The national auto insurance company AAA, famous for its roadside assistance services, has joined the National Transportation Safety Board in calling for all drunk drivers convicted of DUI charges to be required to have an ignition interlock system installed on their cars.  Currently the alcohol monitoring system is only required for those who would like to reduce the amount of time that their licenses are suspended or for those who blow over twice the legal limit when they submit to a breathalyzer test after being pulled over. Nearly any auto technician can install the ignition interlock device at the auto shop, and the cost for the install is typically borne by the convicted driver.

The ignition interlock system requires the driver of the vehicle to blow into a mouthpiece to ensure that their BAC (blood-alcohol content) is not over the legal limit before they start driving.  The systems also require random ‘rolling retests’ which also require the driver to temporarily pull over and blow into the mouthpiece after they have been driving for a while.  The system has earned high marks from many police departments, lawmakers and consumer safety groups for discouraging drunken driving in those who have been convicted of DUI charges, while still allowing them to be mobile and to drive their own cars legally.

Ignition interlock systems, which can be installed by most any auto technician, are credited with preventing convicted drunk drivers from illegally driving, by giving them a legal means to do so with their own vehicle–as long as they are tested first.  Previously, many convicted of a DUI and with suspended licenses would drive anyway because they needed to get to work or other places and had no other reliable means of transportation.

Ignition interlock laws are on the books in 17 of the 50 states in the US.  AAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are urging all states to adopt laws that mandate the installation by an approved auto technician of the devices after even the first offense.  That is, anyone convicted of a DUI or DWI violation would be required to (at their own expense) have the ignition interlock system installed in their vehicle.

The devices have widespread perceptions of safety benefits, but others have cautioned that it may not be necessary to mandate them in all cases of drunk driving convictions, saying that the requirements in most states (including Colorado) that they be required for those who are found to be driving with a BAC over .17 are enough and that it is not necessary to mandate the devices for those who merely have a BAC of .08 or higher (which can be the equivalent of just a few drinks).