Study: Mandatory ignition interlocks have proven effective in keeping roads safe

While it may seem hard to believe, it's now been nearly 25 years since the 50 states first began passing laws calling for mandatory ignition interlocks, the breathalyzer-like devices that prevent a vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected in the driver's breath.

Given this rather substantial passage of time, the question naturally arises as to just how effective these mandatory ignition interlocks have proven in preventing fatal drunk driving accidents on U.S. roads and highways. As it turns out, there was no real answer to this question until just last month.

Indeed, a first-of-its-kind study published in the January edition of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine by experts from Johns Hopkins Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research has shed some much-needed light on this topic.

After examining trends in fatal car accidents involving alcohol from 1982 to 2013, and accounting for certain developments in traffic safety laws, the researchers concluded that ignition interlocks were responsible for preventing an astounding 1,250 fatal drunk driving accidents in the states in which their use is mandated.

To put it another way, this constituted a 7 percent decline in fatal DUI crashes involving at least one impaired driver.

"Our study suggests that [mandatory ignition interlocks] are effective, and it's encouraging to see more and more states moving towards this evidence-based policy change," said the author of the study.

It's worth noting that the law here in Georgia dictates that judges must order the installation of an ignition interlock device for all repeat DUI offenders for 12 months. However, under a new law that will take effect in July, first-time refusals and first-time offenders will be given the option of having an ignition interlock device installed for four months as an alternative to having their driver's license restricted or suspended.

Here's hoping we see this trend continue here in Georgia and across the U.S.

If you've lost a loved one in an accident caused by a drunk driver, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your options for seeking justice.

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