Following the recommendation of the National Transportation Safety Board, a South Carolina legislator is seeking to reduce DUI car accidents. He plans to submit a bill that would require those convicted of drinking and driving to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles. The device is meant to make it impossible for anyone with a significant amount of alcohol in their systems from starting the engine, thus taking away the possibility of drunk driving.
An ignition interlock device resembles a breathalyzer machine that police often use at traffic stops. It is connected to the starter through the dashboard. Drivers blow into the device, and if it measures a blood-alcohol level above a certain level, the car will not start. The limit depends on the state but generally ranges between 0.02 and 0.04.
Earlier in December, the NTSB recommended that the devices be part of the criminal penalties for all DUI convictions, even for those with no prior DUIs on their record. Currently, most states do not begin to require an ignition interlock until subsequent convictions, though 17 states do sentence first-timers to use the device. The board said that more extensive use of the devices would reduce the number of deaths in DUI accidents. It particularly cited wrong-way highway crashes, which are frequently caused by intoxicated drivers who become confused and enter the highway via an off-ramp.
According to a spokeswoman, state Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Columbia, plans to introduce a bill at the next General Assembly session to bring South Carolina into line with the NTSB recommendation. Mothers Against Drunk Driving supports the idea. An official with a local chapter called them "incredibly helpful" and more useful than suspending an offender's driver's license. She said that up to three-quarters of people with a suspended license continue to drive anyway.
Source: The Charleston Post and Courier, "Alcohol breath test for car ignition proposed for first-offenders in South Carolina," Prentiss Findlay, Dec. 18, 2012
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