Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Breathalyzers

Interesting article here. Overall, I think it's a step in the right direction to put breathalyzers on the ignition switches for convicted DUI offenders.

Two thoughts on this article and the legislation being considered.

1. The Post tried to follow the journalistic principle of presenting both sides of the argument, so they went out and found somebody who was against the proposal. The dude they chose to interview for the "con" side of this is clearly an idiot. He should be forced to attend every funeral of someone killed by a drunk driver in Maryland and Virginia for the next year at a minimum. His counter argument is basically, "But if they have a breathalyzer on their ignition switch in their car, then they're probably not going to have a second drink with dinner and it'll hurt the alcoholic beverage industry."

Dude.

That's. The. Whole. Friggin. Point.

I don't WANT them having a second drink if they're going to be driving, and neither should you.

2. That being said, I think the proposed legislation misses the mark. As I wrote above, it's a step in the right direction, but after further contemplation, I think it's actually ineffective. The problem is this: Having a breathalyzer on the ignition switch of the convicted offender's car doesn't stop him* from getting in somebody ELSE's car and driving off and killing somebody.

To make such a policy effective, they would really need to install breathalyzers on ALL car ignition switches.

I'm all for it.

As any of my previous crewmembers will tell you, I always talked to the crew at quarters on the pier about making your plan for how you'll get home BEFORE you start drinking, and make sure that plan involves you not having ANY access to operate a motor vehicle.

The reason is simple.

Alcohol impairs your judgment.

After you've started consuming alcohol, then you are no longer in a position to judge if you're okay to drive. During my department head tour, we had a string of several DUIs in a row where guys claimed, "but I just had one beer with dinner. I felt fine!"

Don't assume you'll just find a ride with somebody. When it comes around to closing time and you want to go home, you'll look around the bar, see nobody to give you a ride, and say to yourself, "Self, I feel fine. I didn't have that much to drink. It'll be okay."

That's why I always told my crew at quarters to make sure their plan involved them not even having the option of getting behind the wheel of a car. Give the keys to someone else before you start drinking.

Sorry, that was an unintended tangent. Getting back to the point. IF we were to put breathalyzers on ALL car ignition switches, then I am certain it would dramatically reduce the rate of DUIs, because all those people who think they didn't have that much to drink won't be able to start their car.

I wonder how hard companies like Anheuser-Busch would fight such legislation to protect their revenues?

* Disclaimer: I'm not trying to be sexist here. From reading the Navy UNIT SITREPs on the Navy Ops Center website in the mornings, I'd guestimate that about 99% of DUIs (at least for Navy personnel) are men.

8 comments:

Michael said...

The government has no right to force everyone to use such an obtrusive device.


"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
-Benjamin Franklin

Tanya said...

Wow. I too am all for it. Recidivism rates are ridiculous for convicted offenders and if this is a step, even a tiny step, towards the right direction...go for it.

Of course, this article hits close to home. I had a dear friend from college killed near the house I grew up in MD killed by drunk driver. That guy got lass than 30 days in jail. They had talked about putting the ignition lock in his car...but that was ixnayed because this was his first offense. This kid's character witness was his neighbor...who is the mother of my classmates. A stand-up women who did a lot of work with the PTA...but didn't know what shenanigans her own kids were up to...including tons of underage drinking.

I also speak as a daughter of an alcoholic (who passed away 11 years ago). My father was a really good man with an unfortunate problem. Although normally responsible...he did manage to get a DWI after he had to run over to my grandmother's house for an emergency. One of the greatest guys I know with the biggest heart I know who suffered with tragic circumstances...but still...what if he had killed someone?

My friend's life...a pioneer at our college, a man supporting his elderly parents, and a friend with a heart of gold...was only worth a couple of weeks in jail and a smidgen of community service. What's preventing this kid from doing it again? There was barely any remorse and he only mildly took responsibility during the proceedings. While my friend died a painful death at the hospital...at the scene of the accident, the kid blamed my friend for the accident...only to be refuted by SEVERAL witnesses.

Working in civil rights and defending civil liberties has always been my game...but when it comes to something like this...DO IT.

Would I have wanted this for my dad? HELL YES. I'm lucky most of his drinking was at home as opposed to going out to bars & such...but still...yes, I would have wanted that installed...for his and other's safety.

Too many individual overestimate their level of intoxication (DUIs were a problem on our boat too leading the command to enact a ridiculously early start of the workday to curb such issues). Yes, someone can get into another car...but there will probably be less likelihood that an individual will take another's vehicle if he/she has access to their own.

Melis said...

Fabulous. I know (unfortunately) a number of people who habitually drive while intoxicated - one of them went so far as to kill a young boy - and are either never caught or are absolved of responsibility because of loop-holes and technicalities. As you said, mandatory devices for first offenders is a step in the right direction, but so many people slip through the net and are just as deadly as those who have been caught; if not more so because they feel invincible. Yikes. I understand what Michael is saying, but I don't believe that universal brethalyzers would infringe much on personal liberty. In fact, it doesn't seem any more severe than asking airline passengers to go through security screening before boarding a plane. If you want to fly and you want to do so safely, everyone must subject themselves to searches and metal detectors. Likewise, if you want to drive and you want to do so safely, you consent to blowing into a tube to start your car... Why not? It's also like having to put your foot on the brake to shift some automatic transmissions into drive. Is it infringing on our RIGHT to have our foot wherever we want it? Sure, but is that right as important as being safe? Not even close.

blunoz said...

Michael - Basically what you're saying is that the right to drink and drive is an "essential liberty." Nope, can't say that I agree with you there. I'm all about protecting our freedom as Americans, but this is about saving lives from people who BREAK THE LAW by driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

They don't have a RIGHT to break the law and kill other people by drinking and driving, and this measure is designed to help them realize they've had too much to drink and shouldn't be driving.

It doesn't say they'll get arrested and go to jail if they blow in it and see they've had too much. It doesn't send off a radio signal notifying the local police or court system. It simply doesn't let them drive. Heck, I'd say that's INCREASING their liberty because they're NOT going to be spending any time in JAIL for DUI! It's allowing them to find another (hopefully safer) way home to sleep it off and live another day.

I like Melis' comment that it's like going through a security screening before getting on an airplane. I actually think that's MORE of a sacrifice of our liberty in surrendering our privacy for the sake of the safety of everyone on the airplane. In this case, I don't think you're giving up any "essential liberty" by blowing into a tube before starting your car.

Navy Blue Cougar said...

I agree completely, Kevin.

Nobody should be able to exercise their "essential liberty" of getting behind the wheel of their car after drinking where they endanger, and all too frequently, take the lives or irreparably damage the lives of others.

I remember when I was living in Guam. There was a woman out jogging early in the morning when a drunk driver struck her on a sidewalk. She was killed. Was this driver really exercising an essential liberty? Did this woman only lose a little temporary safety?

I wouldn't complain about blowing into a tube to start my car at all.

SandyCarlson said...

It seems these days the government has to do our thinking for us. In this case, it would be providing common sense and basic decency.

We should want these things the same way we should want seat belts.

reddog said...

A lot of people suffer and die all the time, in a lot of different ways, for a lot of different reasons. A lot of different people are responsible or let it happen because they just don't give a shit.

It's interesting who each of us identify as worthy of persecution and punishment for causing suffering and death to others. It's even more interesting who we each choose to let slide.

We know who you want to punish, big boy. Who are you letting slide, Mr. Boy Scout, military, magic Christian, family man? Everybody has a metaphorical drunk driving problem. What's your's.

I was a drunk driver for many years. All the time I'm not proud of it. It's not OK. I don't think they should take it easier on drunk drivers. There are a lot worse people than drunk drivers out there, responsible for worse things, that nobody does anything about. Sometimes they give them medals for the stuff they do.

Maybe you and I can get together sometime and kick the shit out of a girl that had an abortion?

A Slice of My Life said...

I would have no problem at all having one of those installed on my car. In fact, I would welcome it. I'm mostly a non-drinker, but if I do have a glass or two of wine, I'd like to know that I shouldn't be driving instead of just thinking I was fine.

Also, as the mother of two teenagers, it would be a good thing. I shudder to think of what could have happened during MY foolish teenage years.