According to a July 1, 2009 Time Magazine article entitled Coming Soon: A Breathalyzer in Every Car.
[A] new highway bill pending before Congress would instruct all 50 states to require all motorists convicted of driving under the influence to equip their cars with interlock systems that shut down a vehicle when a measured amount of alcohol is detected.
Here is what MADD has to say about this;
Dear MADD Supporter,
Can you picture a nation without drunk driving? Your assistance is urgently needed to help realize this vision by ensuring that many of the provisions of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving become federal law. Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives which seeks to require states to undertake a number of reforms to combat drunk driving consistent with the Campaign. The bill, known as the Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009, would improve highway safety by implementing the Campaign nationally.
In the 1980s, MADD fought successfully to establish 21 as the minimum legal drinking age. In the 1990s, MADD prevailed again in its fight to set .08 as the per se BAC limit. Now, in 2009, we MUST put the U.S. on the path towards eliminating drunk driving. To do this, we need your help and your voice. You must act immediately!
Are you up to the challenge? Then call your Member of Congress and say that you support the impaired driving safety provisions in the Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009. With your help, we CAN eliminate drunk driving.
There are many interesting things about this new campaign. First, it would seem that MADD has tacitly acknowledged that their prior multi-decade campaign of slowly and gradually increasing penalties for convicted drunk drivers has failed to reduce the number of drunk driving arrests, which in Michigan remains consistent at around 45-50 thousand arrests per year. Thus, despite the fact that Michigan’s drunk driving laws get tougher almost every year, the number of drunk driving (DUI/OWI) arrests has stayed about the same. Hopefully judges will take notice and recognize also that ever more stringent punishment for drunk drivers, including mandatory jail time, simply has little if any deterrent effect. This is why we at the Barone Defense Firm stress treatment for our clients as we believe this will better lead to the elimination of repeat drunk driving offenders.
Another thing that is worth knowing is that ignition interlock devices simply don’t work all that well. A big problem with them is that they use what are called fuel cells to measure the presence and amount of alcohol in a person’s breath, and fuel cells, and therefore ignition interlocks are non-specific for beverage alcohol. According to Dr. Michael Hlastala’s upcoming DWI Journal: Law and Science article entitled: Limitations of Transdermal Alcohol Testing:
The fuel cell converts electrochemical energy stored in the ethanol molecule into electrical energy manifested as an electrical current. Fuel cells are not specific for ethanol (ethyl alcohol). They react with any chemical having an hydroxyl group (-OH), and will thus react to chemicals other than ethyl alcohol, but with a different sensitivity. Examples of chemicals that can get into the body by inhalation of fumes or skin contact are: methyl alcohol (wood alcohol – used to produce bio-diesel fuel), n-propanol (cleaning solvent), isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol, metabolically produced in uncontrolled diabetes), butyl alcohol, butoxyethanol (strong cleaning agent), ethylene glycol (antifreeze), propylene glycol (used as food supplement) and glycerine (used in many soaps).
How would you feel if you couldn’t get to work on a cold wintery morning because your windshield wiper fluid set off your car’s interlock? This is exactly what happened to one of our clients, and what will happen time and again across the country if this bill goes into law.
Another significant issue is that it is currently lawful to drink and drive, and unless we reenact prohibition along with this interlock bill there is no way to fairly administer the law. Think about it this way; do we set the interlocks so that they shut down cars when a delivered breath sample is .08 or above? If so, then the .08 must mean something, fuel cells are known to produce unreliable quantitative results. This is why in Michigan the results of the road side preliminary breath testing devices are inadmissible in most instances. The fuel cell is simply a screening tool to help the officer determine if alcohol has been consumed, in other words to make a qualitative (presence) rather than quantitative (amount) measurement. This is why I say the only way to administer the ignition interlock law is to make it zero tolerance across the land. No more drinking a glass of wine at dinner and driving home.
Also, what if the driver has “one for the road” but is .05 when he leaves the bar, but is .09 just before he hits and kills someone? Is the interlock company going to be liable for this death or is the car manufacturer going to be liable? After all, the car’s interlock told the driver he was ok to drive. Otherwise, the driver will have to blow into the interlock every 15-30 minutes just be sure he’s not above the limit.
Then there is the increased cost. When all of the auto manufacturers are going bankrupt or have other serious financial issues, is this really the time to require technology that will increase a vehicle’s cost? And who is going to monitor the interlocks? They will need to be calibrated from time to time, and this all costs money. I’m old enough to remember the exhaust law we once had where each year you had to bring your car to the mechanic, pay fifteen bucks and have them “certify” that your car didn’t spew exhaust fumes. This law was a monumental failure and was soon revoked. Are we now going to have to take our cars each year to a state run facility and have our interlocks checked?
Finally, Michigan all ready has in place an ignition interlock law. I’ve written about Michigan’s Super Drunk Law previously and talked about some of these issues in that article.
I hope that after reading this you will call your Congress man or woman and tell them to vote “no” on MADD’s new mad attempt to impose prohibition on all of us, and in so doing, increase the cost of our automobiles. Are you up for the challenge?