Feds Push for More Ignition Interlocks in DUI Cases

Several months ago, we discuss how an insurance group was advocating for wider use of ignition interlocks in DUI cases. Now federal officials have gotten involved in the issue, and are trying to entice states to adopt laws requiring even first-time drunk driving offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.

The administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), David L. Strickland, can now “dangle $20.8 million in highway safety funds as incentive for states to require the devices for everyone convicted of the crime,” according to the Washington Post.

Last month, Virginia became the 17th state to mandate that even first-time DUI offenders equip their vehicle with interlock devices. Currently, Tennessee only requires ignition interlocks for those convicted of more serious DUI offenses, like drivers with blood-alcohol content in excess of .15 percent.

Advocates claim such devices, which require drivers to blow in them to ensure their blood-alcohol level is below the legal limit before they are able to turn the ignition, prevent drunk driving accidents. Critics, however, say the devices have limited impact and come with too high of price tag for states.

The American Beverage Institute claims the devices only impact behavior temporarily while installed, and then recidivism usually increases. Moreover, the American Probation and Parole Association estimates such a broad mandate would cost each state $432 million. Nationwide the average cost to offenders is $75 for the device installation, and an additional $70 each month for monitoring.

Source: The Washington Post, “Federal officials push for tougher state drunken-driving laws,” Ashley Halsey III, August 14, 2012.

  • Our firm handles DUI defense cases in Tennessee. To learn more about our practice please visit our Tennessee DUI page.
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