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In the fight against drunk driving, perhaps nothing conjures more mystique than that of the ignition interlock. Although various types of alcohol countermeasures exist—such as sobriety check points, license suspension, license revocation, use of the graduated license program, lowering the legal limits of alcohol content and raising the drinking age to 21—the number of highway injuries and

deaths remain high.

In 2006, alcohol was involved in 41 percent of traffic fatali- ties and seven percent of all traffic injuries…costing over $148 billion dollars. The idea that a “50 to 90 percent de- crease recidivism [exists as long as] the device is installed on the vehicle” recently caused ignition interlock advo- cates to endorse devices for all drivers with drunk driving convictions. On the other side of the spectrum, some say these devices are not effective against first time alcohol offenders. So the question remains, why the disparity in recidivism rates and effectiveness between studies?

Maybe it is because many know it works but have not figured out how to make it work consistently. To get the desired effect of the research studies, DMVs would have to mimic or reproduce similar conditions of the research protocols—and most people don’t know the specifics of those protocols. Drivers are sometimes biased because they receive interlock as an incentive or in lieu of a sus- pension, and are allowed to continue driving. Those drivers may have been prone to successful behavior, and therefore skewed results of some studies.

The tremendous success rates reported in studies have fueled a cry of underutilization and a silver bullet approach to resolve the drunk driver problem. Today, approximately 145,000 throughout the nation use igni- tion interlock. Given the enormous road hazard drunk driving presents, and the known effectiveness of igni- tion interlock, 145,000 devices pales in comparison to the reported 1.4 million drinking and driving arrests re- ported each year. One barrier to increasing interlock use is the idea that interlock is punitive. Instead, it should be viewed as an offender-paid measure to protect America’s families from drivers who prove themselves incapable of making the right decisions after consuming alcohol.

the inteRloCk issue

Forty-two states and the District of Columbia have stat- utes or regulations requiring the use of interlocks. And this is enforced by either the DMV (administratively), the courts, or a combination of the two. States with admin- istrative requirements tend to have more effective pro- grams than those ordered by courts. (See figure 1)

The prevailing thought behind the effectiveness of the ignition interlock program stems from the belief that

18MOVE | Fall 2008

ignition inteR

keePing the BoozeR fRoM




the car does not start if alcohol is detected on the breath of the driver. However, research shows that this is not the case. The use of ignition interlock is a countermeasure that reduces recidivism in drunk driving—only if once the device is installed, the ignition interlock restriction is placed on the front of the driver’s license and the data logger events are closely monitored.

“The data logger compiles useful, somewhat better than anecdotal, eveidence for probation officers to dicuss the person’s alcohol consumption,” said Jerry Stanton, Ignition

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