Currently the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration is pushing for Ignition Interlock Devices for all DUI offenders, including first time offenders.
According to the NHTSA, most drivers responsible for fatal car accidents in the U.S. test for alcohol consumption that is twice the legal limit. Further, Over 70% of the deaths from auto accidents in 2010 involved drunk drivers with a blood alcohol content of .15% or higher. Additional federal studies have shown that drunken drivers involved in fatal crashes were four times more likely to have a prior DUI conviction than were sober drivers. The NHTSA estimates that 7,000 lives could be saved each year if drivers were prohibited from driving with a blood-alcohol level higher than .08%.
An ignition interlock system is a device that is installed into the dashboard of your car. Before the car will start, the driver must blow into the ignition interlock device. If the driver has a blood alcohol content above the device's limit, which is .02% under the IID policy in New Hampshire, then the car will not start. In addition, the device will require the driver to blow into it at random intervals while driving to ensure that the driver has not started drinking alcohol after the car was started.
Michael Strickland, an official with NHTSA recently told the Washington Post that the organization believes that requiring ignition interlock devices for first time offenders is the best overall solution. States would be free to determine the level at which the interlock would prevent vehicle operation. Similar to New Hampshire, many states currently set their limits between .02% and .04%. The NHTSA hopes that it can essentially force states to pass laws requiring ignition interlock devices for all DUI convictions by requiring such laws in order to have access to millions in highway safety funds.
Currently, New Hampshire law requires those convicted of an aggravated DWI, those convicted of a prior DWI or convicted of a DWI under the age of 21 to have an ignition interlock device. Under New Hampshire law, a DWI is aggravated if the driver has a very high blood alcohol content or people are seriously injured due to an alcohol-related crash. In addition, the driver is responsible for the cost of installing and testing the device, as well as the monthly monitoring fee.
NHTSA officials hope that the ignition interlock system penalty will have a two-fold effect. First, they believe that it will help to deter drivers from drinking before getting behind the wheel, particularly male drivers aged 21 to 35, who are generally resistant to other anti-drunk driving campaigns. Additionally, the NHTSA hopes that the ignition interlock systems will lower the rate of repeat offenders. Studies have shown that one-third of drivers who have been arrested or convicted of driving while intoxicated are repeat offenders.
If the NHTSA is successful, the usage of ignition interlock devices for first time offenders seems likely to affect all those facing New Hampshire DWI convictions. Considering the push to add more and more penalties for those facing these charges, it remains critical to seek out the best legal help possible when facing a DUI.