March 23, 2018
The Honorable Butch Otter
Governor, State of Idaho
Office of the Governor
700 West Jefferson Street
Boise, Idaho 83720-0080
Dear Governor Otter:
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, safety, medical and public health groups, and insurance companies working together to pass highway and auto safety laws that prevent crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs, supports enactment of House Bill (H.) 551 to require the use of ignition interlock devices (IIDs) by all convicted drunk drivers, including first time offenders. We urge you to join the 30 other states, including nearby Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Utah, that have made their streets and highways safer by enacting an all-offender IID law.
Drunk driving is a deadly and costly threat to Idaho families. In 2016, 89 people were needlessly killed in alcohol-involved crashes on Idaho roads accounting for 35 percent of all traffic fatalities (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)). The vast majority of these fatalities, 80 percent, involved a driver over the legal limit of .08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC) (NHTSA). The number of fatalities (71) caused by a driver over the legal limit increased 10 percent in 2016 (NHTSA). Moreover, traffic fatalities cost the state over $886 million each year (NHTSA). Clearly, this is a serious issue on Idaho roads which requires urgent attention and the effective solution of an all-offender IID law.
Under current law in Idaho, ignition interlocks are reserved for repeat offenders only. Information from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) on the effectiveness of IIDs in Idaho notes that over the past 11 years, IIDs have prevented 6,229 attempts to drive drunk in Idaho, including 622 in 2017. Expanding this program to include all first time offenders would improve the effectiveness of the IID program and to help prevent drunk driving on Idaho roads.
States that have adopted IID laws for all offenders are saving lives, reducing injuries and preventing drunk driving recidivism. For example, Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico and Louisiana have all experienced dramatic decreases of more than 30 percent in drunk driving deaths after enacting an all-offender IID law (MADD). In addition, when West Virginia adopted its ignition interlock program, recidivism was reduced by 77 percent among first-time offenders.[i]
A common misconception is that most people who are convicted of their first drunk driving offense are social drinkers who made a one-time mistake. On average, a person arrested for impaired driving has driven drunk approximately 80 other times (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)). According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), each day, people drive drunk almost 300,000 times, but fewer than 4,000 are arrested. The CDC reports that when IIDs are installed, there is about a 70 percent reduction in arrest rates for impaired driving. Moreover, research shows that 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license.[ii]
Unfortunately, children are frequently innocent victims of drunk driving crashes when placed in a dangerous situation through no choice of their own. In 2015, of the traffic fatalities involving children age 14 and younger, 181 children (16 percent) were killed in a crash involving alcohol (NHTSA). From 2001 to 2010, approximately one in five child passenger (less than age 15) deaths in the U.S. involved drunk driving. Of those cases 65 percent of the time, it was the child’s own driver who had been drinking with a BAC of .08 percent or higher. Furthermore, over 60 percent of child passengers of drunk drivers were not buckled up in the fatal crash.[iii]
Almost every 90 seconds, a person is injured in a drunk driving crash in this country. In 2016, an average of one alcohol impaired driving fatality occurred every 51 minutes in America resulting in a total of 10,497 deaths (NHTSA). According to MADD, one in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime. These tragic, preventable crashes also create a financial burden of $44 billion in economic costs and $201 billion in comprehensive costs to society (NHTSA).
The American public strongly agrees that the use of IIDs is needed to address this public health crisis. Nearly eight in ten Americans support requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted DUI offenders, even if it’s their first conviction.[iv] Furthermore, 82 percent of offenders themselves believe the IID was effective in preventing them from driving after drinking.[v]
Traffic fatalities on Idaho roads reached the highest number in a decade in 2016 and improvements to traffic safety are urgently needed. Advocates urges you to sign H. 551 to require this commonsense, lifesaving law to curb drunk driving.
[i] Tippetts, A. Scott and Robert Voas. “The Effectiveness of the West Virginia Interlock Program.” Journal of Traffic Medicine 26 (1-2) (1998): 19-24.
[ii] Peck, R.C., Wilson, R. J., and Sutton, “Driver license strategies for controlling the persistent DUI offender, Strategies for Dealing with the intent Drinking Driver.” Transportation Research Board, Transportation Research Circular (1995) No. 437.
[iii] Quinlan K, Shults RA, Rudd RA. (2014). Child passenger deaths involving alcohol-impaired drivers. Pediatrics, 133(6). Advance online publication. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-2318.
[iv] Caution Ahead: New Year’s Ranks As Deadliest Day On US Roads, Dec. 26, 2012, AAA article available at http://newsroom.aaa.com/tag/ignition-interlock-devices.
[v] Morse, BJ and DS Elliott. Hamilton County Drinking and Driving Study: 30 Month Report. Boulder, Colorado: University of Colorado, 1990.