WASHINGTON – Today the American Beverage Institute (ABI), a restaurant trade association representing over 240 Pennslyvnia restaurants, urged legislators to reject S 1184, which would mandate the installation of breathalyzers in the cars of all drunk drivers – even low-BAC (blood alcohol concentration), first-time offenders. The bill is being considered today at 10 AM in the Senate Transportation Committee. ABI urged lawmakers to amend the bill to include only first-time offenders with BACs greater than .15 percent and repeat offenders.
“Requiring interlocks for hardcore – high-BAC and repeat-conviction – offenders is a more effective and financially sound way to fight drunk driving,” said ABI Managing Director Sarah Longwell.
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the average BAC of a drunk driver in a fatal car crash is 0.19 percent — more than twice the legal limit. NHTSA data also shows that over 70 percent of fatal alcohol-related crashes are caused by drivers with BACs greater than .15 percent.
However, S 1184’s interlock mandate doesn’t target either of these dangerous populations and instead will force first-time DUI offenders, even those just one sip over the legal limit, to install breathalyzers in their cars.
“All drunk drivers should be punished, but they shouldn’t all be punished the same way. A 120 pound woman can reach the 0.08% BAC level by having two glasses of wine in two hours. If that woman drives, she should absolutely be punished, but she shouldn’t receive the same punishment as someone with a 0.19% BAC level or multiple offenses. Ignition interlocks are extremely intrusive and it will cost the state millions to enforce this mandate, which is why we believe these devices are not an appropriate punishment for every low-BAC, first-time offender." said Longwell.
Interlock activists claim that interlock laws are budget-neutral, but this mandate will cost millions of dollars to enforce and will overwhelm Pennsylvania’s probation officers. Based on conservative estimates from the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA), it would cost Pennsylvania over $20.4 million per year to ensure that offenders comply with such a wide-reaching interlock mandate.
“This bill is an incremental step in a campaign – led by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) – to see alcohol detection technology installed in all cars as standard equipment,” said Longwell.
Former MADD CEO Chuck Hurley has admitted that MADD has “a long-term goal to make alcohol interlocks a standard safety feature that is installed in all new vehicles.” NHTSA is currently working with auto manufacturers to develop alcohol sensing technology that would come as standard equipment in all cars in the near future.