ABI supports the use of ignition interlock devices for repeat offenders and first-time offenders with BAC levels of .15 or higher, but opposes laws requiring low-BAC first-time offenders to install interlocks. States already lack the resources to ensure that the most dangerous drunk drivers — who are responsible for the vast majority of alcohol-related traffic fatalities — are complying with ignition interlock court orders. Funds and personnel should not be further diluted by ineffective all-offender IID laws, and should instead be focused on keeping dangerous hardcore drunk drivers off the road.
Ignition interlocks are devices that require drivers to prove their sobriety before starting the engine. In most states, convicted drunk drivers are required or strongly encouraged to install these devices on their cars to regain driving privileges. While ABI supports the use of ignition interlocks for repeat offenders and first-time offenders with BAC levels of .15 or higher, ABI opposes laws requiring low-BAC first-time offenders to install interlocks because the programs are ineffective and siphon resources from legitimate highway safety programs.
Ignition interlocks only work while the devices are installed on an offender’s car. Once the device is taken off, offenders re-offend at the same rate as those who never installed an interlock. States struggle to enforce ignition interlock mandates—the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates only 15-20 percent of drunk driving offenders actually comply with their sentences and install interlocks on their vehicles. Recent research indicates compliance rates may be even lower: Traffic Injury Research Foundation USA puts Kentucky’s ignition interlock compliance rate at less than 6 percent.
That means the vast majority of high-BAC drunk drivers — who commit 70 percent of alcohol-related traffic fatalities – are not being adequately prevented from getting behind the wheel while under the influence.
These limitations are why states should use their limited financial resources to following up with the repeat and high-BAC offenders who pose the greatest danger on the road. Instead of spreading traffic safety resources too thinly by requiring low-BAC, first-time offenders to install interlocks, states should first ensure the most dangerous hardcore offenders comply with interlock orders.