Some states aim to reduce car accidents with stricter DUI laws

Many auto accidents in Chicago and the injuries that result from them could be prevented if only drivers would observe the duty of care they owe to everyone else on the road. One of the most significant breaches of that duty occurs when a person decides to get behind the wheel with a blood alcohol concentration that exceeds the legal limit.

Over the years, many groups have raised the public consciousness about the dangers of drunk driving, but we may still not comprehend the exact magnitude of its harm. According to data gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 10,228 people died in car accidents on our country’s highways in 2010. An astounding one-third of those fatalities were linked to crashes where at least one of the drivers had been drinking.

Accident data also reveal a significant recidivism problem among drunk drivers. When intoxicated drivers were part of a deadly accident, their likelihood of having a previous conviction for DUI was quadruple that of drivers who had not had anything to drink. In response, a number of states have taken steps to strengthen the penalties for drunk driving.

One measure that has so far been adopted by 17 states is mandating ignition interlock devices for a driver’s first DUI offense. Other states may follow their lead, as the NHTSA has earmarked millions of dollars in highway money for states that also require ignition interlocks for every person convicted of drunk driving. Of course, these are criminal penalties that are imposed by government prosecutors. Accident victims and their families can also seek damages from drunken and negligent drivers in a civil court of law.

Source: The Washington Post, “Federal officials push for tougher state drunken-driving laws,” Ashley Halsey III, Aug. 14, 2012.