Has a Michigan Man Driven Drunk More Than 1000 Times?

Not long ago a police car pulled over a car in Mount Clemens, Michigan after seeing the driver run a red light. A conversation with the driver revealed him to be intoxicated, so he was booked for OWI.

The driver, Zenon Bialokur, also had a suspended license. In fact, he’s had his license suspended a lot of times: 12, to be exact. And he’s been convicted of driving despite suspension 10 times.

And on top of that, he has 13 OWI convictions.

Let’s take the last one first. No one gets arrested every time they go out driving drunk. Most of the time time they manage to evade the cops by sheer luck. According to one statistic, a drunk driver drives impaired 80 times before he or she is arrested.

If that’s the case, then those 13 OWI arrests might –might – have been the result of a thousand drunk incidents of drunk driving. A thousand chances to cause injury or death on the road.

Of course, we don’t really know how many times Bialokur drove drunk beyond the number for which he was arrested. Perhaps none, and he was just unlucky every single time he drank and drove. Unlikely, but it’s possible.

Moving on – the 10 convictions for suspension tell us two things. First, Michigan is not bringing its “A” game to the fight against drunk driving, a subject that we’ve discussed before.

Michigan: Slacking on Drunk Driving

In particular, the state has not joined the 29 others that now require ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenses. They also do not criminalize the refusal of a sobriety test, and does not even provide immediate administrative revocation of licenses for drivers arrested for OWI, as most states do. If suspension is the only tool in the box, and it’s not working, then something needs to change.

Suspensions: A Feeble Measure at Best

We said the 10 convictions for driving under suspension tells us two things. The second is that license suspensions don’t work. Mr. Bialokur is merely the most recent and dramatic example. It’s just too easy to get back behind the wheel of a car if all that’s preventing you is the lack of a piece of paper.

Ignition Interlocks: Intervention That Works

What stops drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel are ignition interlocks – car breathalyzer devices which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. They’ve been proven to reduce alcohol-related road deaths, and when compliance-based removal is part of the program – i.e. they are not removed until the offender has passed several months without a failed breath test – they have been shown to reduce recidivism and aid rehab programs as well.

Michigan could look at the measures that other states have used to curb drunk driving. Or they could keep on suspending licenses. How’s that been working out? Ask Mr. Bialokur.