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Agency proposes ignition interlocks for all DUI convictions

Last year, there were 9,878 alcohol-related car accident fatalities in the United States. That number marks a 2.5 percent drop from 2010, and continues a long downward trend in DUI fatalities in the U.S. Despite the decline, federal traffic safety agencies continue to work to prevent drunk driving accidents, injuries and fatalities, as they well should. But are their latest efforts going too far?

In one example, the National Transportation Safety Board recently issued a recommendation that all people who are convicted of drunk driving, even if that conviction is their first, should be required to install and use an ignition interlock device. Currently, 17 states have laws requiring first-time offenders to install interlocks, and the NTSB is asking the remaining 33 to enact similar legislation.

Ignition interlocks are devices that prevent a vehicle's engine from starting unless its driver registers a breath-alcohol level below the device's set maximum, which is generally established by state law. The offender is usually required to pay for the installation, maintenance and monitoring of the device, which can cost several hundred dollars.

In Maryland, judges have the option of ordering ignition interlock device at any time, regardless of whether the conviction is that defendant's first. In addition, defendants may have the option of enrolling in the ignition interlock program in order to avoid a suspension of their driving privilege. If someone registers a blood-alcohol level of 0.015 percent or more, or if the offense is their second or greater within a period of five years, the judge must order them to install and use an ignition interlock device.

What do you think? Should all 50 states adopt the NTSB's recommendation? Or does it go too far?

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Lock out drunk drivers? Bid includes 1st offenders 'a sip over limit'," Jerry Hirsch, Dec. 11, 2012

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