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NTSB urges states to mandate ignition interlocks for all DWIs

The National Traffic Safety Board Tuesday urged all 50 states to require that ignition interlock devices be used in all drunk driving cases. Ignition interlocks can be ordered in North Carolina DWI cases, generally in those involving high blood alcohol readings, or in cases involving repeat DWI offenders. The devices essentially act as an in-car Breathalyzer that is installed in the ignition system.

If a driver blows above a specified blood alcohol level, the car will not start. In March, this blog discussed a proposal to expand the use of ignition interlocks to all North Carolina DWI cases. Currently, seventeen states require the interlocks ion all drunk driving cases.

The NTSB recently analyzed the data from slightly more than 1,500 car accidents that occurred across the country between 2004 and 2009. The federal agency says that roughly 59 percent of wrong-way drivers involved in car accidents measured more than twice the legal limit for alcohol. After reviewing the crash data, the agency Tuesday announced two recommendations.

The first recommendation was for the states to require more use of the ignition interlock devices in DWI cases. The second recommendation urges a second federal agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to speed up research on developing infrared technology for use in automobiles to detect alcohol. The NHSTA reportedly is working with auto manufacturers to research the technology. Infrared devices to detect alcohol generally can use touch- or breath-based technology to detect the presence of alcohol. The federal officials hope that an infrared alcohol detection device can be developed for use to install as standard equipment in all cars.

The recommendations reportedly are likely to receive resistance from the restaurant and alcohol industries, according to the Associated Press. A spokesperson for the American Beverage Institute, which represents thousands of restaurant chains in the United States, says that mandatory ignition interlock devices should be reserved for the more serious DWI cases. She says that, You don't punish somebody going five miles over the speed limit the same way you do somebody going 50 miles over the speed limit," according to the Associated Press.

Source: 13 ABC, "NTSB: Use ignition locks for all drunken drivers," Associated Press, Dec. 12, 2012

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