A Sobering Thought

Article

It's about time that we as a country crack down on the senseless deaths and injuries caused by drunken driving.

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The latest professional athlete to be charged with drunken driving is former Chicago Bears running back Cedric Benson.This charge of drunken driving comes on the heels of his DUI arrest, which occurred when Benson was charged withboating while intoxicated on Lake Travis in Texas (and resisting arrest, too)on May 3. Having two DUI charges in less than two months prompted Travis CountyCourt-at-Law Judge Elisabeth Earle to order Benson to install an ignition-lock breath testerin his car (although is seems to me this should also have been made mandatoryfor his boat). The mandate got me thinking…

Of course, superstar athletes are always scrutinized foreverything they do, good or bad. Unfortunately, Benson’s arrest doesn’t reallycome as a surprise to everyone, because hundreds and hundreds of professionalathletes have had trouble with the law as long as professional sports haveexisted. This stems from the mentality that they are celebrities, and that theybelieve they’re above the law. Unfortunately, sometimes this does turn out tobe the case, and they receive preferential treatment based on who they are. Thefact that so many players get DUI charges is made even more troubling by thefact that they have made such an exorbitant amount of money (Benson has mademore than $10 million in the NFL). Why not hire a driver or pay a friend tostay sober and take you to the bars, clubs etc?

The plain and simple fact is that there are bad apples inevery demographic and walk of life who get into trouble for driving when theyshouldn’t be. In 2006, an estimated 17,602 people died in alcohol-related traffic crashes an average of one every 30 minutes. These deaths constitute 41% of the 42,642 total traffic fatalities. Of these, an estimated 13,470 involved a driver with an illegal BAC (.08 or greater). On average, someone is killed by a drunk driver every 39 minutes.These sobering statistics should call attention to the fact that all thesefatalities could be prevented if there were some sort of more efficient systemin place—like, perhaps, an ignition-lock breath tester. That is why I wouldlike to propose that every car manufacturer install this device on every newcar being made. The government should also provide a rebate to those who arewilling to have the device installed in their car, and, finally, a law should beinstituted in which all drivers must have the device by 2013. I’m prettycertain that even those who do not drink would be in favor of such animplementation if it meant that it would save lives and make driving safer. Infact, no one should be opposed to this, and I am not quite sure why somethinglike this has not been mandated already.

Think about it. This would prevent anyone over the legallimit from starting their car. Consequently, those intoxicated drivers wouldnot be on the road when they shouldn’t be, and therefore less people would bekilled in senseless accidents. So what if people end up falling asleep in theircar while waiting to sober up; they’ll be out of harm’s way and will probably endup learning not to drink as much next time if they intend to take themselveshome. Either that or they will learn to take a cab or call a friend who cantake them. It’s no secret that alcohol affects a person’s ability to thinkclearly; so why not let their car “think” for them? It doesn’t make sense to methat ignition-lock breath testers are only administered to one’s car after theyhave repeatedly broken the law. There’s no reason to wait for someone toseverely injure or even kill another person in order to take action.

Like almost anything, the success rate for such an ideawould not be 100%. For instance, anyone who has seen the movie “The 40-Year-Old Virginwould recall the scene in which Steve Carrell’s character gets tricked intobreathing into the ignition-lock breath tester for his visibly drunk date.However, I would like to think that the likelihood of this occurring in reallife is slim; it would take a real low-life to assist someone else to drivedrunk.

I’d be willing to bet that if, in five years, every car inthe United States is required to have an ignition-lock breath tester, therewould be a significant drop in drunken driving deaths, and that the proudmembers of Mothers Against Drunk Drivingwould be able to report an improvement in the sad and morbid statistics ontheir website.

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