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Ignition interlocks recommended for first-offender drunk drivers
By Insure.com staff

All first-offender drunk drivers should be required to have ignition interlocks installed on their vehicles, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

An alcohol ignition 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.

Only 17 states require interlocks for first-time offenders.

The board made the recommendation when it adopted a study of wrong-way crashes, which occur when drivers go the wrong way on highway access ramps or cross over the median to go the wrong way on highways. Although relatively rare, the crashes are usually fatal. On average, 360 people die each year nationwide in about 260 fatal wrong-way collisions. Alcohol-impaired drivers cause about 60 percent of the accidents. Overall, alcohol impairment is a factor in about a third of all fatal highway accidents, which kill about 10,000 people a year.

The board also endorsed continued development of alcohol-detection technology. The Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are working together on a project to develop non-invasive technology that could be built into new cars to prevent drunk driving.

"Technology is the game changer in reducing alcohol-related crashes on our nation's roadways," National Transportation Safety Board Chairperson Deborah A.P. Hersman said in a press statement. "Achieving zero alcohol-impaired driving-related deaths is possible only if society is willing to separate the impaired driver from the driving task."

In the study of wrong-way crashes, researchers found that most of the crashes happen at night and on the weekends and occur in the lane closest to the median. Besides reducing the number of alcohol-impaired drivers, the board recommended better lighting, signage and roadway markings.
The study also found that older drivers are over-represented in fatal wrong-way collisions. As a result, the board asked states to adopt older driver safety programs modeled after one developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
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