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01.2008

Massachusetts Beverage Business

archivedAtPressTime

INTERLOCKS: COMING SOON to a CAR NEAR YOU

Article By: MBB

LOVE THEM OR HATE THEM, it appears that ignition interlocks - the breathalyzer devices that get linked to a car's ignition and won't start if the driver is intoxicated - are here to stay. Jumping on the interlock bandwagon, several car manufacturers are working on their own versions of the devices that would come already installed in a new car. "Interlock devices are up to 9O percent effective in reducing repeat offenses. This really can stop repeat offenders from continuing to drink and drive," says MADD CEO Chuck Hurley. Now mandatory for repeat offenders in 19 states, ignition interlocks have been installed in about 1OO,OOO cars. But that number is minute compared to the 1.4 million drunken driving arrests made in the US each year, reports CBS News transportation and consumer safety correspondent Nancy Cordes. "We see them as a benefit - a technology that's being underutilized," said Nicole Nason of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But that might soon change as at least four major automakers are working on their own versions. Saab's AlcoKey, a key and breathalyzer in one, is already in field trials. In Nissan's concept, sensors in the gearshift and seats would pick up alcohol in perspiration, while a camera mounted on the instrument panel would detect drowsiness. "They just touch or their regular breathing activates these systems, and they're able to warn them about their alcohol level," explains Bob Yakushi, Nissan's director of product safety. It's still a good five years from reality. While critics argue the technology isn't foolproof, highway safety advocates say otherwise. "They're not that easy to defeat, but there's a perception out there that they are," Nason says. "They may have been in the beginning." The devices have a track record, she says, for stopping would-be drunken drivers cold. And really, that's the whole point.

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