Calls for Ignition Interlock Devices Going National
By: Gerri Elder
The call for ignition interlocks following a conviction for DUI has been heard loud and clear throughout the United States in 2007.
Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana and Massachusetts are just some states that have passed new DUI laws pertaining to ignition interlocks this year.
A host of other states including Florida, Michigan and South Carolina have also considered different forms of ignition interlock legislation in 2007.
While many states have taken the initiative to incorporate mandatory ignition interlock usage under the DUI penalties in their DUI laws, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is not yet satisfied.
In fact, the NHTSA has indicated that it will work more closely with states and further encourage them to use ignition interlock devices as a means to curb drunk driving.
Before we go any further, what exactly is an ignition interlock device?
Essentially a breathalyzer installed in the vehicle of a DUI offender, an ignition interlock controls the car from turning over. In other words, a person must blow into a breathalyzer and pass the breath test in order for the vehicle with the ignition interlock to start.
With that said, a recent ConsumerAffairs.com story indicated that federal officials are currently working with auto manufacturers on a five-year research project aiming to determine whether "transparent" ignition interlock devices could be installed on future vehicles and prevent drunken drivers from even getting behind the wheel.
Robert Strassburger, the vice president for safety of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, opinioned in the story that this federal initiative will not get a good reception from many Americans. Strassburger elaborated that more than 80 percent of Americans drink lightly or not at all and will thus not be happy with the prospect of having a device that could interfere with their normal driving.
For some context, ignition interlock devices have already been installed in nearly 100,000 cars in the country. Ignition interlocks are currently mandatory for repeat DUI offenders in 19 states. And as the new DUI laws in Arizona and Illinois reveal, ignition interlocks are now becoming more common following a first conviction for DUI.
The ConsumerAffairs.com story also included estimates that ignition interlock devices could save anywhere from 8,000 to 9,000 lives a year. This estimate is especially significant considering that drunken driving accidents account for roughly 40 percent of the 43,000 annual deaths on highways in the United States.
While the national fervor for ignition interlock devices is beginning to pick up with the NHTSA, one thing is already certain. Ignition interlock devices have represented many of the latest efforts at the state level to prevent drunk driving and are quickly becoming the new "it" in terms of addressing DUI.