National Safety Council Report: Ignition Interlocks Save Lives

A recent National Safety Council report rated all 50 US states on how they are doing in reducing preventable deaths. The bad news, well known by now, is that no state received an “A” grade on the NSC report, which is entitled The State of Safety.

Some states are doing better than others, however, and those rankings depended on how the state is attacking hazards on the road, at home, and in the workplace.

Relevant to us now is the criteria the report used to rank how states promoted road safety. Alcohol impaired driving was, understandably, a major factor, and the indicators chosen for that issue (factors present or absent which affect that issue) were:

  • Sobriety checkpoints
  • Ignition interlock required for all first-time and repeat DUI offenders
  • Administrative license revocation of 90 days or more for drivers who test about .08 or refuse a test
  • A ban on open containers in vehicles for drivers and passengers

Of these, the first two were weighted the highest in the National Safety Council report. In fact, though no state aced the test, all states that received a “B” grade have an all-offender ignition interlock law in place. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Ignition Interlocks: The State of the Union

Currently 30 states have all-offender ignition interlock laws. Other state legislatures are debating similar laws, which would seem to be a no-brainer – provided all one read were this NSC report. But there is still some public confusion about ignition interlocks. Some people feel the devices are too lenient, since they allow drunk drivers back on the road. Others, paradoxically, feel they are too harsh for first offenders, who have just made one mistake and shouldn’t be weighed down by a car breathalyzer device for months.

The truth is, the device is the best possible measure for both the offender and society. The offender is prevented from driving drunk again. If he or she has alcohol problems, they will have to be confronted, and in the meantime, the public will be protected. Meanwhile, offenders can get on with their lives, keep their jobs, attend school, and become responsible drivers again.  License suspension doesn’t achieve this result. In fact, more than half of people whose license has been pulled drive while suspended anyway.

NSC President and CEO Deborah Hersman said, “We cannot afford to sit back while we lose more than 140,000 people because of issues we know how to prevent.” That astonishing number includes more than 10,000 people lost to alcohol-related road fatalities. The NSC issued The State of Safety to alert Americans that lives were being lost because states were not putting into place measures that exist, that are understandable, workable, and proven. One of these is the ignition interlock.

The National Safety Council has done its job. Now the states should do theirs.