Study claims majority of motorists would support mandatory ignition interlocks on all vehicles to avoid drunk driving accidents

A majority of motorists favor mandating high-tech devices that would prohibited people from driving vehicles under the influence, according to the results of a new study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

About 180,000 interlocks — devices which test an operator’s blood-alcohol level before allowing a vehicle to be operated — are mandated for use by some drunk driving offenders. Widespread use of interlocks by all motorists has been increasingly debated as a way to lower road fatalities caused by drinking and driving.

The Chicago drunk driving accident lawyers and the personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at Abels & Annes continue to monitor enforcement and safety issues surrounding the prevention of drunk driving, which accounts for about one-third of all traffic fatalities
Nationwide, the number of fatal drunk driving cases dropped slightly in 2008, to 11,773 compared to 13,041 in 2007. But alcohol-related fatalities still account for about 1 in every 3 of the nation’s 37,261 road deaths in 2008, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In Illinois, 362 people were killed by drunk drivers last year of the 1,043 traffic fatalities.

About 3 of 4 survey respondents were aware of interlocks being required for some people with DUI convictions. Connected to a car’s ignition system, the devices keep vehicles from starting if an operator’s blood-alcohol level registers above a predetermined level, usually set below the legal threshold of .08.

While the Insurance Institute says the devices have been successful in reducing the risk posed by prior drunk-driving offenders, the group contends that most fatal crashes involve drunk drivers who have not had a prior offense in the past 3 years, and so would not be subject to mandatory use of the devices under various existing state laws.

The group contends 8,000 lives could be saved by equipping all vehicles with such devices and points to the study’s results as proof the general public might be receptive to the idea.

“The results are clear-cut and a bit surprising,” says Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research. “We didn’t expect to find support across the board for the idea of detecting alcohol in everybody, but this survey tells us people are ready to crack down on all impaired drivers, not just those who’ve had DWI convictions.”

Technology would have to be improved so that the devices could be invisible and maintenance free– current interlock devices are large, visible, “unwieldy and obstructive,” according the the group.

However, the Institute reports that a partnership between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, is exploring new detection technologies that could be developed for widespread use.

“The idea is to stop anyone from operating a vehicle if the BAC registers 0.08 percent or higher, not to prevent drivers from having any drinks at all before getting in their cars,” McCartt said.

Sixty-four percent of survey respondents said the devices would be a good idea in all cars if the technology proves reliable. Only 30 percent said it’s a bad idea.

Other results of the survey include:

26 percent who regularly drive and also said they drink admitted to driving within 2 hours of consuming alcohol.

70 percent of those people said they might have driven over the legal limit.

67 percent of survey participants said interlocks prevent drunk driving.

About a third of respondents who felt the technology is a bad or very bad idea cited concerns about privacy or government interference.

20 percent said not all drivers need to be screened.

Others mentioned concerns about the device’s accuracy and cost.

Most people felt a price under $500 would be reasonable.

44 percent of drivers who drink said they would want an alcohol detection device in their next vehicle.

For more information on drunk driving accidents, trends and safety tips, visit the Illinois drunk driving section of Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, provided by the Chicago drunk driving accident attorneys at Abels & Annes.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured by a car accident or drunk driver in Illinois, call the personal injury attorneys and wrongful death lawyers at Abels & Annes for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.

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