The State of New Mexico is at it again in its war against drunk drivers. You may recall that New Mexico was the first state in the nation to require breath interlock devices for first offender drunk drivers (and that measure only passed after the state legislature considered and rejected a bill requiring interlocks for all drivers).
Now, a new proposal is making its way through the New Mexico state legislature that would require prohibit most people convicted of a DWI from purchasing alcohol. This would be done by a special mark on their driver’s license or state ID.
The origin of the bill, according to the story, makes little sense to me:
State Representative Brian Egolf, a Democrat from Santa Fe, said he was motivated to introduce the bill after seeing a man with an interlock device in his car buy miniature bottles of whiskey and a Coke at a convenience store.
The man poured the whiskey into the Coke, blew into the interlock device and started his car. He then placed the drink in the car’s cup holder and drove off.
What’s wrong with this story? Breath ignition interlock devices (“BAIIDs”) are typically set to prevent the vehicle from starting at 0.025 BAC (this is less than a third of the legal limit). This means that a person could have a small amount of alcohol in his or her system and still start the motor. In addition, from time to time, the device prompts for a new breath sample, called a “rolling re-test,” in order to keep the engine running. So that it is not possible for a person to start up a car equipped with a BAIID, then begin to start drinking alcohol, and drive for any significant length of time.
While drunk driving is certainly a serious problem; and it is especially bad in New Mexico, this strikes me as a very draconian response, akin to using a sledgehammer when a rubber mallet is appropriate.
What do you think?