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NTSB Urges All States to Require Ignition Interlocks for All DUIs

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LifeSaver Ignition Interlock, courtesy of

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling for authorities to require all first-offender DUI drivers to have ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles, according to a statement issued on December 11. The board made its decision after an NTSB study found that alcohol-impaired driving is the leading cause of wrong-way driving accidents. NTSB’s study investigated National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data of nine wrong-way collisions that occurred in California, Colorado, Kentucky, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

As Angela Greiling Keane reports for Bloomberg:

‘Wrong-way accidents are among the most deadly types of motor accidents,’ NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said yesterday at a hearing in Washington. ‘They usually occur at high speed and are primarily head-on collisions.’

An ignition interlock device prevents a vehicle’s engine from starting until the driver breathes into it and the device finds that the percentage of alcohol in that person’s breath is lower than prescribed limits, NTSB writes.

Only 17 states require interlocks for first-time offenders. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which lists each state’s ignition interlock law, Colorado’s are as follows:

For a first offense, offender’s license will be revoked for 9 months, with the option after 1 month, to install an ignition interlock device and receive a limited license.

A person with greater than BAC of 0.17 is classified as a ‘persistent drunk driver’ and must use an ignition interlock for at least 1 year.

For either (1) an impaired, under the influence or illegal per se offense or (2) a habitual offender offense related to one of these alcohol offenses where there has been a previous alcohol driving offense conviction of any type within a 5-year period, an offender must install ignition interlock devices on the vehicles that person drives and is required to hold a restricted license for at least 1 year prior to full license reinstatement.

A person who has had his driving privileges revoked for more than 1 year either for (1) driving while either impaired, under the influence or illegal per se or (2) an admin per se violation, is eligible for early license reinstatement with driving restrictions with the use of an ignition interlock device. The restrictions remain in effect for ‘the longer of 1 year or the total time period remaining on the license restraint prior to early reinstatement.’

The NTSB’s recommendation, which is non-binding, goes to those 33 states that do not currently require interlocks for all convicted offenders, as Bart Jansen reports for USA TODAY. He writes that the safety board had previously recommended interlock devices only for “hard-core” drunken drivers who had either been convicted more than once, or who had a blood-alcohol content of more than 0.15%.

The Safety Board, which Jansen notes is “an independent federal agency that investigates crashes and transportation safety issues and makes recommendations to other government agencies,” also called for continued development of a passive alcohol-detection technology. The board writes that, for example, the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) would prevent people impaired by alcohol from driving their vehicles by detecting alcohol in the person’s system through touch-based sensors as well as breath-based ones.

The NTSB also offered suggestions for additional ways to prevent wrong-way crashes:  “In addition to reducing the number of alcohol-impaired drivers on the road, recommended mitigation efforts to prevent wrong-way accidents include better lighting, enhanced signage and roadway markings, and GPS devices that could provide a warning to alert drivers of wrong-way movements.”

The American Beverage Institute (ABI), whose members include chain restaurants, is opposing the NTSB’s recommendation, according to Bloomberg’s Keane. ABI says ignition interlocks should only be required for repeat offenders or those drivers who have a blood-alcohol content of at least 0.15%. The legal limit in most states, as Keane writes, is 0.08%.

In an article on DailyTech’s Auto blog, Shane McGlaun writes that that blog reported earlier this year that France requires all of its citizens to have a handheld breathalyzer in their vehicles.

A complete list of the NTSB report’s conclusions and safety recommendations is available at


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