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US Transportation Department Targets Drunk Drivers

The U.S. Department of Transportation is targeting drivers who drink, and more specifically repeat offenders, in an effort to make America's roadways safer. In today's searching for solutions report, VOA's Paul Sisco examines the role technology is playing in that struggle.

Drunk drivers kill and U.S. officials have launched a media campaign and enforcement crackdown to do something about it.

National Highway Safety Administrator Nicole Nason spoke recently about the campaign to safe driving advocates and law enforcement officials in Washington, D.C. "We really have not made any gains in reducing drunk driving deaths over the past decade. We continue to lose 13,000 people every single year."

That is why U.S. officials and safe driving advocates are calling for wider use of proven technology such as ignition interlock devices to keep alcohol-impaired drivers off the road.

Here is how they work. Once the devices are installed, drivers must first blow into them to start their vehicles. A driver demonstrates this and says, "It is going to allow me to start the car now because I am sober."

If the driver has been drinking, the car will not start, and a record is made of the attempt for authorities.

Chuck Hurley is with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "The main reason drunk drivers continue to drink and drive is because they can and interlocks hold great progress to stop that."

In 2005, New Mexico became the first state to require ignition interlocks after a first offense. "New Mexico has experienced a 28 percent decline in alcohol related crashes in three years. It's not magic," says Hurley.

The threat of arrest and punishment has long been the primary tactic against drunk drivers. Now federal officials are counting on the wider use of these ignition interlock devices to keep those who drink off the road.