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.

  • elf

    i am physically unable to do a Ignition Interlock due to an indented chest bone i was born with. i went to dr as i was told to do. first dr didn’t help me.
    i finally found one who would. he wrote a letter for me. my lawyer will forward it to the medical review board.

    certain foods set off the device. asthma meds can give false readings. i also think its dangerous blowing when driving.
    where i live you can’t always pull to the side of the road, and would not want to in some neighborhoods, like one i have to go through to supervision.

    this another way madd has gone madd! its having to prove you are guilty!

    dmv supervision is still making making me come once a month ( 25 miles way) (cause i don’t have my license back. supposed to go to a meeting a week, can’t bike at night here.

    dmv. madd and insurance co’s all in it together $$$$$.

  • joe

    Another example of the squeakiest wheel getting the oil. What MADD doesn’t seem to understand is that personal responsibility isn’t something that can be mandated by a court or a machine.

  • welshtr5

    There are just under 10,000 interlock users in Maryland. Of the $80-$90 (average cost per month) montly cost that every user pays to submit montly requirements, $40 dollars or so goes to the MVA coffers. That’s about 4.8M a year.

    Considering all the states are broke because of the current financial crisis, I can see where govt. agencies will be incentivized to increase extortion money every which way they can.

    In MD, I put the DUI business at 100M and then some.

  • Justin

    I forgot the acronym for this BAID? or something — but the device is interesting to say the least.

    It does damage your car and it lowers the value on the car when the machine is introduced and taken away. It does cost a lot of money to have one installed and maintained for the term of probation — in the thousand dollar range.

    Does it work? Yes and no. Yes it can not make your car work due to _any_ alcohol on your breath (Not in your blood) so… don’t use mouthwash. Can someone else who has no alcohol on their breath blow? Yes. The machine has a random restart as I understand it (I’ve never used one) that asks the driver to take the test again in five minutes while driving. If the driver does not comply it starts honking your horn and flashing lights – this in my opinion is a distraction to other drivers and probably illegal. You only use your horn in case of emergency if my drivers education class is still correct.

    Will it automatically shut the car off? Supposedly no. Has it ever malfunctioned and killed the ignition? I haven’t heard any incidences to date. But it will cause a hysteria to your car – (You could disable the lights and horn easy enough imho.) The machine does keep a log of “blows” so your probation if they are not too lazy could get you in trouble again.

    Also, you get some sort of “restriction” on your license stating you are required to be driving the vehicle with the tube. I think it is a W. Scarlet Letter anyone?

    Also I remember the Idaho legislature entertaining a bill that would add another restriction to your license so you could not buy alcohol if you’ve ever had a DUI. At all… period or consume it. I find this law to be nearly impossible to enforce fully but I am sure they could get some people with it.

    I haven’t seen an article on the proposed Oregon Tax regarding the purchase of beer (not alcohol) just beer 1900%.