How One Officer Changed Springfield Drunk Driving Numbers
Fighting drunk driving is usually considered a team effort. Police catch drunk drivers, bartenders watch out for patrons who are too tipsy, legislators pass laws to combat DUI, and of course, friends don’t let friends drive drunk.
But sometimes one man can make all the difference. According to news reports in Illinois, Springfield’s DUI arrests are down, and we have one man to thank for that: an officer who is no longer on the job.
That’s right. A Springfield, Illinois police officer was taken off DUI patrol and put on other duties. So fewer police are out there making arrests. The number of drunk drivers in the city has probably not changed much – just the number of people being hauled in.
This case illustrates the problem with tracking drunk driving. Communities find, arrest and prosecute impaired drivers according to the resources they have available. What might seem like a downturn in DUI might just be a cutback in police funding. That’s why one needs to look further than just arrest records to get the whole story.
A sure sign of improvement in public safety is a downturn in alcohol-related road fatalities. Fortunately, there’s a device that makes that happen.
Ignition Interlocks Work Even When Police Are Off Duty
If there is a cutback in police funding, or a change in emphasis, what’s to keep drunk drivers off the road? One measure that works for those convicted of DUI is an ignition interlock, or BAIID (breath alcohol ignition interlock device) – which uses a breath test to prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
Illinois has one of the best ignition interlock laws in the country. A BAIID can’t work for those who have never been arrested for DUI, but some 12,000 of the devices are using them right now. They work whether or not a police officer is in the area, patrolling roads and watching out for drunk drivers. As soon as a motorist fails a breath test, a car’s or truck’s ignition is turned off, and the potential driver must wait until he or she can blow without registering any breath alcohol.
It would be helpful if budgets permitted towns like Springfield to employ the police officers they need to catch drunk drivers. But in the meantime, it’s essential that ignition interlocks continue to do their job keeping the DUI offenders who are caught off the roads, and keeping road fatalities down.