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National safety board aims to curb drunk driving accidents

Those who advocate against drunk driving often remind motorists to give their keys to a designated driver during a night out, so as to prevent an intoxicated person from even getting in the driver's seat. However, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) wants to take that concept a step further, recommending ignition interlock use throughout the U.S.

These devices, which essentially prevent a drunk person from starting their car, are a requirement for certain offenders in roughly one-third of the 50 states. In Virginia, state law now requires these safeguards for first-time offenders, in an effort to prevent drunk driving accidents.

In the past, the NTSB has encouraged ignition interlocks under more specific conditions, such as when a driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) was over two times the limit set forth by the law.

However, on December 10, the NTSB issued a recommendation for a more comprehensive, national use of ignition interlock devices. While the board is unable to enforce its advice to legislatures, it still wields the power of persuasion in the national debate over drunk driving laws.

According to the executive director for the Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers, the NTSB is likely to prove influential during 2013 lawmaking sessions.

Nearly 20 states now mandate ignition interlock devices for first-time drunk driving offenders. A 2012 U.S. highway bill offers grants to states that implement such measures.

More technology aimed at prevent drunk driving accidents is already in the works, with the NTSB mentioning a research project on ways to detect a driver's level of intoxication. In the future, these may include breath measurements or fingertip sensors on a car's steering device.

Source: Bloomberg, "Ignition lock push in U.S. opposed by restaurant group." Angela Greiling Keane, Dec. 11, 2012.

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