USA Today reports that there is a national campaign against first-time drunk driving offenders which is gaining support throughout the United States. This past year three states enacted laws requiring all first time driving while intoxicated violators to install devices on their vehicles which interlock with the ignition system and measures their alcohol content. If that alcohol content is too high, the instrument blocks the vehicle’s engine from starting.
There is a Bill before Congress called the “Federal Transportation Funding Bill” which may be debated this fall. That Bill requires all fifty states to mandate the device for anyone convicted of drunk driving. If the state fails to pass this Act, it would risk losing federal highway money.
There are forty-seven states and the District of Columbia which have interlocking ignition laws for at least some offenders. South Dakota, Vermont and my own state of Alabama have no such laws.
Presently, there are about 150,000 vehicles in the country that have such alcohol ignition interlocks on them. USA Today estimates that the number would approach one million if they are required for ever convicted drunk driver. Organizations like the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (“MADD”) estimate that the devices would save 4,000 to 8,000 lives per year.
There are opponents, naturally, including the American Beverage Institute, which is a restaurant and tavern trade group whose spokesman, Sara Longwell, called interlocks a “slippery slope”. She stated that “as this creeping mentality about ‘don’t drink and drive’ as opposed to ‘don’t drive drunk’ takes over, you’re seeing more officers inclined to arrest people” below the legal limit for intoxication. However, in New Mexico, which was a perennial leader in alcohol related crashes and passed an Act in 2005, has seen a thirty-five percent (35%) drop in drunken-driving deaths.
Civil litigation attorney Billy Cunningham practice concentrates on personal injury, wrongful death, nursing home abuse, business litigation, environmental law and insurance matters. He is licensed to practice in the state and federal courts of Alabama and Mississippi, as well as in the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States.