Study at UPenn Shows Ignition Interlocks Saved Lives

April 29th, 2016

Research shows 15 percent reduction in drunk driving-related deaths

According to a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, states that require convicted drunk drivers to pass a breathalyzer test before starting their cars have seen a significant drop in drunk driving fatalities.

Led by Elinore J. Kaufman, MD, a Penn graduate student, the researchers compared alcohol-related fatalities in states that required ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers as of 2013 with states that did not have mandatory interlock laws. The research showed that interlocks saved over 900 lives in those 18 states – representing a 15 percent reduction in fatalities.

Currently, Pennsylvania is among those states without a mandatory ignition interlock law. However, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ Transportation Committee is considering a law that would require first-time DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock if their blood alcohol content (BAC) was .10 or higher.

Previous studies have looked at recidivism rates for mandatory interlock laws, but the Penn study is the first to directly investigate the connection between ignition interlock devices and fatalities.

Repeat drunk driving offenders represent a significant danger to motorists

The statistics are clear: Most drunk drivers are repeat offenders, even if they do not have multiple convictions. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, for each of the million drunk driving convictions every year, there are an estimated 88 previous instances of drunk driving.

That means that any step taken to prevent known drunk drivers from driving again is a step toward safer roads for everyone. Ignition interlock devices prevent intoxicated drivers from starting their cars, directly impeding their ability to drive drunk.

While the research shows that the new law being considered by state lawmakers would very likely reduce fatalities, more steps need to be taken to curb drunk driving and reduce fatalities. The study authors suggested several other policy changes to reduce drunk driving, including encouraging alternative forms of transportation and addressing social behaviors that lead to excessive drinking.

Ultimately, however, motorists have a responsibility to operate their vehicles in a safe and appropriate way – and to stay off the road when they are intoxicated or otherwise unable to drive safely. People who choose to drive drunk put themselves and everyone else on the road at risk. When they cause car accidents, they need to be held accountable.

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