By Jerry Hirsch
All people convicted of drunk driving should have special ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles that keep them from starting the car if they are intoxicated, federal safety regulators said Tuesday.
The National Transportation Safety Board said such a policy could be a major factor in preventing traffic collision deaths, especially those occurring in accidents caused by a wrong-way driver.
About 60% of wrong-way accidents involve an intoxicated driver, said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman.
Hersman said the interlock devices should be mandatory for all drunk-driving offenders, including first time convictions.
“The first step to address the number one killer on our roadways is to do what is proven to be effective — use interlocks for all DWI offenders,” Hersman said.
An alcohol-ignition interlock is a device that prevents the engine from starting until the driver breathes into a device that measures alcohol content to see if it is lower than prescribed limits. Currently, 17 states require interlocks for first-time offenders.
“Technology is the game-changer in reducing alcohol-related crashes on our nation’s roadways,” Hersman said. “Achieving zero alcohol-impaired driving-related deaths is possible only if society is willing to separate the impaired driver from the driving task.”
The alcoholic beverage industry opposes a blanket requirement for first-time offenders, but it supports restrictions for people who have registered exceptionally high blood-alcohol levels.
Both the Distilled Spirits Council and the American Beverage Institute, which represents restaurant chains, support ignition interlocks for first-time convictions of people who posted a blood-alcohol content of .15 or higher.
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