Will Missouri Move Towards Mandatory Ignition Interlock Devices For DWI Offenders?

A recent article on MSNBC.com, asks whether all states should move towards mandatory ignition interlock devices in the case of drunk drivers. Drivers in Connecticut who have been convicted of drunken driving are the latest to face mandatory use of ignition interlock devices. Similar moves by other states have been seen as a sign by some that the nation is moving closer to requiring alcohol detection systems in all vehicles, eventually becoming as ubiquitous as airbags and seatbelts.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving pushed hard for the Connecticut law which took effect on January 1st of this year. The state joins 14 other with ignition-interlock mandates for drivers caught with blood-alcohol content above the legal limit, even for first-time offenders. A similar pilot program recently began in several California counties.

At least 24 other states mandate the Breathalyzer-like locks the most serious drunken drivers including repeat offenders or those caught with alcohol levels of .15 or more. The question is whether Missouri, currently in the latter category, will decide to join other states and push for the ignition interlock devices for even first time offenders

Two years ago a state law went into effect and required repeat DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. Since that time, Missouri law enforcement officials now say that the decision is responsible for a significant decrease in drunk driving injuries and fatalities across the state. This indicates that not only will the requirement continue, but its success may be reason enough to move for a stricter rule.

The Missouri Highway Patrol released traffic statistics indicating that drunk driving injuries and fatalities have decreased over the past two years. According to the Patrol, there were 218 drunk driving deaths and 3,823 injuries in 2010. In comparison, there were 262 drunk driving deaths and 4,511 injuries in 2008.

The law was implemented in August of 2009 and requires that second-time DUI offenders install ignition interlocks in their vehicles for six months. The device contains a Breathalyzer which must be blown before a client can start their automobile. If the Breathalyzer detects the presence of alcohol on the driver’s breath, the vehicle will not start.

Since the law was enacted, the number of Missouri drivers with an ignition interlock has increased from 1,800 in 2008 to 8,700 in 2010. The convicted offender usually has to pay for the device to be installed and maintained, often at a significant cost. Due to the exceptionally high cost many DUI offenders simply decide to not have the devices installed and give up their driver’s license instead. If they refuse to install the ignition interlock device, their license will automatically be suspended for a variable length of time. Approximately 50,000 drivers choose (or are forced into) a suspended license over an ignition interlock.

If you find yourself in need of a Missouri DWI defense lawyer capable of aggressively protecting your interests, contact our St. Louis DWI law firm today at (314) 863-0500.

Source:Drunk Driving Deaths and Injuries Down – Two Years After Ignition Lock Law,” Kevin Killeen, published at StLouis.CBSLocal.com.