Saturday, June 19, 2010

Low Blow

Ignition interlock breath analyzer
Every time I hear about laws that would require people convicted of DWI to have breath alcohol ignition interlocks on their cars, I think of Florence Courington.

Actually, I didn't recall her name, but I remembered her case, and wondered what had become of her. Today's Pioneer Press brought me up to date in a story by Fred Melo.

Courington is a Twin Cities woman who had spent 36 years as a flight attendant with Northwest Airlines (before the Delta merger). One day in 2007, as she checked in for work, she was asked to give a breath sample as part of a random alcohol screening. As I recall from the earlier coverage, Courington is not a large woman, and when she breathed into the machine, it didn't get the amount of air or the rate of air movement it wanted, and so it spat out her results as refusing the test.

Incredibly, she was eventually fired from her job for this, and also lost her pension. Now, despite holding two part-time jobs, she's fighting foreclosure of her home and her phone has been disconnected.

According to Courington's lawyer,

"By all accounts, by everyone that was there and even the tester, she was not under the influence of alcohol in any way," Madia said. "She repeatedly followed the instructions of the tester as best she could. Unfortunately, all her samples came up reading insufficient air."
As the Pioneer Press's Melo tells it:
...the amount of air required for a breath sample varies depending on the version of software running the machine.

The minimal amount of air necessary to provide a breath sample is 1.1 liters of air blown at .17 liters per second. But if a driver blows too hard, the minimum sample required increases to 4.1 liters, according to the toxicologist's e-mail.

"The minimum value quadrupled," Sheridan said. "And by doing that, it would exclude about 80 percent of women. ... The shorter and older you are, you're virtually guaranteed you'd be unable to provide a sample."

The misfires are recorded as test refusals, and that can have disastrous legal consequences. Punishments for test refusals are in some cases more severe than the penalties for drunken driving.
Sounds like a proven technology that should be used as a basis to fire people!

And what if it were hooked up to keep drunk people from driving a car? But instead it won't let them drive when they're sober because they can't blow hard enough? Especially women?

Sounds like a great plan.

No comments: