49° Good Afternoon
49° Good Afternoon

Yes, we can stop DWI tragedies

John Ruocco, inventor of Interceptor Ignition Interlock, demonstrates

John Ruocco, inventor of Interceptor Ignition Interlock, demonstrates how the device works by breathing into it inside of his car. The car will not start if alcohol is detected. A camera is seen on the dashboard of the car. Credit: James Carbone

The crash that killed Barbara and Melvyn Glickman in Massapequa Park — one police say was caused by a drunken driver — is a tragedy for everyone involved. It could have been prevented. Nearly all alcohol-related automobile accidents could be stopped if we would just get serious about ending this scourge.

The couple, both 77, were run down around 8:10 p.m. Saturday as they crossed Merrick Road. Police arrested John Hartwig, 63, driver of a Ford Explorer. They said his blood-alcohol level was 0.13, about 60 percent over the legal limit of 0.08. He faces two counts of second-degree vehicular manslaughter and two of driving while intoxicated. In 2000, Hartwig pleaded guilty to driving while ability impaired.

Nationally, about 10,000 people are killed in alcohol-related accidents each year, a number that has stayed steady since 2011 after dropping for decades. Experts say alcohol-interlock devices, which don’t let drunken drivers operate vehicles, could stop nearly all of them.

New York has required since 2010 that these be installed in the vehicles of people convicted of DWI, but generally only for 12 months.

Until we have driverless cars and Uber for all, these devices ought to be standard in every new car. There is no constitutional right to drive drunk, and no reason to let cars be operated by drunk people. Even the argument that the interlocks are expensive falters because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $44 billion.

An alcohol-interlock device on Hartwig’s car might have spared the Glickmans and their family this tragedy. But it could have spared the driver and his family pain, too. No one benefits from cars that let people drive drunk. It’s time they disappeared. — The editorial board


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