Sally slips out of work after an especially hard week, feeling the weight of the world lift from her shoulders the moment she parks at the local watering hole. After a couple hours of drinking and chatting it up with friends, it’s time to go home. But there is a snag–Sally is just over the legal limit. This is the moment that can separate Sally from safety and tragedy.
Bar none: drinking and driving is one of the most dangerous, careless and negligent actions you can take behind the wheel. Worst of all, as displayed in the example above, it is a fully preventable, unnecessary danger.
Maybe the true dangers are not as widely known as we would all hope. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD):
- Every two minutes, a person is injured in a drunk driving accident
- On average, two out of three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime
- In the U.S., there are 27 deaths as a direct result of drunk driving
- Over 10, 000 people died as a result of drunk driving in 2015
- Nearly 300,000 people were injured in drunk driving crashes in 2015
- In 2013, 200 children lost their lives in accidents involving alcohol impairment
- Nearly ⅓ of convicted or arrested drunk drivers are repeat offenders
- Once their license has been suspended, 50-75% of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive
The numbers are truly sobering, yet as the final two bullets above detail, drunk drivers often not only continue driving, but continue to drink and drive. Current laws, though certainly strict, do not seem to be doing enough to dissuade large portions of those convicted to make better choices.
The question is, what can be done? If cold, hard facts, fines and the possibility of jail time are not enough, we may have to turn to technology to get the job done.
Ignition Interlock System Law
If you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol, you face the possibility of fines, community service, probation, vehicle impoundment, and imprisonment. Upon multiple convictions (or the injury or death of others as a result of your recklessness), the ramifications only grow steeper. One such a penalty is what is called an ignition interlock system, which is first-time offenders caught with blood alcohol content (BAC) higher than .15 percent or a minor in the vehicle at the time of the stop.
For these first-time offenders, the current ignition interlock system law mandates that the driver has this device, which is essentially a breathalyzer that will not allow a driver to start their vehicle if their BAC is above the legal limit, installed in their vehicle for six months. For MADD, this law is not enough.
With the help of MADD, House Bill 949 received the go-ahead from a House committee, bringing a new ignition interlock system law into the realm of very real possibility. This new law’s cause: make the ignition interlock system mandatory for every first offender. Given MADD’s stats on just how many people continue to drink and drive after being caught, we cannot help but think they may be onto something good. We will be monitoring this bill closely as it continues advancing toward becoming law.
A Law Never Worth Breaking
The bottom line is, drinking and driving is far from a victimless crime. Even if you somehow avoid to damage property or hurt, maim or kill someone in the process, if caught, your life will face significant challenges. From the new financial burden imposed by substantial fines to the potential loss of your vehicle or license, these can impact your life for years after arrest–and that is the best-case scenario. If you hurt someone because you simply neglected to call a cab, designate a sober driver or abstain from drinking, that is a guilt and burden that does not go away. Never drink and drive.