Car Sensors To Stop Drunk Driving


This week, Matthew L. Wald wrote in the New York Times on “A New Strategy to Discourage Driving Drunk”. In his article, Mr. Wald discusses the fact that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is campaigning in 49 states to require the installation of an alcohol detection device in cars of drunk driving offenders. The device is called the Interlock, made by Guardian Interlock Systems.

Once installed in a vehicle, the driver is required to breathe into the device. If alcohol levels over .08% are not detected, the vehicle is allowed to function. If higher levels are detected, the vehicle will not operate. The reason for the push to require the installation of the device, even for first offenders, is that penalties of losing their license have not worked because many drivers will continue to drive anyway, according to Christopher J. Murphy, chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association.

According to an AP article, “Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Wants Alcohol-Detection Devices in Some Cars”, Sarah Longwell, spokesperson for The American Beverage Institute, states that, “Our general position is that the interlock campaign is not about eliminating drunk driving; it’s about eliminating all moderate and responsible drinking prior to driving, and Americans should be outraged by this”. The American Beverage Institute feels that the MADD campaign overreaches.

Drawbacks to the system include the ability for a sober person to breathe into the device. While most sober people would not necessarily do that, it is a way to bypass the system. Another drawback concerns the one-time offender, going through the embarrassment of having to use the device even after a first offense. Yet another drawback is that the offender could drive a different car.
Further advances in technology, however, are working toward passive detection which could be installed in all vehicles, not just those driven by people convicted of drunk driving.

Even with its drawbacks, the program in Maryland resulted in an almost 18% drop in alcohol-related fatalities in 2005, even with the program only being in effect for about half of the year.

Century Council, a trade association of liquor distillers, favors programs such as the one in New Mexico, which requires installation of the devices for even time offenders, but only if first time offenders show blood-alcohol levels far above the legal limit.

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Reader Comments

This is a great idea! I wish I was in MADD, and have triplet 17 year olds and I think they need this so I can be sure they won’t get hurt!.

You can never be to sure with the stupid youth these days! THIS IS GREAT!