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New Year's resolution: Stop drunk driving with ignition locks

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The most common methods used by the legal system to prevent a second drunk driving offense include longer sentences, limitations on plea bargains, referrals to treatment programs, and license suspensions. While these options have benefits and work for some offenders, their impact is limited because they do not separate the behaviors of drinking from driving.

It is time to implement a proven method to prevent recidivism by requiring the use of ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers, including first-time offenders. This is the most effective option available for ensuring that alcohol consumption does not mix with driving for those most likely to drive drunk again.

Ignition interlock devices require a driver to blow into the device and register a sober blood alcohol level. If the driver has been drinking and is unable to pass the breath test, the car will not start, which prevents the motorist from driving while impaired.

Ignition interlocks work. Research shows these devices can reduce repeat offenses by a median of 67 percent. Drivers with interlocks also have fewer alcohol-impaired crashes than drivers who had their licenses suspended because of a DWI conviction. In fact, estimates suggest that 50-75 percent of offenders with suspended licenses continue to drive and have more alcohol-impaired crashes than drivers with an ignition interlock.

The effectiveness of interlocks may explain why 80 percent of Americans support ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, according to a 2011 survey by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Congress agrees. It directed the US Department of Transportation to award grants to states that require ignition interlocks for all DWI offenders.

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