Ignition Interlock Laws In Indiana May Fall Short Of Protecting Drivers
Every year, drunk drivers cause or contribute to a substantial number of serious accidents in Indianapolis. According to ABC News, federal data shows that drunk drivers caused 200 fatal accidents in Indiana in 2012. These accidents represented one-quarter of all fatal accidents that were reported in the state that year.
In 2014, Indiana lawmakers tried to address this issue with legislation supporting greater ignition interlock device use. These devices prevent convicted offenders from starting and driving their vehicles while intoxicated. This can help reduce accidents, serious injuries and loss of life. Unfortunately, the new law, which became effective in 2015, may not fully ensure that offenders receive interlocks and cease driving impaired.
According to Fox News, before this law became effective, judges could order DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices. However, there were no uniform statewide requirements regarding ignition interlock device use. Therefore, many offenders never had to install the devices.
The new law created a specialized driving permit for convicted offenders. Drivers who apply for this permit can start driving again immediately after their convictions. Drivers who receive these specialized permits are also theoretically supposed to receive ignition interlock devices. However, in practice, this is not always the case.
Critics contend that the new law has resulted in more offenders resuming driving sooner and without interlock devices. According to The Times of Northwest Indiana, previously, convicted offenders faced mandatory license suspension periods. Now, judges can waive the suspension period and issue a specialized driving permit instead.
Offenders with two or more convictions can only receive these permits if they install ignition interlock devices. However, first-time offenders may receive specialized driving permits without installing the devices. As a result, these offenders may start driving immediately after their convictions, without anything to prevent them from doing so while intoxicated.
This oversight is unfortunate, since data suggests that many first-time offenders are already habitual offenders. Mothers Against Drunk Driving states that, on average, a first-time offender has driven drunk 80 times before the first arrest. Without mandatory ignition interlock device installation, a negligent motorist with a history of driving intoxicated may continue endangering others.
Safety advocates have called on lawmakers to pass legislation that requires all convicted DUI offenders to install interlock devices. Research suggests that this could greatly reduce alcohol-related accidents, as the following figures from MADD indicate:
- Without ignition interlock devices installed, as many as 75 percent of convicted offenders drive even though they lack licenses.
- Interlock device installation can reduce repeat offenses by 67 percent.
- In some states with all-offender interlock requirements, alcohol-related fatalities have declined over 30 percent.
Unfortunately, current state laws fall significantly short of all-offender ignition interlock laws. As a result, motorists may be left vulnerable to needless alcohol-related accidents.
Given the catastrophic consequences that these accidents can have, it is imperative for victims to understand their legal rights. People who have been hurt in alcohol-related accidents may benefit from consulting with a personal injury attorney. An attorney may be able to offer advice on a person’s options or provide assistance during the claim process.