New Technology to Monitor Drunk
By Rayni Joan
If Mel Gibson lived in New Mexico, he'd be required to have a piece of
new technology to monitor drunk drivers installed in his automobile.
It's called an ignition interlock and it's basically an alcohol
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is behind a movement to use this
new technology nationwide to monitor and control drunk drivers. Also
backing this campaign are a national association of state highway
officials and car manufacturers. Their plan is to change drunk driving
laws nationwide, as New Mexico was the first to do, and make ignition
interlock devices a mandate for first time offenders. (You can check
various state requirements for ignition interlock devices at http://www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/dui/ignition.htm.)
In the early 1980's, MADD spearheaded a successful campaign to control
drunk driving nationwide through education and an increase in the
drinking age from 18 to 21. After an initial dramatic reduction in drunk
driving fatalities, progress slowed in the 90's and reached a standstill
after the turn of the century. In kicking off their new campaign to stop
drunk drivers, MADD is looking to the example of New Mexico.
New Mexico mandated installation of this new technology to monitor drunk
drivers in mid-June 2005, and almost immediately recorded a drop of
11.3% in drunk driving fatalities. Governor Bill Richardson of New
Mexico, who advocates for other states to adopt the ignition interlocks
has said, "It is an integral part of our success."
The ignition interlock device requires a driver to breathe into a
Breathalyzer tube which connects to the car's ignition system. If enough
alcohol is detected, the ignition interlock device will prevent the car
from starting, very effectively keeping the drunk driver off the road.
Critics of the ignition interlock point out that a sober passenger could
breathe into the tube instead of the driver. This is true, of course. A
particularly gruesome example would be a drunk parent who made a game in
which his child blew into the tube. But regardless of the possibilities
for circumventing it, it's hard to argue against the simple reality that
this new technology to monitor drunk drivers has already shown itself to
be effective in New Mexico.