Kevin Killeen

ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)– Drunk driving deaths and injuries are both down 16.7 percent in Missouri, two years after a new law took effect requiring ignition lock devices for second-time drunk driving offenders.

The technology involves a breathalizer that detects the presence of alcohol and prevents a car from starting if the driver has been drinking.

The law, which took effect in August of 2009,  has increased the number of drivers in the state with the devices from 1,800 in fiscal year 2008 to 8,700 in fiscal year 2010, which ended June 30th.

“That’s nearly five times as many ignition interlock devices being installed compared to the past,” said Department of Revenue spokesman Ted Farnen, “I think that part of the law is having the effect that’s intended.”

crash Drunk Driving Deaths and Injuries Down    Two Years After Ignition Lock Law

Missouri Highway Patrol crash photograph

The Missouri Highway Patrol is also applauding the results of the law, combined with other anti-drunk driving efforts.  “It’s difficult to attribute the drop to any one thing, because we also stepped up DWI enforcement,” said  Lt. John Holtz ,”but certainly laws to get tough on drunk drivers and the ignition interlocks have made it more difficult for drunk drivers to be on the road.”

The Patrol reports 218 drunk driving deaths, with 3, 823 injuries in 2010, compared to 262 drunk driving deaths with 4,511 injured before the law took effect in 2008.

Commenting on the numbers,  Mike Boland with the Missouri chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving says he’s “very pleased,” but thinks the law should be toughened.

“The average person will drink and drive at least 87 times before being caught,” Boland said. “New Mexico has seen 30-percent reduction in fatalities because they have it on first-time offenses.”

Boland also believes Missouri should require drunk drivers to have ignition locks for at least a year, instead of six months as now required.  Boland says he’s looking for a lawmaker to sponsor improvements to the law in the coming session of the Missouri legislature, which starts in January.

Under the current law, the Department of Revenue reports some 84,000 convicted drunk drivers are required to have the ignition locks if they seek to get the suspended licenses renewed.   Of those, some 32,000 aren’t eligible because they are either in prison or had their license suspended for five-to-ten years.  Another 52,000 have not chosen to renew their licenses, Farnen said.

What’s not clear is how many convicted drunk drivers who should get ignition locks are simply driving around without a license.  The Missouri Highway Patrol did not have any data available on how many drunk drivers have been arrested without a license who should have had the ignition locks.

Copyright KMOX Radio

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