September 10 1897, this may not ring a bell, although it saved many lives and avoided many accidents. Did you ever think what would’ve happened if the road was full of drunk drivers? September 10, 1897 was the day when the first man was arrested for drunk driving, which subsequently led to the Drunk Driving Test to make people safe. The man, named George Smith, was drunk driving and slammed his vehicle into a building. Fined 25 shillings, the 25 year old man plead guilty.
Drunk Driving Tests & Breathalyzers
However, the test to determine whether the driver is drunk or not came later in 1936. Dr. Rolla Harger, professor of biochemistry and toxicology, discovered and patented the first device to test drunk driving in his name (read NY Times report on Dr. Harger here). The first device, shaped like a balloon, allowed people to breathe into it. It would determine the level of alcohol in the body, although not precisely. The device became widespread and was made available to every police officer. In 1953, Dr. Rolla Harger collaborated with Robert Bronkestein and discovered another device to perform the test. Robert Bronkestein was a former police captain of the Indiana Police department and a university professor. Seeing the need of a more accurate device, both of them started working together and the breathalyzer was invented.
The breathalyzer was the second device, but the first to scientifically determine whether the person is drunk or not. It was also practical and soon was made available to every police officer across the state. The breathalyzer device reads the quantity of alcohol the person has had with accurate results. People are made to breath into the breathalyzer which, by measuring the intensity of alcohol vapor in the person’s exhaled breath, tells exactly how much alcohol was consumed. Although the device was discovered, people didn’t start to become truly aware of the risk of drunk driving between 1970 and 1980. The rules also got tougher and strict penalties were given to anybody testing positive by the breathalyzer. MADD, also known as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which raised awareness against the risk of drunk driving was also found during this time.
In 1980, tragedy happened to Candy Lightener when her 13 year old was killed in an accident and the driver was found to be drunk. Lightener collaborated with MADD and pressured the government to raise the bar of punishment even higher for drunk drivers. Earlier on, there was no minimum age for drinking and by raising awareness they pushed local governments to pass into law a minimum age of 21. Despite of all this, all the risk and all lives lost due to drunk driving, the problem still persists in society. Currently, it is estimated that 16,885 people are killed due to drunk driving in a single year, read some statistics from MADD.