More convicted drunk drivers may have to blow into devices that won’t let them start their cars if they’re intoxicated now that states are embracing tougher penalties, reports USA Today. New Mexico has become the first state to require “ignition interlock” systems for first-time offenders. The devices will be on their cars for one year. Drivers with four or more DWI convictions must drive with the interlocks for the rest of their lives. The devices cost the offenders about $1,000 a year.
The Senate version of a federal highway bill threatens to withhold about $600 million in highway construction and maintenance funds if states don’t subject high-risk offenders to stiffer sanctions, including ignition interlocks and license suspensions. Mothers Against Drunk Driving says 17,000 people are killed and a half-million injured in alcohol-related crashes every year. Only 18 states have mandatory ignition interlock laws. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have the option to make convicted drunken drivers use interlocks. More are making them mandatory, applying the sentence to all offenders or lengthening the penalty.