The study also indicated that raising the minimum purchase
age for alcohol to 21 throughout the country has been
a successful strategy for reducing alcohol use and preventing
related problems. Since 1975, minimum drinking age laws
have prevented more than 17,000 traffic fatalities. MADD
spearheaded the effort resulting in passage of the National
Uniform Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. Today, all 50
states have minimum drinking age laws set at 21. The study
released today shows, however, that, despite tougher laws,
minors still drink - and their drinking often results
in serious health and social problems.
Copies of Underage Drinking: Immediate Consequences and
their Costs and the OJJDP fact sheet Enforcing the Underage
Drinking Laws Program, as well as information about other
OJJDP publications, programs and conferences, are available
through the OJJDP Website at ojjdp.ncjrs.org and from
OJJDP's Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse, Box 6000, Rockville,
Maryland 20857. The toll-free number is 1-800/638-8736.
Copies of the study are also available through the Underage
Drinking Enforcement Training Center Website at pire.org/udetc.
Information about other Office of Justice Programs (OJP)
bureaus and program offices is available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov.
Media should contact OJP's Office of Congressional and
Public Affairs at 202/307-0703.
Information about MADD is available at www.madd.org or
by calling 214-744-6233
New Jersey Town Bans
Drivers' Cell Phones
July 14, 2000
MARLBORO, N.J. (AP) -- Marlboro Township has become the
first community in New Jersey to prohibit the use of hand-held
cellular phones while driving. The Township Council voted
4-0 Thursday night in favor of the ban. Mayor Matthew
Scannapieco signed the ordinance a short time later.
Under the ban, anyone caught driving with a hand-held
cell phone is subject to a fine of up to $250. Hands-free
cell phones are permitted, however.
"It is in the public interest to prevent injuries and
save lives, and if I can save just one life with this
ordinance, then I'll have done my job as an elected official,"
council Vice President Barry Denkensohn said.
The council's vote came two days after a Pennsylvania
judge struck down a similar ordinance, ruling that Hilltown
Township did not have the power to pre-empt state motor
Brooklyn, Ohio, enacted the country's first such law
last March. Opponents of the Marlboro ban called it a
"Your hearts are in the right places, but it's not the
purpose of government to protect everyone from everything
in life," said resident Mark Rosenwald, 51.
A 1997 study published in the New England Journal of
Medicine found that talking on a phone while driving quadrupled
the risk of an accident and was almost as dangerous as
being drunk behind the wheel
helps keep DWI offenders and others safe
If you are driving and see someone in another car blowing
into what appears to be a cell phone, don't panic. You're
not losing your mind. The other driver is probably taking
part in a program to keep people convicted of drunken
driving from taking to the road while intoxicated.
The device, called an interlock system, is a small breath
analyzer that keeps a car from starting if alcohol is
detected. It attaches to a car's electrical system much
as a theft-deterrent alarm does. A driver taking part
in the program as part of a parole or probation program
is required to blow into the device before he can start
About 40,000 of these devices are currently in use in
the United States, but they may soon become even more
commonplace. A new federal law requires that states take
tougher steps against drivers repeatedly convicted of
drunken driving. States, which stand to lose federal transportation
money if they fail to comply, must require either complete
immobilization of an offender's vehicle or the installation
of an interlock system. With millions of dollars at stake,
at least 36 states have already complied.
The devices, which are more sensitive than some breath
analyzers used by police, can sense very small quantities
of alcohol - so small that users are cautioned not to
use mouthwash, breath sprays or cough syrups before a
test. When the analyzer detects alcohol, the car's ignition
switch is disabled, and the car cannot be started until
the test is passed.
If a car is started, the device periodically requires
that the driver take another, rolling, test, to make sure
the driver did not have someone else start the car and
is not drinking while driving. If the driver ignores the
beeping sounds that the device emits when it is time for
a retest, the system will cause the car's lights to flash
on and off. After two more minutes, the car's horn starts
beeping. If the driver continues to ignore the retest
request, a violation is recorded in the device. In most
interlock models, the system goes into "early recall"
mode after three such violations. This means that the
driver has 72 hours to bring the device - and the car
- into a service center. In addition to alerting the driver
that a test is needed, the flashing lights and honking
horn are designed to alert police and other drivers that
the person may be under the influence.
The cost of the installation and monthly rental, which
are paid for by the offender, vary from state to state.
In New York, the installation costs $60 and the rental
fee is $2.14 per day or about $65 each month, but the
fee is small compared with the amount some users spend
each month on alcohol, said Richard Freund, president
of LifeSafer Interlock, one of seven companies that manufacture
the devices. "A heavy drinker might spend $16 to $20 per
day on beer or drinks after work," he said.
The system may sound cumbersome, but it is extremely
useful to people who have lost their licenses and would
not be able to legally drive without the program.
"It doesn't even bother me anymore," said Bob Seiber,
a contractor from Selden, N.Y., who has been on the program
for six months. "I just blow into the interlock in the
morning, and my truck starts right up."
Seiber has LifeSafer's small black device installed in
his truck. It looks like a cell phone, with a series of
lights on the front and a small opening on the top with
a disposable plastic mouthpiece.
Recently, the LifeSafer device was upgraded to require
users to hum or speak while blowing into it, making it
difficult for anyone to thwart the system with a can of
compressed air or an air-filled balloon.
Once a month, Seiber stops at a service center for the
LifeSafer devices in in Holbrook, N.Y., so his test results
can be downloaded into a database, which is accessible
via the Web. This lets his probation officer keep track
of his process. LifeSafer's interlock device monitors
several criteria including the number of blood-alcohol
tests administered during the month and how often the
user passes, fails or ignores the tests. Seiber has never
failed a test since his device was installed, he says.
Although the interlock doesn't keep track of a driver's
mileage, the service manager or technician records this
information at the monthly check-in. The information can
help catch drivers who cheat by driving the car of a friend
or relative, Warner said.
Since a single test failure can mean a parole or probation
violation, every 60 days the devices are calibrated to
make sure they are working properly, Warner said.
The program is important because most first offenders
drive while intoxicated up to 600 times before they are
caught, Richardson said. "By the time you get to a third
offender, this person is driving intoxicated all the time,"
he says. Millie Webb, of Franklin, Tenn., the national
president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says the interlock
system can be effective. "We think that the ignition interlock
is a valuable tool when it is used with repeat offenders,"
she said. "There have been studies that show it is an
effective deterrent." Although the interlock device can
be useful, there are one or two problems for the end users,
aside from embarrassment. For example, if a user's car
needs service, it can be difficult for a mechanic to work
on the car. Since the interlock can't be turned off or
differentiate between users, every time a car is started,
a test is required. This means that to start the car the
mechanic has to blow into the device. If the mechanic
had a beer with lunch, the device will record a violation
Warner says he advises his clients to take their cars
to mechanics who are also on the interlock program. "We
have a group of guys that are also on the program that
we can send people to," he said. "You know that these
people can be trusted to work on the car."
In the end, officials and interlock makers say, the systems
help people change their behavior. "You've got people
getting it between the eyes six times a day for 12 months,"
Richardson said. "They are getting into the car, having
to pick up the device and blow into it. Eventually, it
makes you accountable for your own behavior."
By KAREN J. BANNAN
c.2000 N.Y. Times News Service
to July 2000 Update