EDITORIAL: Ignition interlock devices are key to safety

2013-05-22T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Ignition interlock devices are key to safety nwitimes.com
May 22, 2013 12:00 am  • 

One of the National Transportation Safety Board's recommendations for decreasing the number of traffic fatalities seems dead on arrival in the Indiana General Assembly. But that shouldn't stop the state from following up on another suggestion.

The federal agency last week recommended states drop the threshhold for drunken driving to 0.05 blood alcohol content from the current 0.08.

State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, is chairman of the the House Roads and Transportation Committee. He doesn't see that BAC standard changing soon, considering it took a decade of arm-twisting for the General Assembly to drop the limit to 0.08 from the previous 0.10.

It took the federal government's threat to withhold all of Indiana's highway funding to persuade the General Assembly to finally change the limit.

This year, the Legislature balked at increasing the work day for community service to eight hours -- the federal standard -- from the current six hours. That caused $20 million in federal highway funds to be shifted from construction to safety programs.

What the Legislature could do, and should do, is to require convicted drunken drivers to install ignition interlock devices to prevent them from driving after they have been drinking. Vehicles equipped with this device lock the ignition until a driver passes a mandatory breath test.

These devices would be required only after an individual has been convicted of drunken driving. It's a good way to discourage repeat offenses.

There are ways to get around these devices, including simply using a different vehicle not equipped with the device. But that shouldn't stop the courts, with the Legislature's blessing, from requiring these devices for drivers with prior drunk driving convictions.

Soliday wants to see more research before dropping the BAC standard to 0.05, which is understandable.

But it shouldn't take additional research to see the wisdom of requiring ignition interlock devices for Hoosiers convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. That Legislature should make this a priority next year.

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