As of July 9, 2018, Alabama’s new DUI law has officially gone into effect statewide. The new law ensures that even first-time DUI offenders will have to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle if they wish to continue driving.
While these devices may be inconvenient, and expensive, for those charged with a DUI, experts believe they can reduce deaths from drunk driving.
An interlock device is basically a breathalyzer test. If the driver wants to use their car, they must blow into the interlock device. If no alcohol is detected in their breath by the interlock device, the car can be unlocked. If the test is positive, then the engine will not start. In some cases, drivers may even be required to blow into the device after the vehicle has started.
DUI offenders can only use their approved car or cars during the time they’re required to use the interlock device, and typically they must find a professional at a mechanic or car shop to install the interlock device for them. A DUI conviction could potentially cost upwards of $20,000, and installing an interlock device adds to that cost.
Like many states, Alabama previously had a version of the interlock law on the books. However, the old laws had “loopholes” that allowed DUI offenders to easily avoid installing an interlock device.
Alabama authorities revised the laws after noting the success other states have had with requiring interlock devices for first-time DUI offenders. Way back in 2012, Washington State published their own findings after introducing a similar interlock law in 2004 and studying the consequences. The study concluded that “mandating interlock orders for all first DUI convictions was associated with reductions in recidivism, even with low interlock use rates, and reductions in crashes.”
Iowa was the first state to explore the use of similar legislation in 1995, but as of 2015, 21 states had laws that mandated interlock devices for all DUI offenders. So far, every state has reported positive results from the law.
In addition to positive evidence from neighboring states, groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) lobbied on behalf of stronger ignition interlock laws in Alabama. Whether the law revision will create a marked improvement in recidivism compared to the previous version of the law will be studied closely in the years to come.