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Ignition interlock laws have helped hold down drunken driving traffic fatalities in Kansas, Missouri

Herb Simpson demonstrated an alcohol ignition interlock device as others watched. Mothers Against Drunk Driving credits the devices for holding down the number of drunken driving traffic fatalities in a number of states, including Kansas and Missouri.
Herb Simpson demonstrated an alcohol ignition interlock device as others watched. Mothers Against Drunk Driving credits the devices for holding down the number of drunken driving traffic fatalities in a number of states, including Kansas and Missouri. The Associated Press

People in Missouri and Kansas have a lot to cheer about going into the holiday season when a lot of folks do a lot of drinking.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced recently that 35,092 people were killed in traffic crashes in 2015. That’s up 7.7 percent from 32,675 traffic deaths recorded in 2014.

Of the traffic deaths in 2015, 10,265, or 29.2 percent, were caused by drunken drivers, Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports. That was a 3.2 percent increase over 2014, when the number of people killed because of drunken driving crashes fell below 10,000 for only the second time. The first was in 2011.

But here’s the good news for people in this two-state area. Kansas has seen a 37 percent drop in drunken driving traffic deaths since 2011 with a 22 percent drop from 2014 to 2015.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving credits the all offender ignition interlock law. It is a central feature in MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving — now in its 10th year.

Since the campaign started in 2006, drunken driving deaths have fallen by 24 percent. The number was more than 13,000. Traffic safety data show a continued drop in states with ignition interlock laws.

Missouri with a similar law effective March 2014 has seen a 9 percent reduction in drunken driving traffic deaths. Iowa in 1995 was among the first states to mandate ignition interlock devices for offenders who were guilty of driving under the influence.

The devices works as a car breathalyzer, preventing anyone under the influence of alcohol from operating a vehicle. From a breath sample, the appliance determines whether the alcohol concentration is within the legal limit. If not, the vehicle will not start.

“Ignition interlock devices decrease the re-arrest rate by up to 67 percent,” the Intoxalock website says. “They also allow people to be responsible and productive in their lives after a DUI by allowing them to drive legally and safely.”

MADD, which was begun in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunken driver, reports that drunken driving deaths in West Virginia have been reduced by 50 percent since the state enacted an ignition interlock law for all offenders in 2008. Other states that have reported decreases in drunken driving traffic fatalities because of ignition interlock laws include New Mexico, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

Other states just have to be as progressive so more people on the nation’s roads can arrive at their destinations safely. Ride hailing services now make it even easier for people who have had too much to drink to still get to where they need to go without putting others’ lives in danger.

Now if city, county and state governments could be as aggressive about requiring gun owners to have trigger-locking devices for all firearms for the safety of everyone in homes and businesses where there are weapons, the country would be a far better off.

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