WAJR of Clarksburg, WV is reporting that by a grant from State Farm Insurance and the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Fund, the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration has unveiled a DUI Simulator at WVU to kick-off a statewide tour.
Supposedly, this simulator mimics the conditions drivers would face if they were impaired as a result of having a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or above, by altering reaction times and perceptions.
My thoughts on this use of taxpayers’ funds are two-fold. First, I respect West Virginia’s Governor and am told by colleagues of mine who work for him that he is a good man. But it’s my opinion that this is a waste of taxpayers’ funds. No machine, no matter how fancy, is going to curb drunk driving.
I believe that an educational program that emphasizes the penalties and repercussions of a DUI is much more valuable. In Morgantown, the going rate for an attorney on a DUI 1st offense is in the neighborhood of $2,500. The fine is around $200. The costs of having an interlock ignition machine installed and maintained in one’s car adds up quickly. There is a license suspension of usually 15-45 days, if not longer. The DUI never leaves one’s driving record (unless it is an underage DUI). Insurance rates go through the roof. With a conviction, it is very difficult to get a job, especially for the federal government, in law enforcement, or in education. These penalties are severe to say the least!
Furthermore, accidents are known to occur as the result of drunk driving. Judge Toothman of Greene County, PA shows a video before every DUI plea hearing that shows these accidents and their consequences (death, paralyses, severe injury, etc.). These images are so strong that they have stayed in my head whenever I get behind the wheel of a car. Pounding into students heads that a DUI will affect their entire future sounds like a much better use of taxpayers’ funds than playing around with a machine.
Second, scientifically, I do not believe the simulator carries much weight. As a criminal attorney whose practice has an emphasis on DUI law, I follow the latest in the science behind DUI arrests. To date, I am unaware of any study that can quantify impairment based on BAC. Different people have different tolerance levels. Three beers affect a person who doesn’t drink far different than they would a chronic alcoholic. The sad truth is that much of what the police are taught about impairment is based on junk science.
Ultimately, I believe this simulator is a waste of taxpayers’ money, which could be better spent on educational programs that emphasize the lifelong penalties of drunk driving.
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