U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., announced Thursday she would be introducing legislation to crack down on drunk drivers in a speech to the House of Representatives.
Issam Abbas, 42, his wife, Dr. Rima Abbas, 38, and their three children, Ali, 13, Isabelle, 12, and Giselle, 7, were driving home to Michigan from their vacation in Florida when they were struck by an oncoming pickup truck. The driver was intoxicated. After the tragic accident of the Abbas family, Dingell proposed the Abbas Stop Drunk Driving Act, in honor of the family.
The Abbas Stop Drunk Driving Act would require the Department of Transportation to set a federal motor vehicle safety standard that would require all new vehicles to be equipped with an ignition interlock device (IID). If the bill is passed, automakers would be required to meet this standard within a year.
On the House floor, Dingell spoke on how terrible the tragedy was and how passing the legislation will prevent other accidents of its kind.
“This week, I’m introducing legislation in memory of the Abbas family that would mandate all new vehicles be equipped with interlock breathalyzer devices,” Dingell said. “This will stop intoxicated drivers from ever starting a vehicle and keep them off the roads. If we can keep one person from dying on the roads and make people think twice before getting behind the wheel when they shouldn’t — even when they are buzzed and think they’ll be okay — then won’t we have been successful?”
Katie Kelly, communications director for the University’s chapter of College Democrats, stated she is confident in Dingell’s propositions to create safer roads.
“Congresswoman Dingell is one of the hardest-working individuals in Congress. If she sets her mind to something, she will find a way to get it done,” Kelly said. “I believe Congresswoman Dingell’s bill, once implemented, will save countless lives and make our roads safer.”
Kelly continued to say setting this standard will be a progressive move for Detroit, the automotive capital.
“Michigan has always been the center of the automotive industry,” Kelly said. “This bill would continue the legacy of automotive leadership that Michigan is known for.”
Lincoln Merrill, communications director for the University’s chapter of College Republicans, agrees that the ignition interlock devices have been implemented and successful in curbing drunk driving in various states, but a national bill would possibly raise some issues.
“It is difficult to obtain accurate measurements without inconveniencing the operator in order to satisfy six sigma industry standards (meaning 99.9966 percent of samples would be accurate),” Merrill said. “While clearly beneficial in theory, universal implementation raises some new issues with logistics, quality management and wide consumer acceptance.”
Merrill also brought up how privacy laws and how mandating a universal IID law would unnecessarily affect millions of users.
“I think this is an argument of how far we are willing to go giving up specific freedoms, in this case not having to effectively use a breathalyzer every time we operate a car, in order to in theory support something bigger,” Merrill said. “Is drunk driving and the accidents that come with it an awful thing? Yes, of course it is. But I’m not sure that this specific bill is the way to go when thinking about how it unnecessarily affects hundreds of millions of people.”
Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton fully supports the bill, and brings up how drugged driving has been an increasing issue, and how an IID alone would not solve this issue.
“Drugged driving is a growing problem,” Clayton said. “Especially as drivers recognize that a really good party is as simple as a Xanax and 2 beers, then we’re right back to the same problem but without the illegal breath alcohol concentration. We’d still have to do roadside sobriety evaluations, processing impaired drivers and cleaning up the crashes.”
Clayton agrees the bill would be a beneficial first step to curbing drunk driving but expects other related issues will need to be addressed in the near future.
“I fully support the spirit of Congresswoman Dingell’s proposed bill,” Clayton said. “It is devastating every time we experience loss of life as a result of drunk or drugged driving. I think the idea has merit and is a good start. Whatever approach we take needs to be more comprehensive and inclusive of that population — if not right away, then eventually.”