If one needed to cite a reason why the ignition interlock was invented, one might offer the name Christian J. Finkney.
An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, is a device that prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. It was invented not strictly because of Mr. Finckney but because he exemplifies a rule that experts in the world of law enforcement know: license suspensions don’t work.
Mr. Finkney of Wyoming, New York had his own license revoked for an alcohol-related driving conviction. He proceeded to drive his girlfriend’s car no less than 18 times. We know the precise number of times because the girlfriend’s car was equipped with an ignition interlock. In New York State interlocks also require a camera to be installed, so that authorities can verify that the person driving is also the person who took the breath test.
- Driving while suspended
- Facilitating unlicensed operation of a car
- Circumventing of an interlock device (Boatwright was seen breathing into the device so that Finkney could drive, despite having presumably drunk alcohol)
Usually recitals of crimes like these end with a cry of “take away their licenses!” But Finkney had no license. In fact, more than half of all drivers with suspended licenses drive under suspension. Suspension is a well-meaning but ineffective way to punish violators. And when the offense is drunk driving, suspension places other drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians in danger. Because a drunk driver, if suspended, will more than likely drink and drive again.
Most offenders, after being required to install an ignition interlock, do not drive drunk while in the interlock program. Interlocks are proven to reduce recidivism among drunk drivers. And in the case of incorrigible re-offenders such as the subject of today’s post, the interlock/camera combination will do its job and alert the authorities.