Study looks at potential impact of widespread interlock use

A recent study from the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan examines the potential societal impact of installing ignition interlock devices as a standard safety feature on all new vehicles sold in the United States. Currently, the devices are used primarily by drivers convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.

An ignition interlock device, or IID, is an anti-DUI system that requires the driver to provide a breath sample before starting the ignition. If the machine determines that the driver may be under the influence of alcohol, the vehicle will not start.

The study was the first in the United States to model the effects of widespread IID use on a national scale. Based on a projected 15-year implementation period, the researchers estimate that including an IID on every new vehicle sold in the U.S. could eliminate about 85 percent of fatalities caused by alcohol-involved traffic accidents, with drivers under the age of 30 being the group most affected. The researchers determined that the measure would pay for itself in just three years due to reduced accidents and societal costs.

Ignition interlocks in Wisconsin

Currently, there is no indication that IIDs will become a standard feature on new vehicles in the near future. However, the study does raise some interesting questions in the context of DUI prevention and enforcement. For example, if interlocks were as commonplace as other modern safety features like airbags or back-up cameras, how would it affect the existing IID laws for people convicted of OWI/DUI? Would the social stigma associated with using an IID be reduced or eliminated?

Regardless of any changes that may or may not be in store for vehicle manufacturing on a national scale, IIDs are already a fact of life for many drivers convicted of OWI or DUI in Wisconsin. Although some states require the devices for all drivers convicted of drunk driving, even first-time offenders, the Wisconsin interlock law is somewhat less harsh.

Under a law that took effect in 2010, drivers in Wisconsin are required to use an ignition interlock under the following circumstances, after the completion of any applicable driver's license suspension period:

  • Repeat drunk driving
  • First-time OWI with a BAC of 0.15 or higher
  • Refusal of blood or breath testing during a traffic stop

The cost of installing and maintaining an ignition interlock can be high; usually between $900 and $1,300 per year. If you or someone in your family is facing charges for drunk driving in Wisconsin, contact the DUI defense lawyers at Kohn Smith Roth for legal advice and assistance.