MADD: Ignition interlocks do stop drunk drivers

Staff report

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A report released by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) shows that in-car breathalyzers have stopped a driver who is drunk from starting his or her vehicle over 3 million times since 2006, when MADD launched the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving and began advocating for ignition interlocks for every drunk driver.

The data, collected by MADD from 11 ignition interlock manufacturers, was unveiled during a presentation by Frank Harris, MADD’s Director of State Government Affairs, at the Association of Ignition Interlock Program Administrators’ (AIIPA) 2019 Annual Conference in San Diego.

“Drunk driving deaths are down 19 percent since 2006, even though people are driving more than 12 years ago,” Harris said. “MADD believes a big reason for this decrease is the more than 3 million times an interlock prevented someone from driving drunk along with the hundreds of state laws MADD has helped enact to improve the implementation of this lifesaving device.”

The new data shows that ignition interlocks stopped almost 348,000 attempts to drive drunk in 2018. This is the fourth year MADD has surveyed interlock manufacturers and released the findings to help illustrate how many people would be on the road, driving drunk, if they had not been stopped by an ignition interlock.

“As a mother who lost her 16-year-old daughter to this preventable crime, I am horrified to learn that even after people have been arrested and ordered to use an ignition interlock, they still try to drink and drive. And they would be driving impaired, if not for this technology that stops them,” said MADD National President Helen Witty. “We have so much more work to do, because we are still losing almost 11,000 people a year to drunk driving crashes.”

Ignition interlock laws are supported by every major traffic safety organization and countless studies have found the devices save lives. The most recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found mandatory interlock laws reduce DUI deaths by 16 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ignition interlock use prevents DUI recidivism by 67 percent compared to license suspension alone.

When MADD began advocating for ignition interlock laws for all offenders in 2006, only New Mexico had an all-offender interlock law. Today, 33 states and Washington, D.C., have these laws, and states have made improvements to their laws year after year. In 2019, Kentucky became the 33rd state to enact an all-offender law. Similar legislation is pending in California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

“Seventeen states do not require interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, and drunk driving laws in other states contain loopholes that allow offenders to avoid installing an interlock,” Witty said. “The astounding number of attempts to drive drunk by people who have already been caught shows us how urgently we need to get an interlock on every single drunk driver’s vehicle — and keep them on until the drivers prove they have learned to not drink and drive. Every state should offer this protection from drunk drivers to its residents and visitors.”

In addition to laws requiring interlocks for all drunk driving offenders, MADD advocates for “compliance-based removal,” meaning the interlock is removed only after the offender can show no failed breath tests over a certain period of time. Twenty-nine states have enacted compliance-based removal laws, which extend the time on an interlock or add additional penalties if an interlock user attempts to drive drunk. These laws help ensure behavior change and teach sober driving.

Staff report