North Carolina lawmakers consider stronger ignition interlock law

Legislation that would mandate ignition interlock device installation for all North Carolina DUI offenders could reduce drunk driving accidents and deaths.

The number of serious car accidents that involve drunk driving has fallen in North Carolina over the last decade, but these crashes still occur far too often. According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, in 2013, 372 deaths were attributed to drunk driving accidents. These tragic losses represented more than one-quarter of all traffic fatalities in North Carolina that year.

Fortunately for drivers in Fayetteville and other parts of the state, new legislation could help reduce the rate of these needless accidents. Lawmakers have recently introduced two bills that would require all DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices.

Targeting dangerous drivers

At present, ignition interlock device installation is only mandatory for certain drivers who have been convicted of DUI in North Carolina, according to ABC News. People who refuse chemical testing or have multiple DUI convictions must install the devices. First-time offenders also must install the devices if their blood-alcohol concentration is measured at .15 or greater. Still, this law may overlook a large number of potentially dangerous offenders.

Safety advocates, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, have called on state lawmakers to require all convicted offenders to install interlock devices. To demonstrate the need for interlock laws that focus on first-time offenders, MADD cites the following facts about these offenders:

  • They may frequently be habitual offenders. The average first-time DUI offender has already driven intoxicated over 80 times before being arrested.
  • They often are not deterred by license suspension. As many as 75 percent of convicted offenders continue driving, possibly while under the influence, while their licenses are suspended.
  • They are involved in about two-thirds of drunk driving arrests and accidents. This means that a large proportion of convicted drunk drivers in North Carolina go without adequate deterrence against future offenses.

A law requiring every convicted offender to use an ignition interlock device could address many of these issues. These devices have proven effective at preventing habitual offenders from ignoring license suspension and continuing to drive while intoxicated.

Life-saving safety gains

According to MADD, research shows that ignition interlock laws are an effective way to reduce recidivism. Research indicates that interlock laws that apply to all DUI offenders can reduce drunk driving offenses by 67 percent. This type of reduction in recidivism can have huge effects on roadway safety.

In many states, all-offender laws have been linked to a drop in drunk driving fatalities. In four states that observe these laws, alcohol-related traffic fatalities have fallen over 30 percent. In North Carolina, given the number of fatal car accidents that involved alcohol in 2013, a 30 percent reduction in fatalities would translate to about 110 fewer lives lost each year.

Unfortunately, even if this bill succeeds, it will not entirely eliminate drunk driving accidents. However, legal remedies may be available to the people who suffer harm in these needless accidents. Anyone who has been hurt or lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident may benefit from discussing these remedies with a car accident attorney.

Keywords: DUI, drunk driving, accident, injury