NTSB Recommends All States Enact First-Time Offender Ignition Interlock Laws

Late last year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) met to discuss the problem of wrong-way collisions and strategies to help prevent them. According to NTSB statistics, approximately 360 people are killed each year in the United States when drivers turn the wrong way into oncoming traffic on high-speed highways. Federal accident investigators identified alcohol as one of the primary factors in these sorts of crashes: the majority of wrong-way collisions are caused by drivers whose blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) are nearly twice the legal .08 limit.

In order to address this problem, the NTSB is considering whether to recommend that all states adopt laws requiring that everyone convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) – even first-time offenders – have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles. Safety experts hope that mandatory ignition interlock laws will help prevent deadly wrong-way collisions.

Washington Ignition Interlock Law

Washington law already requires that those convicted of a first DUI offense install an ignition interlock device in each vehicle they operate. First-time offenders must have the devices installed in their vehicles for one year. Second- and third-time offenders must have them installed for five and 10 years, respectively.

More Than an Inconvenience

An ignition interlock device is connected to a vehicle’s ignition system. Before the vehicle can be started, the driver must first exhale into the device. If alcohol is detected, the vehicle will not start. The device also requires the driver to provide breath samples periodically while the vehicle is in motion. If a sample is not provided or if alcohol is detected, the device will log the event, warn the driver and trigger an alarm until the vehicle is turned off.

Using an ignition interlock device can not only be inconvenient, it can also be expensive. Offenders are required to pay the cost for the installation, rental and maintenance of the device. Depending on the vendor, installation can cost up to $200 with a monthly rental fee of up to $100. Of course, there are additional fees for regular maintenance and calibration.