NHTSA: More Ignition Interlocks Needed for Repeat DWIs

Nicole Nason, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, called on judges and prosecutors to consider increasing the use of ignition interlocks as part of a penalty enforced against repeat drunk driving offenders. Nason made the recommendation during a recent meeting in Washington D.C., with judges, court professionals, safety equipment manufacturers, and national safety advocates to discuss the role of alcohol ignition interlocks for repeat offenders to reduce drunken driving fatalities. "We need to expand the use of interlock technology in order to prohibit drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel again and again," Nason said. "It is vital that judges and prosecutors employ all the tools at their disposal to ensure that repeat offenders don’t have the opportunity to cause harm."

Nason said judges and prosecutors can significantly boost traffic safety by increasing the use of the ignition interlock technology as a penalty for drunken driving offenders. She noted that interlocks are currently used in approximately 100,000 DWI cases each year, only about 20 percent of the cases for which they could be used. She added that such measures are necessary since drunken driving fatality levels have stagnated. In 2006, 13,470 fatalities occurred in crashes involving at least one driver or motorcycle operator who had a .08 or above Blood Alcohol Concentration compared with 13,582 in 2005. "It is unacceptable for us to allow known drunk driving offenders back on the road without some protection for the responsible drivers," Nason said.

There are approximately 1.5 million arrests each year of impaired drivers; a third of these are repeat offenders. In states except Alabama, Hawaii, Maine, South Dakota, and Vermont, judges can order interlocks for drunken driving offenders.

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