NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 29, 2006

Safety advocates want to turn technology loose on drunk driving by placing "ignition interlock" devices in cars of convicted drivers, which disable the car if alcohol above a certain level is detected, says USA Today.

So far, stricter drunk driving laws, stiffer penalties and public awareness campaigns have cut the rate of alcohol-related fatalities substantially in the past 20 years, but the number of people killed remains appallingly and unacceptably high.


  • In 2005 alone, nearly 13,000 people were killed in crashes involving drunk drivers -- more than four times the U.S. death toll in the entire Iraq war.
  • What's worse, about 11 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2005 were driving on invalid licenses and had previous drunk driving convictions.

Mandating devices to prevent them from driving drunk could change that, says USA Today. A study in Maryland by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that convicted drivers using the devices had 65 percent fewer repeat offenses in the first year than did offenders who were put on probation.

Ignition locks are no panacea, however.  They can be thwarted by having sober passengers blow into the interlock, and critics complain they are intrusive and costly. Yet the deadly consequences of driving while intoxicated beg for strong measures to prevent a recurrence.

Source: Editorial, "Stall drunk drivers," USA Today, December 27, 2006.

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