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Federal Officials Want Stronger Drunk Driving Laws

The administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expressed his support for laws that require first-time offenders of DUI laws to have interlock devices installed in their vehicles. Federal data shows that a drunk driver who is involved in a fatal traffic accident is 400 percent more likely to have a prior DUI on his or her record than a sober driver. Federal officials have reported that they are considering ways to encourage states to pass tougher drunk driving laws.

The NHTSA recently revealed that more than 10,000 highway deaths in 2010 were the result of accidents in which alcohol played a role. Roughly one-third of all fatal accidents involve alcohol in some way. The majority of those fatal accidents involved a driver with a blood alcohol level nearly double the legal limit of 0.08.

Interlock devices are intended to ensure that drivers who have had DUIs in the past are sober before they can start their vehicles. While the devices have become more common across the country, some states restrict their use to those with multiple convictions on their records. The requirement of an interlock device for a first time offender is limited to 17 states at this point.

The government has earmarked $20.8 million in highway safety funds that could be restricted to states that have first time offender interlock laws. Similar methods were used to get states to lower speed limits and increase the drinking age from 18 to 21.

Source: The Washington Post, "Federal officials push for tougher state drunken-driving laws," by Ashley Halsey III, 14 August 2012

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