The benefits – both societal and personal – of alcohol interlocks for preventing drunk-driving are highlighted in a new European film that describes how the devices can save lives and change the lives of those who use them.
Two participants in Belgium’s alcohol interlock rehabilitation program speak on camera about how using the device has changed their relationship with alcohol, and helped them stop driving while impaired.
The short five-minute film, in French with English subtitles, was launched earlier this month by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), a Brussels-based independent non-profit organization.
“Alcohol interlocks can help us end the tragedy of road deaths involving drink-driving,” Antonio Avenoso, the safety group’s executive director, said in a statement.
“But this film gives a rare glimpse of how people who use these devices can keep control of their lives, stay in work and maintain family relationships,” Avenoso added. “When combined with psychological counseling, monitoring and feedback, as they are in Belgium, alcohol interlocks save lives, but also change the lives of those that use them.”
About a quarter of road deaths in Europe involve drink-driving, the safety group said.
Alcohol interlock devices require the driver to breathe into a unit connected to his or her vehicle’s ignition before starting it. A vehicle cannot be started when the test result is positive, meaning a blood alcohol reading that is above a predetermined level.
As of July 2022, all new types of vehicles launched in the EU must have the capability to install an alcohol interlock. In several European countries, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden, convicted drunk-drivers can opt for an alcohol interlock instead of a driving ban, according to the ETSC, which said it is calling for alcohol interlocks to be fitted as standard in professional vehicles in the EU, and for more countries to introduce alcohol interlock rehabilitation programs for drunk-driving offenders.
It’s not just a European problem. In the United States, drunk driving is a factor in nearly one-third of all traffic deaths. In 2020 there were 11,654 people killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes, an average of one such fatality every 45 minutes, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), a nonprofit organization representing state highway safety offices.
All states except Utah define driving with a blood alcohol concentration level (BAC) at or above 0.08% as a crime, the association noted. In Utah the law was changed several years ago to set the BAC level at 0.05%.
About a quarter of crash deaths could be prevented each year if all drivers with a BAC of 0.08 % or higher were kept off the roads, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit financed by the insurance industry.
Many states require alcohol interlocks for people with impaired driving convictions, but specific laws vary by state. Seven states (Indiana, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Wisconsin) have no mandatory interlock requirements.
“People are less likely to reoffend when they’re required to have an interlock,” the insurance institute noted, “and laws requiring interlocks for all impaired-driving offenders reduce alcohol-involved crashes.”