Could Interlock Laws Reduce Fatal DUI Crashes?

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DUI crashes can lead to extensive damages for those involved – including death. These accidents are particularly unfortunate, as they are preventable by having drivers make smart driving decisions and not operate vehicles while intoxicated. Interlock laws that restrict the use of vehicles for DUI offenders can help reduce the chances of such fatal accidents occurring.

What Are Interlock Laws?

Interlock laws mandate that certain DUI offenders have ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles. These devices prevent vehicles from operating if they detect a certain level of alcohol on drivers’ breath, preventing anyone under the influence from operating the vehicle. Aside from preventing those convicted of DUI from committing repeat offenses during probation, interlock devices also help keep the roads safe from the risks of drunk drivers.

Most states have some form of interlock laws. Statutes vary on who needs to install an interlock device, with some states requiring all DUI offenders to do so, while others only mandate these devices for repeat offenders. Interlock devices often come into play after a driver has completed the first stage of license revocation, allowing for limited vehicle privileges with an installed interlock.

What Are Florida’s Interlock Laws?

Florida is a state that only requires installation of ignition interlock devices upon a second or subsequent conviction. On a second DUI offense where the driver qualifies for a permanent or restricted license, the driver must use an ignition interlock device for at least a year. For subsequent offenses, the driver must use an interlock device for at least two years. Extenuating circumstances can also lead to a two-year interlock use period.

However, if a driver has a passenger in the vehicle younger than 18 years of age, they can still require interlock use upon a first time offense. The period for this conviction is six months for a first offense and at least two years for a second offense.

Any driver who is on probation for a DWI offense will be able to operate a motor vehicle so long as it has an ignition interlock device installed for at least six months. Florida licensing agencies may also require individuals seeking license reinstatement to use an interlock device, and this requirement can apply to both occupational and regular driving privileges.

Do Interlock Laws Reduce Fatal DUI Crashes?

Studies have shown that interlock laws reduce fatal DUI crashes. However, laws that require all individuals convicted of DUI offenses to install interlock devices – and not just repeat or certain types of offenders – are much more effective. These types of laws can lead to a 7% decrease in fatal drunk driving crashes.

Putting qualifiers on which DUI offenders require interlock devices can seem like a fair tradeoff for first-time offenders. However, this leads to situations where first-time offenders can easily drive drunk again, since there is no interlock device to stop them from doing so. And in any situation where drunk drivers are on the road, the risk of an accident increases.

While some states outside of Florida have similar laws that only require certain DUI offenders to install interlock devices, many other states are taking steps to institute universal interlock laws for all convicted drunk drivers. As of September 2018, there are 29 states that have such laws in place – three more than had mandatory interlock laws in 2016. These states have all seen a positive impact in preventing DUI fatalities.

In the future, other states may follow suit in adjusting their laws. Until then, Florida drivers can expect interlock laws to apply for repeat offenders and those who drive under the influence with a minor in the vehicle. While these statutes may not be as effective as mandatory laws, they nevertheless help keep many DUI offenders from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.