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Today, only 17 states and four California counties require the devices for all convicted drunk drivers. It’s time for the other 33 states plus Washington, D.C. to step up for safety and require ignition interlocks for all offenders.
Critics cite the expense and the curtailment of civil liberties as arguments against the passage of mandatory ignition-interlock laws. Contrary to public perception, offenders pay relatively low costs to run these devices, which total less than the price of a single beer a day after installation. Further, interlocks only are required in a first-time offender’s vehicle for a limited period of time. The purpose of these devices is not to punish, but to protect the public while those convicted of an alcohol-impaired driving offense learn to change their habits behind the wheel.
Ideally, no one would drive while intoxicated. Yet each year millions of people choose to drive after drinking alcohol without regard for their safety or the safety of those sharing the road. The most recent analysis shows these crashes can cost society more than $100 billion a year in monetary and productivity losses. In most cases, the victims and local taxpayers incur the majority of the financial and emotional costs, not the offender.
We challenge state policymakers to join us in our New Year’s resolution and enact legislation requiring ignition interlock devices for all convicted offenders. Next year, unless more states take action, there will likely be another 9,878 tragedies. That’s nearly 10,000 reasons for doing what works to keep impaired drivers off our roadways.
Robert L. Darbelnet is President and CEO of AAA and Deborah A.P. Hersman is Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.