Regulators Want To Lock Steering Wheels Of Convicted Drunk Drivers If They’re Intoxicated

How do you keep a convicted drunk driver from climbing behind the wheel while intoxicated? Just lock’em out, say federal regulators.  Federal safety regulators are pushing for a policy that would allow for special ignition interlock devices to be installed in the vehicles of convicted drunk drivers. The devices would lock up if the driver tries to go anywhere while intoxicated.

The National Transportation Safety  Board is a fan of the idea, and says such a gadget policy  would help prevent traffic collision deaths, reports the Los Angeles Times, especially those caused by drivers going the wrong way. Around 60% of wrong-way accidents involve drunk drivers, says the NTSB. The interlock devices would be mandatory in the vehicles of all drunk-driving offenders, even first-timers.

“Technology is the game-changer in reducing alcohol-related crashes on our nation’s roadways,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. “Achieving zero alcohol-impaired driving-related deaths is possible only if society is willing to separate the impaired driver from the driving task.”

Hersman said the interlock devices should be mandatory for all drunk-driving offenders, including first time convictions. The hardware prevents the engine from starting until the driver breathes into a device that checks alcohol content. One sip over the legal limit and the car won’t go.

Not everyone is in favor of such an overreaching policy for first-time offenders— including the alcoholic beverage industry — saying that not every case is the same. Both the Distilled Spirits Council and the American Beverage Institute approve of ignition interlocks for people convicted of driving with a blood-alcohol content of .15 or higher. Usually, a level of 0.08 is considered too drunk to drive.

“We believe that judges should be able to distinguish between someone who is one sip over the limit and someone has had nine drinks prior to driving. There should not be a one-size-fits-all penalty for DUI offenders,” said Sarah Longwell, managing director of the American Beverage Institute.

The NTSB will make its recommendation for the locks even as traffic deaths have fallen steadily, with a 26% decline last year since 2005.

Lock out drunk drivers? Bid includes 1st offenders ‘a sip over limit’ [Los Angeles Times]