Blow Before You Drive?
By William J. Brotherton
I find the recent call for ignition interlocks on all first time DWI offenders by Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD) to be excessive. Especially in light of the fact that the call for ignition interlocks was made at a conference in Dallas sponsored by an interlock company.
While I certainly find that the effort to reduce drunk driving to be laudable, the fact is that most everyone has found themselves in a situation where they are driving when they’ve had a little too much to drink. I certainly have.
Some 46 years ago, I had attended a party with friends in my hometown of Atlanta. It was a going away party for a friend who had been drafted into the Army. In those days, that usually meant a trip to Vietnam. Most of us probably drank too much that evening.
Driving back home in my 59 Chevy Impala, I saw the telltale flashing lights behind me and pulled over. The officer asked me if I had been drinking and I told him I had. He took my license. I presumed I was going to jail.
Instead, he came back to my car, handed me my license, and said “Bill, if I follow you home, will you promise to park your car, put up your keys, and go to bed?”
I assured him I would.
And that’s just what happened. I parked my car in the front of my house and waved as the Atlanta police officer drove away. I went to bed.
I’ve told people this story over the years and many people can’t believe that such a thing actually happened. I suspect it still occurs in many small communities, and I don’t think it’s such a bad thing.
Certainly I don’t believe that someone who has committed multiple DWI offenses or caused personal injury or property damage should be given such light treatment. But a first time DWI offense these days is a costly offense that will teach 99% of individuals who are caught drinking and driving never to do it again. It’s that 1% that MAAD and the Legislature should be concentrating their efforts on.
There is already a call for all new cars to be equipped with interlock devices so as to eliminate the possibility of any drinking and driving. Requiring interlocks for all first time offenders is the first step to getting interlocks in every new car. Do we really want to accept a presumption of future guilty behavior? Do we really want to have to blow into a device every time we want to drive somewhere?
It’s been estimated that a first time DWI can cost that offender up to $10,000 in court costs, fines, increased insurance premiums and lost wages, not to mention attorney’s fees. In many cases, people lose their jobs because of a DWI offense. Again, for 99% of individuals who face this situation, they learn their lesson.
But for the multiple offenders, or the person who caused personal injury or property damage while drinking and driving – by all means, let’s install interlocks on their vehicles. Target these people, not the person who made one regrettable mistake.
I would certainly encourage the Texas Legislature to ignore this clarion call for more ignition interlocks, because this is a slippery slope that can only lead to ignition interlocks on every vehicle in America. And that’s something we neither need nor want.