When the North Carolina General Assembly adjourned last summer, a handful of bills concerning ignition interlock devices were pending, and they may or may not be picked up when legislators reconvene next month. Until a stricter interlock law passes, the state will continue to be a target for proponents. Research shows that states with interlock mandates have seen drunk driving re-arrest rates drop by as much as 67 percent.
The organizations leading the charge are Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They see interlock mandates as the best way for law enforcement to address repeat offenders — just one step along the road to eliminating drunk driving altogether.
The interlock device works like a Breathalyzer. The driver must take the breath test for the car to start — but the car will only start if the driver’s blood alcohol level is below a set limit (often lower than the state’s legal limit).
MADD used to encourage states to suspend repeat and habitual offenders’ licenses. The laws weren’t effective though: As many as 75 percent of convicted drivers ignored their suspension. The organization turned its attention to earlier interventions about six years ago; rather than revoking privileges, interlock laws work to assure that offenders are sober before they get behind the wheel.
Fifteen states have ignition interlock laws right now; 24 states require Breathalyzer-type locks for multiple offenders and offenders caught with alcohol levels well above the legal limit. Another 10 states, including North Carolina, are considering interlock bills.
Critics say some of the laws sail a little too close to the wind, though. We’ll discuss their concerns in our next post.
Source: MSNBC, “Curbing drunken drivers: Should ignition interlock be required on every car?” Jim Gold, Jan. 5, 2012