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Study looks into the effectiveness of ignition interlock laws

Wisconsin law requires motorists convicted of OWI to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles when they have a prior history of drunk driving, refused to submit to a toxicology test or were found to have a blood alcohol level of .15 percent or higher, but a study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Colorado School of Public Health suggests that a law mandating the installation of these devices in the vehicles of all drunk drivers would be more effective.

Ignition interlock devices use the same kind of technology as the portable breath testing equipment used by police, and more than 20 states have passed laws mandating their use after drunk driving convictions are obtained. The researchers behind the study looked at NHTSA accident data from 1982 to 2013, and they concluded that these laws reduce fatal drunk driving accidents by 7 percent and have saved about 1,250 lives since 1993.

The research, which was published in April in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, also suggests that legislation mandating the installation of ignition interlock devices in the vehicles of all drunk driving offenders are more effective than laws with a more limited scope. As of March 2016, such laws had been passed in 26 states.

While ignition interlock laws may allow those convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol to retain their driving privileges in some situations, they do not prevent them from facing other sanctions such as fines, jail time and probation. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may seek to reduce the severity of these penalties by bringing mitigating factors to the attention of prosecutors during plea discussions. Attorneys could also challenge the reliability of breath or blood test results in situations where strict protocols may not have been followed or the equipment used has not been properly maintained.

Source: Wisconsin State Legislature, "Installation of ignition interlock device", accessed on May 1, 2017

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