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NHTSA Reveals State Guidelines for Ignition Interlock Devices

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Ignition interlock device

Life Safer Ignition Interlock Device

In conjunction with its annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” holiday crackdown on impaired driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released guidelines to help states develop a program that would prevent convicted drunk drivers from starting a car after drinking. The “Model Guideline for State Ignition Interlock Programs” is based on those programs in the U.S. and worldwide that are highly successful in preventing drunk driving, says an NHTSA press release.

The NHTSA writes that fatalities from drunk driving crashes have increased:

Last year, deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers increased 4.6 percent, taking 10,322 lives compared to 9,865 in 2011. The majority of those crashes involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher — nearly double the legal limit. During last year’s holiday season alone, 830 lives were lost in drunk driving crashes.

All states use ignition interlocks (devices that prevent a convicted drunk driver from starting a car after drinking), but only 20 states and four California counties require them for all drivers convicted of drunk driving, writes David Shepardson for The Detroit News. Although about 1.5 million people are arrested annually in the U.S. for drunk driving, only about 300,000 are required to use the ignition interlocks. The devices cost approximately $75 to install, and drivers have to pay $50 to $75 a month in monitoring costs, Shepardson writes.

NHTSA has found that drivers with interlocks are 75% less likely to drive under the influence as compared with those who do not, Shepardson writes. To maximize the effectiveness of the interlocks, the new guidelines suggest several key features: legislation, education, program administration and implementation. Shepardson reports that NHTSA and major automakers are supporting research aimed at passive alcohol detection systems that could eventually prevent any inebriated driver from starting a vehicle.

As this blog has reported, a year ago the National Transportation Safety Board was calling for authorities to require all first-offender DUI drivers to have ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles. The NTSB made its decision after a study of nine wrong-way collisions that occurred in eight states, including Colorado, which found that alcohol-impaired driving is the leading cause of wrong-way accidents.

Colorado’s official website says the following about its “Interlock Restricted License”:

You will be required to have an Ignition Interlock device if:

Driving Under the Influence

  • 1st Per Se or DUI conviction
    • For violations on or after 1/1/09 and approved for early reinstatement after serving 30 days – 8 month Interlock requirement
  • 1st Per Se with a blood alcohol content of .17 or greater
    • 2 year Interlock requirement (all stops after 1/1/07)
  • 2nd Per Se (lifetime) or DUI conviction in 5 years
    • 2 year Interlock requirement
  • 3rd + Per Se or DUI in lifetime
    • 2 year Interlock requirement
  • Designated a Habitual Traffic Offender with one alcohol related driving offense after 7/1/00
    • 4 year Interlock requirement after serving 1 year and approved for early reinstatement

In addition, beginning on January 1, 2014, the following changes will take place:

  • The reduction of the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) on a chemical test from 0.17 to 0.15 to designate you as a Persistent Drunk Driver.
  • The refusal of a chemical test at a traffic stop on or after 01/01/14 will now result in a Persistent Drunk Driver designation.
  • If you have refused a chemical test prior to 01/01/14 and were previously ineligible to reinstate early with Interlock, you may now either finish serving the remainder of your revocation and reinstate with full driving privileges, or serve at least two months and apply for early reinstatement with Interlock for one year. You are not eligible for Financial Assistance in this case.
  • If you have multiple alcohol violations or refusals on your record, the wait time for early reinstatement with Interlock has been reduced to one or two months, respectively.


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