Are Ignition Interlock Laws Unfair to Social Drinkers?

Group of party people - men and women - drinking beer in a pub oThe ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, is becoming a more and more popular tool for helping enforce drunk driving laws. Now 25 states have laws requiring every convicted drunk driver – first offenders and multiple DUIs – to install the device in their vehicle to prevent them from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Some people think first-offender laws are going too far. Don’t people deserve a break? Just because someone is a social drinker who goes over the line once and gets arrested doesn’t mean he or she is a menace who needs an interlock.

This attitude reflects one of the most persistent myths in the public safety field: that DUI offenders can be easily divided into “social drinkers” who happened to be caught in an extremely rare lapse of judgment, and “hard-core drinkers” who drive constantly while impaired.

Certainly both groups exist, but this kind of careless classification ignores some truths:

  • A first-time drunk driver is often more dangerous than the so-called hard-core drunk drivers. Most fatal alcohol-related crashes involve first-time offenders. Many of these are young people, never arrested, who approach both drinking and driving recklessly.
  • A first-time DUI is rarely a first time drunk driver. Statistics show that first offenders have driven while impaired about 80 times before being arrested.

Drunk driving is incredibly lethal. The impaired vision, hearing and judgment, as well as diminished reaction time, can all lead to horrific collisions. When such a driver is on the road, endangering themselves and others, it doesn’t matterIgnition interlock laws needed to protect society if they have a police record or not. They need to be stopped. Fines and suspensions do not do the job – only an ignition interlock will prevent them from getting behind the wheel while impaired.

So no, first-offender ignition interlock laws are very fair, not just to offenders, who get to keep driving to work or school, but also to society, who deserve protection from all drunk drivers – hard-core or not.

I Have to Do Community Service for my DUI. What Does That Mean?


Building houses for the needy is one type of community service

We all know the phrase “community service” from news reports of trials. Last year Dina Lohan, mother of Lindsay, was sentenced to 100 hours of community service for her New York DWI in 2013. Other celebrities have been given that punishment, usually for serious offenses. But in many states, it is regular non-famous citizens who are likely to be sentenced to perform community service after a drunk driving conviction.

What does that mean, exactly? The answer to that varies by states. Some tasks you might be assigned are:

  • Graffiti removal
  • Working for DUI victims’ support group
  • Cleaning highways or parks
  • Working for charities or non-profits (e.g. food banks)
  • Helping at non-profit thrift stores (Salvation Army, etc.)
  • Building and remodeling homes for the poor
  • Assisting disaster relief with the American Red Cross
  • Helping deliver Meals on Wheels
  • Working at an animal shelter

Community service can include work at animal shelters

There are many more options, depending on the state you were convicted in. What’s important to remember is that, like any court-ordered obligation, the service is mandatory. You will be monitored and your supervisor will report your performance to the authorities.

In many states, community service is considered a constructive alternative to imprisonment, for many reasons. One can emerge from it without the stigma of a prison record. It costs less to the taxpayer, and gives the offender a chance to help society.

If you have the chance to do community service instead of prison, consider it a lucky break. Impaired driving is a serious offense, one that can often have a lethal effect. Spending some hours helping the community is a small price to pay for a new start.

Your Hump-Day Recess: Home-Made Ignition Interlock Gets the Anti-DUI Message Across

People have been concerned with drunk driving for a while now, and one of the more successful ways to prevent it seems to be to deal with the vehicle rather than the driver. That’s the idea behind the ignition interlock device, of course. We have also seen at least one ingenious invention designed to keep impaired drivers off the roads. And now, here’s another. It’s a variation of the Wire Loop Game, sometimes called a Buzz Wire, and it functions as a home-made ignition interlock.

Unlike an ignition interlock, which is usually ordered by a court or installed before a hearing to demonstrate the intention not to offend again, this resourceful gentleman’s device is home-built and installed (with electrical work that would not pass professional interlock installation standards, by the way). Still, we like the message – if you know you are going to make a bad decision, then do something – whatever it takes – to ensure it doesn’t happen. For those of us less talented with our hands, it usually means a designated driver, a taxi or rideshare, or some other form of public transport.

But if you like to tinker, then by all means, follow this man’s example. Though we have to say that the resulting shock looks pretty nasty. You can have an ignition interlock installed voluntarily, you know.

Your Hump Day Recess: Every Wednesday LifeSafer brings you something a little different, related to the worlds of road safety, to ease your progress over Hump Day and through the week.
Previous Hump Days: a German Ignition Interlock spoof from 1960, our Top 10 Worst Crash Tests, a different kind of Anti-DUI message, Budweiser’s dogged anti-DUI campaign, How Not to Dodge a Parking Ticket, the world’s worst traffic jams, a dramatic buzzed driving PSA , an offbeat ad from New Zealand, the world’s worst car modification, Vince and Larry, our favorite crash test dummies, a karaoke microphone breathalyzer, extraterrestrial advice on drunk driving, some excellent Soviet anti-drunk-driving posters. a lesson on how buzzed driving can ruin your love life, South Australia to Drunk Drivers: Grow Up!, a woman calls 911 to report herself for DUI, and Felix the Cat and Drunk Driving.

Heading to Canada? Have a DUI? Not so fast…

americans with a dui cannot enter canadaFor Americans, Canada has always been a uniquely welcoming place. There are many points of entry along the vast border we share, and Americans need not even have a passport – a driver’s license or identity document will do.

Things get a little less cozy between the two countries if you have a DUI. Generally Canada bars people with a drunk driving conviction from entering the country. (In fact, the U.S. also denies entry to those with DUIs, but only multiple convictions). It does not matter if the conviction was for a misdemeanor or felony offense, or even if you are intending to drive in Canada.

You can’t enter Canada with a DUI, but the ban is not usually permanent. Five years after you have completed your sentence you can apply to be rehabilitated. If your application is accepted, you’re deemed fit for entry. Keep in mind, though, that completing your sentence means paying fines, doing jail time and probation, treatment, community service, and anything else that is required of you. Only then does the five-year waiting period start.

One might ask how the Canadian border officials will know if you have a conviction. In this security-conscious age, it doesn’t take long to research someone’s criminal record. Don’t lie about your conviction – doing so will get you banned from the country, probably for five years.

And if you’re thinking of trying a second point of entry after you’ve been refused at the first one – forget it. This is the age of Big Data.

If you have a DUI on your record, there are many sites which will help you negotiate your way into Canada, provided you fulfil the requirements. If you don’t have a DUI, you’re ahead of the game. Canada will welcome you with open arms.

Have a good trip.

New Wisconsin OWI Bill, if Passed, Will Close the State’s Most Dangerous Loophole

wisconsin-owi-loopholeIt’s one of the most perplexing, frustrating, self-defeating loopholes in Wisconsin motor vehicle law. And finally, a legislator has worked up a bill to fix it.

If you are convicted of an OWI in Wisconsin under certain conditions, you have to install an ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, in your vehicle. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

However, someone was asleep during the drafting of the original law, and as a result, it is perfectly legal to drive someone else’s car – without an interlock – while being required to have one on your own vehicle. As a result any driver who wants to drink, and who has access to a friend’s or family member’s vehicle, will continue to be a danger on the road.

As a result, Wisconsin’s ignition interlock requirements do not drive down the numbers of OWI arrests, collisions, and deaths as much as they do in other states.

Representative David Heaton (R-Wausau) has introduced a new Wisconsin OWI bill, Assembly Bill 266, which will, among other things, close this embarrassing loophole. Here’s the wording:

…a person who operates a vehicle that is not equipped with an IID, in violation of his or her restricted operating privilege, may be fined not less than $500 nor more than $1,200, or may be imprisoned for not more than six months, or both for the first offense. … In addition, the person’s operating privilege is restricted for an additional six months for each violation.


Rep. Heaton

Law enforcement groups have expressed support for the legislation, as have a number of legislators in both parties. But Wisconsin has never been an easy state in which to fight the anti-drunk-driving battle. A pervasive drinking culture works against efforts to discourage the practice, so the outcome of the bill remains uncertain.

Perhaps this will be the year that Wisconsin gets the OWI legislation it deserves, and the state can begin to take some of its most dangerous drivers off the roads. We salute Representative Heaton and the other legislators who are working toward this goal.

Is Jail A Fair Punishment for DUI? Ask Dear Abby.

People argue about how impaired drivers should be treated. Opinions vary from give-‘em-a-break to lock-em-up. Legislators from these two camps – and, to be fair, ones with nuanced views and an understanding of the complexities of the issue – do battle to ensure that the laws are protecting citizens while safeguarding the offender’s rights.ask-dear-abby-what-is-fair-punishment-for-dui
One way to resolve an argument is to ask Dear Abby what she thinks, and that is what one drunk driver did. Arrested for driving while taking legal medication and having had three beers two hours earlier, the offender now faced a one-year license suspension and jail. He thinks that jail is an extreme punishment for DUI in this case.

Let’s sum up his opinions (we’ll presume it’s a man for now):

  1. He didn’t put anyone in jeopardy.
  2. He deserves suspension but not jail time.
  3. If they are going to put him in jail, they should have put away the driver who injured his relatives in another incident.

Hmm. Let’s review the facts.

  1. He ignored the warning on the medication label.
  2. Three beers would take 4 hours to leave the body of a 180 lb. man – more for a woman or smaller man. So there would still be some alcohol effect after two hours.
  3. He was on his way to pick up his son. If that son was underage, he’d have been driving impaired with a minor, which is a serious offense in just about every state.

So the point isn’t really whether or not this person deserves jail. It’s that the offender still does not understand the nature of the offense. Opinion #1 is just plain false: he did put himself and others in jeopardy, though luck was with him and no one got hurt.

For the reply, Dear Abby got it right: he is guilty, and it could have been a lot worse. The people involved in the other collision are irrelevant to the case.

Whether or not jail is the answer, this driver – and many others – need a time-out of some sort to come to grips with the crime of drunk driving. Police and courts don’t have the luxury of waiting until someone is injured or killed to prosecute an impaired driver. They need to prevent impaired driving by the means they have. Fines, suspension, ignition interlocks, treatment, education, and yes, jail, are all called up on at some point.

Most people are now aware that drunk driving is dangerous, but this driver’s stubbornness and self-pity is proof that some people still don’t get it.

Omaha Lawyer Guarantees That Suspended Drivers Can Drive Again – With an Ignition Interlock!

A billboard in Omaha is getting a lot of attention. An attorney named Tom Petersen is using it to advertise a way to restore driving privileges to people with 15-year DUI suspensions – in 30 days. The billboard contains that magic word “Guaranteed!”

regain-drivers-license-after-duiWhat’s going on? Simply put, Peterson is steering clients to the state’s ignition interlock program. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Nebraska law states that after a year’s suspension, DUI offenders can go to court and request to be allowed to drive using an interlock device on their vehicle.

The benefits of the system are clear to offenders. They can drive to work or school, go shopping, and get on with their lives. They can more easily obtain alcohol treatment and counseling if necessary. In most US states, Nebraska included, being without a car places one at a disadvantage.

Here’s what Nebraska’s law says, for example, in the case of someone with a 15-year suspension for a fourth DUI conviction:

…the court shall, as one of the conditions of probation or sentence suspension, order that the operator’s license of such person be revoked for a period of fifteen years … the court may order that during the period of revocation the person apply for an ignition interlock permit and installation of an ignition interlock device …

A lot of offenders are apparently not aware that the interlock provision exists in the law. Petersen has taken it upon himself to publicize the law and help people regain their driving privileges. There’s nothing controversial, dishonest, or even opportunistic about that – in fact, that’s why the law is there in the first place. Most states have some provision to let suspended DUI offenders drive with an interlock.

Some other attorneys are quibbling with the word, “guaranteed,” but they can sort that out. What is guaranteed is that ignition interlocks reduce alcohol-related collisions and deaths, making the roads safer for us all.

Drunk Driving and Two People Who Just Don’t Get It

Some people who are arrested for DUI figure things out immediately. Shocked by their own recklessness, they straighten up and resolve not to do it again. Those around them get the idea as well: they offer support to the offender, but don’t makes excuses for him or her.

Football-and-dui-comboThen there are those who don’t get it. In Iowa City, 20-year-old Gilbert Phelps was pulled over for speeding. It turned out he was stoned on marijuana. While being tested by a drug expert, Phelps took a smiling selfie to send via Snapchat to publicize his accomplishment.

No comment.

In other news, Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Tyler Boyd and defensive end Rori Blair will both be suspended for the season opener against Youngstown State in September, thanks to their DUIs. Both players have admitted making a mistake.

Head coach Pat Narduzzi appears to disapprove of the punishment. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Narduzzi said that “what really hurts is game time. You only get 12 opportunities, and every one of them is precious.”

No, coach, what really hurts are injuries. What’s precious are lives. And drunk driving is one way that people, including fine college athletes, can end those lives.  A missed game should be the least of your worries. In the US a person dies every 51 minutes in an alcohol-related collision. Almost 300,000 people are injured ever year because of drunk driving.

Those players didn’t cause any deaths, but had they not been disciplined, they might have eventually. The only task, then, is to get through to drunk drivers before they kill or injure someone. If that takes a missed game, then so be it.

For many, football seems like a matter of life and death. But let’s not forget that some things, including impaired driving, really are.

Landlord on Craigslist Advertises Unique Benefit of House: No DUI

What do you look for in a rental house? Space? Convenience? A gas range? Proximity to a bus stop? One Knoxville landlord decided to attract renters with a different proposition: live within walking distance of bars downtown and never get a DUI.



The ad’s headline refers to Knoxville’s Old City, a lively and trendy area known for its bars and restaurants. Clearly the owner is looking for a drinker who hasn’t thought about how your address can land you in jail.

It’s worth considering. Most advice on avoiding a DUI centers around actions you take on the day you’re going out to the bar: designating a driver, clicking on a rideshare app, or taking public transportation. But if you go out drinking often, it makes sense to think about where you choose to live. Why not look for a location that makes it easy to get home on foot, or barring that, public transport?

Let’s Start a Trend

Our advice to landlords: if your property offers this benefit, advertise it! The practice could catch on. Eventually renters would incorporate the likelihood of a DUI into their decision. “This house has one more room, but I’d be more likely to go to jail. That house costs $50 more per month, but DUI attorneys, court fees and fines are more…”

How long before you can enter “DUI” – or perhaps “No DUI” – into an apartment search engine and find out which dwellings place you within walking distance of a drink? Not that we want to encourage drinking, but anything that takes drunk driving off the table is a good idea.

Foiled SUV Theft Shows Extra Benefit of an Ignition Interlock

Having an ignition interlock in your car offers a couple of well-known benefits: your chances of another DUI drop dramatically, as the vehicle won’t start if you’ve got alcohol on your breath. And, if theft-of-car-with-ignition-interlockyou’re dealing with an alcohol problem, you can keep working for going to school, go to treatment, and get your life in order while staying sober behind the wheel. For $2 to @3 a day, an interlock leaves you in pretty good shape.

A man in Omaha, Nebraska discovered another benefit of having a car breathalyzer installed in one’s car. Would-be thieves broke into Gary Wrenn’s SUV and tried to steal it. After smashing the window and attempting to hot-wire the car, they realized that the vehicle had an ignition interlock, and they were going to have to blow into it to start the vehicle.

However, they hadn’t been trained in how to use an interlock. It’s not hard – all it takes is a few minutes of instruction and practice – but Grand Theft Auto School doesn’t include an ignition interlock course, so the criminals bombed out. They left in frustration.

How do we know this? Nebraska requires that all vehicles equipped with ignition interlocks also have cameras installed. These cameras record whoever uses it so that there’s no question of another person substituting for an impaired driver.

There’s more: the inept thieves tried again the next night, believe it or not, and again had no success. Police now have the photos from the device and will use them to help find the criminals-in-training before they hurt themselves.

If you are required to have an ignition interlock installed in your car or truck, you now have another reason to look on the bright side. Given the average intelligence of car thieves, you stand a much better chance of holding on to your vehicle along with your driving privileges.