New ignition interlock law in Tennessee promises to save lives

Drinking and driving continues to be an issue in Hamblen County and other parts of Tennessee, even as fatalities and accident rates have declined nationally over the last several decades. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, last year alone, drunk drivers played a role in over 7,000 accidents in Tennessee.

Fortunately for drivers in Tennessee, a change in DUI law that went into effect earlier this year should prevent more intoxicated drivers from endangering others. According to Nashville’s WSMV TV, the law requires even first-time DUI offenders to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles, preventing them from driving while intoxicated again.

Benefits of ignition interlock systems

Ignition interlock systems allow people convicted of DUI to continue driving, and at the same time, these systems prevent past offenders from repeating their mistakes. Mandatory ignition interlock devices have a real potential to save lives, as indicated by the following statistics:

  • According to WSMV TV, almost 5,000 of the nearly 27,000 people convicted of DUI in Tennessee last year were repeat offenders driving on suspended licenses.
  • According to the CDC, drivers with prior DUI convictions were four times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes while over the legal limit than other drivers.
  • According to MADD, Tennessee has more than 50,000 third-time DUI offenders and over 15,000 fifth-time DUI offenders.
  • According to the CDC, DUI arrest rates generally decrease by around 70 percent when ignition interlock systems are installed.

Before the new law, ignition interlock devices were only mandated for severe offenses, according to WSMV TV. Now, all first-time offenders must install a device with a camera attached to confirm that the correct person is blowing into the device. By recognizing that people who have driven under the influence may have a higher risk of doing so again and being involved in deadly motor vehicle accidents, this law takes an important step toward lowering the number of drunk driving accidents.

Addressing DUI in Tennessee

The impact of the new law, which applies to any drivers convicted of DUI on or after July 1, 2013, remains to be seen. Last year, according to MADD, drunk drivers in Tennessee were involved in more than 5,000 crashes in which people were injured. A total of 295 people were killed in drunk driving accidents, representing more than a quarter of all state motor vehicle fatalities for the year.

With the help of ignition interlock devices, these figures may decline significantly, if statistics from other states with similar laws are any indicator. Of course, these laws won’t be able to prevent every case of drunk driving. Tennessee drivers still have no protection against people who have no prior history and decide to drink and drive for the first time, for example.

If an accident with a drunk driver has hurt you or a loved one, you should contact an attorney to discuss compensation that you may be entitled to.