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Government incents states to adopt stricter DUI laws

During 2010, more than 10,000 individuals lost their lives as a result of a drunk driving accident. In response, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is offering states around the country a share of $20.8 million dollars in highway safety and improvement funding. In order to receive the funding, however, states must pass stricter guidelines with regard to first-time drunk driving offenders.

Currently 17 states enforce the mandatory use of interlock devices for first-time DUI offenders. In Tennessee, first-time DUI offenders are required to install an ignition interlock device if they have a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher. The push by the NHTSA, however, would require the device for any driver whose BAC is determined to be above the legal state limit which is .08 percent in Tennessee.

Once an ignition interlock device is installed in a motor vehicle, the driver is required to blow into the device prior to being able to start the vehicle. If the device detects a BAC level of more than .02 percent, the vehicle will not start.

The NHTSA hopes the promise of additional highway funding will prompt more states to adopt first-time DUI interlock device laws. Many drunk driving-related car accidents involve a driver who registers a BAC level twice the legal limit. Many of these drivers are men between the ages of 21 and 35, making this demographic a main target for anti-drunk driving campaigns as well as drunk driving enforcement campaigns.

In addition to fees imposed by the courts for drunk driving charges, individuals who are required to install ignition interlock devices must do so at their own expense. This, safety advocates hope, will be a main deterrent for many. Installation of the device typically costs around $75 with monthly monitoring fees of $70.

Source: The Washington Post, "Federal officials push for tougher state drunken-driving laws," Ashley Halsey, III, Aug. 14, 2012

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