Putting a lock on it: many argue the only way to stop people from driving when they're drunk is with technology.

Author:Savage, Melissa


In 1980, after her 13-year-old daughter was run over and killed by a drunken driver, Candy Lightner started Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In the ensuing years, federal and state legislation drew attention to the problem and curbed the number of drunken driving incidents and deaths.

Even though the numbers are going down, one person still dies every 50 minutes in an alcohol-related crash. According to one AAA study, 10 percent of drivers admit driving even when they think their blood alcohol content may be over the legal limit. Most said they did so more than once a year.

High visibility enforcement, public awareness campaigns such as "You drink. You drive. You Lose," and state legislative action throughout the years have helped push the DUI statistics in the right direction. Yet, many advocates argue the only way to truly solve the problem is through technology, and they've been busy taking this message to statehouses around the country.

Ignition interlock devices can be the silver bullet, according to some advocacy groups. In 2005, New Mexico was the first state to require them for all convicted drunken drivers, including first-time offenders. At the time, states required ignition interlocks only for repeat offenders or those with high blood-alcohol-content levels. In 2007, Arizona and Louisiana passed bills similar to New Mexico's, and today 11 states have these laws. Connecticut, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York and Texas currently are debating bills.

At least 15 states have introduced a variety of ignition interlock bills so far in 2011. Iowa, New Jersey and Texas are considering proposals that would require some DUI offenders to wear continuous alcohol monitoring devices as a part of their sentence. A proposal in Indiana would require the warning "no alcohol sales" on repeat offenders' driver's licenses.

Nebraska is looking to make sweeping changes to its drunken driving laws through a bill that would eliminate the administrative license revocation law, introduced by Senator Mike Flood, speaker of the Nebraska Legislature. Under the administrative license revocation law, police officers can immediately take away a driver's license for driving under the influence, but the offender can keep driving with a 30-day temporary license. A separate hearing is required to address the driver's license issue apart from the criminal hearing on driving drunk. Forty-one states have these laws.

Flood's bill would streamline the...

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