Ignition locks urged to stop Massachusetts drunk driving deaths

The National Transportation Safety Board last week issued a unanimous recommendation for states to require interlocks installed on the vehicles of anyone convicted of a drunk driving offense. The recommendation applies to 33 states that do not currently require such devices for convicted offenders.

Interlocks are devices that require drivers to pass a breathalyzer test before being allowed to turn on and operate a motor vehicle. The NTSB would like to see every driver convicted of a DUI be forced to pass these tests before getting behind the wheel, thus drastically reducing the risk of drunk driving accidents. By some estimates, roughly two-thirds of all repeat drunk driving cases in Massachusetts and nationally could be prevented by these devices.

The recommendation followed a report on a study concluding that many wrong-way driving accidents are caused by alcohol-impaired driving.

The NTSB’s new recommendation is much more severe than past statements, which had previously only encouraged interlock devices in cases where drivers had received multiple DUI convictions or had at least one conviction in which their blood-alcohol content exceeded .15.

So far, the recommendation has received strong support from Mothers Against Drunk Driving but has been criticized by the American Beverage Institute, which argues that the breathalyzers would make it hard for past DUI convicts to enjoy even a single beverage at dinner without having to worry about whether or not their car will start.

It remains to be seen what states will end up supporting this effort and trying to adjust their state laws to comply with the NTSB’s recommendation. If states do implement harsher laws, interlock devices might become much more common on the roadways.

Source: USA Today, “Safety board urges car locks for all drunken drivers,” Bart Jansen, Dec. 11, 2012