U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice has announced that she will be introducing legislation that will require ignition interlock devices to be installed on all new vehicles coming off the production line of American automakers.
Recall that ignition interlock devices (IID) require the driver of a vehicle to provide a breath sample indicating a blood alcohol content below a specified limit before the driver can start the vehicle. Laws regarding the installation of ignition interlock devices vary widely amongst the states.
Here in California, generally, ignition interlock devices are not mandatory as part of a DUI sentence. They may, however, be ordered as part of a DUI sentence at the discretion of the judge and usually when the DUI involved aggravating circumstances such as a particularly high blood alcohol content or a chemical test refusal.
However, as of 2010, certain California counties became subject to a pilot program requiring the installation of ignition interlock devices to be installed for a first time DUI offense. California Vehicle Code section 23700 requires the five-month installation of ignition interlock devices for first-time DUI offenders in Alameda, Tulare, Sacramento, and Los Angeles.
“Advancing the progress we’ve made combating drunk driving demands bold action,” said Representative Kathleen Rice. “It demands that we take a stand and say we refuse to keep letting drunk drivers take 10,000 lives each year. We refuse to keep seeing families torn apart when we know we can do more to prevent it. Strict enforcement is important, holding drunk drivers accountable is important, but we can and must do more to stop drunk drivers from ever hitting the road in the first place. That’s why I’m working on legislation to require ignition interlock devices in all new cars. This technology saves lives, it saves money, and I’m going to fight to make it standard equipment in American cars.”
To support her position, Rice cited a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan. According to the study, requiring interlock technology in all new vehicles would, over a 15 year implementation period, prevent an estimated 85 percent of drunk driving-related deaths and 84-89 percent of drunk driving-related nonfatal injuries. Also according to the study, preventing those deaths and injuries would save an estimated $343 billion over 15 years, and the cost of installing the technology would be recovered in the first three years.
These numbers however are based on the assumption that the cost of the device is $400 per vehicle and that the ignition interlock device operates accurately 100% of the time.
However, as with many components of a vehicle, very few function properly 100% of the time.
Rice also failed to mention, although acknowledged by the study itself, that “current devices are not technologically advanced enough for placement in all new vehicles, primarily due to slow reading times, the need for frequent calibrations, and mouthpiece care requirements.”
Not surprisingly, Representative Rice is a former prosecutor who has been named “[New York’s] toughest DWI prosecutor” by the New York Daily News and who recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Ironically, not even over-zealous MADD supports Rice’s position. One of the questions posed on MADD’s website FAQ page is “Does MADD advocate for ignition interlocks in all cars?”
“No. MADD advocates requiring ignition interlocks only for convicted drunk drivers with an illegal blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater.”