Arkansas Woman With 5 DUIs Hits Pedestrian – What the News Ignored

police-lights-no-ignition interlock complianceIt’s always a scandal when a lethal drunk driving crash occurs and people find out how leniently the driver was treated for previous offenses. But sometimes the press coverage downplays a key aspect of the story, as was the case with Sharon Shinn in Cabot, Arkansas.

Shinn had 3 DUIs in 2015, and a fourth a few weeks ago. Then, in early February, she was arrested for hitting a pedestrian while driving drunk.

Press coverage is emphasizing that Shinn has never faced any jail time for any of her four previous DUIs. And since Arkansas signed a bill into law last year which mandates jail time for a fourth drunk driving conviction, prison might be in the cards for this offender.

The Missing Element: Ignition Interlock Compliance

But what news articles are not stressing is one important fact: Shinn was ordered to install an ignition interlock in her car the week before her recent arrest, but did not do so. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

ignition-interlocks-recommendedIgnition interlocks work – statistics prove that – but only if they are installed. 30 states, including Arkansas, have laws requiring all drunk drivers, including first offenders, to install an interlock. But it’s not enough to mandate the interlock: it’s up to the authorities to ensure that the device is installed. Ignition interlock compliance can be the Achilles’ heel of an anti-drunk driving program.

If it’s reasonable that a person guilty of multiple drunk driving offenses should have an ignition interlock is installed in his or her vehicle, it’s also reasonable that the offender should not be able to drive the vehicle until it’s installed. Either the vehicle should be impounded until the installation is arranged, or a probation officer or other official should be assigned to monitor the case and ensure that the interlock device is installed.

Making a Solution That Works Work

States now have a technology that can enable a vast reduction in the number of drunk driving collisions, injuries and deaths. Ignition interlock technology works. What needs adjustment is the human factor – bureaucracy, red tape, understaffing, and misplaced priorities.

Prison is an expensive measure, and one paid for by the taxpayer, not the offender. Ignition interlocks are cost-effective. Arkansas can save more lives and money as well by beefing up ignition interlock compliance. The state already has a good law – now it needs to be enforced.