Regarding the Feb. 12 editorial “Locking down drunk drivers”:
As The Post noted, more than a quarter of states mandate in-car breathalyzers, known as ignition interlock devices, for first-time drunk driving offenders. But will that lead to fewer drunken drivers and fewer fatalities among those with lower blood-alcohol levels? The Post claims that “many drivers responsible for alcohol-related traffic deaths had blood-alcohol levels below .15.” In fact, more than half of drunken driving deaths are caused by people whose blood-alcohol content is in excess of .15, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2009 data. And ignition interlocks are no panacea: NHTSA has also noted that once an interlock is removed, the recidivism rate returns to the same levels as for offenders who have not had interlocks.
We live in an era of zero tolerance. People need to understand where this is likely to end up: with automatic ignition interlock devices installed in every new car. The technology is less than a decade away. If such a policy is ever mandated, it would raise significant civil rights and privacy concerns and a presumption of guilt from your own automobile. It would also have a hugely negative impact on the restaurant and bar industry, as people would think that they couldn’t safely drink outside the house and would stay home, impacting thousands of businesses and potentially millions of workers, not to mention the taxes the hospitality industry generates.
Should ignition interlock devices be mandated for hard-core drunk drivers? Absolutely. But let’s focus on the people who cause the fatalities: those whose blood-alcohol content is above .15 and repeat offenders. Otherwise, we’re just persecuting social drinkers.
Garrett Peck, Arlington