Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Arizona Legislator Changes His Mind
Last month, Arizona passed a law requiring ignition interlock devices to be installed in automobiles driven by people who have been convicted of driving under the influence, even after a first (and relatively minor) DUI offense. State Representative John Kavanagh voted for the measure. But now he has publicly repudiated his vote. Why? He read the research base about the effects of such laws, and found that the evidence suggests that they do not make it more likely that first-time offenders will not re-offend. So Representative Kavanagh has introduced an amendment that would only require the ignition interlock for first-time nonextreme DUI offenders if they were involved in a traffic accident and committed (another) traffic violation at the time of their DUI arrest.
My understanding of the research accords with that of Representative Kavanagh. (I gained that understanding by reading memos written by more than twenty of my students on whether Illinois should adopt a first-time DUI offender interlock mandate.) But I also wonder if the measure of effectiveness is too narrow -- it concerns re-offending by first-time DUI violators, and there is basically no evidence to show that the interlock mandate decreases such re-offending. But that is not to say that the possibility of having an interlock device installed might not help deter non-offenders from becoming first-time offenders. There also is an issue with the length of time for which the interlock is mandated (and what those time lengths were in the previous studies), or whether the mandated interlock actually is installed. And it might make sense to offer an interlock as a choice that a convicted drunk driver could make in lieu of some other penalties; perhaps his insurance company would "subsidize" that choice by offering lower rates (a smaller increase, presumably) if the interlock is installed. (One problem is that the devices that require on-the-go retesting can be cumbersome and distract a driver, however.)
But what about this Representative Kavanagh, who has put himself in danger of being cast as a fickle flip-flopper, someone who won't stay the course, who actually allows evidence to influence his votes? The description at the bottom of the linked article explains: "State Rep. John Kavanagh is a Republican from Fountain Hills. He [is] a retired police officer who has a Ph.D. in criminal justice and heads the criminal justice program at Scottsdale Community College. He previously taught courses in statistics and research methodology at Arizona State University."