It began in the mid-2000s. Nevada and Arizona started something that is still sweeping the country. They mandated ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenses, including first offenses.
An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
Other states had been adopting the device since the 1990s to keep convicted drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel, but the device was seen as a last resort, appropriate for serial offenders. Perceptive legislators in Arizona and Nevada realized that mandating the device for all offenders would bring down alcohol-related fatality rates, and they were right. In some cases the rates plummeted.
Other state legislators took notice, and today 30 states have made the devices available for any convicted drunk driver. The devices allow the offender to regain driving privileges without the risk of letting a drunk driver on the road.
North Carolina is among the states that has not yet hopped on board. Ignition interlocks are only required for multiple DWI offenders, or first offenders who are found to have a very high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) – .15 or greater. While it’s important that multiple offenders and “super-drunk” drivers have an ignition interlock installed, the 30 states that require the interlock device for every DWI offender have it right.
North Carolina DWI Laws Need to Change
The roads and streets of North Carolina would be safer if the North Carolina DWI law specified:
- Mandatory ignition interlock for all DWI offenders with a BAC of .08 or greater
- The interlock device should be available upon arrest – in other words, before trial.
- An indigent fund should exist to help pay for interlocks for those who cannot pay themselves
- There should be compliance-based removal: the device is not removed unless the offender has passed a given amount of time (we propose 4 months) without a failed test. This ensures that he or she is able to drive responsibly.
There is no cure-all for drunk driving, but there are strategies that have been proven to save lives, and an all-offender ignition interlock law is among the best. Citizens who value public safety in North Carolina should let their legislators know that they want their state to join the national trend that is taking drunk drivers off the roads.