Colorado Program Tests Breathalyzers for DUI Prevention
Drunk driving doesn’t work the way most crimes do: while it does result from a decision, the offender rarely thinks of it as a crime. Often a series of small decisions are to blame: one drink, another, another, a decision not to bother taking a taxi, and a criminal is born. Or born again – repeat offenders are very common, which makes DUI prevention a difficult task.
A new Colorado initiative focuses on behavior rather than enforcement to prevent drunk driving. The Colorado Department of Transportation is giving people who have previously been convicted of DUI smartphone breathalyzers, to see if they are less likely to repeat their crime if they are more aware of their blood alcohol level.
In a previous program, CDOT found that non-offenders reported that they were less likely to get a DUI if they used a breathalyzer to monitor their alcohol levels. Now the agency is going to determine of repeat DUI offenders also report a change in attitude.
Behind the program is a truth: alcohol weakens the ability to make a good decision about drunk driving. That’s what makes DUI prevention so difficult.
Breathalyzers vs. Ignition Interlocks
The Colorado could well yield insights into ways to fight drunk driving. Portable breathalyzers, if they are accurate enough, are a good way to monitor one’s alcohol levels.
However, it’s important to note that for a problem drinker, no amount of alcohol is safe. Moreover, problem drinkers can become repeat drunk drivers. Ignition interlocks – devices which use breathalyzer technology to prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking – are set by state law to trigger a fail at a very low level. Usually a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .02 will shut off a vehicle’s ignition, and that’s for a reason. Once a person has been convicted of drunk driving, the state has a right to be alarmed if that person starts to mix alcohol and driving again.
Breathalyzers can help non-problem drinkers be aware of their BAC levels, but they cannot prevent a person from drinking and driving. Only ignition interlocks can do that, which is why there is no substitute for those devices.