Traffic Safety Experts Push for More Ignition Interlock Devices

According to government figures there are 1.5 million arrests for drunk driving every year. Some of those convicted for drunk driving will be required to use ignition interlock devices, which are highly successful in deterring repeat offenders. Every state has its own separate guidelines for who is required to use one and who is not. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would like to see every state mandate the device for every person convicted of drunk driving.

Ignition interlock devices are attached to the steering wheel and require a driver to breathe into the device to check for alcohol. The driver has three tries with the breathing tube before the car becomes disabled. Some devices use cameras to monitor driver behavior, and in some states further penalties can be assessed if the offender’s breath exceeds the legal limit.

The NHTSA wants to see use of the ignition interlock device standardized throughout America. Today just 20 states have legislated that the device be used for drunk driving convictions. Some states decide based on blood alcohol content levels, and others only assign them for repeat offenders. The NHTSA wants mandated use of the devices for all first time DUI convictions.

In recent decades there has been a downward trend in the number of drunken driving fatalities. In the 1980s over 20,000 people died each year from drunk driving accidents and over 50 percent of all deaths on the road. Recent numbers have shown 10,000 annual traffic deaths connected to drunk driving, with 30 percent of total road fatalities connected to DUIs. However, the number of drunken driving deaths has been ticking upwards for the last three years and 2013 saw a 4.6 percent rise.

Studies show the ignition interlock devices proving to be effective in stopping repeat offenses 75 percent of the time. Government reports say that 300,000 drivers are currently using them. The devices cost around $75 to install and around $50 per month to operate.

If people don’t heed warnings of fines and suspended licenses, officials want to be able to require ignition interlock devices for anyone convicted of driving under the influence. Using ignition interlock devices could help drivers learn from their errors, and in the process save many lives.