Washington, D.C. – Ignition interlocks help prevent drivers from being arrested again for driving while intoxicated, according to a new study by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study looked at drivers who had already been arrested for impaired driving prior to installation of the locks, which prevent the vehicle from being operated by someone with a blood alcohol level above a specified level.

The researchers based their findings on a systematic review of 15 scientific studies on ignition interlocks. They found that after these devices were installed, re-arrest rates for alcohol-impaired driving decreased by a median of 67 per cent relative to drivers with suspended licenses. The study appears in the March issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Ignition locks work by sampling the driver’s breath before the vehicle can be started, as well as periodically while it is being operated. Interlocks are most often used to prevent impaired driving by people who have already been convicted of driving while impaired, usually through a mandate by the court system or offered as an alternative to a suspended driver’s license.

“Each day, more than 30 people die because of alcohol-impaired driving,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of CDC. “We know that interlock devices can save lives. More widespread use of ignition interlocks will reduce alcohol-related crash deaths and injuries.”

As of December 2010, thirteen states require interlocks for all convicted offenders, including a first conviction. More than half of all states require some offenders to install the locks, but overall, only a small proportion of impaired driving offenders participate in interlock programs.

“When offenders’ licenses are suspended, they aren’t legally able to provide transportation for themselves and others who may rely on them to get places like school and work,” said Randy Elder, lead author of the review. “Ignition interlocks allow offenders to keep operating their vehicles legally. At the same time, they effectively ensure that they do so more safely, not under the dangerous effects of alcohol.”

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