The Unforeseen Dangers of a Device That Curbs Drunken Driving
February 10, 2020 8:38 AM   Subscribe

 
Why am I not surprised that MADD - an organization that has outlived its purpose, allowing it to be filled with neotemperance scolds - is defending this practice?
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:54 AM on February 10 [17 favorites]


To start his truck, Mr. Cowan had to prove his sobriety by blowing into an interlock device — a machine the size of a cellphone, wired to the car’s steering column. But to keep driving, he had to provide additional breath samples to show he hadn’t been drinking on the road.

Those checks, known in the industry as rolling retests, occur at random. They require the driver to lift a hand off the wheel, pick up the device and blow — hard — into its mouthpiece for several seconds. If the driver fails or doesn’t comply, the car goes into panic mode: Its headlights flash and its horn honks until the driver turns off the engine.


That... does not sound safe.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:54 AM on February 10 [76 favorites]


They require the driver to lift a hand off the wheel, pick up the device and blow — hard — into its mouthpiece for several seconds.

Holy hell. I have breathing problems and sometimes even a strong sneeze or coughing fit is enough for me to want to pull over lest I begin to edge closer than I would like towards everything going white and an uncomfortable lightheadedness taking me.

I see little to no reason why even this sort of randomized testing couldn't allow for 5 minutes (or more) of opportunity for a driver to pull over and perform the test in a safe location. Anything else seems not a little bit fraught.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:58 AM on February 10 [13 favorites]


100% unsurprising that this seems to be in large part due to private equity vampires getting involved.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 8:59 AM on February 10 [37 favorites]


Is there a net positive to the use of these devices? In other words do they prevent more serious accidents than they cause?
Also, the problematic example cited seems to have a very simple solution. Require the driver to pull over within some set time period, park the car, and re-test. There's no reason it has to be done while actively driving.
posted by rocket88 at 8:59 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


I feel like the article didn't quite prove the statement that these things are becoming ubiquitous.
posted by Selena777 at 9:17 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Is there a net positive to the use of these devices? In other words do they prevent more serious accidents than they cause?

I don't know if you can even accurately count how many accidents are caused by drunk driving. The government counts "alcohol-related" crashes, which may not even include a driver who is intoxicated. An intoxicated driver stopped at a stop light and rear-ended is an "alcohol-related" crash; one with an intoxicated passenger is too, and so on. Even supposing, as seems reasonable, that those edge cases are a fairly small amount of the total number, you'd need a fairly good statistical estimate of how many serious collisions occur per mile of intoxicated driving, and how much intoxicated driving is actually prevented by this kind of device (as opposed to the various other sanctions that DUI offenders are under) and I don't think we have any such thing.

The population of DUI drivers who can't be trusted to not try to circumvent the device by, e.g., having someone else blow into it before they start the car, should just have no license, it seems to me.
posted by thelonius at 9:19 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Is there a net positive to the use of these devices? In other words do they prevent more serious accidents than they cause?

They allow us to ignore how drunk driving is a function of the design of modern American cities. The growth in drunk driving in the 20th century correlates with the rise of the suburb and the decline of mixed use neighborhoods - instead of being able to walk to the bar, you now had to drive there.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:22 AM on February 10 [50 favorites]


Also, the problematic example cited seems to have a very simple solution. Require the driver to pull over within some set time period, park the car, and re-test. There's no reason it has to be done while actively driving.

As far as I know, most do, at least among the ones I've seen or read about. A quick search indicates that the time given varies, although it appears to vary among vendors and jurisdictions. It looks like most have a three to seven minute window, which speaks to the broad variation in rules. So part of the issue may be down to education or misinformation, or the same issue we have with every other distraction while driving: if people still feel the need to answer their phone instead of pulling over and calling back, I would guess they're just as likely to treat a beeping device with even more urgency.
posted by mikeh at 9:51 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Having known multiple people with these devices, I think I can speak to the distracted driving likelihood: EXTREMELY HIGH. Not only does the device emit increasingly annoying and distracting sounds, nearly everyone I’ve known had uncertainty about exactly how much time they had between the beeping and the auto-shutoff of the car—plus, the device logs failures which can count as a strike against you, resulting in a fine, loss of license, a longer sentence or all 3. Again, which punishment will occur is rarely in the realm of certainty, so every time it beeps the driver goes into emergency panic mode, scrambling for the device, untangling it, trying to breathe correctly (while low key panicking!) and watching the road. Outrageously dangerous things.

I’m not a defender of drunk driving by any means, but there has to be a better way to prevent known offenders from repeating that doesn’t hurt their ability to get to work etc in a car culture and doesn’t farther endanger others on the road by forcing an already provably bad-decision driver to stop paying attention to driving their death machine.
posted by zinful at 10:09 AM on February 10 [20 favorites]


Even supposing, as seems reasonable, that those edge cases are a fairly small amount of the total number, you'd need a fairly good statistical estimate of how many serious collisions occur per mile of intoxicated driving, and how much intoxicated driving is actually prevented by this kind of device (as opposed to the various other sanctions that DUI offenders are under) and I don't think we have any such thing.

We do have a good estimate of collision rates by blood alcohol level; it's not as straightforward as it seems because you need to consider not just drunk vs. non-drunk drivers in crashes, but also drunk vs. non-drunk drivers who don't get into accidents. (Consider: Drunk drivers not only get into a lot of crashes, they get into a lot of crashes despite generally making fairly short trips (your local bar is probably closer than your workplace, for instance) and travelling primarily when the traffic is light.) Compton et al used a case-control methodology where they looked at drunk drivers who had been in accidents, then went back to the same place at the same time and same day of the week and stopped other drivers in that population to see if they had been drinking.

Their conclusion is that risk starts to elevate quickly; at half the commonly-used legal limit of 0.08 BAC (ie 0.04 BAC), there's an 18% increase in collisions. At 0.08 BAC, drivers are 2.7x more likely to be in a collision. As you go up, this increases substantially -- at 0.12, drivers are 8.9x more likely; at 0.15, it's 22x; at a BAC of 0.2, drivers are 82x more likely to be involved in a crash. I did some calculations, and my best estimate is that the population of drivers with any alcohol in their blood at all are around 4x more likely to be involved in a crash than a sober one; the population of drivers above the legal limit (0.08 or higher) are around 14x more likely to be involved in a crash. Driving is dangerous; driving drunk is incredibly dangerous.

To put it into another context, assume that the average driver drivers at 30 miles per hour. If drunk driving were a job, it would be 7.5x more dangerous than logging (the most dangerous job in the US), 53x more dangerous than police work, and over 200x more dangerous than firefighting.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:18 AM on February 10 [22 favorites]


I have seen these devices in action on the highway and as a passenger I can tell you it's quite distressing to witness and every bit as dangerous as it sounds. I saw 3 re-tries in a row before it was successful, and this was someone who had it for over a year by this point.
posted by some loser at 10:20 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


The population of DUI drivers who can't be trusted to not try to circumvent the device by, e.g., having someone else blow into it before they start the car, should just have no license, it seems to me.

That's the problem. Drunks who also like to drive don't care if they have a license or not. The device is an attempt to prevent them from driving impaired since taking away their license is ineffective for stopping them.
posted by JackFlash at 10:29 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


They allow us to ignore how drunk driving is a function of the design of modern American cities.

This is a bit of an excuse. Drunks like to drive. And they will fight you if you try to deny them. Even if you offer to drive them right to their door. Even if you offer to pay their cab fare.

Consider the number of celebrities and politicians caught for drunk driving. These are not poor people. They could afford to hire a private car. Yet they drive anyway because they want to, not because the design of cities forces them.
posted by JackFlash at 10:39 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


Consider the number of celebrities and politicians caught for drunk driving. These are not poor people. They could afford to hire a private car. Yet they drive anyway because they want to, not because the design of cities forces them.

They do it because there's no real penalty for them, thanks to how our systems are structured. Pointing to the wealthy as an example of why mixed use wouldn't reduce drunk driving misses the point - for many, removing the need to drive to the bar would effectively remove much of the incentive for regular people to drive drunk.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:44 AM on February 10 [9 favorites]


How is that not due to the design of cities? If someone wants to arrive home under their own power, with no friends or strangers helping them, then an adequate transport system would serve that want.
posted by Phssthpok at 10:45 AM on February 10 [6 favorites]


Maybe I misunderstand the phenomenon, but I've never known someone to get drunk and feel like "going for a drive."

It's all about getting drunk and then wanting to go home.
posted by explosion at 10:53 AM on February 10 [7 favorites]


It's amazing how much attitudes have changed over my lifetime. Recently re-watched Something Wild on Amazon Streaming. Johnathan Demme movie from '86. Good flick! At the beginning, Melanie Griffith's character is driving and taking pulls out of a bottle of scotch. Jeff Daniels is horrified at first... but he's such a stiff and a killjoy! She ends up downing probably 1/3 of the bottle on screen and it's implied that she's drinking way more than that. She steals another bottle from a gas station! And of course, Daniels eventually loosens up and starts drunk driving himself. He becomes a Free Spirit! Anyway, it's a fun time capsule to watch.
posted by SoberHighland at 10:54 AM on February 10 [11 favorites]


I'm going to be the voice of dissent (and reason) here. Drunk driving kills almost 11k people in this country every year. Compare that to how many people died of the ebola scare a few years ago, or how many will likely die of coronavirus. Look how we react. And drunk driving is a solvable problem.

Every new car should come with an interlock type device. Insurance companies should not tolerate drivers without an interlock type device. They are easily installed as an aftermarket fix, and insurance companies should subsidize it and penalize any driver without one. This is a solvable problem. Your smart car could even call you a "cab" if it wont let you drive.
Okay, perhaps the current tech is poorly executed, but damn it, we have the tech to prevent drunks from driving their cars.

Everyone hated seat belts when they first came out too, so I don't buy any objection. and no, i didn't rtfa because F*ck the NYTimes.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:54 AM on February 10 [9 favorites]


Maybe I misunderstand the phenomenon, but I've never known someone to get drunk and feel like "going for a drive."

Maybe you just haven't encountered many belligerent drunks.

They refuse an offer to deliver them directly to their front door, but you say if only there was a subway or bus line nearby, or everyone lived within a block of their favorite bar, everything would be fine?

Anyway that's not the world we live in, so no point in pining away about it while people are killed.
posted by JackFlash at 10:59 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


I'm going to be the voice of dissent (and reason) here. Drunk driving kills almost 11k people in this country every year.

Distracted driving killed over 3000 people in the US in 2017. Suggesting that every car in the nation should have a device installed that randomly demands that the driver perform breath tests while the car is in motion seems like a poor way to reduce traffic fatalities, unless it's an accelerationist plan to encourage adoption of mass transit by making driving intolerably unsafe.
posted by skymt at 11:06 AM on February 10 [28 favorites]


The suburban drunks I know drive everywhere. They finish booze at home, then drive to the store to get more. Of course, these are some pro-boozer macho guys who can "handle their liquor" and "know how to drive buzzed." I've seen this at July 4th parties, Xmas parties, etc. It's not just a to-and-from the bar thing.

I stay away from that shit, but sometimes it's unavoidable. Family is family, and this happens in my wife's large side of the equation. I was a pretty bad habitual drinker, but —honestly—avoided driving. In fact I made damn sure my life was set up so I could live without a car most of the time. Which gives you an idea just how habitual a drinker I was by the end.
posted by SoberHighland at 11:06 AM on February 10 [7 favorites]


Suggesting that every car in the nation should have a device installed that randomly demands that the driver perform breath tests while the car is in motion seems like a poor way to reduce traffic fatalities, unless it's an accelerationist plan to encourage adoption of mass transit by making driving intolerably unsafe.

Then create better technology that achieves the goal. I was pretty clear on that I think. Most interlocks aren't random, they simply require a check before the cars starts and then another within a pretty limited time frame once the car is in motion. I guarantee there are breathalyzer devices out there that are hands free and could be adapted to cars to achieve this.
It's pretty cynical to imply a slippery slope argument that takes one from drunks shouldn't drive to everyone should take mass transit.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:22 AM on February 10


Distracted driving killed over 3000 people in the US in 2017.

And now we have lane change warnings and smart braking and a host of other smart car fixes to help with this. Not mandated yet, but I'd wager the statistics will show a decline in these types of accidents for cars that have these technologies. and insurance companies will respond (that aaron rodgers state farm ad takes aim at this is a subtle way, his app knows how fast he's going, how hard he brakes, and probably whether he's doing things on his phone while the car is moving.)
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:28 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I cannot input an address into my factory-installed GPS while the car is moving for exactly this reason. It would be burdensome and difficult to make it so that these devices required the car not to be moving when used. But their already an imposition on the lives of the users so it seems like that would be quite an improvement.

Other than increasing the per unit price (which is born by the offenders anyhow) is there a good reason these dont come with built in timers/displays showing exactly how long you have until the engine cuts out (theoretically this seems like a much better endgame than having the horn and lights go off).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 11:33 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


MADD - an organization that has outlived its purpose

What does this mean?
posted by lunasol at 11:53 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


They refuse an offer to deliver them directly to their front door, but you say if only there was a subway or bus line nearby, or everyone lived within a block of their favorite bar, everything would be fine?

Yes, because they wouldn't have driven to the bar in the first place. I would imagine that the resistance you face is less "drunks like to drive" and more "drunks don't want to perform the walk of shame to fetch their car."

The suburban drunks I know drive everywhere. They finish booze at home, then drive to the store to get more. Of course, these are some pro-boozer macho guys who can "handle their liquor" and "know how to drive buzzed." I've seen this at July 4th parties, Xmas parties, etc. It's not just a to-and-from the bar thing.

Which again comes back to how we structure our cities and our culture.

Okay, perhaps the current tech is poorly executed, but damn it, we have the tech to prevent drunks from driving their cars.

No, we don't, because you can't engineer your way out of a social problem. Not to mention how offensive the idea of mandatory interlocks is for the majority of people who don't drive drunk - it is a preliminary assertion of guilt.

The core problem with habitual drunk drivers is that too often they get enabled by society up until they kill someone. It's that enablement that needs to end.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:56 AM on February 10 [20 favorites]


Which again comes back to how we structure our cities and our culture.
...
you can't engineer your way out of a social problem.


Kind of contradicting yourself there, NoxAeternum. I'm a lifelong city-dweller and have no love for suburban/exurban lifestyle. And the thought of living in the countryside gives me the creeps. I don't even like driving on unlighted roads, and I want to see neighbors and people living near me on a daily basis. I walk a lot of places and use public transit regularly. But we cannot un-shit this bed as far as eliminating the American Dream types who want to live like that. And even in walkable, public transit filled Big Cities like mine there's drunks driving around at all hours.

We have made progress in all this, little by little. See my comment upthread about the movie Something Wild, for example.
posted by SoberHighland at 12:07 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


This is a bit of an excuse. Drunks like to drive.

Drunks like to drink. Make it an easy walk to the corner bar and the drunk isn't going to drive there.
posted by pracowity at 12:10 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]


It's NOT just a walk to/from the bar. Drunks are drunk, a lot of the time. They drive to friend's houses, the grocery store, Home Depot, home from drinks after work, home from concerts and a hundred other possibilities. I get that we're largely in favor of walkability and smart planning and public transit here, but pat answers like that are ignoring the vast majority of the problem. Car culture is America—far more than gun culture is America. It's so pervasive we cannot even see it.

~30,000 traffic deaths a year—a 9/11 every month, to put it crudely—and no one bats an eye. We don't see it. It's the water we swim in.
posted by SoberHighland at 12:14 PM on February 10 [15 favorites]


Sorry, it's coming across like I'm just taking potshots at people here. Don't mean it that way.

Interlocks are probably good for convicted drunk drivers. Sure, there's ways they can circumvent it, but as a daily, or multiple times daily thing, they can't always get away with it. The drive-while-blowing stuff is horrifying though.
posted by SoberHighland at 12:19 PM on February 10 [6 favorites]


Which again comes back to how we structure our cities and our culture.

I agree - I have never been tempted to drink and drive, but I also grew up with a reliable 24-hour bus that stopped outside my front door. When I talk to people who grew up in suburban or rural areas, they talk about all people drinking & driving, because they didn't feel like they had any other options.

It's not just transit: it's also culture. There are people who drink and drive even in cities where there is good transit, because they think of it as not serious. It's something you have to be taught to take seriously, like that speeding kills and safe, focused driving matters.

We all need to stop thinking of driving as a simple thing to do, and instead recognize it as what it is: a massive machine moving at speed in public places. So many people drive every day and thus it starts feeling "natural" like walking to them, but every single car on the road is a serious danger to the people who don't move around with massive metal shells around them. We should all drive like we're flying a plane or operating a forklift, not like we're going for a stroll.
posted by jb at 12:22 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]


The transit where I live ends way before bars close, and taking transit has to be a pre-drinking decision, because there are tow trucks lined up at closing time for those who leave their cars.

I think the current interlock isn't great - I've known people who had them and unless you are driving down the highway, lights or stops come often enough to handle those intermediate blows - but the newer eye and motion tracking technology should be able to replace random blowing in the near (2-5 years) future.

I also think that this is slightly overstated, as close to 50% of the population (as a bike rider I notice) is handling a cellphone while driving even though it is illegal.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:53 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


The drive-while-blowing stuff is horrifying though.

Only in the same way that folks were convinced they'be be trapped on their seat by seatbelts. it's always easy to imagine, with horror, how a new technology will harm you, without remembering the purpose.
Having smart cars that screen for intoxication is a doable thing. it doesn't have to use the current tech, and anyone who insists that safety measures are a presumption of guilt is just looking to be difficult. Those are arguments used by libertarians who don't want any gun control at all. A motor vehicle is a deadly weapon. We should do all we can to make them less so.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:06 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


and no, i didn't rtfa because F*ck the NYTimes.

Come on, regardless of your feelings about NYT, a simple google search would've brought you similar articles.

MADD - an organization that has outlived its purpose

What does this mean?


MADD has become basically prohibitionists, advocating for reducing consumption of alcohol in general. Their problem is that everyone already knows drinking and driving is bad, and to stand out in terms of public policy the push for harsher punishments for all involved, and to limit alcohol itself, with no concerns about the societal effects that lead to drinking. Their programs don't teach people to develop habits that help decrease drinking, or planning alternatives to driving if you're out drinking. They mostly teach you that alcohol is evil.
posted by numaner at 1:13 PM on February 10 [12 favorites]


and anyone who insists that safety measures are a presumption of guilt is just looking to be difficult.

Yeah, this argument can kindly go fuck off. I don't drink, and neither does my wife - why should we have to have a device that has been proven over and over to be unreliable determine if we should be allowed to use our car? Your argument smacks highly of "if you're innocent, you should have nothing to fear", and should be rejected on those grounds alone, not to mention that it's another attempt to engineer a technical solution to a social problem, which doesn't work.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:20 PM on February 10 [22 favorites]


Self-driving cars can't arrive fast enough.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:32 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]


Yeah, this argument can kindly go fuck off.


May you never have to go to a funeral for someone taken out by a drunk in a car. I'm sure everyone there would love to hear this.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:34 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Yep. Mandating these things in cars is another "think of the children!" argument that means more electronic-crap, more Internet-of-things, and more ways to grift for tech companies. And more things to break or replace. Make 'em mandatory for all drunk drivers. But do not put them in every car.

I'm angry enough at the bullshit keyless-entry crap my wife's car has. Which of the seven pockets of my winter clothing did I put my keys? Or are they in the cupholder? I want them hanging from the steering wheel, dammit. And no more touch-screen crap, either. Insanity.
posted by SoberHighland at 1:34 PM on February 10 [7 favorites]


~30,000 traffic deaths a year—a 9/11 every month, to put it crudely—and no one bats an eye. We don't see it. It's the water we swim in.

Most of which have little or nothing to do with chemical impairment, which is why I personally find the continued centering of alcohol mildly infuriating. It ain't the drunks breaking my neighbor's bodies, it's the harried people hurrying to and from work on not nearly enough sleep.

It certainly salves the conscience to other the people who are involved in fatal collisions. Without that, one is forced to confront the fact that their driving may kill someone. Better that it only be the drunks who kill.
posted by wierdo at 1:37 PM on February 10 [8 favorites]


Plenty of those deaths have a lot to do with chemical impairment.

And by the way, I have known two different people killed by drunk drivers, and I still do not want mandated breathalyzers in every car.
posted by SoberHighland at 1:45 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]


Wow, I didn't expect drunk driving to be such a divisive issue. I would assume everyone is against it.
Ignition interlocks have proven to be an effective tool to reduce repeat offenses. The linked article highlights one implementation flaw as justification for what? Doing away with interlocks altogether? To be replaced by what?
It's an electronic device wired in to the vehicle's computer systems. Making it so it only works when the vehicle is stopped is a trivial fix. Maybe not convenient for the driver but it is after all punishment for a drunk driving conviction, so maybe we can look past that.
And redesigning our cities is not exactly a practical short term solution, so we shouldn't even go there.
posted by rocket88 at 1:56 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


And redesigning our cities is not exactly a practical short term solution, so we shouldn't even go there.

If you want to fix the problem, you can't just look at the short term. The long term has to be looked at as well, and ultimately the answer is reducing our dependence on private transportation, so that people feel less "need" to drive drunk - as well as better support for substance abuse and mental health treatment and less tolerance for drunk drivers.

May you never have to go to a funeral for someone taken out by a drunk in a car. I'm sure everyone there would love to hear this.

Appeal to emotion is a logical fallacy for a reason - there is no rationale that makes requiring someone who does not drink or drinks responsibly to have an interlock to actually curb drunk driving. Furthermore, given the horrible issues with accuracy these machines have, there are serious civil rights issues in play as well.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:13 PM on February 10 [21 favorites]


I've always wondered how many drunk driving crashes are from people who are attempting to drive safely but can't, because they are too impaired, vs. how many are from drunk people recklessly driving, with excessive speed, abrupt lane changes etc. I've had poor results raising this question, because people think it is soft on The Absolute Evil of Drunk Driving or something, but it seems to me like a perfectly fine thing to be curious about. I mean: there was a terrible case near me, some years ago, where a day-drunk hotshot doctor, leaving his country club, hit another vehicle while driving about 80 on city streets: that is the second category.
posted by thelonius at 2:15 PM on February 10 [4 favorites]


There's a major difference between an interlock and a seatbelt or airbag, in terms of making it a universal device: a malfunctioning interlock will stop you driving. If the latch on my seatbelt is broken, or if the warning circuit is malfunctioning, I can still drive to work or the hospital or whatever I need to do. My car will just whine at me. It's also a lot more laborious -- I don't have to suddenly relatch my seatbelt at 60 miles an hour as a test, and airbags do their job without me doing anything -- but the fact that the failure mode is non-function is simply unacceptable for people who haven't done anything wrong.
posted by tavella at 2:20 PM on February 10 [12 favorites]


If you want anecdotes, I've got them on both sides. A guy who has been all too happy to take the wheel with little concern about alcohol consumption for over 50 years and aside from a tumble down a mountain one fine evening in Japan back in 1968 has inexplicably failed to get caught or cause anyone else harm. (It's not really inexplicable, he just doesn't drive like an asshat and is lucky that no pedestrians have suddenly run in front of his car and tested his diminished reaction time)

Then there was the other guy who didn't make it out of his 20s because he managed to launch his car in the air, landing upside down on some other poor soul who also perished. He wasn't actually drunk at 4 o'clock that afternoon, though, he just hadn't slept in the better part of a week. There were substances involved, though, so I'm OK with calling that guy "chemically impaired."

I don't think anyone here has expressed anything that could be confused with being in favor of drunk driving. Maybe some people hear "drunk driving is OK" when someone says that there are other issues with how people drive that are equally important or that there are structural issues in our society that encourage drunk driving, but that isn't what is being said.

Regarding interlocks specifically, I have little good to say about them as currently used. Being used primarily as part of the criminal "justice" system and at the sole cost of the offender, it has turned into a grotesque mirror of what it should have been with companies selling known defective equipment at extortionate cost, abusing their customers as happens seemingly every damn time private industry is allowed anywhere near the justice system.
posted by wierdo at 2:37 PM on February 10 [19 favorites]


I've had these things put on my car twice--once for the few months between my DUI arrest and once after I had my driving privileges restored (restricted to medical appointments, work, and AA meetings at first), and I don't think that the two perspectives are necessarily incompatible. On the one hand, my last drink (just over eight years ago) was the night before I had it installed, and although it's not the reason I'm still sober, it was just enough of an incentive at the time to get me started.

On the other hand... wierdo's last paragraph above is spot on. My first installation was done at a place whose main business was in installing chrome spinners on cars; I went with them because they were the least expensive option and their model of BAIID looked like a CB radio handset so I could hope that people thought that I was wishing my good buddy a 10-4 instead of breathalyzing, but they didn't seem to care that I had false positives, for each of which I had to write the state to point out that I'd passed the test both before and after the false positives, while the car was still running. The second installation (maybe a year and a half after the first one) was at a place where they knew what they were doing, but, in my state, the law had changed so that the installation had to include a windshield mounted camera, pointing at my face, to ensure that I wasn't passing the BAIID over to someone sober to blow into. (Whether they ever audited the pictures/video to see if I was really complying, I have no idea.) I also had to hum into the mouthpiece, which kept me from using canned air, I guess? Anyway, since the new type of BAAID was always on and connected, it ran my battery down if I didn't drive it often enough, and since my driving privileges were restricted, that happened, twice.

So, I could see where some people would be distracted, especially if they were in the middle of a snowstorm and/or really busy traffic. I'm sure glad that I didn't have to have the stupid thing on for multiple years, which apparently is the law now. (In relation to the comments about MADD above, I found out that no state politician ever lost an election for recommending tougher DUI laws.) I'm also glad that I didn't go for the option to have an ankle bracelet that in effect detected alcohol through skin secretion; the complaints about false positives from people in my mandatory drug and alcohol counseling classes made me think that, either they suffered from the same quality control problems as my first BAIID installation, or it wasn't stopping them from drinking at all.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:28 PM on February 10 [10 favorites]


I tell you a thing that bumped my ass much closer to sobriety. One night, I drank, and went to bed sometime around 1 AM. I woke up the next morning and rushed off to work. I was driving on a busy road, in a dense line of cars filling both lanes, and a guy riding a bike on the shoulder hit a rock or a pothole or something and fell........away from traffic, into the shoulder. If he had fallen the other way, I almost certainly would have hit him, and while I had gone to sleep and taken a shower and drank coffee, was my BAC zero? I doubt it. It occurred to me that despite priding myself on not driving after I started drinking, I had probably driven drunk the next morning, many times. And for the sake of argument, say there is no way that hitting him would have been my fault, that whatever impairment my hungover/still half-drunk state entailed was moot, and that no driver could have avoided him if he fell in front of their car: none of that would matter. I'd be the drunk driver who killed a guy, end of story. It would not matter legally if my BAC was below .08, not with a body cooling in the ambulance. And I could tell myself that being impaired made no difference, that no one could have avoided him, until my dying day, but in my heart, would I believe that? This scared the shit out of me, and that is what worked for me to quit drinking: getting fucking scared, of other stuff too.
posted by thelonius at 3:45 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]


Drunks like to drive.

As a drunk (who hasn't had a drink in four months):

LOL

No serious drunk has ever said "You know what I wanna do? Get out on the open road and drive!" You know what drunks want to do? Drink. It's what makes us drunk(s). Give me a couch and some video games and the next day off any day instead of worrying about my driver's license. Which is exactly how you frame it when you're a drunk.

I have known plenty of people who've gotten DUIs and not a one of them got it because they thought driving drunk would be fun or what they would like to do. This cartoonish depiction of alcoholics (and yeah, we really should think of the alcoholics) doesn't so anyone any favors.
posted by East14thTaco at 5:18 PM on February 10 [9 favorites]


I have known plenty of people who've gotten DUIs and not a one of them got it because they thought driving drunk would be fun or what they would like to do.

It's not whether or not they think it's fun. The point is that it what they do. Over and over again, even when they know they should not, even when they have been caught before. They just keep doing it.

So far, the ignition interlock has been the only method that slows them down.
posted by JackFlash at 5:41 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Also, the problematic example cited seems to have a very simple solution. Require the driver to pull over within some set time period, park the car, and re-test. There's no reason it has to be done while actively driving.

I have not been privy to the meetings that led to this decision but I have been to a lot of work meetings in my time. I am pretty sure the “some set time period” is this issue. Set x at some large and reasonable figure. If it is every x minutes, well, why not half that? No, wait, why not a quarter that? This proceeds until, “no, that is too predictable and drivers will game the system,” and here we are at frequent random checks.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:43 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Maybe I misunderstand the phenomenon, but I've never known someone to get drunk and feel like "going for a drive."

No serious drunk has ever said "You know what I wanna do? Get out on the open road and drive!"


It's rarer these days than when I was a kid, but the days of the "road soda" are not entirely over. Driving and drinking is a combination some people really enjoy.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:35 PM on February 10


I'm going to be the voice of dissent (and reason) here. Drunk driving kills almost 11k people in this country every year. Compare that to how many people died of the ebola scare a few years ago, or how many will likely die of coronavirus. Look how we react. And drunk driving is a solvable problem.

Every new car should come with an interlock type device. Insurance companies should not tolerate drivers without an interlock type device. They are easily installed as an aftermarket fix, and insurance companies should subsidize it and penalize any driver without one. This is a solvable problem. Your smart car could even call you a "cab" if it wont let you drive.
Okay, perhaps the current tech is poorly executed, but damn it, we have the tech to prevent drunks from driving their cars.


Based on your logic, you're better off just banning personally driven vehicles considering that while drunk driving kills 11k a year, just driving kills 25k-30k a year when drinking isn't involved.
posted by jmauro at 9:14 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


No serious drunk has ever said "You know what I wanna do? Get out on the open road and drive!" You know what drunks want to do? Drink.

How many DUIs happened because a drunk ran out of cigarettes or alcohol?
posted by thelonius at 10:15 PM on February 10


Metafilter: I'm going to be the voice of dissent (and reason) here,
posted by ominous_paws at 11:21 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


How common is it for people to get behind the wheel sober, and then drink while driving? Most if not all of the scenarios in the thread so far seem to involve them already being drunk when they get into the car, which the requirement to blow into the device before setting off would seem to address without any need for distracting and stressful in-motion random checks.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:26 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]


> "Based on your logic, you're better off just banning personally driven vehicles considering that while drunk driving kills 11k a year, just driving kills 25k-30k a year when drinking isn't involved."

Banning personally driven vehicles actually doesn't sound entirely unreasonable to me.
posted by kyrademon at 3:04 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]


....the requirement to blow into the device before setting off would seem to address without any need for distracting and stressful in-motion random checks.

Well, I suspect it's there to catch people who are having a sober person blow into the device before they drive as much as it is to deal with people who are drinking in the car. How common is the latter? Among the kind of drinker who gets multiple DUIs, probably more than you'd think.
posted by thelonius at 3:28 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]


I have known a lot of people with interlock devices. They seem to fail fairly often, sometimes requiring an expensive onsite service call or at least not allowing the car to start. Even when they're working they're very distracting and sure do seem to contradict the hands-free electronics laws here. I'd say we should abolish them altogether but I don't know how to get some people, with DUIs or not, to stop driving another way so I don't really have an alternative. Making them mandatory on all cars is extreme and I'm surprised by the suggestion.

MADD - an organization that has outlived its purpose
What does this mean?

Totally agree with numaner above. I don't have a problem with neo-prohibitionists pushing their agenda (though I disagree strongly) but here people with DUI and some reckless driving offenses are sent to MADD lectures and programs as part of their sentence. One that I went to charged participants a fee to yell at them about the evils of alcohol without offering any sort of solutions, alternatives, or help. I've known very few addicts who got sober as a result of yelling at them about how evil they are.

How common is it for people to get behind the wheel sober, and then drink while driving?

Among functional alcoholics with day jobs it's more common than a lot of people would think. Heading into work or home from work and starting in the car makes sense to a diseased mind.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 6:43 AM on February 11 [6 favorites]


That's completely terrifying, thank you, Clinging to the Wreckage. I see plenty of people cracking open a beer or a little bottle of wine on the train home, but somehow it had never crossed my mind that people who commute by car might make that same choice. Yeesh.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 9:43 AM on February 11


That's completely terrifying, thank you, Clinging to the Wreckage. I see plenty of people cracking open a beer or a little bottle of wine on the train home, but somehow it had never crossed my mind that people who commute by car might make that same choice.

Without knowing where you live it seems like theres a pretty decent chance some of those very same train-drinkers are getting in their cars at the station to drive onwards to their final destination, even.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:40 PM on February 11


How many DUIs happened because a drunk ran out of cigarettes or alcohol?

I don't know. But when drunks are able to walk to get those things they do. Which is where I thought this whole thing started.
posted by East14thTaco at 1:33 PM on February 11


But when drunks are able to walk to get those things they do.

Some of the drunks I know literally say, with intentional irony you are supposed to appreciate "I have to drive. I'm too drunk to walk."
posted by JackFlash at 1:38 PM on February 11


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