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Federal agency may ask states to tighten drunk driving laws

One of the most tragic kinds of car accidents is wrong-way crashes, according to a recent study by federal researchers. These accidents claim hundreds of lives each year and the majority of them are caused by drunk drivers who have blood alcohol levels of more than twice the legal limit.

In an effort to keep these terrible car accidents at bay, the National Transportation Safety Board is considering recommending that all states force convicted DUI offenders--even first-time offenders--to install an ignition interlock device in their cars. Ignition interlock devices test the driver's breath before allowing the car to start. Seventeen states already have such requirements, but Michigan is not one of them.

Here in Michigan, generally only repeat DUI offenders are required to install ignition interlocks. Repeat offenders are those who have:

  • at least two alcohol-related convictions within seven years, or
  • at least three alcohol-related convictions within 10 years, or
  • at least three convictions for driving while their license is suspended or revoked in seven years, if those convictions resulted in additional suspensions or revocations.

It remains to be seen whether the NTSB will ask Michigan to require first-time offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their cars.

The NTSB is pressed to do something because about 60 percent of wrong-way collisions are caused by drunk drivers with a very high blood alcohol content, far above what is legal. The legal limit in most states is .08 percent.

A study that took place in Michigan found that about 22 percent of wrong-way crashes result in death. For comparison, about 0.3 percent of all car accidents are fatal. It is very important to prevent such accidents and tackling drunk driving may help.

Source: Associated Press, "Wrong-way driving crashes claim hundreds of lives," Dec. 11, 2012

Source: Michigan.gov, "Alcohol related driving offenses require ignition interlock," Copyright 2001-2012

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