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West Virginia roadway deaths: effectiveness of ignition interlocks

Drunk driving-related fatalities and serious injuries are a flat-out scourge on streets and highways in West Virginia and everywhere else across the country.

The tragic consequences of DUI/DWI incidents within the state and nationally are stark and unquestioned. Reportedly, and as noted in a recent national news account focused upon drunk motorists, "More than a third of the 35,092 fatal car crashes in 2015 [nationally] involved a driver who had been drinking."

A central point made in that article stresses the proven effectiveness of installed ignition interlock devices in preventing DUI-related crashes. Study conclusions recently released by Johns Hopkins' researchers point to a material decline in drunk driving deaths in states where interlocks are imposed upon all offenders.

That means first-time offenders, too, with study authors stating that empirical evidence regarding fatalities comes with less of an upside in states where only so-called "partial" laws are in force (e.g., statutory laws mandating interlocks for only second or subsequent offenses and/or for offenders blowing a particularly high BAC level).

West Virginia readers who welcome the news should feel encouraged by state law that requires interlock installation for even first offenses. That requirement is far from being universally imposed, with West Virginia's mandate being similarly applicable in only 21 other states.

Although the findings regarding interlocks spell good news for motorists in West Virginia and nationally, of course, the use of such a tool brings only a partial solution -- if that is even the right word -- to the national drunk driving epidemic.

People continue to die or otherwise be seriously injured by inebriated individuals who simply shouldn't be behind the wheel. Until that reality is permanently altered, we will always be at some risk owing to the irresponsible behavior of select high-risk drivers.

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