How Effective are Ignition Interlock Devices Around the Country?

New Mexico was the first state in the country to enact ignition interlock laws that require first time offenders to install the device in their vehicle following a DUI conviction. Statistics in New Mexico show the rate of recidivism has dropped dramatically since the law went into effect in June of 2005.

Since then, at least 11 states have followed suit, including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. All of these states have mandatory ignition interlock requirements for a first offender DUI. In Colorado, the law isn’t mandatory, but it is almost expected that a judge will require a first time offender to install the device. Hawaii is the most recent state to put a law on the books for a first offender DUI to install interlock devices in 2011.

In addition to first time offenders, 48 states have some kind of ignition interlock law. Only Alabama and South Dakota have no ignition interlock laws in any capacity.

In Massachusetts, a new law requires an ignition interlock device for anyone convicted of a second or subsequent DUI offense. The Massachusetts DMV says two years of data shows that more than 4000 drivers have been required to use ignition interlock devices. Of the hundreds who have used the system, only 30 drivers have been charged with a third DUI. This makes the recidivism rate less than 2% in Massachusetts. However, it is important to note that there is no information on why all the 4,000 drivers did not participate in the program if they were required to do so.

Starting July 1, 2011, new legislation in Minnesota will require all offenders whose BAC was .16 or higher to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. It doesn’t matter if the person is a first time or a repeat offender. The drive behind this law comes from the reported success of New Mexico’s ignition interlock program.

In California, beginning in 2010, a new law has been introduced involving ignition interlock systems. Being tested out in four counties, Los Angeles, Alameda, Tulare and Sacramento County, a driver convicted of DUI must install an ignition interlock device in every vehicle they own and operate in order to receive a restricted driver’s license.  Regardless of whether the car is yours or your spouse’s, if you own or operate it, you MUST install the system. Plus, the DUI offender must show proof to the DMV that the device has been installed. The amount of time it will stay in the driver’s vehicle(s) depends on whether this is a first or subsequent offense. All other counties in California, first offenders are not required to install the device. It will be up to the discretion of the judge.

Ignition interlock devices have been installed on hundreds of thousands of cars around the country. According to a consumeraffairs.com story, ignition interlock devices could save nearly ten thousand lives a year. This is promising considering DUI accidents account for about 40 percent of the annual deaths on U.S. roadways.

While the specific data for each state on the effect of ignition interlock devices is scattered and not fully substantiated, it is clear that more and more states are beginning to see ignition interlock systems as a way to prevent future DUI arrests and accidents. Further, there has been much discussion about having a type of ignition interlock device on EVERY car in the future. This could stop drunk driving in its tracks. So until that happens, requiring a DUI offender to install the system in his or her car can prevent repeat behavior and stop DUI accidents.

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