Deaths caused by drunk drivers rose 4.6% last year. A total of 10,322 people were killed in drunken driving automobile crashes. During the holiday season alone, 830 people died as a result of drunken driving collisions. Because the number of deaths caused by drunk drivers increased for the first time after six straight years of declining, the U.S. Transportation Secretary is pushing states to pass laws, requiring first-time offenders of drunk driving to install and use alcohol breath monitors whenever they get behind the wheel. These so-called ignition interlock programs or ignition interlock devices force the driver to blow into a breath analyzer before the driver is able to start the car. If the driver has been drinking, the car will not start.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released guidelines this week for states to use ignition interlock programs. At present, only 20 states require the devices for first-time drunk driving offenses. While almost every state has an ignition interlock program, the programs are unique and are mandated at different stages. DUI laws in Georgia require the courts to order the installation and maintenance of ignition interlock devices for repeat DUI offenders. DUI in Georgia is defined as operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher. The offenders are also responsible for the cost associated with installing, leasing, maintaining and removing the ignition interlock devices. In other states, such as Texas, an ignition interlock program is mandated for anyone with two or more intoxication-related convictions, such as DUI, assault while intoxicated, and intoxication manslaughter. There is strong evidence showing that ignition interlock programs and devices are effective tools for reducing drunk driving among first offenders and repeat offenders. Thus, these programs are essential components of highway safety programs.
The attorneys at Suthers & Harper support the implementation of ignition interlock programs for first offenders throughout the United States. Having represented victims and families of victims of drunken driving crashes, we have seen firsthand the damage caused to victims and families who have lost loved ones as a result of collisions caused by drunk drivers. Often, the at-fault drunk drivers are repeat offenders, which makes it more important to implement ignition interlock programs for first offenders.