A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that “laws requiring all impaired-driving offenders to install alcohol interlocks reduce the number of impaired drivers in fatal crashes by 16%.” This is great news for MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. The Campaign, which was initiated in 2006, is based on four components which MADD believes are the key to eliminating drunk driving. Ignition Interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers is one of those four components which is why passing ignition interlock laws has been a priority for MADD. So far, thirty-one states, including Tennessee, now have an all-offender ignition interlock law in place. Several other states have laws that require ignition interlock laws for repeat offenders or for certain BAC levels. But the study reveals that the all-offender ignition interlock law surpasses other variations in its success at keeping drunk drivers off the road.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree on the effectiveness of interlocks saying they reduce repeat drunk driving offenses by 67%! Studies have shown that ignition interlocks are also superior to license suspension laws as 50-75% of offenders ignore their license suspension and continue to drive. This is just one of the reasons why MADD supports ignition interlock laws. In addition, while an interlock is installed, driving behavior of offenders is being monitored in real-time. Not only will the car not start if a pre-set BAC limit is detected, but information from the device is then downloaded with failed attempts to start the car recorded and/or reported. Interlocks protect the public while allowing offenders to continue with their daily lives.
Tennessee’s All-Offender Ignition Interlock Law was enacted in 2013. A compliance-based component was added in 2016 requiring that convicted DUI offenders must have an Ignition Interlock device installed in their vehicle for 365 days with no violations recorded for 120 days before they would be allowed to get their driver’s license back. This legislation, along with the hard-work of law enforcement, government agencies, and non-profit and corporate partners from all over the state working together to enforce laws and educate the public on the dangers of impaired driving is paying off! The latest report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in October 2017 showed that drunk driving fatalities in Tennessee decreased by 11.2% in 2016 even though the nation overall showed an increase of 1.7%. While we celebrate that success in our state, we know that our work is far from over. That still meant 223 people died in Tennessee in 2016 in a drunk driving crash.
MADD supports our law enforcement heroes that work tirelessly to stop drunk and drugged drivers. We encourage prosecutors and judges to ensure that sentencing requirements for convicted offenders are met which includes ordering ignition interlocks to protect Tennesseans. And we ask everyone to do their part to spread the word about the dangers of impaired driving, and to ALWAYS plan ahead for a designated driver if plans include alcohol.