Report: Alabama DUI offenders often avoid installing interlock devices

Data indicates that many Alabama DUI offenders who should install ignition interlock devices fail to do so, which may negatively affect roadway safety.

Drunk driving is a tragically common cause of car accidents in Huntsville. In 2012, Alabama lawmakers sought to reduce these alcohol-related accidents by passing an ignition interlock bill. According to WTVM News, initial enforcement was limited due to loopholes in the legislation. In 2014, lawmakers passed reforms to remove these loopholes. However, a recent report suggests that even after these changes, many Alabama DUI offenders still avoid installing interlock devices.

Limited enforcement

Each year, about 9,000 people are convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in Alabama. However, since 2012, only 561 convicted DUI offenders have been required to install ignition interlock devices. This is significantly fewer cases than would be expected, given the state's current interlock laws. According to Alabama Media Group, convicted DUI offenders may be ordered to install interlock devices under all of the following circumstances:

  • The driver's blood alcohol concentration is measured at more than .15.
  • The driver has been convicted of DUI at least once in the last five years.
  • The driver does not consent to BAC testing.
  • The driver causes injury to another person.
  • The driver has a passenger who is younger than 14.

Other convicted offenders may also request ignition interlock device installation as an alternative to license suspension. Given these criteria, and the state's rate of DUI convictions, significantly more drivers should have received interlock devices during the last three years.

According to WTVM, advocates from Mothers Against Drunk Driving have called for legal changes that would result in more drivers receiving interlock devices. At present, some DUI offenders have the right to opt for license suspension in lieu of installing an interlock device. Changes to this policy could significantly improve roadway safety and reduce incidences of drunk driving.

Interlock benefits

MADD states that license suspension is often not an adequate deterrent for drunk drivers. Research shows that between 50 and 75 percent of convicted drivers ignore this sanction and continue driving. In contrast, ignition interlock devices, which prevent people from driving while intoxicated, have been shown to reduce repeat offenses. The use of these devices may reduce recidivism by up to 67 percent.

More widespread use of ignition interlock devices may also help reduce fatal car accidents involving alcohol. Four states that observe all-offender interlock laws have reported 30 percent or higher decreases in DUI-related traffic deaths. This finding suggests that the use of interlock devices among more Alabama offenders could offer substantial benefits for other drivers.

An ongoing threat

WTVM News reports that safety advocates are pushing for legislation to improve the current interlock law. This legislation could be introduced during the next legislative session. Until then, however, alcohol-related accidents may harm many people in Alabama. According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, in 2013 alone, 260 lives were lost in needless accidents involving alcohol.

Anyone who has been hurt because of a drunk driver's reckless actions should consider seeking legal assistance. With the help an attorney, a driver may be able to review the available remedies and seek appropriate compensation.

Keywords: Drunk,driving,accidents,DUI,alcohol