New Drunk Driving Campaign Unveiled

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has made public its newest campaign in the fight against drunk driving. The national organization is seeking legislative change to require an ignition interlock device in vehicles of those convicted of DWI. Even for first time DWI offenders.

The strategy stems from persistent numbers of drunk driving incidents in the United States. A substantial reduction in DWI vehicular deaths was realized as public perceptions about drinking and driving were changed by a national campaign that started in the 1980’s. In recent years however the number of deaths attributed to DWI have not changed, leading some to feel that the threat of jail and fines is less and less of a deterrent.

The MADD effort will rely on technology to fight chronic drunk driving. Ignition interlock devices disable a vehicle if alcohol is detected. Many states already mandate the use the devices with repeat DWI offenders. New Mexico recently passed legislation requiring them after a first DWI conviction, which helped contribute to a double digit drop in alcohol related vehicular deaths in the state.

There are a number of ignition interlock systems on the market and several automakers are developing their own versions. Saab recently starting field-testing a device called an AlcoKey. The long-range goal of the MADD campaign is to see the development of interlock systems that are unobtrusive in both size and function. Susan Ferguson, with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, envisions a system that works automatically rather than requiring someone to blow into a tube every time they want to start an automobile. Future devices may be embedded in a steering wheel or gear shifter that detect the presence of alcohol through the skin.

Mark V. Rosenker, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, says, “We have to begin looking at some new, innovative ways to begin to bring (the number of alcohol related vehicular deaths) down.”

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