Will recent changes to MS law reduce drunk driving accidents? | Wood, Carlton & Hudson, P.C. | Corinth, Mississippi

Despite long-term declines in drunk driving accidents, drunk drivers still present a significant threat to people in Corinth. Drunk driving accidents that occurred in Mississippi in 2012 claimed 179 lives, or 31 percent of all lives that were lost in traffic accidents that year, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Fortunately for local drivers, a law that went into effect earlier this year may help prevent these needless car accidents.

Expansion of interlock use

The law, which became effective in July, increases the mandatory use of ignition interlock devices for most offenders. Specifically, according to the bill text, the law makes the following changes:

  • Convicted first-time DUI offenders now face 90-day license suspension or 30-day license suspension followed by a six-month period of ignition interlock device use.
  • First-time offenders have greater incentive to complete alcohol education within a year and use an ignition interlock device for a period ranging from 6 to 12 months; doing so makes these offenders eligible for non-adjudication.
  • Convicted second-time offenders must use ignition interlock devices for between one and two years after the mandatory license suspension period ends.
  • People convicted of three offenses within a five-year period can only regain driving privileges by using an ignition interlock device for a three- to five-year period.
  • Convicted DUI offenders who are younger than 21 may have to use ignition interlock devices for between 3 months and 3 years, depending on how many times they have been convicted.

Research shows that these changes may make a significant difference in addressing the issue of repeat offenses.

Preventing repeat offenses

Alcohol education helps first-time offenders recognize the dangers and consequences of their actions, and ignition interlock devices are highly effective in preventing repeat offenses. According to MADD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that interlock device use lowers the rate of repeat offenses by 67 percent. MADD also reports that some states mandating interlock use for all offenders have seen fatalities from alcohol-related car crashes fall over 30 percent.

Requiring first-time offenders to use ignition interlock devices may be especially impactful. Research suggests that these offenders are usually not people who have made isolated, one-time mistakes. According to MADD, studies estimate that the typical first-time offender has driven intoxicated more than 80 times prior to the first arrest. License suspension may not deter these habitual offenders; research shows that as many as 75 percent of convicted offenders keep driving while their licenses are suspended.

These figures suggest that the state's new law may help reduce incidences of drunk driving and associated accidents. Still, the changes will not prevent every reckless decision, and impaired drivers will likely harm many people this year. Anyone who has been hurt in an accident caused by an intoxicated driver should meet with an attorney to discuss seeking compensation.