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Ignition Interlock Devices for DUIs: New Data, New Laws

If you've never seen or heard of an ignition interlock device, it's pretty much a breathalyzer for your car. You breathe into a sensor, and if your blood alcohol content is above a certain limit (or, in some cases, if alcohol is present at all) the car will not start. Some devices ask for breath samples while your driving, and others can alert law enforcement if you've violated a condition of probation or parole.

States have been passing laws requiring drivers with multiple DUIs, or sometimes just one offense, to install and pay for interlock devices in their vehicles. And there's been some new data on the effect ignition interlock devices have been having on alcohol-related car crashes.

Locking Out Drunk Drivers

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health examined 14 years of data from the Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and found that states with a universal interlock requirement had fewer alcohol-involved car crash deaths than those without. Over nine years from 2004 to 2013, a total of 18 states made interlocks mandatory for all drunk-driving convictions, and the study compared the crash data from these states to those without mandatory interlock laws.

Overall, those states with universal ignition interlock installation statutes saw 4.7 alcohol-related crash deaths per 100,000 crashes, whereas states without such laws had a rate of 5.5 deaths over the same amount of accidents. The study showed an overall 15 percent decrease in crash deaths due to alcohol, with results apparent in just three years.

State Interlock Statutes

Some states have seized on this and other studies to implement stricter interlock requirements. Most states still only require installation of an interlock device after multiple DUI convictions, but many are turning to mandatory interlock devices, even after just one DUI. One of those states is California, who rolled out a pilot program in four counties in 2010, and is now seeking to take the requirements statewide.

The new bill would make interlock devices mandatory for first-time DUI offenders throughout California, requiring them to keep the device in their car for six months following their conviction. The duration would ramp up based on additional DUI: a second offense require the device to be installed for a year, a third for two years, and a fourth for three years. The cost to the driver only go up as well -- the average interlock device goes for $100, plus $50 per month for maintenance.

A DUI, and its attendant penalties, can be frightening. If you've been charged with drunk or drugged driving, you should consult with an experienced DUI attorney near you.

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