ALBUQUERQUE, NM --- The success of New Mexico's efforts to fight drunk driving is attracting the attention of legislators and transportation officials in other states.
According to the Los Angeles Times, New Mexico is now ranked 25th in alcohol-related fatal crash rates and is expected to place lower when the latest rankings are compiled later this year. From 2004 to 2008, the number of DWI fatalities in New Mexico dropped 35 percent, from 219 to 143.
New Mexico led the nation in alcohol-related crash rates for years. But in 2005 the state became the first to require the interlock for every convicted drunk driver. The interlock legislation plays a major role in the state's anti-drunk-driving efforts, which include more sobriety checkpoints, tougher mandatory sentencing laws for DWI, and the creation of the nation's first DWI czar, the Times reported.
"We want all 50 states to do what New Mexico has done," said Chuck Hurley, chief executive of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. MADD has lobbied for more states to require interlocks. If each of the more than 1.4 million Americans convicted each year of drunk driving were forced to install one, Hurley said, 4,000 lives would be saved annually.
In New Mexico, first-time drunk driving offenders must drive with an interlock for one year (second-time offenders must have it for two years, third-time offenders for three years, and fourth-time offenders for the rest of their lives).
In California, the Assembly recently approved a bill that would fund a five-year pilot program to require interlocks for convicted drunk drivers in Los Angeles, Alameda and Sacramento counties. Assembly Bill 91, sponsored by Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), is now in the Senate Public Safety Committee.
Eleven states have passed mandatory interlock laws since New Mexico did so, including six this year, the L.A. Times reported.