Ignition breathalyzers an unlikely solution to a large problem

A recent trend in the fight against drunk driving in the United States has been the installation of ignition interlock devices in the cars of repeat offenders. Last Tuesday, however, lawmakers in New Mexico, which Wired News reports is one of the most dangerous places to drive, attempted to take this idea a step further with the introduction of HB126, which would eventually require all cars statewide to have these automobile breathalyzers (ignition locks) installed. According to Wired, the bill would mandate that ignition locks be installed in new cars by 2008 and in used cars by 2009. While it is commendable that these lawmakers want to make their state a safer place to drive, the proposal seems a bit extreme, not to mention unlikely.

New Mexico’s House of Representatives passed HB126 by a vote of 45-22, as reported by Wired. However, it did not reach the Senate before the end of sessions on Thursday. The stalling of the bill appears to be a blessing in disguise.

There are many scenarios to consider when mandating such a device. Cost is only one of these factors, as Dave Barthuss, executive for General Motors told Wired. “All of the automakers go to great lengths to ensure that the equipment we put in our vehicles is extremely reliable and the ignition interlocks are not even close.”

What happens if your car stalls in the middle of traffic? Would the motorist have to blow again before being able to start the vehicle? Ignition-interlock.com reports that a driver must wait 30 seconds before starting the car in order to achieve an accurate reading.

What about people who suffer from asthma? Will all users physically be able to handle the stress of taking a breathalyzer on a regular basis? Marietta Carr displayed similar concern to KRQE News 13.

“I think its just going to make it more difficult, especially for older citizens,” Carr said.

Questions such as these need answers before a state implements such a large plan. Such a policy would be more effective if applied to convicted DUI offenders.

According to Superiorinterlockservices.com, 1.5 million people are arrested for drunk driving per year. Approximately 500,000 of those arrests are repeat offenders. Figures such as these indicate that drunk drivers are not taking their offenses serious enough.

Autonet.ca reported in December that Florida would require repeat DUI and DWI offenders to have breathalyzer devices installed in their vehicles as of Feb. 1. Thirty-nine other states have implemented similar laws. However, with figures such as the latter, it may be a safer move to make them mandatory for first time offenders as well.

More thought needs to be put into a bill that would be as costly and unrealistic as HB126. Invasive measures, such as requiring a breathalyzer in order to start a car every time, seem like the knee-jerk reaction of a state that is desperate for answers and looking in the wrong place to find them.