Deaths caused by impaired drivers are a difficult topic of discussion. In recent decades the understanding that alcoholism is an illness has changed. We now want to punish alcoholics because they continue to drink alcohol. This is easy to understand because of the pain they have caused by killing so many innocent vehicle occupants and pedestrians. But punishing alcoholics by sending them to jail or taking away their licenses is only a temporary affair. Once their punishment is up they are free. But they are not free from the alcoholism that remains throughout their lifetime. Not all alcoholics are as successful in controlling their illness as others, a problem that may not be entirely their fault.
In our view, as alcoholism is a lifelong illness it requires lifelong treatment. Regrettably that must also come with some restrictions of an alcoholic’s freedom. No to extract vengeance but because it is an issue of public safety. We must restrict that freedom in the same manner that we design a safety latch in a firearm or create gasoline tanker trucks with rupture-resistant designs. It is because these safety procedures are necessary to protect us. Because alcoholism has the potential of taking over an alcoholic’s will to resist its temptation it can be no different than a firearm in the hands of child or a cargo of gasoline being transported in a wheelbarrow.
There are also some simple solutions that could be ingrained in our society before an alcoholic is recognized as one. During family gatherings or other celebrations where alcohol is served we inevitably come across the one or two participants who has drunk too much. This is especially evident during these upcoming Christmas holidays. Those alcohol-impaired persons are not likely to be first-timers and have likely drank too much over many occasions on their way to official alcoholism. We have also seen the difficulties encountered when someone steps in and says that someone is too drunk to drive. The drunk has often prepared many excuses to explain that they are actually OK and that they feel fine and that someone is exaggerating and so on. We can inject a simple solution to this dilemma.
For a number of years now Costco has been selling an alcohol breathalyzer for a cost of about $35. While it may not be fool-proof our testing suggests it is reasonably accurate in detecting alcohol concentrations in a person’s breath. The photo below shows a view of the item.
Returning to the issue of the argument with the suspected impaired person at your gathering, an argument can simply be solved by asking the suspected drunk to breath into the BACtrack so that an estimate can be made of the person’s alcohol concentration. This objective evidence is far better than attempting to argue with someone who does not believe they are impaired. In fact devices such as the BACtrack should become commonplace in everyone’s household and where-ever persons are likely to drink alcohol. It should become an accepted standard procedure that persons who have been drinking alcohol, even apparently small amounts, become willing to take the breath test, even as something “fun” to do.
Those who are concerned about impaired driving should be making efforts to purchase larger quantities of such testers and making them available. Many not-for-profit organizations could organize fundraisers to purchase these items and give them away to households that do not have them or feel they cannot afford them. By this way an objective reading of alcohol could cause many potential impaired drivers to refrain from stepping into their vehicles.
It might also be an early detector of those persons who are headed toward alcoholism. Denial has always been a wonderful escape for many who do not wish to face the reality that they have a problem. It is more difficult to deny an alcohol problem when an objective device provides an unbiased reading.