Mailbag: Ignition Interlocks

02.23.10 | Dr. Stephen Coleman | Comments[5]

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In a recent commentary, I proposed that all cars in New York and Pennsylvania should be required to have breathalyzer like devices -- called ignition interlocks -- that would prevent drunks from driving. In order to start their car, a person would have to blow into this device. If the person were drunk, the car would not start.

In my commentary, I urged lawmakers in Harrisburg and Albany to require that these devices be installed in all cars for safely reasons with the obvious goal of keeping drunk drivers off the roads.

Well, I got a number of e-mail responses from Family Life listeners. Andy wrote in to agree, saying, “Ignition interlock devices sound good. I hear it works too.” Rachel disagreed with my proposal and said, "I think Albany and Harrisburg have more important ‘fish to fry’ -- until they take care of the fiscal emergency both states are facing -- nothing else matters.”

In another e-mail, Carl had a different reaction to my proposal. He wrote, “I think they should install those ignition interlock devices on the vehicles of all the politicians in NY and PA…they blow enough hot air that they could start a forest fire!!!”

Well, I want to thank everyone for writing in. I’m curious as to what others think of my proposal to make it a legal requirement to install interlock ignition devices in every car in the Empire and Keystone States.

cc-wetm - tv- Dr. Coleman also airs commentaries and a public affairs program on WETM 18 Elmira. For more information on these programs, go to


Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 03.02.10 Jessica commented

With all due respect Dr. Coleman I am a bit angered by your proposal. I believe that we are being controled enough by society without having to take a test before driving the car that belongs to us! I do feel there should be more of an insentive for people not to drive drunk but I don't feel that your proposal is the answer. I'm not sure what other people/authorities think when they see car packed streets out side of the bars at night. Who do they think drive the vehicles away? Instead of trying to come up with machines and laws to control the people why don't we depend on the authorities that are already being paid to do so. (Perhaps they need insentive aswell?) Dr. Coleman, thank you for reading my comment. ~Jessica

on 03.02.10 Wendy West commented

Hi. I'm a mom of 4, and have to disagree with your position on the breathalyzer in all cars. My first reason is the innocent should not be punished because of those who drink and drive. Those who do that, are going to find a way around those breathalyzers, in fact, I know of a few who have done so. The ones who will be most affected by it will be the normal, law abiding people. And my second reason is I can just see me at the grocery store with kids in tow breathing in that thing (which is humiliating to begin with)and have that thing not work. And you know there are bugs in almost every electronic device. So, here I am with 4 kids and a car full of groceries and the car won't start.
I guess what I'm trying to say, is that those who do wrong will find a way to keep doing it unless they change. How many people do you know, or know of who have lost their license but drive anyway? There has to be another way. Too often it's those of us who are doing right that have to pick up the slack of those who are defrauding the system. This is just one more thing for us to have to purchase and upkeep.
Wendy West
Wysox PA

on 03.08.10 Robert Doherty commented

What are you thinking? The last thing we need is another bureaucratic intrusion into our lives. Another machine that can (and likely will) malfunction which will interfere with innocent non-drinking drivers trying to accomplish the tasks in our daily lives while creating another expense for maintenance and repair of the device. What happens when it malfunctions and someone can't make it to work? Will their boss be sympathetic or suspicious? What happens if it malfunctions when the vehicle is needed for an emergency? What happens if it malfunctions and will shut off the engine in the midst of traffic? What about the situation when it becomes too sensitive and will block ignition because it detects the alcohol in breath freshener or mouthwash? What about the increase in taxes because of yet another department in the government?

We do not need the government to be our "mommy." Every bad thing in society cannot be prevented by regulation or law. Why not just require that every home have a live in police officer? Our founding fathers wisely outlawed the quartering of British soldiers because they knew besides being an unfair "tax" it was a major infringement on freedom. In modem terms that includes video monitors on streets and in homes. Both already exist.

Your armchair ideas on social structuring via political methods remind me of the inept response several years ago by the Philadelphia City Council to the tragedy of a four year old child caught in the crossfire between drug gangs who were shooting it out close to an elementary school. Sadly, the boy was killed by the gunfire. Later that same day the impotent City Council called for a special news conference where they proudly announced that they had "solved" the problem. They had passed a resolution making it illegal to fire weapons in a school zone. There you go, they sure fixed that problem didn't they?

Please Dr. Coleman, reserve you commentary to social observation and hyperbole; the politicians are already over legislating in their futile attempt to curb social ills and are rife with feeble ideas of their own as they attempt to make themselves appear useful. The cure does not lie in outward conformity but in a redeemed soul.

on 04.25.12 Paul commented

Dumbest idea I have heard in my entire life. Perhaps you would be happier living in north Korea, since you don't seem to value freedom or personal responsibility

on 04.25.12 Paul commented

Dumbest idea I have heard in my entire life. Perhaps you would be happier living in north Korea, since you don't seem to value freedom or personal responsibility