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Ignition Interlock Devices and Drunk Driving Deaths

Roughly one-third of all traffic fatalities are caused by drunk drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In an attempt to reduce these deadly incidents, new legislation has been proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed, the law would require all 50 states to order mandatory ignition interlock devices for people convicted of drinking and driving. Currently, states are allowed to set their own laws regarding criminal penalties for drunk driving. The proposed law would require the devices remain in place for at least six months following the conviction.

The federal government does not have the power to change state laws regarding drunk driving penalties, but it has encouraged uniform safety improvements in the past through funding measures. States that refused to require the interlock devices would see reduced federal transportation funding. Similar measures have been used over the years to move the drinking age to 21, to require seat belts and to set maximum speed limits.

Ignition interlock devices prevent a vehicle from starting until the would-be driver has blown into a breath-testing unit. Drivers with alcohol in their systems will see the ignition disabled. Twenty-four states already have mandatory ignition interlock legislation, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a nonprofit group that assisted in drafting the new legislation. The law is being referred to as Alisa’s Act in reference to the daughter of current MADD president Jan Withers. Alisa was killed in 1992 by a drunk driver. In the media call regarding the proposed law, MADD cited research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that ignition interlock devices are able to reduce DUI recidivism by 67 percent. 

Source: Forbes, “New Ignition Interlock Legislation Aims To Save Thousands From Drunk Driving Deaths,” Tanya Mohn, July 7, 2014

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