Breathing for safer roads

Breathalyzers could soon be a common fixture on car dashboards.

Alcohol is one of the most ubiquitous liquids in American culture. Excluding water, alcohol’s prevalence remains unmatched. Its abundance has also led to countless vehicular fatalities, and this association has made alcohol the target of many public service announcements. The nonprofit organization, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, has never shied away from confronting the evils of alcohol, and they are now attempting to bring their message of sobriety into offending cars.

According to MADD, approximately one-third of those arrested for a DUI have been caught before. This disturbing rate of reoccurrence needs to be driven down, and MADD is hoping that technology can lead the way. An in-car device called a breath-test interlock requires the driver to blow into a breathalyzer before turning the key. If alcohol is detected at unsafe levels, the device disables the engine’s ability to ignite. MADD is urging states to mandate the installation of these devices in the cars of repeat offenders. The cost and installation of the breathalyzer could be charged to the perpetrator as part of their sentence.

This idea has already been implemented in New Mexico with some success, and there’s no reason to stop there. Rampant drunk driving cannot be controlled by police alone, and this device holds promise to reduce the 13,000 annual deaths from alcohol related crashes.

While it seems unfair to burden one-time offenders with the device for an entire lifetime, the devices are relatively unobtrusive, and the social stigma associated with possessing one could dissuade other potential drunk drivers.

University of Minnesota students are no strangers to alcohol, and college students often make mistakes regarding its use. Car breathalyzers would keep the streets safer for the many students who are out late at night on weekends.

As technology progresses, perhaps every car will be equipped with even better alcohol detecting technology, but, for now, the interlock system holds promise for keeping our roads safe.