Will Mandatory Installation of Ignition Interlock Devices Reduce Repeat DUI Offenses?
Because violators of DUI laws cause a third of all motor vehicle-related fatalities, law enforcement authorities, judges and traffic safety advocates have worked diligently in an effort to curb the drunk driving epidemic. Many tools have been employed to prevent alcohol-related car crashes in the U.S., including public awareness campaigns, aggressive law enforcement tactics and tougher drunk driving laws. In July 2014, a new measure was proposed in Congress aimed at reducing DUI offenses in the form of mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices (IIDs) for all motorists convicted of DUI.
While the devices vary somewhat depending on the jurisdiction, an IID is essentially a portable breathalyzer that is hard-wired into a vehicle/s ignition system. All drivers must blow into the device before the engine can be started. If the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over a certain level, the device will not allow the driver to start the vehicle. The device also will cue drivers to provide a breath sample at various intervals until the engine is turned off. The driver has to pull over and blow into the mouthpiece to establish that the motorist’s BAC does not exceed the established maximum threshold.
The bill known as “Alisa’s Law” was introduced into the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) earlier this year. The proposed legislation would use federal highway funds to force all fifty states to make installation of IIDs mandatory for all offenders convicted of DUI. While many states now require installation of IIDs for repeat offenders or as a condition for obtaining a restricted license, this law would directly target all drivers with DUI convictions to mitigate the risk of repeat offenders. The impetus for this proposal is the fact that nearly one-third of all motorists arrested for DUI are repeat offenders according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
While this proposal will probably not become law, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that aggressive IID programs provide an effective method for discouraging drunk driving recidivism and DUI-related injuries and fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Georgia advocates use of these portable breathalyzer devices because it found that they decrease recidivism rates by 67 percent. Ignition interlock devices have been shown to reduce DUI recidivism from 50-90 percent in more than ten separate evaluations.
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