Ignition interlocks cut drunken driving: study

Reuters reports that ignition devices that stop drivers from starting their vehicles if they are over the alcohol limit help prevent people convicted of driving under the influence from re-offending, according to a new study.

Re-arrest rates for alcohol-impaired driving decrease by 67 percent after the ignition interlocks are installed compared to drivers with suspended licenses, said the study by researchers at the Community Guide branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Around 200,000 vehicles in the United States are fitted with interlock devices that are used to prevent drunken driving by people convicted of such offenses.

“The very strong indication is that ignition interlocks work extremely well with preventing people with interlocks installed from re-offending,” said Randy Elder, scientific director for systematic reviews at Community Guide, commenting on the study.

“In order to maximize the benefits of these interlocks in terms of preventing alcohol-impaired driving and crashes, we need to get more people (using them),” Elder said on Tuesday in an interview. He said the devices’ deployment was growing.

Around 1.4 million people are arrested for driving under the influence in the United States each year and 1 million of those are convicted, Elder said.

The devices are typically mounted on the dashboard and include a tube into which the driver blows for analysis of alcohol breath content.

Typically their installation is part of a sentencing requirement or a state mandates it for certain offenders as a condition of acquiring a license. Use of the interlocks varies from state to state with New Mexico the leader, Elder said.

Crashes by people driving under the influence resulted in nearly 11,000 deaths in the United States in 2009, representing one third of all traffic deaths, the CDC said. The annual cost of impaired driving is $110 billion.

The review to be published in the March issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine is based upon a systematic review of 15 scientific studies of ignition interlock devices.

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