locking systems have stopped more than 1.77 million people from driving drunk since states first passed laws requiring offenders to install them in 1999, Mothers Against Drunk Driving said in a first-of-its-kind report on the devices nationwide.
The data come from the 11 major manufactures of the ignition interlock systems, and the report was released Wednesday. The devices, the size of a cellphone, are wired into vehicles. A convicted drunken driver must blow into the device to get a blood alcohol content reading before the vehicle will start. The system sends a signal back to its manufacturer with the reading.
Twenty-five states have laws that require ignition interlocks for all offenders following any drunken-driving offense. Other states require them only for certain levels of offenses and blood alcohol levels, or they give judges discretion. MADD is calling on those other states to tighten their laws.
"MADD knows ignition interlocks save lives, and they could save even more lives if every offender is required to use the device after the first arrest," said Colleen Sheehey-Church, MADD's national president.
In Maryland, where the group released the report, lawmakers are pushing to require all drunken drivers with blood alcohol contents of 0.08 or greater to have the ignition interlock devices. State law now requires them for those with a BAC of 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit for driving.
Sheehey-Church said residents and visitors in states such as Maryland, Florida, California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania "deserve the same protection offered in states with strong ignition interlock laws — such as Texas, Arizona, West Virginia and New Mexico."
The group also is focusing on Maryland because of the December death of Officer Noah Leotta. He was killed while working on a driving-under-the-influence assignment. The Maryland measure is dubbed "Noah's Law."