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AUTOMOTIVE / SAFETY

Courts Use Tech To Stop Drink Driving

By Manisha Kanetkar | Monday | 27/08/2007

A wide-spread roll out of technology which prevents a drunk driver from starting their car is being urged by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States.

The technology is an alcohol ignition interlock device, which is installed in a car's dashboard. Before the car can be started, the driver must breathe into the device - if the driver's BAC is over the limit, the car will not start.

The interlocks are currently used for 100,000 drink driving offenders each year in the United States, with judges in all but five states able to order interlocks or drunk driving offenders.

In a meeting with a panel of judges, lawyers, prosecutors and parole officers in Washington D.C., NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason called for increasing the use of ignition interlocks as part of a penalty enforced against repeat drunk driving offenders.

"We need to expand the use of interlock technology in order to prohibit drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel again and again. It is vital that judges and prosecutors employ all the tools at their disposal to ensure that repeat offenders don't have the opportunity to cause harm," she said.

She said that the 100,000 cases where they are already used comprise of only about 20 percent of the cases for which interlocks could be used. Nason claimed that such a measure is necessary since drunk driving fatalities have stagnated at just under 13,500 fatalities a year in the US, and that a third of drunk driving arrests are repeat offenders.

The technology, however, is not cheap, with some questioning its effectiveness, thus preventing wide-spread adoption of the technology by the US justice system, thus far. Whether we will see the technology rolled out in Australia is also yet to be seen.

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