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Stricter state drunk driving rules desired by feds

Drinking and driving is a problem that continues to plague Louisiana and the rest of the United States, and many federal officials are encouraging states to establish stricter laws.

An administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said he believes harsher laws will prevent individuals from driving while under the influence. Seventeen states have already created laws requiring first-time offenders to place an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. The device monitors a driver's alcohol content and prevents the driver from starting the vehicle if he or she has had too much alcohol.

Interlocks for those first-time offenders, added the NHTSA administrator, are the best way to clamp down on future drunk driving incidences. According to data from the administration, alcohol was a factor in roughly one-third of the 10,200 fatal highway accidents in 2010. In addition, alcohol levels that were at least twice the legal limit contributed to 70 percent of the one-third statistic.

The goal is to keep innocent victims safer on the roadways without the threat of encountering a drunk driver. Many states are hesitant to make the interlock system a requirement for first-time offenders, even if there is already a requirement for repeat offenders. However, now the NHTSA has more than $20 million to offer as an incentive for states that create ignition interlock laws for first-time offenders..

An advocate for anti-drinking and driving campaigns said a strong punishment for the first offense will make the "core audience" of drunk drivers, or men between 21 and 35, decrease.

As for cost, the $75 installation fee and an additional $70 per month will be paid by the offender. The fees are part of the reason federal officials feel the interlock system law will be effective in preventing drunk driving accidents.

Source: The Washington Post, "Federal officials push for tougher state drunken-driving laws," Ashley Halsey III, Aug. 14, 2012

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