Recently a woman in Victoria achieved a record of sorts: she earned her 21st drunk driving prohibition. Looking back on our pages, we can’t find an offender with more DUI counts than that. It’s an amazing total, and a frightening one.
What is going on? Apart from the wanton disregard for law on the part of the woman in question, we have a system that is clearly not working well. Those who keep watch on public safety issues are asking how anyone can rack up such a high total of DUIs.
One answer might be the nature of British Columbia’s ignition interlock laws. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. A number of provinces mandate ignition interlocks after certain DUI offences. In Quebec, for example, all drunk drivers must install an ignition interlock on their vehicles for a set period of time after their offence.
In BC, however, interlock devices are not mandatory, thanks to a recent change in the province’s program. These days interlocks are installed at the discretion of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles. As a result, the number of interlocks in use has dropped more than 80 percent.
With a well-written DUI law, the term of interlock use increases with multiple convictions. Therefore, it would be very likely that our 21-DUI offender would have had an interlock on her car, and would not have been able to start it, and thus would not have been weaving along the road at 4 a.m. — had she lived in a province that required ignition interlocks.
So without interlocks, what was keeping her off the road? Prohibitions, supposedly. Because her violations had been so abundant and serious, she was banned from driving. Of course, she kept on driving despite the ban. Which shows that suspensions and other prohibitions don’t work. Many drivers fire up their engines, banned or not. And if they tend to drive drunk, nothing will stop them.
Except an ignition interlock.
It qualifies as a miracle that a person who has been caught driving while impaired 21 times has not killed or injured anyone. It’s time for BC not just to get tough, but to get smart, and actively prevent dangerous drunk drivers from taking to the roads, by passing stronger ignition interlock legislation.
Need some reasons to back up the claim? Offhand, we can think of 21 of them.