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In-car breathalyzer contributes to vehicle accident


In-vehicle breathalyzers and other ignition lock devices mandated by Wisconsin courts are meant to make convicted drunk drivers more responsible on the roads. An out-of-state car accident ironically shows that these paternalistic penalties can backfire and contribute to more harm than good.

A 19-year-old man in Chicago caused a car accident when he ran his vehicle through a red light and hit another car. He apparently told officers that he was using his Breath Alcohol Interlock Ignition Device or BAIID at the time of the crash. While the man was not intoxicated at the time of the incident, it is possible that he had to periodically blow into the device in order to keep his car running.

Devices such as the one discussed in this story measure a driver's blood alcohol concentration. If the driver's BAC level is above the state's legal limit then the vehicle cannot be started. While this can be an effective tool for preventing intoxicated drivers from starting up their cars, this story shows that they can also be detrimental distractions to drivers who have to monitor them while out on the roads.

BAIID systems are just one of the many penalties that a driver convicted of DUI or other alcohol-related driving offense can face if he is convicted. License suspensions, revocations, fines, incarcerations and other sanctions can be imposed depending upon the sentencing rules applicable to the driver's charges.

The unfortunate driver in this story will now have to contend with multiple citations for speeding and failing to obey a traffic signal. But for the installation of the BAIID system he may not have had to deal with the accident or the repercussions that will result from it. He may consider seeking court approval to remove the BAIID system from his vehicle in order to make his driving safer for everyone on the road.

Source: NBC Chicago, "Driver Crashes While Using Vehicle Breathalyzer," March 14, 2014

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