It’s 2016 and despite the amount of new technology being built into our cars, it seems you have to get arrested to get a device installed that prevents a drunk person from driving.
While newer cars caudle drunk and drowsy drivers alike with features like lane assist and adaptive cruise control, Liam Ridgewell and Jake Gleeson learned they can also help to bust you when you drive impaired.
Gleeson, Starting Goalie for the Timbers had rear-ended another vehicle with his BMW. Nobody was injured in the crash and the victim drove away. But the impact was enough to damage the front end of the BMW and deploy the airbag. Gleeson called team captain Ridgewell for a ride home.
Let’s stop here for a moment. Gleeson likely called Ridgewell because he was nearby, known to be available, and probably willing to help. He could have made this decision if they had been partying together and Ridgewell let Gleeson drive away. In the news, we see similar mistakes made from time to time, where someone arrested for DUI calls the person they were drinking with to come get them, landing both in jail.
So Gleeson called Ridgewell who showed up drunk in his BMW.
Meanwhile, Gleeson’s BMW had made a phone call too! The car, knowing it was badly damaged in an accident deploying an airbag, contacted a call center via BMW ConnectedDrive. A ‘crash-proof’ cell phone built into the vehicle made the call to a live operator. At this time, the operator would have tried to talk to someone in the car.
It is likely that Gleeson wasn’t in the car when the call center tried to speak to him. He undoubtedly got out of his car to interact with the people he hit before they drove away.
Not getting a response from anyone in the vehicle, the call center dispatched police who showed up to find Gleeson next to his disabled car and Ridgewell behind the wheel of his car. BOTH were arrested for DUII (the Oregon version of DUI, stands for Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants.) BOTH refused the breathalyzer test, so they forfeit their driver licenses for a year. They can drive sooner if they put ignition interlock devices in their cars.
All this is even more troubling for Ridgewell, an Englishman who is in the country on a P-1 Visa. We’ve talked about deporting alien drunk drivers in this blog before. It turns out it is easier to deport a drunk driver who is documented than one who is not.
Coming off a disappointing season, this arrest rubs salt into the wounds of the Timbers. The starting goalie and the team captain have shamed their team which has issued two statements in quick succession regarding the matter.
The first is very NFL-ish for the soccer team; “The team is aware of the events that occurred last evening involving players Jake Gleeson and Liam Ridgewell and is in the process of gathering information on the matter. The team has been in close contact with the players, local law enforcement and the league office. The club will not have further comment until more information is available.”
The second statement at least hints their justified anger, “All members of the Portland Timbers organization have a responsibility to this community and are expected to represent the club and city the right way. Players and staff are held accountable for their actions, and this matter will be handled appropriately. This is a serious matter, and we are disappointed in the events that resulted in these charges.” Still, the team doesn’t exactly take a public stance against drunk driving. But it’s about as strong a statement as you can get from a professional sports team after multiple drunk driving arrests. When you have multiple drunk driving arrests in a team, it points to a problem with the team’s culture.
The new technologies we see being deployed in cars are already tracking you and assessing you to some degree. Some automatically communicate to call centers when something goes wrong. All these new features are intended for your safety, and some can already provide all the evidence needed to have you arrested. This is yet another, albeit odd reason to not drink and drive.
By the time the auto industry begins to consider using technology to prevent impaired drivers from taking the wheel, our cars will be tracking and transmitting all sorts of live data about us as we drive; from our location, speed, and direction to our eye movements, pulse, and more. One day, the mere attempt to start a car, airplane, or forklift too soon after drinking could potentially summon the police.