Earlier this month, as part of its conclusions to an investigation into wrong-way driving crashes, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommend ignition interlocks for all those convicted of a DUI. That means every first-time offender couldn’t start his car until he had satisfied the breathalyzer attached to his ignition. With the nation’s deadliest hours for drunk driving approaching, New Year’s Day, the American Automobile Association (AAA) has pointed out the dangers of the holiday and voiced support for the NTSB measure.
The AAA says its own study shows that “nearly eight out of ten Americans support requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted DUI offenders, even if it’s their first conviction.” Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has put the national rate of repeat DUI offenders at 15 percent, but there’s a huge variance: in California nearly eight percent of fatal DUI crashes are repeat offenders and DUI recidivism overall was 24 percent in 2007, whereas in New Mexico in 2011 more than 50 percent of fatal DUI crashes are attributed to repeat offenders. Another stat from MADD is that “The average driver drives drunk 87 times before their first arrest.”
There are already 17 states that mandate ignition interlock devices for those convicted of DUI, and the NTSB is asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to speed up research into manufacturer-installed interlock devices. It will probably be a while, if ever, before the federal government or the rest of the country follows the lead of those 17 states, but the real point is this: We’ve made it past the Mayan Apocalypse, so enjoy the new world and be careful behind the wheel come NYE.