INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — This year, hundreds of Hoosiers will be killed on Indiana roads by drunken drivers. But some believe one device could keep a lot of those drunken drivers off the roads and save lives. So why isn’t it being used more?
Ignition Interlock can prevent a drunken driver from turning the key and driving. Under debate: should it be mandatory for all those convicted of operating while intoxicated, or OWI, in Indiana? For one Noblesville family, it could have made the difference.
About to get married, Michael Brown and Vestina Greznow are just starting out as a young family. Life changed Thanksgiving Eve as they left the holiday with her family. That’s because nearby, Greenwood police pulled over a car suspected of drunken driving.
I-Team 8 obtained the police radio traffic from that night. The officer is heard saying, “…got a vehicle fleeing from me…approaching Main Street.”
Police say the suspected drunken driver never braked for the red light. The officer is heard saying, “…big crash, big crash.” The car crashed into Brown, Greznow and her 6-year-son Kayne.
- ONLINE EXTRA | Full video of the crash
Surveillance video captured the sheer violence of the crash. Greznow was critically injured.
As for Brown: “It just wasn’t sinking in until I went down and saw him. And then,” Greznow told I-Team 8. She broke down with emotion as she remembered the moment she knew something was terribly wrong.
Brown suffered a traumatic brain injury. He’s learning to walk and talk again with the help of a therapy dog named Bullet.
“Am I going too slow for you Bullet?” Brown jokes with the dog.
He’s lost vision in one eye. When he takes off his knit hat, it’s easy to see a scar from where part of his skull was removed to relieve swelling on his brain. It goes from the front of his head winding all the way back to the base of his skull.
“What I remember is absolutely nothing,” Brown said. “That’s the scary part of it.”
THE OTHER DRIVER
Police say the night of the crash, Derrick Means was driving with a blood-alcohol content at more than three times the legal limit. He “stumbled out of the vehicle” crying, according to police. When asked why he fled, he said, “Because I am drunk. This is going to ruin my life.”
I- Team 8 learned this isn’t his first arrest. Ontario, Calif. police arrested him in 2008 for a hit-and-run accident and DUI. Before he was even convicted of those crimes, within a year, Plainfield police arrested him for OWI in July 2009. He pleaded guilty to OWI a month later.
“Right now in Indiana, first time offenders are typically getting their driver’s license suspended. We’re finding that that’s not helping,” said Alicia Turner with Indiana’s Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
MADD finds up to 75 percent of drunken drivers drive on a suspended license. They’re backing proposed legislation that would make the ignition interlock system mandatory for Indiana’s first time offenders.
Here’s how ignition interlock works: You blow into the device to get the car to start. If you’ve been drinking, the ignition locks. Dean Maravolo of Smart Start explains there is not a way to cheat or bypass the system. No one can blow into it for you because each time you start the car it snaps a picture. Every test, every drive recorded. Even driving, you’ll be randomly tested.
As Maravolo drove with I-Team 8 and explained the process, the system alerted him to pull over for a retest. He had to pull the car to the side of the road and blow into the device.
That keeps you from starting the car sober then stopping along the way to drink. If you fail? The car horn beeps continuously as you drive.
The ignition interlock can help a first time offender keep their driver’s license and their job. According to the Centers for Disease Control, DUI offenders have driven drunk at least 80 times before they ever get arrested. (Source: Centers for Disease Control “Vital Signs: Alcohol-Impaired Driving Among Adults – United States, 2010″ www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6039a4.htm )
Seventeen states have laws requiring ignition interlocks for all first time convicted drunk drivers. Indiana is not one of them. Given the choice of the interlock or jail, some in Indiana have chosen interlock.
“It would make the numbers of fatalities decrease significantly,” Turner, from MADD, said.
It has in other states. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, states requiring all convicted drunk drivers use an ignition interlock cut DUI deaths by more than 30 percent. (Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration FARS Data 2006-2011 ON MAP highlight Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico and Louisiana)
But one of the biggest challenges I-Team 8 found is compliance of actually getting it installed: just 24 percent. (Source: NTSB Safety Report PB 2013. “Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving”)
The offender pays for the device; six months is about $650. But I-Team 8 found there are hidden costs. The American Probation and Parole Association estimates mandatory sentencing would add to caseloads and cost Indiana more than $7.6 million a year in additional parole and probation costs.
What would the victims say to the repeat offender?
“This is the chance to turn it all around,” Greznow said.
“I’m sorry the whole thing happened, and I hope you get help,” Brown said.
Six-year-old Kayne wasn’t injured. Derrick Means denied I-Team 8’s request for a jailhouse interview. His trial is set for April 8.
Tomorrow at 11 p.m. on 24-Hour News 8 on WISH-TV: Why – I-Team 8 found the bill hasn’t passed in the state legislature in decades.