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Legislative

ABI Urges Transportation Committee to Amend Highway Bill Interlock Mandate

September 21, 2009


WASHINGTON – Today the American Beverage Institute (ABI), which represents thousands of American restaurants, sent letters to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee urging the members to amend a component of the Highway Bill draft which would require that all 50 states mandate ignition interlocks - in-car breathalyzers - as punishment for all drunk driving offenders.
 
Below is an excerpt from the letter:

Mandating ignition interlocks for low-BAC (blood alcohol concentration), first-time DUI offenders is the wrong approach.

The average BAC of drunk drivers involved in fatal accidents is .19—more than twice every state’s legal limit of .08. Studies have shown that drivers are more dangerous talking on a hands-free cell phone than they are driving at .08 BAC. And yet that is the level at which this bill would mandate ignition interlock devices—which, due to their fallibility and intrusiveness, have previously been reserved for hard-core offenders.

In addition to targeting the wrong offenders, this mandate will cost each state millions of dollars to enforce. The American Probation and Patrol Association (APPA) recently estimated that the cost for supervision of offenders to states would be over $432 million.

Interlock technology is effective for high-BAC and repeat DUI offenders, those who constitute the “hard core” drunk drivers and who don’t benefit from alcohol treatment and probationary programs the same way most low-BAC, first-time DUI offenders do. However, we should not punish individuals who are one sip over the limit the same way we punish hard core drunk drivers.

Currently, 27 states require interlocks for high-BAC and repeat-offenders, while just 11 target low-BAC, first-time offenders.
 
“Before making a move on the Highway Bill, the Transportation Committee should amend the interlock mandate to apply to the hardcore drunk drivers who cause the vast majority of alcohol-impaired fatalities,” said ABI Managing Director Sarah Longwell. “This unfunded mandate forces states to implement a misguided policy that will prove prohibitively expensive to enforce and will not solve the drunk driving problem.”

She continued, “Furthermore, this mandate is an incremental step in a broader campaign to see ignition interlock technology installed in all cars as standard equipment.”

The federal government has partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and auto manufacturers (including General Motors, Ford, Toyota, BMW, and Nissan) to develop in-car alcohol-sensors to come as a feature in all new vehicles in the near future.
 
The devices would be set far below the legal limit – effectively eliminating millions of Americans’ ability to have a glass of wine with dinner, a beer at a ball game, or a champagne toast at a wedding and drive home. MADD has even requested $30 million in the Highway Bill for the development of this technology.


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