Federal agency asks states to require ignition interlocks in all DWI cases

In July 2011, Minnesota’s DWI and implied consent laws were changed for drivers who test 0.16 percent blood alcohol concentration or more. The higher alcohol level essentially extends the length of a license revocation associated with a DWI arrest. For instance, a first time DWI offender who measures 0.16 percent BAC or greater will have his or her driver’s license revoked for a full year. Drivers cannot obtain a work permit under the law, unless the driver agrees to have an ignition interlock device installed.

Ignition interlocks are essentially an in-car breath testing machine. Drivers are required to take a breath test before starting the car. If the machine registers a reading of 0.02 percent or greater, the car will not start.

Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board said that every state in the country should require ignition interlocks in every DWI case, including first-time offenses. The federal officials are urging states to require the devices for any level of a DWI conviction, and without regard for the higher level of alcohol. Officials say that 17 states already require the devices in all DWI cases.

The NTSB is also urging another federal agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to speed up research in technology to disable every car when alcohol is detected on a driver who is trying to start the car. The research involves infrared light technology and is reportedly already being used in some work-related drug testing programs, according to the Associated Press. The NHTSA is working with the automobile industry in researching the use of the infrared technology in automobiles.

The NTSB urged the NHTSA to speed up the research hoping that infrared technology can be incorporated as standard equipment in a car’s ignition system. The NTSB hopes that the technology can be incorporated into an ignition button that will not allow any car to start if the driver exceeds a specified threshold for alcohol.

Currently, individual states have a variety of laws regarding ignition interlock devices at some level, and associated with a DWI arrest or conviction. Federal officials are urging to increase the use of breath testing devices to include all DWI cases, and maybe even in all cars, regardless of whether or not a driver has been accused of DWI.

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

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