Will Texas interlock law reduce high rate of DUI crashes and deaths?

A new Texas law, which requires first-time DUI offenders to install interlock devices to regain driving privileges, could significantly reduce DUI crashes.

In 2013, Texas experienced more fatal alcohol-related accidents than any other state, according to the National Safety Council. From 2013 to 2014, the total number of deadly drunk driving accidents fell, but over 1,000 people still lost their lives in these crashes. The risk of injurious alcohol-related accidents is also high for people in Texas; on average, an impaired driving crash occurs somewhere in the state every 20 minutes and 37 seconds.

Fortunately for drivers in Bellaire, lawmakers have recently passed legislation that could help curb this epidemic. According to KXII News, the law, which became effective on September 1, 2015, requires all convicted drunk drivers to install ignition interlock devices before they can regain driving privileges.

What changes does the law make?

Before the passage of this law, repeat DUI offenders were required to use interlock devices; however, first-time offenders could opt for restricted licenses instead. Now, first-time offenders must either apply for interlock devices or forgo driving entirely. Offenders who choose ignition interlock devices must use the devices for a minimum of 90 days. As in the past, first-time offenders may also be required by court order to install ignition interlock devices.

What are the expected safety benefits?

Research shows that ignition interlock devices, which prevent intoxicated drivers from starting their vehicles, are more effective in reducing drunk driving arrests and accidents than other measures. The following facts underscore the safety benefits that should come with increased use of interlock devices:

  • In the face of license suspension, 50 to 75 percent of convicted DUI offenders continue driving, potentially while impaired. Interlock device use ensures that these offenders are not endangering others when they get behind the wheel.
  • The use of interlock devices helps prevent repeat offenses, which represent roughly one-third of all DUI offenses. These devices have been shown to reduce recidivism by 67 percent.
  • Requiring each convicted DUI offender to use an ignition interlock device can save lives. Four states that follow all-offender ignition interlock laws have seen fatal alcohol-related car crashes drop by at least 30 percent.

It is important to note, however, that the new Texas law is not comprehensive, since convicted first-time offenders may still choose not to install interlock devices. Additionally, this law will not address the two-thirds of arrests, accidents and deaths that involve people with no prior arrests for drunk driving.

Although this law represents an important step toward reducing drunk driving, these needless accidents will likely still harm many Texans this year. In many cases, victims may have legal recourse, since driving while impaired constitutes negligence as well as a legal infraction. To learn more about the available remedies, victims should consider meeting with an attorney to discuss the situation and the potential legal options.