Kentucky legislature passes ignition interlock bill for repeat offenders

The Kentucky legislature recently passed a bill that makes ignition interlock device installation mandatory for all repeat DUI offenders.

Drunk driving has affected the lives of many people in Pikeville and other parts of Kentucky. In 2013 alone, drunk driving caused 167 deaths in the state, according to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. This means that intoxication played a role in at least one fatal accident out of every four that were reported in Kentucky that year. The same year, over 21,000 people were arrested for driving under the influence.

Fortunately, lawmakers have taken an important step toward addressing this issue. The state legislature recently passed a bill mandating ignition interlock device installation for certain DUI offenders, according to WLKY News. The bill is awaiting approval from Gov. Steve Beshear, who is reportedly expected to sign it.

Ensuring compliance

Under this legislation, all repeat DUI offenders will be required to install ignition interlock devices. First-time offenders who were convicted under aggravating circumstances may also be required to install the devices. These devices prevent a vehicle from starting until a driver provides a breath sample. If the driver's blood alcohol content exceeds a certain threshold, the vehicle will not start.

Requiring ignition interlock device installation for all repeat offenders could offer significant safety benefits. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, it's not uncommon for convicted offenders to continue driving. Between 50 and 75 percent of convicted offenders reportedly drive in spite of license suspension. Ignition interlock devices effectively keep offenders from driving impaired and endangering others.

Studies also show that these devices can lower rates of repeat offenses and fatalities. Recidivism may fall up to 67 percent when offenders are required to install ignition interlock devices. Laws that apply to every offender are typically most effective in reducing offenses and deadly accidents. However, since repeat offenders contribute significantly to DUI arrests and accidents, laws that target these drivers may still offer benefits.

Toll of recidivism

MADD states that repeat offenders play a role in about one-third of drunk driving crashes, arrests, injuries and fatalities. It's not uncommon for habitual drunk drivers to continue their dangerous habits even after they have been caught and convicted. Across the U.S., more than 2 million drivers have been convicted of drunk driving at least three times.

The role that repeat offenders play in overall Kentucky DUI accidents is unknown. However, data from the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility shows that these offenders may contribute disproportionately to serious, high-BAC accidents. In over three-quarters of deadly 2013 crashes involving repeat offenders, the offenders had BAC levels of at least .15. This suggests that repeat offenders may be more likely to drink heavily and cause serious injuries or other catastrophic outcomes.

Holding offenders accountable

Statistics indicate that many people in Kentucky may suffer harm this year because of negligent drunk drivers. Even with ignition interlock device use mandated for repeat offenders, the risk of accidents involving first-time offenders may remain significant. Anyone who has been harmed in one of these accidents should consider speaking with a personal injury attorney about possible legal remedies.

Keywords: drunk driving, accident, injury