Friday, November 24, 2006

Drink, can?t drive

Here's a good piece of technology—just in time for the holidays.

Earlier this week, the national group Mothers Against Drunk Driving announced a push to change drunk driving laws throughout the country to require offenders to use a device that tests drivers and shuts down a car if it detects alcohol.

The zero tolerance plan calls for the device, called an ignition interlock, to be required even for first-time offenders.

MADD's campaign is being backed by both highway officials and car manufacturers concerned about the mortality rate of people killed in drunk driving accidents. That rate is holding steady at about 13,000 people a year—more than the total number of soldiers that have died in Iraq in four years.

The device is not foolproof, because a sober person can blow into the Breathalyzer and the car will start. Nonetheless, it's a bigger deterrent than some of today's legal penalties. Experts say that revoking the driver's license of a drunk driver doesn't work and that most simply drive without one.

Last year, New Mexico made ignition interlocks mandatory for first-time offenders and saw its alcohol-related fatalities drop by 11.3 percent. Maryland has seen an even larger drop of nearly 18 percent.

That kind of drop would keep a lot of people out of the morgue and a lot of innocent victims from becoming victims at all.

In Idaho alone last year, 32 percent, or 89 fatal crashes, were alcohol related.

The sooner the governor and the Idaho Legislature get on board to require ignition interlocks, the sooner senseless drunk-driving deaths may be reduced.

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