Is It Time for Mandatory Ignition Interlock Devices?

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.

  1. 10% of drinkers drink 90% of the booze.

    A huge % of American adults don’t drink at all.

    You want 90% of the drinkers and 100% of the non-drinkers to pay hundreds of dollars to buy or retrofit their cars with devices that rarely have any utility, and to screw around with a device every time they move their car, just to keep the alcoholics, that small percentage of drinkers, and the rare non-alcoholic who will almost never drink and drive, from ever getting DUIs or harming themselves or others?

    Admit it. You’ve had lots of better ideas. This one belongs in the crapper.

  2. mike

    Stupid idea!!! So you want someone of marginal income who drives an old automobile because that’s all they can afford should have to pay a couple grand for this?

    Not to forget that guilty until proven innocent is unconstitutional.

    • lizard19

      the idea would be to require any new automobiles to include this safety feature, like seat-belts and airbags.

      for older cars, upon the first DUI, the person could be required to incur the cost of installation on any subsequent automobiles they own/purchase.

      as for that whole notion of innocent until proven guilty, it’s being violated constantly through forfeiture practices in the “war against drugs” and, surprise surprise, Obama is escalating the perverse incentives in militarizing local law enforcement:

      The Justice Department’s asset forfeiture fund under President Obama is the largest it’s ever been, having grown from $500 million in 2003, to $1.8 billion in 2011, according to a new report from the GAO.

      In addition to the fund’s size, payments from the fund to local law enforcement agencies totalled $445 million in 2011, another all-time high. These payouts are part of the DOJ’s “equitable sharing agreement,” which incentivizes local cops to conduct federal raids. They then get a portion of the assets seized during the raid (more money if they contribute more resources). That money is then used to finance SWAT and paramilitary training, as well as the acquisition of military grade weapons and equipment.

      • mike

        Agree with you here, but you are advocating the same thing in with a different parameter.

        You seem to think that abuse in the war on drugs is wrong yet abuse in the war on alcohol is ok.

        It’s not ok in either situation, you look hypocritical here. I get it , you like to smoke weed rather than having a beer or three and I’m ok with whatever blows your hair back.

        The seizures that prog hero Holder are at all time highs like you point out (but he can prevent sexual assault in Missoula, “war on women”) derp and you don’t call bullshit on his whole tenure as AG.

        Selective amnesia doesn’t further your arguement.

  3. Big Swede

    Ignition devices old school.

    Seeing a 6″ object from 17,000 ft. new school.

  4. olredtrk

    I have no doubt that Mr. Augare would resist having such a device being placed on his automobile. There are jurisdictional and sovereignty issues involved after all.
    Lizard, do you think you could get this plan past the Kenneally family (Town Pump) lobbyists so as to be law here in good ole’ Montana? Doubtful. My guess is that Shannon stopped off at the West End Town Pump for a six-pack before he left Cut Bank and proceeded into the arms of infamy. Kenneally’s certainly wouldn’t want you and technology screwing up their business model.

  5. The Polish Wolf

    Not an awful idea by any stretch, but honestly I think it’d be far more cost efficient to simply require an interlock device after the first alcohol-related conviction – be it DUI, MIP, open container, public intoxication, or any other conviction committed while under the influence of alcohol. It seems rather harsh for the commission of a relatively minor crime, but if you have an alcohol-related conviction, that seems like it’s probably a huge predictor of eventual DUI conviction (I don’t actually have the numbers, just going with my gut here).

  6. lizard19

    if you check the jail roster like I did this morning, you can count how many people were released from jail in the last 3 days for DUI: 9!!!

    • Craig Moore

      Lizzard, did you see another Augare, who had an interlock device in her car, got another DUI:

      As to Shannon Augare, the beat goes on with his brother.

      • JC

        Yeah, those Augares are all alike.

          • JC

            Does your indignation over corruption include white sheriffs? Or just drunken indians?

            Bonus question: Do you believe in tribal sovereignty? Or was it ok for white americans to kill and oppress millions of native americans, take their land, herd them into meager encampments, force treaties upon them, and then ignore what the treaties represented?

            • Craig Moore

              JC, both you and I have had family members severely injured by inattentive, distracted, or inebriated drivers. My daughter suffers permanent brain damage. I don’t believe your daughter is much better off. My son was also rear ended by an inattentive driver and injured as he waited at a red light. His vehicle was also severely damaged.

              As lizard wrote, alcohol doesn’t discriminate. However, those politically connected or otherwise blessed with a King’s X, like the Augare brothers, escape justice from driving impaired. The interlock device only works when the driver has no other alternative as the Augare woman proved in Missoula. You can make this racial if you want, but it is much, much more personal with real consequences
              to me. If it were up to me, all vehicles would be confiscated until such time as the driver completed treatment. A second offense would permanently revoke all driving privileges and take the vehicle for police auction.

              • JC

                I’m not bringing any issue with what liz was writing about — it’s an interesting idea to talk about. I just happen to think that your reference to 3 native americans as thinly veiled bigotry. I grew up with this sort of attitude all around me that if you had certain last names, then you were just another member of a drunk indian family.

                Alcoholism and its impact upon society has nothing to do with race, socio-economic status, or sex. There are drunks all around, some of them people in influential places, with nepotism run amok. Don’t make this about drunk indians, and have some respect for tribal sovereignty. Or we can’t even begin to have a rational discussion.

  7. lizard19

    alcohol doesn’t discriminate.

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