Don t drink and drive - it sounds simple enough, and yet stopping San Antonio drivers for doing it might seem impossible.
Last year in San Antonio, 5,769 people were arrested for drunk driving, and 55 people were killed as a result of alcohol involved wrecks.
Last week Police Chief William McManus was asked how can the city stop drunk drivers.
That's a question that has everyone scratching their heads, he answered.
At the funeral service Monday for Officer Stephanie Brown, who was killed by a suspected drunk driver, McManus called on the city to find the answer.
Here are a few ideas, and why they work and why they don t work.
Install ignition interlock devices on all DWI offender s vehicles
why it works: With an ignition interlock device, a driver must pass a breathalyzer test before the vehicle will start. Most of the 4,300 DWI probationers in Bexar County were issued interlock devices to be put on their vehicles.
why it doesn t work: The suspected drunk driver who hit Officer Stephanie Brown s patrol car head-on was one of the probationers who was given an interlock device. However, the night 32-year-old Chris Baldaramos struck Brown he was not driving the vehicle which the interlock device was put on. The night of the fatal crash, Baldaramos was driving an SUV. He reported to the court his motorcycle as the only vehicle he used, so the interlock device was placed on the motorcycle.
Impound the vehicles of drunk driver offenders
why it works: San Antonio Police Officers Association President president Michael Helle suggested last week taking away a first-time DWI offender's car for at least a month and keeping it at a police lot. He said by taking way their weapon away, additional drunk driving crashes can be avoided.
why it doesn t work: Much like the problem with ignition interlock device, drivers are not limited to a single vehicle. Offenders can barrow, buy, and not report a second vehicle. Plus, also much like the interlock device, impounding vehicles only addresses potential repeat offenders and does nothing to stop first time offenders and those who have just never been caught.
Make it harder to drive and easier to drink
why it works:While the legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21, in most of Europe it s 16. However, most European countries don t issue a driver s license until the age of 18, and the driving tests are more rigorous than those in the U.S. The European approach to curb drunk driving among teenagers focuses more on stiffer regulations on driving than on drinking.
According to some published reports, there are fewer alcohol-related crashes in Europe than in the U.S.
why it doesn t work: Texas is not Europe. While Europeans commute by train and mass transportation, for the most part Texans commute by car. Increasing the driving age could negatively impact a teenager s job and education opportunities.
Plus, with no universal methods of tracking and compiling drunk driving statistics, it s difficult to fairly compare drunk driving in the U.S. to Europe.
why it works: Sobriety check points allow law enforcement officers to check more drivers for intoxication compared to traditional traffic patrol.
why it does not work: As of now, it is illegal in Texas. Plus, there s an app to avoid them. In states that permit sobriety check-points, cell phone apps have been developed notifying bar patrons where the check points are located.
Mandatory drunk driver vehicle detectors
why it works: A few years ago, Toyota Motor Corp. developed a system that detects drunk drivers behind the wheel with alcohol sensors. According to the Associated Press, the sensors detect abnormal steering, cameras check the driver s pupils, and sweat sensors on the steering wheel detect excessive alcohol levels. If any of the sensors detects drunk driving symptoms, the vehicle shuts down.
why it doesn t work: Requiring all vehicles to be equipped with such sensors would take years and the additional costs would be forced onto responsible drivers.
San Antonio Police Department pint glasses
why it works:The Bennington Police Department in Vermont gave local bars and restaurants 200 pint glasses with the police department s logo. The idea was when patrons drank their beer, they will see the police logo and stop and think about driving home.
why it doesn t work: While a novel idea, there s no statistical evidence proving it has worked in reducing the number of drunk drivers in Bennington.
What is your solution? Let us know. While we may never find the answer that eliminates drunk driving all together, perhaps a combination of several ideas can help curb the problem.