The first drunk driving arrest happened more than 100 years ago today. On Sept. 10, 1897, a London-based taxi driver became the first DUI offender after he was arrested and charged with drunk driving. The 25-year-old man was arrested after he drove into a building. Later, he pleaded guilty to the offense and paid 25 shillings in fines.
It didn't take long for people to start getting arrested for drunk driving in the United States as well. In 1910, lawmakers enacted legislation against driving a motor vehicle drunk in New York.
"Drunkometer" Invented in 1936
In 1936, toxicology and biochemistry professor Dr. Rolla Harger invented the "Drunkometer." The Drunkometer was a balloon-like precursor to the Breathalyzer which measured a person's state of inebriation.
Robert Borkenstein, an ex-police captain who was a collaborator on the Drunkometer project, invented the Breathalyer in 1953. The Breathalyzer was more accurate at measuring intoxication levels than the Drunkometer and it became the first practical way for police to establish whether drivers were too drunk to drive. Suspects were made to blow through the Breathalyzer, which would measure alcohol vapor in the suspect's breath. This information was used to determine blood-alcohol concentration levels.
MADD Begins Advocating Against Drunk Driving in 1980
Police and lawmakers did not create stricter DUI enforcement standards until the late 70s and early 80s. In 1980, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was created by a woman who lost her 13-year-old girl in a tragic DUI-caused collision. MADD grew to play a pivotal role in changing public opinion about the dangers of drunk driving. MADD helped spark new legislation to increase the severity of punishments related to drunk driving and drugged driving convictions. MADD also helped to raise the drinking age to 21 throughout the country.
Politicians and politic advocacy groups like MADD have done a lot to discourage drunk driving over the years. Their efforts have dramatically reduced instances of DUIs and DUI-caused car accidents. However, drunk drivers still cause thousands of deaths, and millions are still arrested for breaking DUI laws every year.
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