Research shows alcohol interlocks are an effective deterrent
FIRST TIME drink-drive offenders are less likely to re-offend if they have to install alcohol interlocks on their vehicles, a new study by the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows. The finding provides support for requiring the devices for all offenders, not just those with multiple arrests or high blood alcohol concentrations (BACs).
Researchers studied driver records in Washington state for people with convictions related to alcohol-impaired driving. They found that after the state expanded its interlock requirement to everyone convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), the recidivism rate for people affected by the expansion fell 12%. Only about a third of those offenders actually went through with interlock installations. If all of them had, their recidivism rate would have fallen by nearly half, the researchers estimate.
An alcohol interlock is a breath-testing unit that a driver must blow into before starting the vehicle. If the reading exceeds a preset level, the vehicle will not start. Previous studies have found that offenders who install interlocks are much less likely to be rearrested on DUI charges than those who do not.
Legislation pending in the U.S. Congress would encourage states to require interlocks for all impaired-driving convictions by linking highway funds to the issue. “Drivers with previous impaired-driving convictions are overrepresented in alcohol-related fatal crashes, so deterring people from reoffending is a good first step to reduce the death toll,” says Anne McCartt, the Institute’s senior vice president for research and the study’s main author. “As this study shows, the more offenders are covered by an interlock law, the better it works.”
“This report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety provides strong validation for MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving and our efforts to require all convicted drunk drivers to use an ignition interlock device,” says Jan Withers, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “We will continue to work at the state and federal levels to ensure that all Americans are protected by comprehensive and lifesaving interlock laws.”
Washington is one of 15 U. S. states that require everyone convicted of DUI to install an interlock for a certain period in order to drive. Another 22 states apply the restriction to drivers with high BACs and/or to repeat offenders. Elsewhere, interlock restrictions are not mandatory but may be imposed.
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