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April 13, 2016

Penn study finds one way to reduce drunk-driving deaths by 15 percent

Researchers estimated state laws requiring DUI offenders install mandatory ignition breathalyzers saved 915 lives in nine-year period

A Penn study has found that you don't necessarily need to take the keys away from a driver convicted of a DUI to reduce drunk-driving deaths.

You just need to make them take a breathalyzer test — every single time they get behind the wheel.

University of Pennsylvania researchers estimated that state laws that require DUI offenders to install mandatory ignition interlocks in their cars saved 915 lives from 2004 to 2013, a 15 percent decrease in drunk-driving-related deaths compared to states without those laws.

The ignition lock prevents a car from starting until the driver has taken a breathalyzer test. Eighteen states required these laws as of 2013.

"These laws are proven feasible and effective, and they are low hanging fruit for the remaining half of states, including Pennsylvania, that don’t have this protection in place yet,” study co-author Elinore Kaufman said in a statement.

In September, the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed a bill that would require all first-time DUI offenders to use ignition interlocks. The House is now considering its own version of the bill.

The rate of alcohol-involved car crash deaths was 5.5 per 100,000 people in states without the ignition lock laws, but 4.7 per 100,000 in states with the laws. The researchers based their findings on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The study will be published in next month's issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

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