Could the Future Bring Mandatory Ignition Interlock Devices?
A recent study completed by the University of Michigan suggests that mandatory ignition interlock devices in every new car could eliminate almost 90% of drunk driving accidents.
Tens of Thousands of Lives Saved
Completed by University of Michigan researchers at Ann Arbor, the study was funded by the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and published March 19 in the American Journal of Public Health. The study basis it’s assumption that all vehicles less than one year old will have an ignition interlock device installed. Using those statistics and the national drunk driving rates, the results would be more than 59,000 lives saved over the next fifteen years. Among other things, the study notes that integrating ignition interlock devices into new vehicles would prevent nonfatal injuries for over 1.25 million people during that same time period.
What is an Ignition Interlock Device
An ignition interlock device is a small electronic unit that connects to the car’s electronic system and can therefore prevent the vehicle from starting when the interlock device is engaged. When a vehicle has an ignition interlock device installed on it the vehicle cannot be started without first ‘blowing into the device’, which uses a fuel-cell system to determine the current Blood Alcohol Content of the would-be driver.
So what – ask a sober friend to blow into it, start up your car, and you’re off to the races…
It’s not quite that simple. Most ignition interlock devices will require you to occasionally blow during vehicle operation. The device will randomly alert the driver at typical intervals of 15 minutes.
If you are driving drunk with an ignition interlock device will your car go dead in the middle of the road?
No. But you’re not free to continue driving down the freeway under the influence of alcohol. Usually the ignition interlock device will be connected to the car battery and electronics systems, when the device registers a hot blow it will cause the vehicle’s hazard lights to come on, the headlights to flash, and the horn to continuously beep. All of those factors should lead most drivers who attempt to fool the system to be a little bit safer because they are obviously visible to the rest of the drivers and offer the police an obvious sign of an impaired driver.
DUI/DWI – The Hidden Crime
Although the sobriety checkpoints during the different holidays throughout the year promote a ton of awareness surrounding driving under the influence, the issue is still highly prevalent and often goes unnoticed by the police. Most people with a .08 Blood Alcohol Content (the average legal limit these days) are not going to be swerving uncontrollably so it can be difficult for officers to notice a drunk driver until they are so far over the legal limit that their driving becomes extremely hazardous. In the remaining incidents, drivers who are not in any shape to face an unforeseen obstacle in the roadway are left alone to drive home from happy hour or the club, without ever getting caught.
It is estimated that by the time someone is arrested for DUI they have driven impaired 80 other times prior to that. Repeat offenders is a huge portion of those who are convicted of DUIs, and some studies have shown that even when a DUI offender has their license suspended up to 75% of them continue to drive. The University of Michigan study indicated that these statistics prove that people will not police themselves and ignition interlock devices have shown to reduce driving under the influence recidivism by about 67%.
Ignition Interlocks a Money Boom
Mandatory ignition interlock devices in all new vehicles would not only save lives, but it would save cold hard cash. The study estimated that in fifteen years time the economic impact would be over $343 million dollars. The cost of installing these ignition interlock devices would be covered in less than three years. The money saved and the lives saved would add up to a whole lot more than the $400 per vehicle it is estimated to cost to implement a device.
Several Years Away
The study doesn’t believe that mandatory ignition interlock devices are realistic anytime in the near future, however they do advocate for other measures in the meantime that can significantly impact that catastrophic costs associated with drunk driving in America.
First Time Offender Laws
Previous studies have shown that when first-time DUI/DWI offenders are ordered to utiliize an ignition interlock device has the potential to decrease preventable motor vehicle deaths by five-fold. Additionally, the study suggests that Department of Public Safety and Department of Motor Vehicles begin implementing the ignition interlock devices for a period of time longer than the offender is under probation or has their license suspended. States should also begin requiring ignition interlocks for DUI/DWI offenders during the trial/hearing phase between arrest and conviction.
Protect the Children
The study went on to say that simply by requiring mandatory ignition interlock devices in vehicles driven by people under the age of 21 would reduce over 187,282 nonfatal injuries and 7,604 fatalities in the United States alone. All fifty states already have a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving so support for a law like this should be well received by the country. In a recent telephone survey 84% of respondents supported interlocks for offenders convicted of DUI/DWI, and almost 65% reported that alcohol detection devices in all vehicles was a good or very good idea.
Read the entire study, including their methods at American Journal of Public Health