Expanding ignition interlock program could save lives

California lawmakers have introduced a bill that would make ignition interlocks mandatory for first-time offenders.

Ignition interlock devices are a powerful tool that have helped prevent countless drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel of a car. The devices are hooked up to DUI offenders’ vehicles and require drivers to pass a breathalyzer test before their car will start. Many states have already made these devices a mandatory part of the sentencing for some or all DUI offenders. According to KTVU News, state lawmakers are now working on expanding the ignition interlock program in California, a move that may help prevent drunk driving accidents and make California’s roads safer.

Ignition interlock program

Senate Bill 61, if passed, would require all drivers convicted of their first DUI offense in California to install an ignition interlock device in their cars. Currently, ignition interlock devices, as the Victorville Daily Press notes, are only required for first-time offenders in California in four counties – Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare – as part of a pilot program that began in 2010.

One lawmaker behind the proposed expansion of the ignition interlock program notes that about half of all states currently require ignition interlock devices for at least some DUI offenders. Furthermore, by the time a DUI offender has been caught on a first offense, he or she has likely already driven while intoxicated dozens of times without getting pulled over.

Drunk driving threat

Supporters of the measure say that to reduce the number of drunk driving deaths in the state, authorities and the public need to focus on prevention rather than punishment alone. They note that license suspensions by themselves are rarely effective at deterring drunk drivers, whereas mandatory ignition interlock devices have led to dramatic reductions in drunk driving fatalities. There have, for example, been 40 percent reductions in such fatalities in Arizona and New Mexico after those states made ignition interlocks mandatory for DUI offenses. One recent study also estimated that over the past five and a half years, mandatory ignition interlocks have prevented over one million DUI offenders from getting behind the wheel of a car.

In 2014, one out of every 12 drunk driving deaths in the nation occurred in California. Furthermore, approximately 1,000 people are killed in the state each year by drunk drivers and a further 20,000 are injured.

Personal injury

Driving while intoxicated is not only a reckless decision, it is a public safety hazard that places countless innocent people at risk. While the fight against drunk driving is ongoing, for those who have been injured by a drunk or otherwise negligent driver there are legal options available to them. A personal injury attorney can help accident victims. An experienced attorney, for example, may be able to notify victims about what legal claims they may be able to pursue, such as financial compensation that can help ease the burden caused by an accident.