Steve Chapman

It's also not a lasting one. Sarah Longwell of the American Beverage Institute (ABI), which represents restaurants, scoffed in an interview with USA Today that "in most states, the offender only has to keep the interlock for about six months. As soon as you take it off, recidivism goes back up."

True, a temporary fix works only temporarily -- but the lives it saves are permanently spared. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that imposing the devices on all drivers with multiple DUIs would prevent about 100 fatal accidents annually. But if every DUI conviction carried an interlock requirement, from 600 to 800 deadly crashes would be averted each year.

The restaurant group complains that all-inclusive rules "deny judges the ability to distinguish between a driver one sip over the limit and high-BAC, repeat offenders." It would have us believe that seriously impaired is not seriously impaired.

In fact, notes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a person who is "one sip over the limit" is 11 times more likely to motor off into a deadly wreck than someone who stuck to Diet Coke. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety attests, "The hard-core group isn't the whole DWI problem or even the biggest part."

Anyway, the penalty is not public flogging, five years on a chain gang or life without parole. It's just an obligation for the offender to confirm he's fit to drive before starting his engine. It's a minimal inconvenience to the sober, but for the drunk, it serves as a potentially lifesaving safeguard.

When we give out driver's licenses, we trust the recipients to use the prerogative in a wise and safe manner. Those who abuse it by driving drunk shouldn't be barred from the road forever, but they should have to earn our trust. Like, every time they drive.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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