Every state should require all convicted drunken drivers, including first-time offenders, to use devices that prevent them from starting a car's engine if their breath tests positive for alcohol, the National Transportation Safety Board said today. The ignition interlock devices—already required for all convicted drunken drivers in 17 states—are the best currently available solution to reducing drunken driving deaths, which account for about a third of the nation's more than 32,000 traffic deaths a year, the board said.
The board also urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to speed up its research effort with automakers to develop systems that can determine a driver's blood alcohol concentration using infrared light when the driver presses an ignition button. The vehicle won't start if the alcohol concentration is too high. The technology, which is sometimes breath-based rather than touch-activated, is already in use in some workplace drug-testing programs. If it were were incorporated into all new vehicles, it could potentially prevent an estimated 7,000 drunken-driving deaths a year, the board said. (Read more drunk driving stories.)