to new lows. I will never buy into that. Madd in my opinion has done far more harm to this nation than good. Way way more. But they do generate revenue.

  • Jacobkiniry

    Do not use hand sanitizer. I had sanitizer in my car and used after cleaning an office. I work for cleaning company used the sanitizer then wigglede my hands to dry them. I smelled the arromma of the sanitizer which has 62 percent alchol and then popped open my cap to drink water as directed. I teseted .032,.030, and then .025. Not sure if it was being in a confined space and smelling it or popping cap for my water. Now I had to pay 50 dollars after i violated 3 times. I had to call smart start. Go down to the hearings officer at registry. That is where I am at now. i am not sure what is going to happen as these people think i was drinking. They never tested hand sanitizer as I asked them. This cost me 50 dollars time and may cost me money on lawyers and god only knows if i will lose my license. I have not drank in two and a half years also. I just wanted to let you people know Do not use hand sanitizer in your car and if you use stay away from a pop cap water mug. You do not want this to happen to you!

  • Joanna

    If I recall correctly, the president of Madd was arrested for DUI somewhere around 2000-ish.  Correct me if I am wrong.  I just remember hearing the big news while I lived out in  CA, and was totally livid since i had just been a victim of the beurocratic charge of "Wet Reckless" after a literal ONE SIP of alcohol.  They used the "zero tolerance" law.  So I am almost positive I am right because I was one MAD victim of MADD at the time, therefore it stands out. 

  • Karen

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  • Yo

    I don’t think that the states are actually supportive of Drinking and Driving laws or even helping people. All they care about is money. If they really cared about addictive behavior, there would be treatment programs and ways to help people. Nor are the programs set in helpful. Nor are all people that get a DUI, problematic. People fall on rough patches, but then again try and tell that to a justice system founded on slavery and pushing anyone they can fit in jail. If they it wasn’t for profit, jails wouldn’t be privately owned.