Washington New technology such as alcohol-detecting devices in cars may hold the key to eliminating drunken driving, according to a campaign begun Monday by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
The organization, along with the Department of Transportation, is pushing for such devices as well as tougher enforcement measures across the country.
"If we can't stop drunks from driving, we'll stop vehicles from driving drunks," said Glynn Birch, president of MADD, at a news conference. Birch said technology, along with tougher laws and enforcement, has put eliminating drunken driving "at our fingertips."
The organization wants states to pass laws requiring breath-test interlock devices in vehicles for all those who have been convicted of drunken driving. New Mexico has such a law for first offenders; 45 states and the District of Columbia allow the device for some offenders.
Interlock devices require drivers to blow into an instrument that measures alcohol. The vehicle won't start unless the driver's blood alcohol concentration is below a preset level. Other interlocks may require drivers to breathe into the devices periodically.
"The main reason people continue to drive drunk today is because they can and because we let them," Birch said.
MADD estimates that 1,900 lives could be saved each year if interlocks were installed in the vehicles of all convicted drunken drivers.
The American Beverage Institute, which represents restaurants, says MADD's campaign is overreaching.
"Our general position is that the interlock campaign is not about eliminating drunk driving, it's about eliminating all moderate and responsible drinking prior to driving and Americans should be outraged by this," said Sarah Longwell, spokeswoman for the institute.