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Ignition interlock devices may become more widespread

Drunk driving charges can result in a number of consequences, including license suspension, alcohol education coursework, or jail time. One consequence that may soon become even more commonplace is the use of ignition interlock devices.

Ignition interlock systems are devices which monitor the blood alcohol content of a driver by requiring periodic breath tests for operation of the vehicle in which the device is installed. Fifteen states require such devices for convicted of DWI, including first-time offenders, in order for them to retain their drivers' license.

Some are saying sale of ignition interlock devices may increase to as much as $1.1 billion per year. That possibility is even stronger because of bills currently under consideration. At present, there are bills in both the House and Senate which include measures that would provide states extra highway funding if they pass laws mandating ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers. As sources point out, federal incentive grants such as this are a proven means of changing state laws.

The legislation is being opposed by some in the restaurant industry, who fear the widespread use of the devices will have a chilling effect on alcohol sales.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, roughly 7,000 lives per year could be saved if nobody drove with a blood alcohol content over .08, the legal limit.

But there is a cost for the devices, and the offenders are the ones who pay for it. In Virginia, for example, installation and monitoring of the devices costs $470 every six months. The costs of these devices, as well as the many other costs of a DWI conviction, can be quite burdensome on the convicted.

Source: Bloomberg, "Drunk-Driving Interlock Sales May Jump," Angela Greiling Keane, February 15, 2012.

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