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Old 11-21-2006, 07:18 AM   #1
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Default Industry adds input on ignition locks to stop drunk drivers

Industry adds input on ignition locks to stop drunk drivers


Industry adds input on ignition locks

Automakers will discuss how to stop drunk drivers, but say technology won't hit the roads for years.

WASHINGTON -- Federal transportation officials endorsed the goal of installing ignition interlocks in all vehicles that would prevent intoxicated drivers from starting a car, but warned it would be at least a decade -- if not longer -- before the devices could be installed in large numbers.

Automakers agreed to take part in a blue-ribbon panel to discuss the technology, but offered a healthy dose of skepticism that one device could be installed fleetwide.

It often takes many years for an auto safety advancement to go from the discussion stage to the roads. Technical hurdles remain, and there are a number of competing technologies for measuring a driver's sobriety.

"There is no single solution that will eliminate drunk driving," said Fred Webber, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers, the trade group that represents General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG and Toyota Motor Corp., among others. "Any technology cannot hassle the sober driver. To be effective, the technology must be small, quick, noninvasive, accurate, reliable, fool-proof, durable and easy-to-maintain, and most importantly, it must be supported by the public."

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which kicked off its self-described "audacious campaign to eliminate drunk driving" on Monday compared the ignition interlock devices to a polio vaccine.

"If we can't stop drunks from driving, we'll stop vehicles from driving drunks," said Glynn Birch, MADD's president who lost a 21-month-old son to a drunken driver.

Less than 0.5 percent of all trips are made by a driver impaired by alcohol, but those account for 39 percent of all traffic fatalities. About 150,000 people have been killed by drunken drivers in the past decade.

MADD officials noted that despite 1.4 million drunken driving arrests annually, just 100,000 interlock devices are on the roads. MADD wants that figure jump to 500,000 to 700,000 in five years.

Drunken driving arrests and alcohol-related deaths remain steady, as states in the past 20 years have steadily decreased the acceptable blood-alcohol limit from 0.15 percent to 0.08 percent.

A total of 45 states allow or mandate ignition interlocks for some repeat offenders. New Mexico is the only state that requires them for all repeat offenders. Some states require them for first-time offenders with high alcohol levels. Many judges allow offenders to plead to an offense that won't require the interlocks; others refuse to order their use.

Nicole Nason, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said it could be at least 15 years before ignition interlocks were a standard feature. In order to be accepted it would have to be "99.9 percent perfect," she said.

Early problems with air bags in the 1970s delayed their widespread use until the mid-1980s. A 1973 NHTSA requirement that forced manufacturers to build interlocks that wouldn't let drivers start vehicles unless they were wearing their seat belts provoked anger and was reversed by Congress a year later.

Sweden has asked the European Union for permission to make ignition interlocks required in all vehicles by 2012; both Ford's Volvo and GM's Saab are working on systems. Volvo's Alcolock will be offered as an option in 2009.

Ford spokesman Dan Jarvis said the company was interested in the technology.

"Parents might want it as an option if they had teenage drivers," he said.
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Old 11-21-2006, 09:57 AM   #2
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Thank God, technology to the rescue again!! People should be held accountable, rather than forced to pay more for buggy, mandatory technology.
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