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Can ignition interlock devices reduce OWI offenses?

Facing a dunk driving charge can be a life-altering event for some motorists in Iowa. The penalties associated with an 'Operating While Intoxicated' (OWI) offense are not minor, and in some cases, they can be severe enough to impact a person's personal and professional life. Depending on the circumstances surrounding an OWI, a driver could lose his or her license, face license suspension or even have a device installed in his or her vehicle to determine if any alcohol is in his or her system when a vehicle is started.

Ignition interlock devices are used by many states. They can be mandatory for anyone convicted of drunk driving, or only mandatory for those with multiple offenses on their record. The purpose of this device is to detect alcohol on the driver's breath. This, in turn, assesses the driver's blood alcohol concentration. If a driver's BAC is in excess of the legal limit, then the vehicle will not start. The goal of this device is to prevent drunk driving accidents and future OWIs.

Can ignition interlock devices reduce OWI offenses? Based on current statistics, states with mandatory laws experienced a decrease in fatal drunk driving accidents by 7 percent. Those with partial laws experienced a 2 percent decrease in fatal drunk driving crashes. Prior to this study, there was no concrete data on whether or not these devices reduced drunk driving crashes, which is the overall goal of the law.

Currently, 28 states and the District of Columbia have mandatory ignition interlock laws. This means that all offenders are required to have a device installed in their vehicle. 'Partial law' states only require repeat offenders to have the device installed in their vehicle.

Whether interlock devices are used to penalize offenders, reduce drunk driving crashes, or both, it can be burdensome to have this device installed in a vehicle for an extended period of time. This and other penalties associated with a OWI can impact an accused drunk driver significantly. Thus, it is important for those facing an OWI charge understand their situations and the possible consequences they could face. This could help them take timely and assertive steps to initiate an aggressive defense against the charges, and ultimately help them reduce or dismiss the charges against them.

Source:, "Ignition interlock laws save lives, study says," Susan Scutti, Jan. 6, 2017

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