New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed into law earlier this month a bill that requires all convicted drunken drivers—nearly 13,000 annually in the state—to get DWI interlocks installed on their cars, according to an Associated Press report.
Drivers breathe into the interlock device before starting their cars. If an alcohol level above a preset limit is detected, the interlock prevents the engine from starting.
While interlocks are now in use to varying degrees in more than 40 states, New Mexico will be the first to require such broad use, the AP report says. The new law mandates interlocks for one year for a first conviction, two years for a second and three years for a third. For four convictions or more, the interlock stays on for life, with appeals at five-year intervals, according to the AP report.
A bill in New York state would require new cars to be equipped with ignition interlocks, according to a New York Daily News story on April 14. A companion measure would require all convicted drunk drivers to have the devices in their cars.
Arizona bill HB1240 would allow convicted drunk drivers to keep their licenses only if they have an ignition interlock installed on their cars, according to an Arizona Republic story on March 20. The bill passed the Senate 29-1 and is up for vote in the House of Representatives, according to the report.
New remedies to prevent drunk driving come as episodes are on the rise. A University of Chicago study to be published in next month's issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine says that from 1993 to 1997 the estimated annual number of episodes of alcohol-impaired driving declined from 123 million to 116 million.
But from 1997 to 1999, however, the number increased 37 percent, from 116 million to 159 million, and it stayed at that increased rate as recently as 2002, the report says.