Alcohol Ignition Interlocks Would Be a Good Idea

The National Highway Transportation Board (NTSB) recently made the recommendation that automobile manufacturers should be required to install ignition interlock devices (IID) into all new motor vehicles to prevent those who drink alcohol from operating a motor vehicle.

According to the official description of an IID, it is a small, handheld breathalyzer, about the size of a TV remote, for car ignitions that’s installed to prevent users from being able to start their vehicle after drinking alcohol. Sometimes they’re referred to as car breathalyzers.

The devices already are in widespread use by courts who order them for persons who have been convicted of operating under the influence as a condition for being allowed to drive while on probation.

The NTSB made the recommendation because despite improvements in recent years in auto safety, advances in medical technology, and stricter drunk-driving laws, fatalities caused by drunk drivers have been increasing across the U.S. Drunk driving accidents have risen to more than 11,000 deaths annually, of whom 1000 are children.

In addition, a whopping 290,000 Americans are injured by drunk drivers each year. The mass media tends to focus on deaths when reporting on auto accidents (or mass shootings), but ignores the often traumatic and life-changing injuries to bodies and brains suffered by victims of drunk drivers.

Those statistics cover only drivers who exceed the legal blood alcohol limit of .08. But the reality is that many accidents occur when people drink and drive, even if they are under the legal limit.

An IID would be a relatively inexpensive device — somewhere in the neighborhood of about $500 (or less) if installed at the factory. When multiplied by the 15 million new vehicles sold each year in the U.S., the total cost to consumers would be about $7.5 billion.

However, that is a small fraction compared to the estimated $44 billion annually that drunk driving accidents directly cost the U.S. economy, including costs for medical and emergency services, lost wages and productivity, higher auto insurance rates, and damage to property.

In addition, when one considers the indirect costs of drunk driving accidents — such as when someone suffers a brain injury or a physical injury that affects them for the rest of their lives — the estimated cost of drunk-driving accidents exceeds $200 billion annually.

Polls and surveys routinely show that the biggest fear of Americans on our roadways is a drunk driver. No one has the right to drink and drive — even one drink impairs motor skills and judgment.

Until self-driving automobiles become the norm, ignition interlock devices are an inexpensive way to reduce the carnage on our roadways caused by drunk drivers.

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