California is widely considered a leader in traffic safety, but Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) gave the state just four out of a possible five stars on its 2015 Report to the Nation. The anti-drunk-driving organization said it would continue to withhold that final star until the state changed its laws to require ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers, including first-time offenders.

An ignition interlock device, or IID, is an in-car alcohol testing system that can be used to test a driver’s breath much like a Breathalyzer would be used during a drunk driving traffic stop. If the IID detects alcohol above a certain level in the driver’s breath sample, it prevents the vehicle from starting, thereby reducing the likelihood that the driver will be involved in a car crash.

California interlock program could expand statewide

A pilot program is currently underway in California and three other counties throughout the state to test out that approach to keeping impaired drivers off the road. If it is successful, it could be expanded to cover all convicted drunk drivers statewide.

Under current law, interlocks are required only for certain people convicted of driving under the influence, including repeat offenders and those who far exceed the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit of 0.08. MADD and other highway safety groups argue in favor of broader interlock requirements, saying they are more effective than license suspension at keeping impaired drivers off the road.

Could car companies make drunk driving a thing of the past?

Taking the matter one step further, at least in theory, a group of researchers at the University of Michigan recently modeled the effects of including IIDs as a standard safety feature on new vehicles, much like air bags and seat belts are currently in use today. The study predicted that this approach to stopping drunk drivers would result in about 85 percent fewer alcohol-related traffic fatalities if it were to be phased in over a period of 15 years.

Although it may sound like an expensive undertaking to install an IID in ever new car sold nationwide, the researchers also predicted that the effort would pay for itself in a matter of just a few years by eliminating many of the societal costs associated with drunk driving accidents.

Holding drunk drivers accountable

Only time will tell if ignition interlock use will expand in California, and if so, how far that expansion will go. In the meantime, however, most drivers are left to decide for themselves whether to drive after drinking. Those who choose incorrectly and drive under the influence of alcohol can be held legally and financially liable to the people they injure in the event of a crash.

If you or a loved one has been hurt by a drunk driver in California, contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Century Park Law Group to learn more about your rights and the legal options that are available after a crash.

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