Opinion: Drinking & Driving

Busting Myths: Ignition Interlocks are Effective for First-Time Drunk Drivers

As a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) research consultant, I have been researching the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of interlock laws for over ten years.

There are several myths regarding ignition interlocks for first-time drunk driving offenders that need to be addressed to understand why this technology should be mandated for all DWI offenders.

Myth 1: First offenders have driven drunk only once before their arrest.
My research of drunk drivers at Victim Impact Panels shows that first offenders have driven drunk a median of 100 times before their first arrest. They are not first offenders; they are “first caught.”

Myth 2: First offenders are a negligible part of the drunk driving problem.
First offenders are the largest part of the drunk driving problem. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, they comprise over 60% of those arrested and up to 91% of those in fatal alcohol-impaired driving crashes.

Myth 3: First offenders are less likely to be re-arrested than subsequent offenders.
Data from New Mexico shows that first offenders have a re-arrest rate similar to that of subsequent offenders. and eight times higher than the arrest rate of those with no priors.

Myth 4: License revocation is a more effective sanction than interlocks
The re-arrest rate of interlocked first offenders is one fourth that of non-interlocked first offenders whose licenses are revoked.

Myth 5: Interlocks cost too much
Offenders pay the cost of interlocks, which is less than a third of the economic benefit of lives saved, and crashes and injuries prevented. As opposed to costing too much, interlocks are actually cost effective.

Myth 6: Interlocks are not a fair penalty for DWI
Even the majority of DWI offenders agree that they’re a fair penalty. Over 80% of 13,554 convicted DWI offenders agreed in anonymous surveys before DWI Victim Impact Panels.

Based on my work and research, mandatory ignition interlocks for first-time offenders save lives, prevent injuries and reduce DWI crashes.

To read more of Dr. Roth’s research, please visit his web sites which include www.ImpactDWI.org, www.RothInterlock.org, and www.PEDAforTeens.org. Dr. Roth can be reached at [email protected]

Blood Alcohol Concentration Limits

The hazards of drinking and driving increase in parallel with blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Most countries have set BAC limits for drivers between .05 and .08 percent, and some have different limits for different categories of drivers. Hardcore drunk drivers - repeat offenders and those with BACs above .15 - pose the greatest threat.

Boating Under the Influence

On the road or on the water, you’re headed nowhere fast while impaired. Alcohol use is the leading known contributor in recreational boater fatalities as well as a primary factor in accidents and injuries on the water. Operation Dry Water is dedicated to raising awareness and educating recreational boaters about the dangers of operating a boat under the influence. Since the launch of Operation Dry Water, there has been a 27% decrease in recreational boater deaths where alcohol use was the primary contributing factor.

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