It’s a peculiar measure, when you think of it. When people get arrested for shoplifting, they aren’t ordered to install a machine that stops them the next time they grab an item from a store shelf. If a person is convicted of embezzlement, they’re not issued a device which locks up computers or snaps ledgers shut to keep them from stealing funds.
Drunk driving is the only crime for which an electronic device is mandated by law as a preventive measure. For most other crimes, we punish; for DUIs, we prevent. What are the reasons?
- Drunk Driving Endangers Everyone. If you’re impaired, you may certainly crash and die. You may also hurt or kill a passenger, people in other cars on the road, and also bicyclists and pedestrians. Even people in houses have been hit by drunk drivers that careened off the road. That makes impaired driving an extremely dangerous and anti-social crime.
- Recidivism is Common. Many drunk drivers do so as a result of alcohol problems – they can be alcohol abusers, or suffer from alcohol dependency. In such people the need to drink is powerful, and likely to overcome fear of punishment. Which leads to the next reason.
- Alcohol Diminishes Judgment. The use of alcohol impairs the very faculties – judgment, self-control, other cognitive abilities – that might be used to keep from making the decision to drive. That makes drunk drivers much more likely to repeat their crime than shoplifters or embezzlers.
- Ignition Interlocks Work. There’s a reason Public Safety Ministers and judges are calling for more thorough ignition interlock laws – the devices do the job. An ignition interlock is the only way of assuring that a driver won’t be able to take his or her vehicle on the road while drunk.
Take note of that last point. License suspensions are no guarantee of public safety, since a large proportion of suspended motorists continue to drive illegally. Imprisonment is costly and only appropriate in the most extreme cases, but this simple device achieves the goal that really matters: saving lives day after day.