Attorney Shaun R. Marks Comments on Federal Push to Require Ignition Interlocks
Ignition interlocks prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Although all 50 states and the District of Columbia use these devices, requirements vary. Currently only 20 states require ignition interlocks for anyone convicted of any drunk driving offense (including a first offense), but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now pushing more states to follow suit.
“Currently, in Michigan, only people convicted of driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.17 — more than twice the legal limit — are required to use an interlock device,” said Shaun R. Marks, a Michigan criminal defense attorney who handles DUI and OWI cases.
That requirement would change if the Traffic Safety Administration’s recommendations are followed.
These recommendations are contained in the agency’s Model Guideline for State Ignition Interlock Programs. The agency asks state legislatures to consider passing laws that would require the devices as a condition for the reinstatement of driving privileges for anyone who has had driving privileges suspended or who has been convicted of an alcohol-impaired driving offense.
The agency also recommends that any eligibility requirements that prevent offenders from participating in ignition interlock programs be eliminated or minimized, and that options that allow offenders to avoid the program be eliminated.
The Traffic Safety Administration states that there is strong scientific evidence that the use of ignition interlock devices reduces drunk driving among both first-time and repeat offenders. Some studies have shown that the devices are about 75 percent effective in preventing drunk driving among people previously convicted of such an offense.
In recent years, there have been as many as 1.5 million drunk driving arrests each year in the United States. In 2012, there were 10,322 deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers, a 4.6 percent increase in the fatality figure from the year previous.
According to government data, about 300,000 drivers are currently required to use ignition interlock devices because of a drunk driving offense. Drivers typically pay about $75 to purchase the device and as much as $50 per month to maintain it.