It’s estimated that each day in the U.S., approximately 30 people are killed in drunk driving collisions. According to a new study, published by the American Journal of Public Health, if ignition interlock devices were installed standard in every vehicle – not just in those driven by prior DUI offenders – the number of DUI-related deaths could be reduced by 80 percent.

beer-240x300The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 10,300 people were killed in 2012 as a result of drunken drivers’ careless actions. That accounts for one-third of all motor vehicle deaths. Of these, more than 1,100 are children under the age of 14.

In most states, including Florida, drunk drivers who are arrested and retain their driving privileges must at least temporarily have ignition interlock devices installed at their own expense if they wish to continue driving. Although some places make it mandatory for all offenders, Florida gives judges the option for first-time offenders. Only after repeat offenses is the device required.

Ignition interlock devices are essentially breathalyzer machines installed on the vehicle dash board. In order for the vehicle to be operational, a driver has to breath into the device and wait for it to calculate the driver’s blood-alcohol content. If the calculation results in a BAC that is above the legal limit, the vehicle ignition will lock.

It’s known that these devices significantly reduce DUI recidivism rates – by some measures up to 70 percent. But it only works for those who have the device and only for as long as they have it.

Researchers with the University of Michigan Injury Center focused on determining how many lives might be saved over the course of the next 15 years if ignition interlocks were issued standard with every new automobile.

Study authors culled information from the National Automotive Sample System’s General Estimates System, as well as the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The team looked at both fatalities and non-fatal injuries attributed to drunk drivers between 2006 and 2010. Researchers took into account that older vehicles wouldn’t be retrofitted with the devices, but theorized on the effect of all new model vehicles having the mechanisms. They also analyzed what it would mean if the devices were set to measure blood-alcohol content at 0.02 grams per deciliter, versus what many devices are currently set to, which is 0.04.

What they concluded was this:

  • 85 percent of all alcohol-related car accidents resulting in death would be prevented.
  • Between 84 and 88 percent of non-fatal injuries would be avoided.

In terms of the human effect, this means more than 59,500 people would be spared a drunk driving fatality during those 15 years. It also means another 1.25 million people would avoid a non-fatal drunk driving injury.

The group that would see the greatest benefit, researchers determined, would be those between the ages of 21 and 29. This cohort is recognized as having the highest percentage of drunk driving deaths.

Another noteworthy point is that while it would cost about $400 to install and maintain each device, study authors say that cost would be outweighed by the savings to society within 36 months of implementation.

Researchers say they expected the results of such a program would be significant. However, they were impressed by the sheer number of deaths that might be prevented. The lead researcher called the results “surprising.”

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

Modeling the Injury Prevention Impact of Mandatory Ignition Interlock Installation in all new U.S. Vehicles, April 1, 2015, American Journal of Public Health

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Towe v. Sacagawea, Inc. – Motorcycle Accident Comparative Fault, April 8, 2015, Fort Myers Drunk Driving Injury Lawyer Blog