- No mas: Principal bans Spanish language in intercom announcement
- Hacking software could put ‘zombie drone army’ in user’s hands
- Support for stricter gun laws drops: poll
- 10 whales dead, 41 others stranded in Everglades
- John Boehner faces bipartisan pressure to allow gay-rights vote
- Martin Bashir resigns from MSNBC over ‘ill-judged’ comments about Sarah Palin
- Rep. Duncan Hunter: While Obama prays for Iranian change, U.S. should ready its nukes
- Best company ever? Veteran Beer Co. exists to employ vets, provide quality beer
- Iran official: Sanctions ‘utterly failed’ to stop nuclear program
- ‘Black Santa’ display at IU sparks student outrage
NTSB: Use ignition locks for all drunken drivers
WASHINGTON — Every state should require all convicted drunken drivers, including first-time offenders, to use devices that prevent them from starting a car’s engine if their breath tests positive for alcohol, the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday.
The ignition interlock devices — already required for all convicted drunken drivers in 17 states — are the best currently available solution to reducing drunken driving deaths, which account for about a third of the nation’s more than 32,000 traffic deaths a year, the board said.
Drivers breathe into breathalyzers mounted on the vehicle’s dashboard. If their breath-alcohol concentration is greater than the device’s programmed limit — usually a blood alcohol concentration of .02 percent or .04 percent — then the engine won’t start.
The board also urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to speed up its research effort with automakers to develop systems that can determine a driver’s blood alcohol concentration using infrared light when the driver presses an ignition button. The vehicle won’t start if the alcohol concentration is too high.
The technology, which is sometimes breath-based rather than touch-activated, is already in use in some workplace drug-testing programs. If the technology were incorporated into all new vehicles, eventually all drivers would be alcohol-tested before driving. That could potentially prevent an estimated 7,000 drunken-driving deaths a year, the board said.
The five-member board made the unanimous recommendations after receiving a new study from its staff that found an average of 360 people a year are killed when drivers turn the wrong way into the face of oncoming traffic on high-speed highways.
The board’s study analyzed data from 1,566 crashes from 2004 to 2009, as well as nine wrong way collisions NTSB directly investigated. In 59 percent of the accidents, wrong-way drivers had blood alcohol levels more than twice the legal limit, researchers said. In another 10 percent of the crashes, drivers had alcohol levels between .08 and .14. The limit in most instances is .08.
In just the past week, 11 people were killed and 9 seriously injured in wrong-way driving accidents in eight states, the board was told.
Older drivers also appear to be part of the wrong-way driving problem, researchers said. Drivers over age 70 were overrepresented in the accidents reviewed in the study, accounting for 15 percent of the wrong-way drivers compared with only 3 percent of the right-way drivers they collided with, researchers said.
Wrong-way driving crashes on interstates, expressways and other high-speed highways are especially deadly because over 80 percent involve head-on collisions in which vehicles close in on each other very rapidly, they said. A study in Michigan earlier this year found that 22 percent of wrong-way collisions were fatal, compared with 0.3 percent for all highway accidents over the same period.
Often the chain of events begins with drivers entering an exit ramp in the wrong direction, making a U-turn on the mainline of a highway or using an emergency turnaround through a median, investigators said.
Most wrong-way crashes — including seven of the nine accidents directly investigated by NTSB — take place in the fast lane of the highway, investigators said. The accidents also tend to happen at night and on weekends, the study found.
Reducing drunken driving is perhaps the most obvious way to reduce wrong-way driving fatalities and injuries. The board hosted a forum earlier this year on the problem of drivers impaired by alcohol and drugs.
Alcohol-impaired crashes overall accounted for nearly 31 percent motor vehicle fatalities 2010. And, that percentage has remained stuck between 30 and 32 percent of overall highway fatalities since 1995, board members said.
- Apple wins facial recognition patent for iPhone 6
- First Dog Sunny knocks down Ashtyn Gardner; Michelle Obama yanks leash
- Hola: Boehner prepares to push amnesty bill through House
- Inside China: Nuclear submarines capable of widespread attack on U.S.
- MILLER: Obamas EPA closing smelter will not affect ammunition supply
- Kill team: Obama war chiefs widen drone death zones
- U.S. drops 2,000 mice on Guam by parachute to kill snakes
- HURT: Postal Service misses address by a whole continent
- Inside the Ring: China targeting U.S. spy flights
- HARPER: 'Knockout game' not a myth to liberal Sharpton
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
The Constitution: Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses. And how to get from here to there.
A libertarian look at breaking news and political trends by author Tom Mullen.
A stat-head’s outlook, direct from his worn in couch cushion.
Playing Through covers the world of PGA golf, as well as tips your the average golfer to play better.