Ignition Interlock Study

Philly.comBreath-Alcohol Locks
Worked 10,000 Times

The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Breath-alcohol detectors installed in the cars of
convicted drunken drivers prevented them from driving under the influence
more than 10,000 times in the first year of Pennsylvania’s Ignition
Interlock Law, according to a study.

Drivers must pass a breath test before the system will allow them to
start their vehicles, and they must periodically test themselves
throughout their drives.

Their blood-alcohol level must be below 0.025 percent – less than a
quarter of the legal limit – to keep the car running.

After three lockouts, the driver must pay to have the car taken to a
certified service center in order to have the system reset.

Under Pennsylvania’s law, drivers whose licenses have been suspended
for two years may get the licenses back after one year if they agree to
have the interlock device installed in their vehicle.

From Oct. 1, 2001, to Sept. 30, 2002, 1,855 of the 18,600 eligible DUI
offenders chose that option, according to the report by the Pennsylvania
DUI Association, which was contracted to evaluate the system.

The interlocks’ internal logs showed the devices kept those drivers
from driving drunk 10,142 times, the report said.

Pennsylvania is one of the first states to complete a comprehensive
evaluation of its ignition interlock program, and other states may soon
look to Pennsylvania as an example.

Jason King, a spokesman for the American Association of Motor Vehicle
Administrators, said he wasn’t aware of other figures demonstrating the
effectiveness of the devices.

It has sometimes been difficult to track the success of ignition
interlock programs, said Dr. James Frank, a psychologist in the office of
research and technology with the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration.

“The information that comes back to us is very anecdotal,” he
said.

Pennsylvania started its program in 2000, and participants started
using the devices in October 2001, said Dave Holt, assistant manager of
the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s alcohol highway safety
administration. Holt said he hopes the program will be made mandatory
after a one-year suspension.

The main complaints about the program so far have involved drivers
having to figure out how to get the machine to work, said Anthony
Tassoni, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania DUI Association.

“There’s an extremely large learning curve,” Tassoni said. There are
five types of approved ignition interlock devices, with some requiring
the driver to just inhale or exhale, while some require the driver to
exhale while humming.

Forty other states and the District of Columbia have some form of
ignition interlock law, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

New Mexico’s ignition interlock law went into effect Jan. 1, so
transportation officials there said they are just starting to work out
their system – and they’re keeping an eye on what Pennsylvania is
doing.

“We’re going back to change the law to have some fixes,” said Virginia
Jaramillo, chief of the traffic safety bureau of the New Mexico State
Highway and Transportation. “I’ll probably be calling them to see how it
worked for them.”

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material
may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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