New Drunk Driving Legislation Could Require Breathalyzers in All New Cars


Each year thousands of lives are lost as the result of drunk driving related car accidents. It’s a heart wrenching statistic and even more painful considering that drunk driving is preventable.

New York congresswoman Kathleen Rice is working to further drunk driving prevention and announced on July 14 that she will introduce legislation that could mandate US automakers to equip all new cars with alcohol breath-testing units. These breathalyzers, known as ignition interlock devices, monitor a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) and will prevent a car’s engine from starting if that BAC level surpasses a predetermined or legal limit.

“Advancing the progress we’ve made combating drunk driving demands bold action,” said Rice in a press statement. “That’s why I’m working on legislation to require ignition interlock devices in all new cars. This technology saves lives, it saves money, and I’m going to fight to make it standard equipment in American cars.”

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Historically, drunk driving has heavily affected young drivers in their 20s, and Rice cites a University of Michigan study which suggests ignition interlock devices could dramatically reduce fatalities and injuries in this category, as well as across the board.

The study finds that implementation of ignition interlock devices in all new cars over the course of 15 years could prevent 85 percent of DWI related deaths, 84 to 89 percent of drunk driving related nonfatal injuries, and the prevention of those deaths could save an alleged $343 billion in injury related costs.

Many states currently mandate that repeat drunk driving offenders equip their cars with ignition interlock devices, and more states are moving to require the devices for first time offenders as well. Rice’s bill would take the step much further with implementation on all new cars, and could run into pushback for its scope when proposed.

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Photo Credit: Lifesaver, Smithsonian