US: the NHTSA wants ignition interlocks for drunk drivers image

The US safety organization wants to ramp up the crackdown on drunk drivers, and is urging that all states begin requiring ignition interlocks for anyone convicted of a driving under the influence.

There has been a concerted effort to keep drunks off the US roads in recent years, targeting what has traditionally been one of the most significant causes of fatal accidents. And the number of fatalities related to the problem has fallen from more than 21, 000 annually in the early 80s — accounting for more than 50% of all road deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – to around 10,000 in recent years, a third of traffic fatalities.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia now make use of ignition interlocks – which are designed to prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver was drinking. But the rules on who must use the devices vary. In Michigan, for example, only those convicted of having blood-alcohol levels of 0.17, double the legal definition of driving under the influence, must use an interlock. In West Virginia, an interlock can be used for a first-time offender at a judge’s discretion. Other states only target repeat offenders.

Outgoing NHTSA Administrator David Strickland wants that to change in order to “protect sober motorists and ensure that individuals convicted of drunk driving learn from their mistakes.” The agency this week released its “model guideline for state ignition interlock programs” that would cover even first-time offenders just barely over the limit.