Stop the MADDness: AZ House catches a clue on Interlocks for first timers.

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Chill out people, it's just water. Um, at least it looked like water...

I hate to say I told you so. Actually, who am I kiddin'? I LOVE telling you I told you so. On May 31, The Bird squawked about an insane new law Governor Janet "Manet" Napolitano signed last month that would make Interlock devices mandatory for all first-time DUIs.This draconian measure, which has yet to be enacted, would force those popped at .08 BAC to pay for installation and monthly maintance of these brethalyzer thingees. For a whole friggin' year, drivers would be required to blow into them to start their vehicles and keep blowing into them periodically as they drive. Previously, AZ only required the devices for repeat offenders and those convicted of extreme DUI.

Taking a cue from MADD, which has a campaign underway to have such first-time DUI-Interlock laws passed in every state, Democratic Rep. David Schapira introduced the measure as an amendment to another law. This crock of hooey passed, and our pander-bear governor signed it. Doesn't matter that a whole household would potentially be affected by this fucked up legislation, or that there are plenty of studies out there showing that these IIDs (Ignition Interlock Devices) ain't all they're cracked up to be.

Thankfully, Republican Rep. John Kavanagh was on the case, and began to research these various studies. Convinced that the Legislature had acted precipitously, he introduced an amendment to an omnibus DUI bill making its way through both houses, effectively repealing the new law, which was to go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns. What's this, common sense prevailing over knee-jerk extremism? Can our legislative process sustain this sudden eruption of, er, sober judgement? Kavanagh certainly deserves kudos for the effort.

"A lot of us were concerned about this sort of a policy change so quickly without real information," Kavanagh told me yesterday. "But we went along because no one wants to be soft on drunk driving."

Kavanagh, an ex-cop, explained what he learned from his research into the matter:

"I located four studies, two of them on the same data, that actually segregated first time non-extremes," he stated. "In the studies where they take these first-time non-extremes out, and look at them separately, none of those studies found any significant reduction in recidivism, or even a decrease in accidents. So it became apparent that for the first time non-extreme, the Interlock doesn’t do anything. And because it’s expensive, because it’s also a burden on other family members who have to drive in the car and blow in it and be embarrassed. And because it’s not good policy to pass laws that have no factual basis, we decided to pull back from it, and give some time for the experiment in New Mexico and see what happens there. Maybe reevaluate it when there’s more data that supports it."

(Actually, Kavanagh's amendment to SB1582 does keep a six-month mandatory IID installation, but only for non-extreme DUIs where there's some accident with injury and/or property damage, which seems reasonable.)

Kavanagh's conclusions mirror those of The Bird, who cited a 2004 study by the California Department of Motor Vehicles that found "no significant difference in subsequent crashes between first DUI offenders who received an IID order or restriction from the court and first offenders who did not receive an IID order/restriction."

The study continues, stating that results "indicate that a court-prescribed IID order or restriction for first DUI offenders, all of whom had elevated blood alcohol content (BAC) levels, is not
associated with reductions in subsequent DUI convictions or crashes." And in an eye-popping statement, the authors point out that, "drivers installing an IID had a risk of a subsequent crash that was 84% higher than drivers not installing an IID."

Confronted with this information, Rep. Schapira was incredulous. Like they say, denial ain't just a river in Egypt.

"Was that a quote from your article or from the study?" asked a suddenly hot Schapira. When informed that it was a direct quote from the study, he sullenly replied, "Well, I have not seen that."

Schapira said he had plenty of studies showing the opposite, but that the main point for him was that there was a significant decrease in alcohol-related fatalities after a similar IID law was implemented in New Mexico. But as The Bird pointed out,

"Those stats are misleading. Even without a mandated Interlock for first offenders, some states experienced a similar or larger decrease in alcohol-related deaths for the same period."

This mania for going over the top in punishing people who may have gotten a little tight and driven home at .08 is retarded, reactionary, and totally nutters. Well, at least it's MADD. And as my pal The Bird also pointed out, MADD has even crazier plans for all of us, like making sure that some sort of IID-like technology exists for all cars so such Orwellian, police-state devices might somehow prevent you from driving over the limit.

At what point do we stand up to an extremist, neo-prohibitionist advocacy group such as MADD and flip them the single finger salute? Actually, though you can't see it, I'm already doing it as hard as I can.

Let's hope the state Senate gets wise to what the House has just passed at Kavanagh's urging, and that Nappy signs off on it. Thing is, when it comes to b.s. like this, a lot of pols would rather persist in trampling the rights of others than admitting that they effed up. So I won't hold my breath waiting for sanity to take the day. But then, I didn't anticipate Kavanagh's move either. Plus, if there's a compromise between the House and Senate and it's sent to Manet, it would seem likely that she'd sign it instead of vetoing the whole package. So we'll see...



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