NTSB Recommends Ignition Interlocks For All First-Time Dwi Offenders And Endorses Development Of Passive Alcohol-Detection Technology

Today the NTSB issued a recommendation that is welcome news for all involved in the drunk driving issue and could herald a new era in combating this tragic crime. See the press release below. Following its May 15, 2012 Forum on Impaired Driving the NTSB has taken on the matter “head on” and is putting its weight behind two initiatives that will dramatically reduce, even eliminate, all drunk driving in the US.

The first recommendation is for mandatory ignition interlock for all offenders, including all first time offenders. Maryland and 32 other states have no first offender required ignition interlock. This requirement has been shown to be effective in reducing drunk driving fatalities in every state that has legislated mandatory ignition interlock for all offenders. The reluctance in many states is the same as for any mandatory sentence; namely that it takes away discretion from the trial judge to offer other appropriate sentencing. Here however the facts speak very loudly for themselves in demonstrating a direct relationship between mandatory ignition interlock and reduced fatalities. We hope that with the imprimatur of the NTSB (and potentially the force of the Department of Transportation to withhold highway funding for states that do not comply) we will see a new wave of states getting behind this measure. At a minimum as we move forward throughout the country the fact that the Federal government has spoken clearly on the subject should create momentum for achieving universal acceptance of mandatory ignition interlock for all offenders.

The second and equally important initiative endorsed by the NTSB is for the continued research presently funded by virtually all auto manufacturers to install passive detectors within all cars that will immediately and without false positives disable a vehicle’s ignition upon detecting the presence of alcohol on the driver. The technology exists at present to take an ambient breath sample of the person behind the wheel, detect the presence of alcohol of a level that would indicate impairment and prohibit the driver from starting their vehicle. This is all done passively; meaning that just by sitting behind the wheel and breathing normally the driver would be tested and only if no impairing alcohol level is detected would the ignition start. The present research is also working to calculate eye nystagmus by a detector in the rear view mirror and galvanic skin response that can detect impaired driving through the steering wheel. We attended the NTSB Forum where this latest technology was unveiled and we were highly impressed. It is anticipated that the research and testing will take another 10 – 12 years to be fully functioning and placed in vehicles in the manufacturing process. Much like seatbelts it is expected that this advancement will initially begin as optional equipment, but that the safety aspects of the technology will make it standard equipment in due time. This is the answer that those of us in MADD have been waiting for over the past 30 years. It has the potential of making drunk driving truly a thing of the past.

We extend our thanks to the NTSB for addressing these important initiatives that support our quest to eliminate drunk driving. We look forward with great anticipation to the results of this action by the Board as they cascade across the country. Our fight to end drunk driving continues and as long as there are any victims of this senseless crime we will continue to be there to support them and work to change the laws so no one will fall victim to this crime in the future.


December 11, 2012

WASHINGTON – In its study on wrong-way driving crashes adopted today, the National Transportation Safety Board cited alcohol-impaired driving as the leading cause of these collisions and recommended that all first-offender alcohol-impaired drivers be required to have ignition interlocks installed on their personal vehicles.

“The first step to address the number one killer on our roadways is to do what is proven to be effective – use interlocks for all DWI offenders,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman.

An alcohol-ignition interlock is a device that prevents the engine from starting until a breath sample has been provided, analyzed for alcohol content and determined to be lower than prescribed limits. Currently, only 17 states require interlocks for first-time offenders.

The NTSB also strongly endorsed the continued development of a passive alcohol-detection technology. The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) would prevent alcohol-impaired individuals from operating their vehicles by detecting alcohol in the driver’s system through breath- and touch-based sensors.

“Technology is the game changer in reducing alcohol-related crashes on our nation’s roadways,” Hersman said. “Achieving zero alcohol-impaired driving-related deaths is possible only if society is willing to separate the impaired driver from the driving task.”

The study found that of the approximately 260 fatal wrong-way collisions that occur each year in the United States, most happened at night and on the weekends, and were in the lane closest to the median. In addition to reducing the number of alcohol-impaired drivers on the road, recommended mitigation efforts to prevent wrong-way accidents include better lighting, enhanced signage and roadway markings, and GPS devices that could provide a warning to alert drivers of wrong-way movements.

And, because older drivers are over-represented in wrong-way collisions, the NTSB asked all states to implement a comprehensive older driver safety program modeled on the one developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The NTSB issued 16 safety recommendations as a result of the special investigation report on fatal wrong-way driving crashes on limited-access highways. The study included data from NHTSA, recent research on this safety issue and a review of nine wrong-way collisions investigated by the NTSB that occurred in California, Colorado, Kentucky, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.


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