Feds Want Ignition Interlocks for First-Time Drunk Drivers


  • Ignition Interlock Picture

    Ignition Interlock Picture

    Federal safety regulators are pushing for a crackdown on drunk drivers during the holiday season. | December 19, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • Federal safety regulators are pushing for states to require ignition interlocks for all individuals convicted of or having their driving privileges suspended for alcohol-impaired driving, including first-time DWI offenders.
  • NHTSA's research shows convicted drunk drivers with interlocks are 75 percent less likely to repeat the behavior compared to those who do not.
  • The passive alcohol-detection systems will "protect sober motorists and ensure that individuals convicted of drunk driving learn from their mistakes," said NHTSA.

WASHINGTON — Federal safety regulators are pushing for states to require ignition interlocks for all individuals convicted of or having their driving privileges suspended for alcohol-impaired driving, including first-time DWI offenders.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's research shows convicted drunk drivers with interlocks are 75 percent less likely to repeat the behavior compared to those who do not.

The devices prevent cars from starting if the driver has been drinking.

The passive alcohol-detection systems will "protect sober motorists and ensure that individuals convicted of drunk driving learn from their mistakes," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland in a statement.

NHTSA released "Model Guideline for State Ignition Interlock Programs" on Tuesday to help states develop a breath-alcohol ignition-interlock program. It discusses legislation, education, program administration and implementation.

The release of the document is timed to the holiday driving season.

NHTSA said that in the past decade, almost two of every five driving deaths that occur around the Christmas and New Year's holidays were alcohol-related.

While all states have ignition interlocks, only 20 states and four California counties require the devices for all drivers convicted of driving drunk. As of July 2013, there were nearly 305,000 interlocks in use across the United States, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

It comes at a high cost to the motorist, though. Ignition interlocks run about $75 to install. In addition, drivers pay $50 to $75 a month in monitoring costs.

Edmunds says: The feds want a serious crackdown on drunk driving and are putting pressure on state legislatures to get tough — even on first-time offenders.

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