Congress considers funding for interlock breathalyzer research

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An ignition interlock breathalyzer device

Congress is considering allocating funding to interlock Breathalyzer funding, as the devices have a proven track record. Photo Credit: Rsheram/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Congress is currently considering a bill to fund research into ignition interlock Breathalyzer technology. A growing number of states require them for people convicted of drunken driving, and more people are calling for them to be standard on all cars.

Top beverage group opposes interlock research

A bill is currently under consideration in the United States Congress that may provide funding for research into ignition interlock devices that detect blood-alcohol concentration in drivers, according to the New York Times. The bill that would authorize the funding recently passed in the Senate by a margin of 60 to 39. The bill has gone to the House of Representatives.

Lobbyists from the beverage industry, such as the American Beverage Institute, oppose the measure and say the technology is still imperfect. They say the devices must be perfected before mandating they be installed in vehicles. The bill, if it becomes law, will only give federal funding to studying breathalyzer technology. One of the goals is to determine whether a breath test or a test of chemicals on the skin is more accurate.

States expanding programs

Breathalyzer technology has been around since the late 1980s, according to Slate. Nearly every state had ignition interlocks available as an alternative sentencing option for people convicted of drunk driving by 2009. Most studies conducted on the efficacy of interlocks have found they reduce the number of times a person convicted of drunk driving will re-offend.

A dozen states, according to the New York Times, currently require ignition interlock devices to be installed in the vehicles of people who have been convicted of driving under the influence. The first was New Mexico. In 2005, the state mandated that DUI offenders have an ignition interlock system installed in their cars, according to Fox News. At the time, only the Canadian province of Ontario and the nation of Sweden mandated ignition interlocks for people convicted of alcohol-impaired driving, according to Wired.

According to the New York Times, New Mexico recorded a 37 percent reduction in recidivist drunk driving from 2002 to 2008. Other studies found recidivism rates dropped by up to 69 percent after interlocks were installed. New Mexico also recorded a 35 percent drop in drunk driving related fatalities in that time, according to Time Magazine.

Drunk driving danger

When it comes to automotive safety, especially while driving, there are few dangers more ominous than driving under the influence. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one-third of all traffic fatalities in 2009 were in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver. Alcohol-related crashes cost the nation about $51 billion per year.

Research conducted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, according to Time, found that driving under the influence is the most common offense Americans are arrested for. About 1.5 million people are arrested for the crime per year, and according to the CDC, fewer than 1 percent of people that drive drunk are caught by police.


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