New Mexico has more drivers subject to ignition interlocks, which prevent drunk people from starting their vehicles, than any other state, per capita–about 2,600 each year, says the Associated Press. That number is likely to increase sharply. All convicted drunken drivers–nearly 13,000 annually–will be required to get interlocks under a law Gov. Bill Richardson signed this week.
Interlocks are used in varying degrees in more than 40 states, but New Mexico will be the first to require such broad use. New Mexico has been dealing with a severe driving-while-intoxicated problem. Judges, lawmakers, and other public officials have been among those arrested. Richardson has made tougher DWI laws a priority since he took office in 2003. New Mexico had the sixth highest rate in the nation for alcohol-related highway deaths in 2003. Richard Roth of Santa Fe, a advocate of interlocks, says the rearrest rate of 1,276 first offenders in New Mexico who had used the devices was less than half the rearrest rate of those who didn’t.