It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 118 years since the first person was arrested for drunk driving. This momentous event happened in England in 1897 when one 25-year-old young man named George was stopped while drunk driving a London cab. He admitted he was guilty, was fined 25 shillings, and hopefully never drove drunk again.
Because the driving under the influence (DUI) laws came into effect in England a full 13 years before they did in the United States, George was one of many British citizens stopped for DUI long before anyone in the United States was. There were more horses than cars on the roads in the first decade of the 1900’s, and the first laws in the United States stopping drunk drivers didn’t actually come into play until 1910 in New York.
With drunk driving laws comes the need to determine whether or not a driver is drunk at all, and that’s why Dr. Rolla Harger created the Drunkometer in 1931. The device used a balloon people would blow into to determine if they were drunk or not, and by 1938, some police were using the device to assess drunk drivers.
Fast-forward to 1953 and a new breathalyzer hit the scene. Robert Borkenstein took the concept of the Drunkometer and invented the modern day breathalyzer, and since that time the technology behind the breathalyzer has been improved to the point where it can now assess a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) with complete accuracy.
From these humble beginnings, the fight against drunk driving has continued to gain momentum. In the 1980’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was formed, and the group has been instrumental in spreading awareness of the dangers of drunk driving and increasing penalties for drunk driving.
Although 25 shillings must have caused a huge dent in the pocket book of George way back in 1897, drunk drivers penalties now include steep fines, court costs, ignition interlock fees, and the costs of getting to and from work and school because the offender will lose their drivers license for a long time.
Years have passed and times may have really changed, but the fight against drunk driving continues. You can help by always making the choice to not drink and drive.