VIEWPOINT - IRP in the News, How Accurate are the Stories?
Journalism or sensationalism? Are we interested in the facts or writing a story that grabs a reader emotionally and pulls the reader into forming an opinion based on emotion? Unfortunately, I think that this story by Mr. Mulgrew is a lot more of the latter and uses an example that has no connection to the issue.
He introduces Mario Knezevic, a person we hold in high regard because he reacted promptly and properly in a child drowning incident and saved a life. Poor Mario is now the victim of the Immediate Roadside Prohibition (IRP) after being stopped by police while making a liquor run to supply a family party celebrating an award given to him for the rescue.
Mr. Knezevic was astounded when he failed the initial test and failed again when he demanded a second test. After all, he felt fine and hadn't had a drink since the night previous. The word intoxicated was used at this point in the story, which has a significantly different meaning than the word impaired. Intoxicated brings to mind the classic drunk who stumbles, slurs his speech and can't walk a straight line. Impaired is a condition where a driver's ability to operated a vehicle is affected by alcohol. This is not a fine distinction.
I've never met Mario and I can't comment on his personal circumstances, but I have been a qualified breath testing technician and the operator, calibrator and instructor for the use of the Alcosensor IV DWF screening device currently in use here in British Columbia. Part of the technician's course is a unit on how the human body deals with alcohol. Simply put, we can consume it far faster than our body can eliminate it and if we consume large quantities it can be a long time before our body clears the alcohol we've put in it.
The story seems to support some of this. "Partied the night away," "I slept seven hours" and "awoke with a start the next day, about 4:30 pm" implies consumption, a short period of elimination and then driving. The two fails (which would have been on two different devices) both indicated a blood alcohol content (BAC) over 100 mg%. This is the point that forensic science indicates everyone, regardless of their drinking history (tolerance for alcohol) is impaired in their ability to operate a motor vehicle.
Mr. Knezevic is now a very disillusioned man. He had his vehicle impounded for a month, he was prohibited from driving for 90 days and now has to have an ignition interlock in his vehicle for a year. He must also complete the Responsible Driver Program, all at a cost of just under $5,000.00.
We read on at length about difficulties with the screening devices and calls into question the calibration practices. Yes, devices do fail. That's why they receive regular mandatory maintenance, calibration and the opportunity to request a second test using a different device. Calibration methods and timing are specified by the manufacturer of the device, and if the procedure hasn't changed since 1998, what is the problem with using a calibration check sheet created then?
If I wanted to dispute a warn or failure reading, what would matter to me is the calibration sheet prior to my sample and the one following my sample. If they showed that no adjustment was required, a deviation of less than what would be necessary to move me from one category to another or that maintenance and repair was not needed, then the instrument did what it was designed to do.
The device itself is accurate to +/- 5 mg%. Today, warn occurs at 60 to 99 mg% and fail at 100 mg% and higher. At the beginning of the program, the instrument was set to show warn at 50 mg%. This did need to be changed because if the reading was + 5 mg% a warn could result from a sample of breath containing between 45 and 49 mg%. This is not an "unreasonable margin of error" but a failure to allow for the tolerance of the device.
Yes, I can point to examples of differences in result between a screening device and an approved instrument such as the BAC Datamaster C. If the two devices were used to test a subject's breath immediately, an actual sample of 99 mg% could result in a fail on the screening device and a 96 mg% on the approved instrument. In the real world, these tests are never conducted nearly simultaneously. The screening is done at the roadside, the subject is transported to the detachment for testing, he or she may contact legal counsel and then the preparation for the test takes place. Depending on the drinking pattern of the subject their BAC may be rising or falling during this time differential and must result in a different reading. That would be why the manual referred to warns of the possibility.
Mulgrew even uses the "money grab" objection. How much of the cost goes directly to government coffers and how much goes to suppliers of the interlock, Responsible Driver Program and towing company? He doesn't say, but you can do that math. You can also prevent a money grab by not placing yourself behind the wheel after having consumed alcohol. To me, this is only a valid objection if the money is being taken from me in a situation that I cannot avoid.
The lawyers have a large stake in negativity here as well. Image a change that took away your major source of income, regardless of the fact that it might be beneficial to others. Would you comment on it as something positive if you were given a chance to speak publicly?
Contrary to the "you can't win an appeal" statement, there is case law to the contrary posted here. There are two avenues of review, on to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles and the other to the Supreme Court. Yes, they both cost money, but so does the review of a criminal conviction.
Where I do sympathize with Mr. Knezevic is on the installation of the ignition interlock. He had to go to the extraordinary length of buying a different vehicle in order to have one that is compatible with the interlock.
It will be interesting to see where the courts lead with the IRP program. Hopefully they will not twist this into the same ineffective convolutions that the IRP was implemented to act as an alternative to.
Let's leave "child saviour" emotions out of the argument Ian and concentrate on the job at hand. Keep the IRP program honest and stop people who are drug impaired (alcohol is the most frequently used drug) from getting behind the wheel. Driving is a privilege, not a right although I would argue that I have a right to drive on a highway free of impaired drivers.
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