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Interlocks save lives, but rolling tests can be dangerous

Virginia motorists who are convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol must have ignition interlock devices fitted in their vehicles. An IID prevents the vehicle it is fitted to from starting when alcohol is detected in a breath sample provided by the driver, and subsequent samples are required to keep the car running during what are known as rolling tests. In Virginia, the first rolling test takes place after just five minutes. IIDs are now mandatory for DUI offenders in most states because research shows that they deter drunk driving and prevent accidents, but a New York Times investigation reveals that they could also be causing crashes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that IIDs reduce repeat DUI offenses by as much as 70%, and the results of a study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania suggest that the devices can lower drunk driving deaths by up to 15%. However, performing rolling tests can be risky if drivers do not pull over first.

According to the New York Times, dozens of accidents have already been caused by drivers who were distracted while performing a rolling test. This raises concerns because IIDs are still fairly rare and rolling tests rarer still. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urges drivers to stop in a safe location before performing a rolling test, but many IID manufacturers claim that their devices are safe to use while vehicles are moving.

In addition to facing criminal sanctions, drunk drivers may be held financially responsible for their reckless behavior in civil court. Personal injury attorneys with experience in this area could file lawsuits on behalf of motor vehicle accident victims against the intoxicated drivers who injured them. When drunk drivers are incarcerated or killed, attorneys could initiate legal proceedings against their estates or insurance providers.

Source: The Legislative Information System, "Code of Virginia", accessed on Jan. 5, 2020

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