Nat’l Academies of Sciences Urges Ignition Interlocks, Other Measures

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a report recently which addresses the problem of drunk driving in the US. Yesterday we discussed the most controversial of the proposals made in the report – the lowering of the legal BAC level for intoxication to .05 percent.

The report, however, discusses quite a few improvements that need to be made to the system. These are the main ones:

  • Raise Alcohol Taxes. The report recommends that the federal and state governments raise alcohol taxes, a move which tends to reduce binge drinking and DUI crashes. The report notes that in real terms alcohol taxes have decreased in recent years.
  • Restrict Alcohol Availability. Booze should not be available 24 hours a day, and not all over the map. The number of off-premise outlets (where alcohol is bought but not consumed, such as supermarkets) should be limited, as should the hours of sale. Licensed retailers should be penalized more heavily if they sell liquor to already-intoxicated persons.
  • Restrict Alcohol Marketing. Federal, state and local governments should do more to strengthen and enforce standards for permissible alcohol marketing. The report notes that the industry’s self-regulation in this regard has not been a success.
  • More Sobriety Checkpoints. Establishing checkpoints for identifying and arresting drunk drivers has been successful in those states where they are permitted. The report says the practice should be more widespread.
  • More Ignition Interlocks. These devices, which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking, are proven to reduce recidivism among drunk drivers. The Academies recommend ignition interlocks for all DUI offenders whose BAC is .08 at time of arrest. As for the amount of time the ignition interlock should be used: “Evidence shows that a minimum monitoring period of two years for interlock devices is effective for a first offense, and four years is effective for a second offense.”
  • More DWI Courts. Every state should have a DWI court system for changing offenders’ behavior through monitoring and substance abuse treatment.
  • Alternative Transportation. Municipalities need to do more to help residents get home safely after drinking. This means supporting ride sharing, public transportation, and other options.

The Academies are not in league with any special interest or pressure group. Their goal is to illuminate some solutions to the problem of drunk driving, which claims some ten thousand lives in this country every year, and injures many times that. Cities and states, along with the federal government, should take these recommendations seriously. There might have been a time when governments didn’t know what to do about the drunk driving problem. But that time is gone, and the solutions are waiting to be adopted. What’s needed is the commitment to the cause.

Who’s going to step up? Public safety advocates are watching.