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States consider ignition interlocks for drunk driving offenders

Have you ever been convicted of a drunk driving offense? A recent article explains that government agencies have been considering whether to require ignition interlock equipment in cars for those convicted of driving under the influence (DUI). The other option would be placing the equipment in only hard-core drunk drivers' vehicles. Hard-core drunk drivers include repeat DUI offenders. Currently, South Carolina does not require the system for those that have been convicted of only one DUI.

An ignition interlock is an alcohol-testing machine that a driver blows into before starting a car. If the driver's blood-alcohol content exceeds an unsafe driving level, the vehicle will not start.

Recently, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) studied driver records in a state before and after that state required interlock ignitions for all DUI offenders. IIHS found that requiring interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers reduces the number of repeat offenders.

The vice president for research of IIHS claims, "An interlock law that covers all people convicted of DUI reduces recidivism by 11-12%."

On the other hand, many agencies are opposed to the proposal. For example, the American Beverage Institute (ABI) feels that installing ignition interlocks in offenders' cars is not very useful. The managing director of ABI explains, "As long as the interlock is in the car, there's a reduction in recidivism. But in most states, the offender only has to keep the interlock for about six months. As soon as you take it off, recidivism goes back up."

The American Probation and Parole Association is another agency that feels that requiring ignition interlocks for DUI offenders is not a good idea. Specifically, the systems are expensive. The organization has determined that placing interlocks in first-time offenders' cars would cost states $432 million.

Currently, 15 states place equipment in the cars of first-time offenders.

An ultimate decision has not been reached regarding the installment of interlock ignitions in all DUI offenders' vehicles. Even so, the article sheds light on the ongoing deliberation on drunk driving conviction policy.

Source: USA Today, "Safety group seeks ignition interlocks for all DUI offenders," Larry Copeland, Mar. 5, 2012

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