Massachusetts Moves Forward on Ignition Interlock Law

Sometimes you need to come in on a Saturday to get some real work done. That’s what the Massachusetts Senate did, and the results are good for road safety in the state. Last Saturday the Senate voted to pass Senate Bill 1895, entitled “An Act Strengthening Public Safety by Reducing Unlicensed, Uninsured Driving by DUI Offenders.”

The bill makes some important changes in Massachusetts DUI law:

Now. Offenders are suspended for 3 or 6 months and can then apply for a hardship license which allows limited driving if the suspension is causing undue hardship

Proposed. No more “hard suspension”  for a first DUI offense. Such offenders can immediately apply for an ignition interlock license. This means they can drive immediately upon getting the ignition interlock, which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Now. For repeat DUI offenders, a hardship license can be obtained for the 2nd year of a 2-year suspension, the 3rd year of an 8-year suspension, or the 5th year of a 10-year suspension.

Proposed. The hard suspensions remain, but an offender can obtain an ignition interlock device after the suspended period is up and thus drive without other restrictions. After a 5th DUI offense a driver can obtain an interlock license for life after they complete their jail sentence and enroll in an alcohol treatment program.

The law also allows those who have been suspended for refusing a breath test to apply for an ignition interlock license.

Why the proposed Massachusetts DUI law makes sense

Some people worry that this legislation would put drunk drivers back on the road. But those drivers won’t be drunk – they’ll have technology in their vehicles that will prevent them from driving if they have had any alcohol.

Statistics have shown that license suspensions do not stop people from driving.  Some half to three-quarters of suspended drivers drive anyway, and that includes a lot of people who drink and drive. That is the reason that this legislation’s title includes the words, “Reducing Unlicensed, Uninsured Driving by DUI Offenders.”

So the issue, then, is not punishment – it is public safety. Rather than relying solely on ineffective measures like suspension to punish drunk driving, the law actively prevents drunk driving by keeping the vehicles of potential offenders from starting. The law will save Massachusetts lives.

Not a bad use of a Saturday.

The law will go to the House floor for a vote next week. Fingers crossed that the House agrees on the potential of this bill to make Massachusetts roads and streets safer for everyone.

Ferlin Husky: Drunk Driving, Country-Style

Your Hump-Day Recess: The Drunken Driver (1954)

Submitted for your approval: a song about impaired driving. This is about the saddest one we’ve encountered, part of a tradition that harks back to old temperance tear-jerkers like Come Home, Father (lyrics here) and A Drunkard’s Child. In those 19th-Century days the evil was drinking itself, the victims the drunkard’s family. The 20th Century brought the automobile and a new danger. We’ve already noted a few examples of popular musicians tackling the problem of drunk driving. Here’s one that pulls out all the emotional stops, including a surprise (some would say corny) twist.

Like the well-known Come Home Father, The Drunken Driver employs the point of view of a child who is an innocent victim. You might enjoy Ferlin’s solemn narration, or you might find the whole thing unlistenable. Either The Drunken Driver is a reminder that, while styles of music disappear, the crime of impaired driving doesn’t. It still takes about ten thousand lives in this country alone. That’s a sad song we’re all tired of hearing.

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 ZealandVince and Larry, our favorite crash test dummies, 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, Felix the Cat and Drunk Driving,  DUIs who crash vintage cars – (ouch!), Woman Unwittingly Creates Self-Driving Car, A Brilliant PSA from Australia, a Road Safety Message in a Vodka Bottle, a PSA about binge drinking that is decidedly “meh,” Drunk Driver Crashes $4 Million Car, Drunk Driving in 1910, a Superb New Think! PSA from the UK,Drunk Driving in 1955: New Breath Test Technology Will Save the Day!, the Best Animated Gifs About Drunk Driving, Angle Parking: A Surreal DUI Stop Photo, a Hertz Advertisement that Could Have Used Another Set of Eyes, a Laugh Out Loud Anti-Drunk Driving Ad, and How to Beat a Breathalyzer with Peanut Butter … Not!

Serve Booze to a Maryland Teen? The Road Death Is On You.

Maryland social host law intended to stop teen drinkingThere are a lot of ways that people, especially teens, can get hurt by alcohol. But none of them match drinking and driving, which take the lives of too many young people. In fact, NHTSA tells us that car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and about a quarter of those collisions involve a drinking driver who is underage.

Maryland has decided that adults must take the blame when they supply alcohol to teens who kill and die on the road. That state’s Court of Appeals has ruled that adults who provide alcohol to underage drinkers can be civilly liable for any harm caused by the drinkers they hosted. Such laws are called social host liability laws, and Maryland is one of many states to have one on the books.

Maryland Social Host Law: Because Teens Make Bad Decisions

The rationale of the Maryland social host law is that kids under 21 are not very good at making responsible decisions, so it falls upon the adults around them to do the right thing.

Two cases involving drunk driving are at the root of the decision. In one, an 18-year-old  who had been drinking cocktails mixed by an adult struck a woman who was out walking her dog. In another, a 17-year-old got drunk at the home of a friend and got into the bed of a pickup truck, which crashed. Another drunk teen was driving the truck. The mother argued that the homeowner, who allowed teen drinking in her home, set up the circumstances for her son to get killed.

The Problem: Cool Parents

This ruling is a response of sorts to a kind of “cool” parent who allows teens to drink as long as it’s in their presence. These parents believe that the danger lies in driving teen drinking underground.

The tragedies that resulted in these two cases make it clear that underage drinking can be dangerous no matter what the setting – hence the Maryland social host law. You might be able to control how much booze the kids drink, and where, but you can’t control what decisions they’ll make after their drunk. And teens are not known for wise decisions, especially in cars. Your insurance company will back that up.

Like laws mandating ignition interlocks for drunk drivers, social host liability laws are proliferating. So are their cousins, dram shop laws, which hold drinking establishments liable for alcohol-related harm that they might have prevented. People are getting tired of seeing so many completely preventable injuries and deaths. If drivers are making bad decisions, then it’s up to the courts like the Maryland Court of Appeals to make good ones.

Why Ohio Needs Annie’s Law.

annie rooney of annie's lawIf you live in Ohio and follow the news, chances are you’ve come upon an image if of Annie Rooney. Usually she’s in bicycle gear, looking young, intelligent and vivacious. The news story will probably be about Ohio’s OVI laws, in particular a proposed law named after Annie Rooney, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2013.

Annie and her law are in the news because the law is closer than ever to being passed.

Annie’s Law, also known as House Bill 388, would change the road safety landscape in Ohio. It would require that all OVI offenders, including first offenders, install an ignition interlock after conviction. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Studies show that states with all-offender ignition interlock laws experience a drop in alcohol-related road deaths.

Ohio: Behind the Drunk Driving Curve

Ohio sorely needs Annie’s Law. Frank Harris, Director of State Government Affairs for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), has stated that Ohio has fallen behind the times. “[The state] does not effectively utilize interlocks for all drunk drivers as 28 other states do, starting on the first offense with a BAC of .08 or greater. “ Harris also notes that there is no administrative component to Ohio’s interlock program. Many states have not only court-ordered interlock programs but administrative programs run by motor vehicle departments, which are more efficient and responsive.

An all-offender ignition interlock law will mean that thousands of drunk driving incidents will not happen each year, because the offenders will either not be able to start the vehicle, or will not even bother trying because they know they have been drinking. Remember, every second or third OVI offender began as a first offender.

The device will also help some offenders with a drinking problem to face their problems and obtain counseling and treatment.  Being mobile means they won’t lose their job or be able to take care of their families.

Halfway There

The Ohio House passed Annie’s Law in May. It has moved to the Senate, and the might reach the governor’s desk later this year.

Waiting at the Finish Line

Governor Kasich has said he is in favor of Annie’s law. So if the Senate can agree on a final version of the bill, Ohio might have a first-class drunk driving bill on the books in 2016 – more than three years after the tragedy that got the campaign started. It’s too late for Annie, but many lives in Ohio will be spared once ignition interlocks are mandated for all OWI offenders.

Why Are US Road Death Rates Higher Than Other Countries?

us road death rates higher than other countriesEvery year the Centers for Disease Control bring Americans some good news and bad news in the area of motor vehicle safety.

The good news is that fewer people are dying on US roads than they used to. The bad news is that other countries are eating our lunch in the contest to see whose roads are safest.

Why is that? The main reason 32,000 people died in US car crashes in the US last year were:

  • Drunk driving
  • Not using seat belts, car seats and booster seats
  • Speeding

It’s hard to figure out which of these is the most preventable. Looking at them on the page, they all seem ridiculously easy to avoid.

But why do other high-income countries have fewer fatalities per passenger mile? Among the reasons the CDC offers are:

Aggressively enforced seat belt laws. Police can stop and ticket vehicles in which driver or passenger are not buckled up. US seat belt laws, which are state laws, are all over the place.

Some only cover minors or small children, and some laws only mandate that people occupying the front seat use seat belts. A more thorough approach, perhaps with federal incentives, might help bring road deaths down.

  • Lower BAC levels. The US considers anyone with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or over legally drunk. Many countries have an .05 or .02 level, and it’s enforced aggressively.
    In fact, the US ranks second highest among high-income countries in crash deaths due to alcohol – 31% of all road deaths (Canada is the winner at 34%. Sweden, with its .02 BAC and use of ignition interlocks in fleet and government vehicles, is at 19%).
  • Safety technology. Some countries require ignition interlocks – devices which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking – to be installed whenever there is a drunk driving conviction. Currently just 27 states have such laws here, and compliance is spotty.
  • Vigilance. Other high-income countries seem to be on the lookout for drunk drivers and speeders. Sobriety checkpoints are common, as are red-light cameras.

These comparisons yield the CDC’s recommendations. To reduce the number of alcohol-related road fatalities, the agency recommends we follow the example of other advance countries and

  • Expand sobriety checkpoints
  • Enforce existing .08 BAC laws and underage drinking laws
  • Consider ignition interlocks for DUI offenders – including first offenders

These recommendations seem far from impossible. Many states are tackling these problems on their own. But federal incentives on matters like ignition interlocks would go a long way toward saving lives. It worked before with seat belts and crash tolerances. It could work again with the next generation of automotive safety technology.

Why does Wisconsin Have So Many Drunk Drivers?

This article contribution by attorney Andrew Mishlove comes to us from the offices of Mishlove and Stuckert, Attorneys at Law.

wisconsin drunk driversI was interviewed by the Wisconsin Law Journal, on the topic of why Wisconsin has so many drunk drivers, since there is (yet again) a series of proposals in the legislature to toughen Wisconsin drink driving laws. It’s well-known that Wisconsin has about double the rate of drunk driving arrests than the national average. I’m proud to defend people accused of drunk driving; because I believe in due process of law and the presumption of innocence. I have also seen the damage caused to decent people by Wisconsin’s failed system of drunk driving law enforcement.

So why does Wisconsin have such a terrible problem? The answer is simple: politicians are not willing to do what it takes.

Wisconsin, more than other states, has a culture of alcohol, and a legal system that attacks the symptoms, rather than the problem. The system protects the alcohol industry, while punishing the drinker. Finally, we have the complete failure of our system of non-criminal first offense prosecutions, that cannot be reduced or amended.

Unlike other states, Wisconsin has no “dram shop law.” Dram shop laws hold tavern keepers responsible for over-serving patrons. So, if I am visibly drunk, and the bartender keeps serving me – and then allows me to drive away, the tavern could be held liable for any damages that I cause. Right now, the only time a tavern-keeper can be held liable is if he serves a minor. This is deplorable. Other states have dram shop laws that work very well, and the tavern industry has adapted to it. Wisconsin’s history in this regard is shameful.

In 1849, Wisconsin passed its first dram shop law, requiring tavern-keeprs to provide financial support for drunkards. That didn’t last too long, since Wisconsin was always an anti-temperance state. Today, Wisconsin operates under Wis. Stat. sec. 125.035. This statute was passed in 1985, in response to a Wisconsin Supreme Court case that recognized dram shop liability for tavern-keepers. See Koback v. Crook. Rather than consider the problem of drunken-driving, the legislature enacted a statute granting civil immunity to tavern-keepers who serve visibly drunken patrons. It doesn’t matter how drunk I am. You can keep serving me in Wisconsin, without fear of having to pay for the damages. So, while the legislature panders to the tavern lobby, individual legislators thump their chests about being tough on drunk driving.

Do not think that the legislature is concerned with the principle of individual responsibility — the argument that the individual who drinks too much is responsible for his own behavior, and no one else should be held to account. In theory, from a moral point of view, that might be a good argument. It fails to consider, however, the impact that it has on the occurrence of drunk driving. I’m confident that the family of any victim of a drink driving homicide takes very little comfort in knowing that our state provides immunity to negligent tavern-keepers, because we protect the principle of individual responsibility . In fact, the argument is utterly hypocritical; since Wisconsin has a statute that make it a crime to serve a visibly drunken patron, but still provides civil immunity. Wis. Stats. 125.07(2). It’s not about morality, or public safety; it’s about the money. While it may, on the surface, look tough to provide a criminal penalty; in fact, the criminal prosecution under this statute is so rare, that is simply doesn’t matter. In 35 years of practicing law, I have never seen a single occasion where anyone has been charged with this offense. No one cares about it. It’s a sham. If the legislature really wanted to deter drunk driving, they would repeal civil immunity for tavern-keepers.

Wisconsin is the only state in which first-offense drunk driving is a civil traffic ticket. In every other state, first offense drunk driving carries at least the possibility of a jail sentence. So, we have the most lenient first offense law in the country. However, we have a law that limits, if not prohibits, negotiation, amendment or reduction of a drunk driving charge. So, our lenient law is very strictly enforced. This system is unique, and it is a complete failure. In most other states, first offense drunk driving is a much more serious offense, but the accused may avoid the consequences by going through a first-offender’s treatment program. A bigger carrot with a bigger stick. This system works far better than ours. So, why don’t we have it? Simple. The answer is, once again, money. Right now, there are almost 20,000 first offense prosecutions per year in our state. Many of them are prosecuted under municipal traffic laws, in municipal traffic courts, by municipal prosecutors. If Wisconsin were to adopt a more rational system, we would have to move those cases to the circuit courts, where criminal cases are heard. That would require hiring more prosecutors, and judges, while at the same time the local authorities would no longer have the revenue from fines imposed. Effective alcohol education programs are also expensive, and the state has been unwilling to fund them. Again, the legislature wants to thump its chest about being tough on drink driving, but is not willing to actually do anything effective.

All of this has an enormous cost. First, Wisconsin has far more drunk driving than other states. Second, decent, hardworking people who make a single mistake, have their careers and lives destroyed by a drunk driving prosecution, with no real first-offender program.

Who Knew? GM Invented the DUI Ignition Interlock in 1970.

Your Hump-day Recess: A Swing and a Miss at DUI Prevention

Everyone in 1970 was aware that drunk driving was a serious problem, but no one knew what to do about it. That year, the NIH tells us, alcohol took about 31,000 lives on the nation’s roads. Booze figured in more than 60% of road deaths, and two-thirds traffic deaths among 16- to 20-year-olds.

Meanwhile, car safety was improving. Just a few years after losing the mandatory seat belt battle, the Big Four awoke to the idea that there was value in being seen as pro-safety.  In 1970 General Motors developed (but never marketed, to our knowledge) a kind of prototype of today’s ignition interlock. The device required a driver to reproduce a series of numbers that flashed on a screen by punching corresponding buttons. If they messed up (say, because they’d had nine Harvey Wallbangers), the car wouldn’t start (click photo to enlarge).

(click to enlarge)

Why didn’t GM’s device take off?

If this device could really keep drunk drivers off the road, why does nothing remain of it, apart from a press photo? Most likely the federal government wasn’t stoked about GM’s discovery, and car companies generally didn’t push safety devices unless compelled to. It was legislation that made seat belts, head restraints, crashworthiness standards, and center brake lights universal.

Mostly, though, GM’s device failed because the idea was bad. The designers didn’t really understand how drunk drivers operate. Certainly it takes concentration to repeat the number sequence, but that isn’t enough to prevent a determined drunk to get on the road, for two reasons:

  • Drunks, particularly experienced drunks, are resourceful. Many people over the .08 blood alcohol limit can force themselves to concentrate for the few seconds it takes to complete the test. True, someone totally smashed – say, .20 BAC or more – would fail, but that still leaves a lot of dangerously impaired drivers who could pass the test. And though they might get it together long enough to punch out the five numbers, they couldn’t stay alert long enough to drive safely.
  • A driver could start the car while sober and then begin drinking afterwards. Or a sober passenger could take the test in place of the driver (notice that in the photo the demonstrator is in the passenger seat). Back in 1970, when drunk driving didn’t have anywhere near the stigma that it does today, getting a friend to do “curb service” would be easy. Does that sound stupid? Remember, these people wore plaid pants and platform shoes.

What worked: the ignition interlock

A better technology made GM’s dream come true a few years later. In the 1980s California started a pilot program for devices which used breath alcohol ignition interlock (BAIID) technology. The new devices measured actual intoxication, rather than physical coordination, which made more sense and worked more efficiently.

Apart from keeping a drunk from starting the car, ignition interlocks also keep a sober driver from getting drunk after starting the car, because of something called a rolling re-test. The driver must breathe into the device periodically while driving, to ensure that he or she is still sober. Interlocks these days can be equipped with cameras as well, to ensure that the one taking the test is the driver. Images and data are downloaded and reviewed by monitoring authorities to ensure that the offender is complying with the interlock regulations. You could never require someone to re-punch numbers while driving: that’s the Achilles’ heel of the GM device.

Upshot – Will Interlocks Become Standard on All Cars?

Alcohol related crash deaths are down dramatically from when this photo was taken: from 31,000 to about 10,000 victims. Alcohol has also gone from causing two-thirds to one-third of road fatalities each year. While that’s progress, it’s still a terrible waste of life. All over the world governments and road safety advocates are looking for ways to bring that number down to zero.

Often one hears that ignition interlocks should be mandatory on all vehicles. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) supports the idea. But such a development is far in the future.

What is clear is that ignition interlocks should be used for drunk driving offenders, including first offenders. A recently report by MADD and a study by the University of Pennsylvania were the latest evidence that the devices reduce DUI recidivism and alcohol-related road deaths. So far 27 states require ignition interlocks for all offenses. Some other states have similar bills working their way through the legislature.

General Motors had other car safety ideas in the 1970s, including airbags, which took off. But back then the time wasn’t right for a technological solution to drunk driving. Kudos to GM for trying, though. There are worse things than being ahead of your time. Such as not adopting a life-saving technology when it actually works.

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 ZealandVince and Larry, our favorite crash test dummies, 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, Felix the Cat and Drunk Driving,  DUIs who crash vintage cars – (ouch!), Woman Unwittingly Creates Self-Driving Car, A Brilliant PSA from Australia, a Road Safety Message in a Vodka Bottle, a PSA about binge drinking that is decidedly “meh,” Drunk Driver Crashes $4 Million Car, Drunk Driving in 1910, a Superb New Think! PSA from the UK,Drunk Driving in 1955: New Breath Test Technology Will Save the Day!, the Best Animated Gifs About Drunk Driving, Angle Parking: A Surreal DUI Stop Photo, a Hertz Advertisement that Could Have Used Another Set of Eyes, a Laugh Out Loud Anti-Drunk Driving Ad, and How to Beat a Breathalyzer with Peanut Butter … Not!

Chicago DUI Arrests Down 50%. What’s Going On Here?

chicago dui arrests down 50 percentIn charting drunk driving trends, every year matters, but decades matter more. It takes a while to spot a trend, but a lot of people think they’ve found one: Chicago DUI arrests were down about 50 percent from 2005. In that year, some 6800 people were handcuffed and brought in for drunk driving. Last year it was about 3300. These figures come from an annual survey released by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, an Illinois organization which has been fighting drunk driving since 1982.

Nice going, Chicago. But what did you do that was so right?

A lot of factors are being given credit. One is Uber – even though that company only started in 2009 and didn’t arrive in Chicago until 2011.

More plausible are speculations that awareness of drunk driving and its prevention has been growing. Chicago police conduct roadside sobriety checkpoints, which not only catch drunk drivers, but serve as warnings to all who see them that impaired driving doesn’t pay.

Drunk driving is as socially unacceptable as it’s ever been since the invention of the automobile. Chicago seems to be doing a good job keeping the anti-drunk-driving message alive through public service campaigns.

Beyond Chicago, Illinois has made great progress in lowering its rate of traffic deaths, having kept its total below 1000 since 2009. Currently, about 32 percent of those deaths are alcohol-related.

Illinois also has a well-managed ignition interlock program which does not offer preferential treatment to any offender, regardless of location. Car breathalyzer devices are known to reduce DUI recidivism, so it is certainly possible that yesterday’s drunk drivers are sober on the road today.

Finally, it’s possible they are off the road altogether. Chicago is one expensive city in which to own a car: parking can set you back $1,000 a month. Given the city’s superb mass transport system, many Chicagoans are ditching their cars altogether and hopping on the El. That works wonders for the drunk driving situation.

Like many municipalities around the country and the world, Chicago has set a goal of zero deaths on the road. It’s an ambitious goal, but the right one. Cars and roads will get safer, and  eventually some better technological solutions to distracted driving will arrive. But reducing the toll of drunk driving deaths will remain a challenge.  Let’s hope Chicago keeps showing the country how to do it.

Oklahoma Official Suspended for DUI. Why is He Driving?

driving despite oklahoma DUI suspension - why?Just a few weeks ago Oklahoma’s Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger lost his challenge to a 2015 DUI. As a result he lost his driving privileges for six months.

Doerflinger is back behind the wheel already. What’s going on?

It’s not a backroom deal, if that’s what you’re worried about: no sacks of cash left under car seats or other offers the judge couldn’t refuse.

What the court did was standard procedure on Oklahoma’s law books: it granted Doerflinger permission to drive, provided he do so with an ignition interlock device. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

For the next 18 months the device will keep him off the road should he decide to drink. Yet the interlock will also allow him to do his job. Oklahoma allows anyone whose license has been suspended to apply for a hardship exemption. If the terms of the suspension mean the offender has no other means of transportation, and this will result in hardship, then a change can be made.

It was a good decision. The Secretary lives in Tulsa but works about a hundred miles away in Oklahoma City. As a result of the interlock order, he is able to do his job, but the public is protected from another incident of drunk driving.

Ignition Interlocks: Better Than License Suspension

Ignition interlocks are valuable, and not just in hardship cases. They are preferable to license suspensions, particularly long ones, because:

  • Suspensions simply don’t work. Half to three-quarters of suspended drivers drive anyway. That includes a lot of impaired drivers who will be uninsured.
  • Suspensions have damaging and counter-productive repercussions. If you take away offenders driving privileges, you might also be taking away their job, scuttling their education, and rendering them unable to provide for their family. Laws and punishments should serve social goals, not create social problems.

Some people are resistant to the idea of ignition interlocks instead of suspensions because it doesn’t seem a punitive enough measure. But that’s a short-sighted way to look at things. Offenders who use ignition interlocks don’t reoffend while the device is installed, and it costs the government little, since the fees are borne by the offender. Other measures, such as fines or community service, can be added when it’s clear that punishment is advisable.

But neither Mr Doerflinger nor others under an Oklahoma DUI suspension are “getting away” with anything if they are driving with ignition interlocks. Quite the opposite: they’re being held strictly to a promise of sober driving, and are being tracked and recorded to ensure that the promise is kept. Not a bad use of technology, all told.

New Mexico’s DWI Death Rate is Dropping. That’s No Accident.

new mexico's drunk driving deaths downA governor’s intentions are revealed by her actions. Clearly New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez intends to bring down the number of New Mexico’s drunk driving deaths. And it looks as if she’s been doing it.

A few months ago it was revealed that last year alcohol-related road deaths had plummeted 28 percent from the year before, and were at a 36-year-low.

Part of the reason is ENDWI, a dedicated program created by the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) to educate the public on the dangers of drunk driving.

Recently Governor Martinez has announced a new PSA in the series. The new ad shows the tragic consequences of drunk driving from the point of view of a surgeon who must try – and sometimes fails – to put back together the bodies of DWI victims.

Martinez is a tireless activist on the DWI front, and she is under no illusion that the ad alone will reduce New Mexico’s drunk driving deaths. A recent initiative involved pursuing and bringing to justice 100 DWI fugitives, increased saturation patrols, and tougher penalties for all drunk drivers.

What keeps some legislation from passing is the cost, which is understandable: prison in particular is an expensive proposition for the state. That is why New Mexico should make the most of its already-tough ignition interlock legislation, by ensuring compliance by offenders and judges. Unlike prison, ignition interlocks (car breathalyzers) prevent a drunk driver from reoffending and also place the cost where it belongs, on the offender. The same cannot be said of prison, which places a large burden on the taxpayer.

A drunk driving PSA, no matter how well done, is just a part of the solution. Strong legislation and good enforcement of DWI and ignition interlock laws is a much bigger piece of the anti-DWI puzzle. It looks as if the Governor of New Mexico is determined to solve the puzzle once and for all.