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Ignition interlocks stop drunk drivers but cause accidents

On Behalf of | Dec 31, 2019 | Car Accidents |

When someone is arrested for drunk driving, it isn’t uncommon for the court to order an ignition interlock device to be placed in their car. An ignition interlock is essentially a breathalyzer that keeps a car from running if the driver has a positive blood alcohol reading.

In North Carolina, ignition interlocks are required for anyone convicted of driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or higher. They’re also required for any driver who has had more than one DUI. And, all of the available evidence really does indicate that they can reduce the number of DUI-related deaths by up to 15%. That has prompted some members of Congress to propose legislation that would put an ignition interlock in every new car by 2024.

The problem is that people are ending up in serious or fatal accidents in a whole new way thanks to these devices. Because of the way the interlock works, drivers have to breathe into the device when starting their car. Then, at random intervals while they’re behind the wheel, they have to use the device again to show that they haven’t grabbed a few drinks for the road. If they fail, the car’s electronic system will go haywire until they turn off the engine.

In theory, drivers are supposed to pull their vehicles over when the device signals that it’s time for a “rolling retest.” In practice, drivers tend to frantically juggle the ignition interlock device with one hand and steer with the other — all the while blowing into the breathalyzer. As a result, drivers have actually passed out while in motion, jumped lanes, hit stationary objects and trees, run over curbs and crashed into other cars. Some of the accidents have even been fatal.

Ignition interlocks can save lives — but they can also create a dangerous new type of distracted driving that can lead to a serious wreck. If you suffer injuries in this kind of accident, it may be wise to find out more about who you can hold accountable for your losses.


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