The NMA Questions the Motivation Behind MADD’s Support of Ignition Interlock Devices

November 2010

The National Motorists Association (NMA) announced that it is offering US$1000 to the first person who can provide solid documentation that Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) is receiving significant funding from manufacturers of ignition interlock devices (IID), principals with those companies, or intermediaries who are acting as conduits to funnel money to MADD from the IID industry.

The NMA finds it difficult to fathom any reason other than money for MADD’s aggressive promotion of the interlock devices. MADD has endorsed IIDs for quite some time, despite the proven unreliability of the devices and despite well-documented data from a California DMV study that showed first-time DUI offenders with interlocks on their cars had higher subsequent accident rates than first offenders without the device. People who have been convicted of drinking and driving violations are typically reluctant to speak out in opposition to heavy-handed enforcement and onerous penalties, yet the Internet is overflowing with stories from victims of malfunctioning ignition interlock devices. The NMA Forums provides several examples.

In an email to supporters on November 12, 2010, Laura Dean-Mooney of MADD promoted a program that would install an ignition interlock device in every new vehicle. Under such a program, every driver — not just those with prior convictions — would have to pass a blood alcohol content (BAC) test every time they wanted to start their car to go anywhere.

This program has the appealing acronym — much more so than IID for ignition interlock devices — of DADSS, or Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety. Proponents use terms like “unobtrusive,” and “passive,” and “non-invasive” to describe DADSS. Current technology for IIDs does not fit any of those descriptors.

It is debatable that ignition interlock devices prevent accidents or save lives. The devices provide inconsistent results and are easily circumvented in their current form. The cost of installation and monthly data maintenance is significant for the vehicle owner.

So why is MADD on a crusade to not only promote IIDs for all drivers with DUI convictions, but also to push for the acceptance of DADSS for all new vehicles? The National Motorists Association is asking for help to determine whether the most likely explanation also will provide the answer: follow the money.