So by now you’ve heard about how in some States if you’re convicted ‘x’ number of times of driving under the influence the authorities can install a device in your car that requires you to pass a breathalyzer test before you can start your car, right? Seems like the perfect solution to the problem of drunk driving, right? Can’t start the car if you’re drunk, can’t drive if you can’t start the car. Makes perfect sense to a lot of people and as a result laws allowing these devices to be installed in habitual offender’s cars are gaining popularity.
One little oversight folks may not have considered, though: What’s stopping a drunk from convincing someone else to blow into the ignition-lock for them so they can start the car? Sure, no responsible sober adult would do such a thing, but not all adults are responsible. Besides that, what if they have kids?
Sandra Donat had been arrested three times already for drunken driving, so she knew that she would need someone sober to blow into the ignition-lock device on her van before it would start.
She chose her 12-year-old son.
Then Donat piled him and four of her other children – all younger than 10 years old at the time – into the vehicle at 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 20, 2003, and took off for Taco Bell with a beer in hand.
Police arrested her after the van drifted out of its lane, and found that she had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.22, more than twice the state’s legal limit at the time.
Donat said she had left a friend’s house in Wausau, but police never determined where she was coming from. The officer who followed the van into the restaurant’s parking lot on Grand Avenue in Schofield could see that at least one of the children was not wearing a seat belt.
“The nature of this crime is grotesque,” Assistant District Attorney Kurt Klomberg said while arguing for a prison sentence at a hearing on Thursday in Marathon County court. “Those lives could have ended because their mother, the person they trusted the most, had the munchies.”
Reserve Judge Conrad Richards agreed. He sentenced Donat, 38, of Birnamwood to the maximum sentence of four and a half years in prison, along with another year and a half of extended supervision for three counts of fourth-offense driving while intoxicated – prosecutors can add additional charges of drunken driving for each child who is in the vehicle.
Aside from being a perfect example of a complete dumbass, Sandra Donat also demonstrates one of the flaws in trying to solve a social problem with a technical solution. Driving drunk is a symptom of a larger problem (alcoholism). Treating only one symptom doesn’t solve the larger problem this woman is dealing with even if it were possible for that treatment to be 100% effective.
Everyone quoted in the news story is carrying on about how she put her children’s lives at risk by bypassing the lock and driving under the influence with her kids in the car, but no one seems at all concerned about the fact that this woman is apparently getting drunk on a regular enough basis that she may be putting her kids at risk regardless of whether she’s able to drive a car. Making her unable to drive her car when drunk only protects the rest of us from this woman, but it does nothing to make her kids all that much safer. A drunk parent, particularly a single parent such as Sandra, generally are not in any shape to feed, clothe or bathe their children properly. Granted, there are always different frequencies in how often a particular alcoholic may go on a binge, but the fact remains that a drunk parent puts their children at risk during those periods simply by not being sober. The more frequent the binging, the more risk for the kids.
By putting a band-aid on the problem with something like an ignition-lock you’re not really helping these people in any way. In fact, you may be enabling them to make the problem worse by sending the wrong message: It’s OK to get drunk as long as you don’t drive. It’s the sort of quick-fix and seemingly sensible solution that politicians love because it makes everyone happy. The voters who see their leaders getting “tough on drunks,” the makers of the devices who know there’s plenty of drunks out there for the Police to buy devices for, the drunks ‘cause they think this gives them license to binge, and the politicians themselves ‘cause it’ll get them more votes.
Ultimately the real problem, the alcoholism, is left untreated and will continue to impact the family as a whole putting them all at risk. If these people were truly concerned about the kids in this story they’d be outraged over the fact that they tried to quick-fix the symptom instead of dealing with the problem properly in the first place.