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Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)

Study looks into the impact of ignition interlock laws

Washington is among the 26 states that mandate the installation of ignition interlock devices in the vehicles of all individuals convicted of DUIs. A recent survey suggests that the nation's roads would be safer if all states had such laws on their books. The study was conducted by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and it was published in the April 2017 issue of the "American Journal of Preventive Medicine."

Laws requiring the installation of ignition interlock devices have long been thought to deter repeat offenders and save lives, and the researchers looked at NHTSA accident data gathered between 1982 and 2013 to see if these arguments are borne out by the facts. They concluded that these laws reduce the number of alcohol-related fatal crashes by 7 percent and have saved the lives of about 1,250 road users since their introduction in 1993.

The researchers also found that ignition interlock laws like the one passed in Washington are far more effective than measures that only require the devices to be fitted to the vehicles of repeat drunk driving offenders or motorists with very high blood alcohol levels. The devices work in much the same way as the portable breath testing equipment favored by police.

Drunk driving cases often hinge on the results of breath tests and the kind of technology found in ignition interlock devices. While this technology is generally reliable, test results may be misleading when strict protocols are not followed or rigorous maintenance schedules are ignored. When police reports or service logs indicate that shortcuts may have been taken, criminal defense attorneys could seek to have drunk driving charges dismissed.

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