WASHINGTON (AP) _ Technology that prevents a drunken driver from
starting a vehicle holds the promise of greatly reducing
alcohol-related deaths, the U.S. government and auto safety groups
So far, however, the criminal justice system has not widely
embraced alcohol ignition interlock devices because of long-standing
questions about their cost and effectiveness, experts said at a
meeting led by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The agency's chief, Nicole Nason, said technological developments
and educating people in the legal system could help overcome many
``They're not that easy to defeat but there is a perception out
there that they are,'' Nason said.
About 1.4 million people are arrested in the U.S. for drunken
driving each year. Only about 100,000 interlock devices, however, in
They require drivers to blow into an instrument that measures
alcohol. A vehicle will not start unless the driver's blood alcohol
concentration is below a set level.
Judges and legal experts said the systems need to work together
with broader treatment programs for repeat offenders. ``There is no
silver bullet, one tool that is going to eliminate DUI offences,''
said Georgia judge Kent Lawrence, who started the state's first
DUI/drug court in 2001.
New Mexico, Arizona, Louisiana, and Illinois have passed laws to
require the use of the interlock devices for first-time offenders.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia allow the device for
Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway
Safety, said preventing people with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08
and higher from driving could save an estimated 9,000 lives per
Richard Freund, president of LifeSafer Interlock Inc., a
Cincinnati-based company that markets the devices, said the
equipment requires drivers to be tested about 10 times to 12 times
Drunken driving killed more than 13,000 people last year. The
level has held steady for the past decade and led to a renewed
interest in the technology. For example, Nissan Motor Co. has shown
experimental systems that measure alcohol levels in a driver's sweat
from sensors in the gearshift.
``We are really working on a vaccine for drunk driving. Not on
the drunk, but on the vehicle,'' said Chuck Hurley, chief executive
officer of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
On the Net:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
Mothers Against Drunk Driving: http://www.madd.org