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Do Ignition Interlock Devices Help Prevent Drunk Driving Accidents?

Craig McClellan

Every 51 minutes, someone dies in a drunk driving accident. This amounts to more than 10,000 deaths each year due to a drunk driver, according to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

And in a majority of these fatal car accidents, NHTSA notes that the drunk driver had a blood alcohol content level (BAC) of more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, more than 7,000 lives could be saved each year if no one drove with a BAC over .08. As such, a federal law that went into effect at the beginning of the month incentivizes the use of ignition-interlock devices.

An ignition interlock is a device attached to the ignition of one's car that prevents a driver from starting a car until the driver has blown into a sensor and registered a BAC under .08 - thus preventing a drunk driving accident.

Thanks to a new transportation law, all states that require interlock devices for drivers convicted of DWI will now receive extra funding. Currently 17 states have laws requiring use of ignition interlock devices for first-time drunk drivers as a condition of getting their driving privileges back. The exact BAC settings vary, based on the state. Some have zero-tolerance and others are allow some alcohol content, but it must be under the legal limit.

Drivers have to bear the cost of having the device installed, as well as monthly fees to maintain it. Safety officials believe that use of such devices not only prevent repeated drunk driving accidents, but also deter others from driving after having had a few too many drinks.