We as a culture like very much to point to progress made, in terms of addressing a real issue, as being a kind of solution in itself. This seems to be the case with drunk driving, and how more severe laws have reduced the numbers of alcohol-related deaths. Certainly, tougher laws have made a difference. In the period from 1982 to 2010, drunk driving fatalities have decreased by 52 percent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents that, out of the 32,885 deaths in crashes in 2010, 10, 228 were alcohol-related (centurycouncil.org, 2012). This is definitely progress, in terms of far more high ratios in the past. What any satisfied view here ignores, however, is the strikingly critical fact that there need be no drunk driving fatalities at all, and that all is required is for us is to accept another reality: driving is a privilege, not a right, and the mandatory installation of Alcohol Ignition Interlock Devices, or AIIDs, is likely to eliminate these tragedies with absolutely no violation of any citizen’s rights.
That AIIDs are the answer is better seen by what is not. If laws, largely generated by the powerful lobbying force of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, have made a difference, it seems probable that they can only go so far in what is essential here, which is the prevention of drunk driving deaths. More severe laws, in plain terms, are not a likely answer. On one level, there remains the widespread view, cultural and legal, that driving drunk is not actually a crime, but more a mistake in judgment. This translates to harsher reactions, as in mandatory prison time of one to two days following a DUI arrest, as actually trivializing the issue (Adler, Laufer, 2013, p. 67). The offense is dealt with immediately and then negated, so there is no revising of just how drunk driving is interpreted. Then, the enactment of tougher laws must create more of a backlog in a criminal justice system already overburdened. Finally, as drunk driving is virtually never motivated by criminal intent, the best course is to treat it for exactly what it is: a preventable error in judgment.
The Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (AIID) essentially operates by testing the driver’s blood alcohol content through their breath; simply, the driver must blow into the device and register a safe level before the car will start. The process takes only a few seconds, although there is as well a precaution attached. To prevent others from testing in place of the driver, the AIID requires breath samples to be made during the driving (Shinar, 2007, p. 446). As to the benefits of these devices, studies have shown that the technology is consistently effective in reducing drunk driving fatalities where the legal mandates are firmly in place (Shinar, 2007, 447). It is in this legal aspect, however, that the problems arise and the real potential is denied. Today, AIIDs are reactive measures, ordered by the courts for drivers with one or more DUI arrests. Ignition interlocks are far from being mandatory safety features in cars, which may well explain why there are still so many drunk driving crashes.
The question then becomes: why the difficulty? If such technology could virtually eliminate the needless, fatal accidents of drunk driving, it seems logical that it be implemented in all vehicles, just as safety belts and other precautions are. Unfortunately, there exists, in the U.S. at least, an ideology confusing the privilege of driving with its being a right. It is, in no uncertain terms, only a privilege, and it is past time that the nation accepted this reality. It is ironic, in fact, that this sense of driving being a right is maintained in the face of the many legal obligations needing to be met for a license to be granted. People fully accept that they must be tested as to their capabilities as drivers. They accept, moreover, that they must undergo other tests in the future, to ensure that their license be renewed. This implies an understanding in the societal responsibility of being behind the wheel of a heavy, fast, dangerous object. That, ultimately, is what the issue centers on, and that is why the AIID is necessary. It violates no rights because driving is not a right. It makes no “judgments” because it is safety technology, and technology then applied to all. It is no hindrance to convenience, as the process is quick and easy. Most importantly, it is the surest means of saving thousands of lives every year, lost because certain drivers ignored their responsibility and became, literally, lethal weapons on the roads. The Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device must become as mandatory in vehicles as airbags and safety belts, and for the inescapable and critical reason that this technology protects, not only the driver, but potential victims along their way.
- Adler, F., & Laufer, W. S. (2013). The Criminology of Criminal Law. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.
- Century Council. (2012). Drunk Driving Fatalities – National Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.centurycouncil.org/