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Ignition interlock systems reduce drunk driving, prevent car accidents!

July 16, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

Michigan Supreme Court releases study showing drunk driving recidivism is ‘cut in half’

Ignition interlock device to prevent drunk driving in Michigan

Ignition interlock systems are not just for punishing drunk drivers after they’ve been caught. They actually reduce drunk driving!

That’s the conclusion of a new report released by the Michigan Supreme Court, “Michigan DWI/Sobriety Court Ignition Interlock Evaluation 2015 report.”

With its “primary goal” of “determin[ing] ignition interlock devices are an effective means to control drunk driving recidivism among chronic DWI offenders when incorporated into a DWI/Sobriety Court program,” the evaluation concluded:

“[I]t appears that ignition interlocks used in conjunction with DWI/Sobriety Courts are a promising method of reducing DWI recidivism among repeat drunk drivers in the state of Michigan.”

In its press release, the Michigan Supreme Court highlighted the following findings from the evaluation:

  • Recidivism cut in half. A DWI recidivism rate of 2.8 percent among interlock participants who are off probation as compared to participants in the Standard Probation Group who have a DWI recidivism rate of 5.5 percent.”
  • Nearly universal compliance. More than 97 percent of people ordered by the DWI/Sobriety Court judges to put the devices on their vehicles actually put them on.”
  • Failure rate two-thirds lower. 12 percent of interlock participants failed the DWI/Sobriety Court program, while nonparticipants had a failure rate of 34 percent.”

As a safety advocate and an accident attorney, this release is welcome news.

Drunk driving is a major cause of preventable car accidents. It is extremely dangerous – not only for the innocent public that’s needlessly endangered by this dangerous behavior, but also to the driver. I’ve litigated far too many serious car accident cases caused by drunk drivers and I know firsthand the suffering it can cause.

Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released study results confirming that not only is drunk driving is dangerous, but the crash risk associated with drunk driving increases proportionately with a driver’s alcohol level:

  • For drivers with “low levels of alcohol” (e.g., breath alcohol level (BrAC) of 0.03), the “risk of crashing is increased by 20 percent.”
  • The crash risk “increases to double that of sober drivers” for drivers “at moderate alcohol levels,” such as “0.05 BrAC.”
  • “Drivers at a breath alcohol level of 0.08 percent, the legal limit in every state, were about four times more likely to crash than sober drivers.”
  • Drivers “at a higher [alcohol] level” such as “0.10 BrAC” are “five and a half times” more likely to crash.
  • “Drivers with an alcohol level of 0.15 percent [“BrAC 0.15”] [are] 12 times more likely to crash than sober drivers.”
  • Drivers with breath alcohol levels of 0.20 or more are “23 times” more likely to crash.

Source: NHTSA “Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk” Study, February 2015 (“Traffic Safety Facts – Research Note,” Page 8; “FACT SHEET: NHTSA Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk Study)  (NHTSA press release contains links to PDFs of the study and the fact sheet)

What is an ignition interlock system?

Here’s how the Michigan Supreme Court’s report describes an “ignition interlock”:

“Ignition interlocks are used as part of the supervision and behavioral modification approaches employed by DWI/Sobriety Courts. An ignition interlock, or Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID), is a simple device that is attached to the ignition system of a vehicle. It measures and records the operator’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is the percentage of ethanol (alcohol) in one’s blood …. Typically, it prevents the vehicle from being driven if the driver’s BAC reaches a certain level.”

Related information:

Strengthening Michigan’s DUI laws could reduce car accident deaths

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