Nationwide Ignition Locks May Become Mandatory

For those who have been convicted of a repeat DWI or DUI charge, an ignition lock may not be a new concept. Breath-activated ignition interlock devices are frequently included in the sentences of drunk driving cases, necessitating that a driver be below a strictly limited level of intoxication before being allowed to start their vehicle and get on the road.

This form of extended punitive regulation may be extended nationwide to every motorist convicted of drunk driving in the not so distant future, if the National Transportation Safety Board gets its way. Last week, the board recommended that every state assign an ignition lock in every DWI/DUI conviction, including first-time offenses.

The practice of requiring an in-car breathalyzer test for all convicted drunk drivers already exists in 17 states, and is taken to be the best and most consistent means of curbing alcohol-related vehicle deaths, which make up about a third of the more than 32,000 American traffic deaths each year. The interlock devices usually allow a vehicle start only if the driver is below a .02 or .04 percent blood alcohol content.

Other developments are also taking place, ones that Missouri residents facing a drunk driving charge may want to watch closely. The NTSB is currently pressuring the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to accelerate collaborative research with auto companies toward implementing a system that can identify intoxication based on infrared light. The technology would examine a driver’s blood alcohol content as the vehicle was started, sometimes literally at the push of a button.

Some have criticized the NTSB’s push for an ignition interlock in all drunk driving cases. The American Beverage Institute asserted last week that such devices should only be required for “the most chronic of offenders.” One representative compared the punishment to speed limits, noting “you don’t punish somebody going five miles over the speed limit the same way you do somebody going 50 miles over.”

Although extended debate may continue over the practicality of mandatory ignition locks, the mandatory installation of one is a clear and obvious intrusion on one’s life following a drunk driving conviction. In order to better the chance of a reduced sentence and retained control over future driving, contacting an attorney should be the first action for those charged with a DWI.

Source: Washington Post, “NTSB recommends every state require ignition interlocks for all convicted drunken drivers,” Dec. 11, 2012