New Mexico’s Success with Ignition Interlocks

How effective are ignition interlock systems when they are used as a punishment, even for first time offenders? To help answer this question, it’s best to take a look at the New Mexico ignition interlock program.

In 2005, New Mexico was the first state in the country to require that ANYONE, including a first time offender, who is convicted of a DUI, install an ignition interlock system in his or her vehicle. The law went into effect on June 17, 2005. According to New Mexico ignition interlock law, the offender must blow into the device each and every time he gets into his vehicle in order to start the car. The device records the driver’s BAC and if it registered above .025, the vehicle will not start.

Unless the driver gets the device installed, he may not drive legally in the state of New Mexico. If the driver fails to install the ignition interlock system, the penalty will be the same as if the driver is driving without a license. That carries up to 1 year in jail.

The New Mexico ignition interlock law states that a first time offender will have an ignition interlock for one year. A second offender must install the device for two years, three years for a third DUI conviction. A fourth or subsequent DUI becomes a felony, and the law requires drivers install the ignition interlock system for a lifetime, with a 5-year court review.

Has New Mexico found success with this program? According to the Centers for Disease Control, repeat offenses dropped by 73% in New Mexico when the device was used. In January of 2010, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall introduced legislation that would require the entire country to adopt the same ignition interlock program that New Mexico has. So far, some states, not all, have made laws regarding ignition interlock device installation as a form of punishment.

It is important to note that New Mexico’s success with reducing DUI repeat offenses cannot be completely credited to ignition interlock systems. New Mexico has many other programs including intensified police presences, a “Drunk Buster” hotline, underage drinking rules, and a major anti-DUI advertising campaign.

While the dropping number of DUI offenders in New Mexico isn’t only because of ignition interlock systems, it is clear the devices are a large part of the overall changes in the state. New Mexico continues to serve as an example for the rest of the country, highlighted as a state with major success with curbing DUI offenses.

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