Despite MADD's past legislative successes, "Last year, Texas had 1,292 alcohol-impaired driving deaths, more than 100 people greater than California, which ranked second." To put that number in perspective, 1,501 people died of homicide in Texas in 2005, so you're more likely to be murdered in Texas than accidentally killled by a drunk. About twice as many people commit suicide each year in Texas as are killed in alcohol-impared accidents.
In 2009, MADD cites two main agenda items, says the News: roadblocks to check for drunks and installing ignition interlock devices after drivers' first DWI. Said the News:
Texas is one of only 11 states that prohibit sobriety checkpoints – roadblocks set up by law enforcement to test whether drivers have been drinking.
But advocates, who have pushed similar bills for the past 13 years, noted progress last legislative session. The Senate passed a bill in a day that would permit sobriety checkpoints. The bill was left in committee in the House last year, but officials with Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless, say he will lead sponsorship on it again this session.
Another bill that would have required the installation of a breathalyzer in cars for first-time offenders was left in committee in both the House and Senate last year. But Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, said she intends to strongly push it when the Legislature starts up in January. ...
Few studies have yet been done on ignition interlocks for first-time offenders – the bill was just presented to the legislature last session – but advocates point to a 2001 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that says sobriety checkpoints reduce alcohol fatalities by 20 percent. The goal, they say, is prevention rather than reaction.
Although Texas is one of 10 states that have an ignition interlock device requirement for repeat offenders, Chris Johnson, a member of MADD's Texas state policy committee and vice chairman of its national board of directors, said the current law's wording leaves too much to judicial interpretation.
"There are no legislated set of standards," he said. "A judge can choose interlock or can choose jail. Right now there are quite a few loopholes."
Uriel Perez Palacios, the 22-year-old man charged in the death of Dallas newlyweds German and Erika Clouet, drove while intoxicated on numerous occasions but was not ordered to get a breathalyzer ignition device until after at least three violations. Even then, he did not install the device in his car.
The MADD proposal, on breathalyzers in particular, appears to avoid the crux of the problem, which is that current law puts the cost of a breathalyzer on the probationer instead of having the state pay for the device. So if the offender can't pay, you get situations like the guy who killed the Clouets where even though a court has ordered the device, the offender is still driving around without it.
So, rather than make everyone get such a device after their first offense - a vastly expensive proposal for which even proponents admit there is no evidence-based support - why not leave the requirements as they are and make the state pay for the device instead of the probationer? If that had happened for Uriel Palacios, perhaps the Clouetts might still be with us?
Bottom line: The only way to make sure breathalyzers are always installed is for the state to pay for them. I've never understood why we don't - after all, if the drunk goes to jail, the taxpayers must pay his or her full freight, including room, board, healthcare, etc.. By comparison, the cost of the breathalyzer ignition device is a de minimus one.As for setting up roadblocks, I've always disliked this idea at more of a gut level than an intellectual one. Back in the days of the Cold War this was an easier argument to make because totalitarianism had a face so we knew what to compare ourselves to. "Can I see your papers, comrade" used to be a joke Americans made about Russian authoritarianism. MADD would have us turn it into the American way of life.
Simply put, to me an attempt to sweep the whole population (or everyone in a given area, like a road, a neighborhood, or the YFZ Ranch) for criminal offenses is repugnant to democratic values and the notion of liberty, no matter how many states have passed the law. I like the idea, a LOT, that the state must have reasonable suspicion before I can be detained.
I'd support a budget item for the state to pay for ignitition interlocks for repeat offenders when judges think they're warranted. I think that approach makes sense without breaking the bank. But I don't approve of MADD's agenda as they've laid it out here and think they'd do more to reduce DWI by expanding use of strong probation like we're seeing done in drug courts.