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National Group Calls for Mandated Breath Analyzers in Cars

In the United States, a group called Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, has led the way to safer roadways. The group's latest campaign would mandate proven technology to save lives.

Killed by a drunk driver, the accident seen from a dashboard camera, a grandfather mourns. ''...Just like we got hit by a bomb,” he says.

The father is grief-stricken: “It's absolutely devastating to lose a child,” says Neil Flynn. “I can't explain it in words.”

Thousands are injured and killed each year by drunk drivers in the United States alone. Glynn Birch, with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, wants drunk driving eliminated. "The main reason people continue to drive drunk today is because they can, and because we let them."

MADD wants alcohol detection devices in every vehicle, and laws to require them in vehicles driven by convicted drunk drivers. "First time offenders need and deserve an alcohol ignition interlock," says Birch.

The devices, also called breath interlocks, have reduced highway fatalities significantly in the southwestern state of New Mexico, where they are mandatory after a first offense. To use one, you breathe into the device. It won't allow you to start your car if your blood alcohol is too high. Pass and you can drive off.

Susan Ferguson is with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the United States. She says, "To eliminate the carnage caused by drunk drivers we must do more to prevent them from driving drunk. Technology that holds the key to keeping convicted drivers off the road is currently available. Breath alcohol ignition interlocks fitted to the vehicles of drunk drivers can effectively separate drinking and drunk driving."

Glynn Birch says an interlock device might have prevented the death of his son Courtney. His organization says all vehicles should have them. And it says laws mandating the devices will save lives.