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States may get extra highway money in exchange for interlock laws

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, police arrest 1.4 million people for DWI. The group said that about 1.2 million of those arrested are convicted. Only about 249,000 people convicted for DWI use an interlock device. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said that about 7,000 lives could be saved each year if people did not drive with a blood-alcohol content over 0.08.

An interlock device analyzes the driver's breath for blood-alcohol content. If the driver has had too much to drink, the vehicle will not start. The U.S. Congress is currently debating a bill that would give states extra highway money if the states would implement interlock laws -- up to $21 million for highways. The interlock requirement is raising the ire of the American Beverage Institute. The group represents restaurant chains and beverage suppliers. They say that a person below the legal limit could be one sip over the legal limit and would be punished the same as those who have had 10 drinks.

Several restaurants also oppose the measure. They say alcohol sales have increased in the past year, but fear that alcohol sales will drop if the interlock devices are required for those arrested for driving under the influence.

Drivers have a choice to install the device or have their license suspended. The price for the interlock device varies from state to state, but cost around $470 every six months in one east coast state. The fee of the device includes installation and monitoring. This cost must be paid by the offender of the drunk driving incident. Typically, people lease the devices from the companies that manufacture the devices.

In the United States, there are 13 companies that manufacture the devices. If the new bill passes, other companies may manufacture the devices.

Source: Bloomberg, "Drunk-Driving Interlock Sales May Jump," Angela Greiling Keane, February 15, 2012.

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