Archive for May 29th, 2013

by lizard

The negative impacts of alcohol are rampant in Montana. Back in January I wrote this post comparing efforts to devise testing methods for marijuana impairment while driving versus efforts by Montana legislators to address drunk driving. In that post I cited some huge numbers that alcohol abuse costs the state annually, which are worth repeating here:

Alcohol induced medical care: 100.7 million
Criminal justice system: 49.1 million
Early mortality/lost earnings; disease/vehicle accidents: 296.8 million
Lost productivity: 53.3 million
Treatment costs: 10.7 million

If you check out that post, you will also find a link to a Billings Gazette article about “DUI fatigue”. For those who take notice of the constant headlines of alcohol related fatalities, it is more than just fatigue. It’s despair.

And it certainly doesn’t help to read about state senator Shannon Augare (D-Browning) reportedly fleeing a traffic stop:

The Glacier County Sheriff’s Office reports that deputies responded to a complaint of an erratic driver on US Highway 2 on Monday, May 26th, just before noon.

Deputies made contact with the suspect vehicle approximately nine miles west of Cut Bank; the driver of the vehicle was identified by a deputy as Shannon Augare, a Montana State Senator (D-Browning).

A press release from the Sheriff’s Office states that the deputy observed several indications that Augare may have been driving while impaired, and smelled an “overwhelming” odor of an alcoholic beverage.

Augare reportedly advised the Deputy that he had no jurisdiction and stated he was going to leave.

The deputy tried to take Augare’s car keys, and advised him not to leave, but backed away when Augare reportedly began to drive away while the deputy was reaching into the vehicle.

There is a simple way to stop the dangerous combination of drinking and driving: mandate ignition interlock devices for all cars.

An ignition interlock device or breath alcohol ignition interlock device (IID and BAIID) is a mechanism, like a breathalyzer, installed on a motor vehicle’s dashboard. Before the vehicle’s motor can be started, the driver first must exhale into the device; if the resultant breath-alcohol concentration analyzed result is greater than the programmed blood alcohol concentration (which varies between countries), the device prevents the engine from being started.

At random times after the engine has been started, the IID will require another breath sample. The purpose of this is to prevent someone other than the driver from providing a breath sample. If the breath sample isn’t provided, or the sample exceeds the ignition interlock’s preset blood alcohol level, the device will log the event, warn the driver and then start up an alarm (e.g., lights flashing, horn honking) until the ignition is turned off, or a clean breath sample has been provided. A common misconception is that interlock devices will simply turn off the engine if alcohol is detected; this would, however, create an unsafe driving situation and expose interlock manufacturers to considerable liability.

Is it necessary to go this route? No question it would save lives. For fiscal conservatives, it would probably save money as well.

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