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Billy Cunningham
Billy Cunningham
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Federal Campaign for Mandatory Use of Anti-Alcohol Control

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USA Today reports that there is a national campaign against first-time drunk driving offenders which is gaining support throughout the United States. This past year three states enacted laws requiring all first time driving while intoxicated violators to install devices on their vehicles which interlock with the ignition system and measures their alcohol content. If that alcohol content is too high, the instrument blocks the vehicle’s engine from starting.

There is a Bill before Congress called the “Federal Transportation Funding Bill” which may be debated this fall. That Bill requires all fifty states to mandate the device for anyone convicted of drunk driving. If the state fails to pass this Act, it would risk losing federal highway money.

There are forty-seven states and the District of Columbia which have interlocking ignition laws for at least some offenders. South Dakota, Vermont and my own state of Alabama have no such laws.

Presently, there are about 150,000 vehicles in the country that have such alcohol ignition interlocks on them. USA Today estimates that the number would approach one million if they are required for ever convicted drunk driver. Organizations like the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (“MADD”) estimate that the devices would save 4,000 to 8,000 lives per year.

There are opponents, naturally, including the American Beverage Institute, which is a restaurant and tavern trade group whose spokesman, Sara Longwell, called interlocks a “slippery slope”. She stated that “as this creeping mentality about ‘don’t drink and drive’ as opposed to ‘don’t drive drunk’ takes over, you’re seeing more officers inclined to arrest people” below the legal limit for intoxication. However, in New Mexico, which was a perennial leader in alcohol related crashes and passed an Act in 2005, has seen a thirty-five percent (35%) drop in drunken-driving deaths.

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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    Seems like first time is a little early. So many people make the mistake and learn from it. They feel horrible and their family and friends give them a lot of grief. I see no problem with the multiple offender, but many people have deserved the first one.

  2. Mary Klotzbach RN BSN says:
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    As a nurse in a large San Francisco Bay Area trauma center the first offense is not too early and in fact it may be too late. The hospital I work in is a Magnet Hospital we use technology on a daily basis to save lives. We as a society use technology on our roadways daily to make driving safer. When it comes to drinking and driving we want to turn a blind eye. In CA alone in 2006 there were 1,103 fatalities due to DUI. 780 or 70.7% of those fatalities were caused by a DUI offender with no prior convictions. The Insurance Institute states, a first conviction represents at least the 87th time that individual has driven impaired. A DUI is a deadly mistake. Driving is a privilege not a right, when someone violates the public trust by driving impaired mandating proof of sobriety before a vehicle will start is a lenient sanction and a life saving one for them and their family as well as mine. The mandatory use of an IID on the first offense is the logical and safe way to go. There will be many unintended benefits when 1 million plus drivers have the device on their vehicle, many will stop at the one to two drinks and wait before driving.