CBS News on Ignition Interlock Laws:The Full Story
A recent CBS news report offered news that isn’t exactly shocking: drunk driving is still a problem. The report, investigating New York State’s DUI landscape, did provide a more interesting revelation: most repeat drunken drivers are not installing ignition interlock devices, despite the fact that they are required by law for all DUI offenses.
A Queens prosecutor notes, for example, that there are people teaching drunk drivers how to circumvent the devices. However, work-arounds like filters (to scrub one’s breath) and hair dryers (to imitate blowing) do not work, as ignition interlock devices in almost all states include a camera in the vehicle as well, to monitor the driver’s testing procedure.
The article’s conclusion, however, is right on the money: “Experts agree the devices work but say the law needs more teeth.”
- Ignition Interlocks work when installed. Studies show that drunk driving fatalities fall in states that mandate ignition interlocks. Drivers who have interlocks installed cannot drink and drive those vehicles. As a result, the roads are safer in states with ignition interlock laws.
- The laws do need strengthening. Some states allow offenders to “wait out” the suspension in lieu of having an interlock installed. A better approach, like that used by New York and Washington State, keeps an interlock requirement from expiring indefinitely; offenders can never get a license until they have driven for the requisite period with an ignition interlock.
If almost three-quarters of DUI offenders are not installing an ignition interlock when required, then the fault is not with the devices; there is a severe compliance issue that needs to be addressed by the states. Lawmakers now have a tool to reduce the harm that drunk drivers do on the nation’s roads; they need to pass stronger laws and promote better procedures to make sure that this tool is put to use.