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Ignition Interlock Devices And Federal Regulations

An ignition interlock device is installed on a vehicle's dashboard and requires drivers to provide a breath sample to start the engine. It basically forces you to pass a Breathalyzer test every time you get into your vehicle. If you are convicted of driving under the influence, whether or not you will be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle depends on where you were convicted and your particular circumstances. Currently, 17 states require interlock devices for first-time offenders. In Illinois, all DUI offenders are automatically issued an interlock device. Declining to use the device can lead to increased penalties. As in most states, the cost of installing and renting the device itself falls on the licensee.

The National Transportation Safety Board is advocating a policy that would require anyone convicted of drunk driving, whether a first-time offender or a repeat offender, to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle. The NTSB claims that such a policy, if enacted nationwide, would significantly reduce alcohol-related crashes. In 2011, fatal car accidents involving drunk drivers claimed the lives of 9,878 people. Despite the fact that the number of traffic fatalities has been dropping steadily over the years, the NTSB believes a mandatory ignition interlock rule should be in place.

The Cost Of Ignition Interlock Laws

Among the groups critical of the proposed rule is the American Beverage Institute. While the ABI supports mandatory interlock devices for repeat offenders and for drivers convicted of driving well above the legal limit of .08 blood alcohol content, it believes that judges should have discretion in deciding whether a first-time offender who was just barely over the limit should face such a burden. Part of the problem is that ignition interlock devices are expensive and that enforcing such a law is potentially cost-prohibitive. According to the managing director of the ABI, the majority of states with strict ignition interlock requirements do not enforce them because of the cost involved.

Zero Alcohol-Impaired Driving-Related Deaths

The NTSB says that making the devices mandatory would further its goal of achieving zero alcohol-impaired driving-related deaths. Drunk driving accidents claim more lives than all other types of roadway accidents combined, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has long advocated mandatory ignition interlock devices for those convicted of DWI. The chairman of the NTSB has called technology "the game changer in reducing alcohol-related crashes on our nation's roadways."

Stiff Penalties

Those convicted of DUI in Illinois already face stiff penalties. A person who was just barely over the limit, who injured no one and damaged no property still faces driver's license suspension, a conviction on his or her permanent record and court supervision. The full cost of a DUI conviction is difficult to calculate, but it is extensive. The additional burden of a mandatory ignition interlock device should not be undertaken lightly.