Americans prize freedom. They keep their finger on the legal trigger in case anyone gets anywhere near their rights. But when individuals prize the right to inebriate themselves beyond coherency and then drive a motor vehicle through populated areas, something is wrong.
More than 11,700 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in 2008, accounting for 32 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States. That comes to one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality every 45 minutes.
What will really brighten your day is how preventable those 11,773 deaths truly are.
It’s called an ignition interlock device, or IID. IID-equipped vehicles require the driver to breathe into the device before starting. If it detects a blood alcohol concentration, BAC, above a set limit, you’re not going anywhere.
Almost all IIDs in use are punishment for individuals convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. Repeat offense rates of those individuals are 73 percent lower than those without, according to a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. So why does the law not require every car be equipped with an IID?
It costs too much.
Near-foolproof technology exists; it just costs too much. Early IIDs could be circumvented by having someone else breathe or starting the engine and running it while the driver goes back inside to get that BAC nice and high. Some also complained about food or mouthwash triggering the device and leaving them stranded or in violation of their probation. Breathalyzer technology has advanced far beyond those concerns, but reliable devices cost $800-$1,200. The average IID in use today is a low-end models and costs a whopping $300.
Patrolling officers alone are not enough. More than 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2008, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports. Sounds good – except 159 million U.S. drivers self-reported driving under the influence, according to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
Alcohol is responsible for more than driving-related deaths, including shootings and drownings. Those issues are no less important, but their combined totals cannot compare to those of automotive vehicles.
The consequences of alcohol abuse have proven too dire to be protected by “rights.” We cannot prevent all death at once, but we can start somewhere.