Ignition Interlocks for First-Time DUI Offenders?

Photograph by Jim Mone/AP Photo

The interlock ignition system which requires the driver to blow into a tube to prove sobriety before driving.

AAA, the motorist group with more than 53 million members, is endorsing the National Transportation Safety Board’s call for mandatory use of ignition interlock devices for all drunken-driving offenders.

AAA issued its statement five days before New Year’s Eve, which the group calls the deadliest day on U.S. roads. Interlocks require a driver to blow into a tube to prove his or her sobriety before starting a car, and are required for first-time DUI offenders in about one-third of states.

The NTSB two weeks ago called for mandatory interlocks, something Mothers Against Drunk Driving began pushing in 2006.

It’s part of what AAA has said is a concerted effort to have a louder voice on policy. The group last month warned that an ethanol-blended gasoline called E15 – which the Obama administration supports – may confuse consumers and damage car engines.

Interlocks, for which offenders pay installation costs and a monthly fee, should only be required for repeat offenders and those whose blood-alcohol content is egregiously high, says a coalition of restaurants and alcoholic beverage distributors. That group, which won’t disclose its members, is the chief voice of opposition to interlocks for first-time offenders.

It’s up to states to enact traffic-safety laws, including those requiring interlocks. But pushing at a national level for change is a tried-and-true model with notches of success for initiatives including mandatory seat belt use, lowering the limit for drunk driving to .08 blood-alcohol content, and raising the legal drinking age to 21.


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