WASHINGTON – Feb. 16, 2012 -
Today, the American Beverage Institute (ABI), a restaurant trade association representing over 850 Florida restaurants, urged legislators to reject HB 681, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley (R), which would mandate the installation of breathalyzers in the cars of all drunk drivers – even low-BAC (blood alcohol concentration), first-time offenders. The legislation will be considered during a 3:30PM hearing in the House Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee. ABI has urged lawmakers to amend the bill to include only repeat offenders and first-time offenders with BACs greater than 0.15 percent.
“Requiring interlocks for hardcore offenders – with high BACs or repeat convictions – is a more effective and financially sound way to fight drunk driving,” said ABI Managing Director Sarah Longwell. “These mandates are a one-size-fits-all penalty that eliminates judicial discretion in the cases of marginal first time offenders.”
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 0.15 percent.
However, HB 681’s interlock mandate doesn’t target either of these dangerous populations, instead forcing first-time DUI offenders, even those just one sip over the legal limit, to install breathalyzers in their cars.
“A 120 pound woman can reach the 0.08 percent BAC level by having two glasses of wine in two hours,” said Longwell. “If that woman drives, she should absolutely be punished – but she shouldn’t receive the same punishment as someone with a 0.19 percent BAC level or multiple offenses. That’s why a judge should continue to be involved in this decision, instead of simply imposing a mandatory minimum.”
Interlock activists claim that interlock laws are budget-neutral, but this mandate will cost millions of dollars to enforce and will overwhelm Florida’s probation officers. Based on conservative estimates from the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA), it would cost Florida over $23.7 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,” Longwell said.
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.” MADD is currently working with auto manufacturers to develop alcohol sensing technology that would soon come as standard equipment in every car.
Once in all automobiles, the devices would have to be set far below the per se limit of 0.08 BAC for legal, liability, and even physiological reasons – effectively eliminating the ability to have a glass of wine with dinner, or a champagne toast at a wedding, and drive home.