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NTSB wants ignition interlocks for first-time offenders in all states

Every state should require convicted drunk drivers, including first-time offenders, to use ignition interlock devices to prevent drunk driving accidents in the future. It's a bold statement being made by the National Transportation Safety Board this month; a statement, it would seem, that they intend as a New Year's resolution.

A five-member board made the recommendation earlier this month after reviewing data NTSB agents had collected from accident and police reports across the nation. Although the copious amounts of data and large number of crashes and deaths look alarming, in some cases there is little admittance to whether alcohol was a factor in these crashes. Despite this fact, the NTSB boasts that by requiring ignition interlock devices for all drunk driving convictions, there could be an estimated 7,000 preventable drunken-driving deaths a year.

Critics argue however that this may do more harm than good, pointing out that breathalyzer-style tests are simply not as accurate as blood-alcohol tests. Another problem is that an ignition interlock system, although it prevents a person from driving while intoxicated, generally has a programmed limit of .02 percent or .04 percent. Depending on the margin of error for the device, a false reading could put an end to people even enjoying a single drink with their meal.

The American Beverage Institute, which represents about 8,000 chain restaurants in the U.S., has already spoken against the NTSB's push for ignition interlocks for first-time offenders, pointing out that punishments should not be as severe for first-time offenders as they are for repeat offenders. The institute's managing director uses the example, "You don't punish somebody going five miles over the speed limit the same way you do somebody going 50 miles over the speed limit."

So will 2013 see ignition interlock devices in all states for all drunk driving convictions? At this point, only time will tell.

Source: The Washington Post, "NTSB recommends every state require ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers," The Associated Press, Dec. 11, 2012

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