People convicted of driving under the influence for the first time are less likely to re-offend if they install alcohol interlocks on their vehicles, a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows.
"As this study shows, the more offenders are covered by an interlock law, the better it works," study author Anne McCartt, the institute's senior vice president for research, said in a press statement.
An alcohol interlock is a breath-testing device that a driver must blow into before starting the vehicle. If the reading exceeds a certain blood alcohol concentration level, the car doesn't start.
Legislation pending in Congress would encourage states to require interlocks for all impaired-driving convictions by linking highway funding to the issue. Opponents say interlocks should be mandated only for those with multiple convictions or whose blood alcohol concentration levels were 0.15 percent or higher.
Washington is among 15 states that require everyone convicted of DUI to install an interlock for a certain period if they want to drive. Another 22 states apply the restriction to drivers with high blood alcohol concentrations or to repeat offenders. Other states don't mandate interlocks, but judges can impose them.
Interlocks became mandatory in Washington in 1999 for repeat offenders, offenders with extremely high blood alcohol concentrations, and those who refused alcohol tests. The state extended the interlock requirement in 2004 to all drivers convicted of DUI, including first-time offenders with blood alcohol concentrations of under 0.15 percent.
Now Washington is trying to increase the number of offenders who actually install the devices. After the study period last year, the state changed the law again so that people with DUI convictions can't simply wait out the interlock period with a suspension. If they ever want to regain their license, they need to drive with an interlock first.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is a nonprofit organization supported by most U.S. car insurance companies.