DUI FYI: Interesting Info About Drunk Driving History in Michigan (Pt 1)

Only in recent years has drunk driving been treated as a serious crime in the US!

People adapt to changes very quickly. Things become “normal” at an unbelievable rate, and we are often quick to forget how different things were in the not too distant past. Believe it or not, drunk driving laws are a very good example of this. Nowadays, ask someone about a DUI and many people will tell you it’s a serious crime. But it wasn’t that long ago when DUIs were treated as nothing more than “bad behavior” and received nothing more than a slap on the wrist. But that’s not all. There are several other interesting things in DUI history that you may not have known about.

“Will I have to take a breathalyser test?”

Like “kleenex” and “white-out,” the term “breathalyzer” has come to be used for all breath testing machines used by cops during DUI stops. However here in MIchigan, our officers use a Datamaster machine back at the police station to do breath tests on people suspected of drunk driving. But have you ever wondered when this handy machine first came into use? Or who invented it? Well, here you go:

The first ever breath test machine was called a “drunkometer” and it was designed by a man named Rolla N. Harger. Harger, who taught taught biochemistry and toxicology at Indiana University, designed his device as a type of breath-balloon that an intoxicated driver breathed into. From there, the air inside the balloon was tested with a chemical solution that darkened in color when exposed to alcohol molecules. The device was patented 1936 and successfully tested for the first time by police in Indianapolis on New Year’s Eve 1938.

“Will I have to go to jail if I get arrested for drunk driving?”

The first state in the US to put a DUI law on the book was New York in 1910, although most other states quickly followed suit. However, while the penalties for drunk driving were relatively harsh (many states included a year in jail and $1,000 as a pretty standard punishment), these were rarely, if ever, enforced. In fact, many places saw drunk driving as a pretty standard rite of passage for young men, that earned them nothing more than a warning from local cops.

Michigan was one of the few states to take a stance on drunk driving, and in 1960 a law was passed that established a two-tier DUI system starting at .05 BAC and going all the way up to .15 BAC. In 1967 a third tier was added in the middle (.10) and in 1971 Michigan law was changed again, back to a two tier system, this time using only .08 and .10 as the legal limits. It wasn’t until 2000 that, as part of the FY 2001 U.S. Department of Transportation Appropriations Act, a provision was signed into law making .08 BAC the national standard for drunk driving.

DUI laws have undergone a lot of changes over the years.

Join us next time for some more interesting facts about drunk driving legal history here in Michigan, and a look at how operating while intoxicated laws have changed over the years. Until then, if you or a loved one have been accused of operating while intoxicated, whether it’s in Ingham, Eaton, Jackson or Ionia County, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. Our skilled and experienced DUI defense attorneys have decades of experience defending people against drunk driving allegations, and protecting their rights. We’re available 24/7, nights and weekends, including holidays.

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