While ignition interlock devices have prevented thousands of drunken-driving crashes, they have also caused them by distracting drivers, The New York Times reports. Randomly timed checks, known as rolling retests, can cause even sober drivers to crash, a distracted-driving threat that has drawn little scrutiny. A review of accident reports and lawsuits turned up dozens of examples of collisions in which the devices played a role.
Nearly 350,000 people in the United States have interlocks, according to the latest estimate in an annual industry report, up from 133,000 a decade earlier. Thirty-four states — including, this month, New Jersey — require people with drunken-driving convictions to install the devices. Other states are considering similar laws and two United States senators are pushing legislation that would require all new cars to include a version of the technology by 2024. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it had not studied the issue of distracted driving and interlocks. States that mandate them have not, either.