It’s no surprise that Arizona’s Governor signed the wrong-way driving bill. No one likes wrong-way driving, which is dangerous and usually the result of alcohol. Thanks to the law, Arizona wrong-way driving is now an automatic felony, garnering between four and 30 months in prison.
The question remains, was this law the one the state really needs to fight drunk driving? Probably not. As we noted before, anyone drunk enough to drive the wrong way on a highway is not thinking about the consequences. The law might have some small deterrence effect – people might see that someone was put in prison after the DUI felony and resolve to be more careful about drinking and driving – but it’s not going to boost road safety significantly.
The Problem: Drinking and Driving
As some critics have noted, the root of the problem is drinking and driving, a problem Arizona has been wrestling with for a long time. In 2007 the state became one of the first to mandate ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenses, and this did bring down the toll of alcohol-related fatalities. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
The question, then, is what is left to do?
Enforcing Ignition Interlock Laws
It’s not enough to pass good ignition interlock laws – the states’ ignition interlock programs must be well-run. Arizona’s laws are good. One addition worth making would be an indigent fund to help subsidize those who cannot afford the cost of the program. The alternative for those people is either to stop driving and possibly lose their livelihood, or to drive in violation of the law.
Another would be to have the ignition interlock device available upon arrest, rather than waiting for conviction. That way, those who have a genuine alcohol problem would be prevented from driving drunk. They could also demonstrate their willingness to obey the law.
A Few Fixes On The Way
Arizona Senate Bill 1401 is working its way through the legislature. The bill would make some useful refinements to the state’s ignition interlock program. Among them is the provision for interlock providers to report in real time to AZDOT whenever a driver fails three rolling re-tests (tests while driving) in a row.
Like the Arizona wrong-way driving law, SB1401 will not shake things up. It will take better enforcement of existing laws – and not new ones – to further lower the DUI fatality rate on Arizona’s roads.