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Legislation aims to mandate universal ignition interlocks

Around 30 people every day are killed in New York and across the country in car crashes caused by drunk driving. Despite large-scale police enforcement, drunk driving continues to threaten lives nationwide. Some members of Congress are looking for a technological solution to crack down on the problem, drawing inspiration from a common penalty imposed on drivers convicted of DUI. In many states, drivers who regain their license after a conviction for impaired driving must pay a state fee to have an ignition interlock device installed. This device prevents the driver from starting the car until they blow into it; like a small Breathalyzer, the interlock determines that drivers do not have alcohol on their breath.

It is expensive to install an ignition interlock device; for people with a drunk driving conviction, the costs can reach into the thousands of dollars for equipment, installation and removal after the mandatory period. However, this does not necessarily reflect the cost of the device used but rather the state's policies for drunk driving enforcement. Members of Congress want to see these devices become smaller, cheaper and universal. The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone Act (RIDE Act) of 2019 seeks to mandate technology to stop drunk driving in all new cars by 2024.

If passed, the legislation would provide federal research and development funds to improve ignition interlock devices and make them compatible with all new vehicles. It would also aim to reduce costs through mass production. Once the technology was sufficiently developed, installation on all new vehicles would be mandatory.

Despite advancing technology, car accidents linked to drunk driving take a massive toll each year on New York roadways. People injured in motor vehicle accidents caused by a drunk or negligent driver may work with a personal injury attorney to seek compensation for their damages.

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