If every new car made in the United States had a built-in blood alcohol level tester that prevented impaired drivers from driving the vehicle, how many lives could be saved, injuries prevented, and injury-related dollars left unspent? Researchers at the University of Michigan studied the impact of installing these alcohol ignition interlock devices in all newly purchased vehicles over a 15-year period.
They concluded that the country could avoid 85 percent of crash deaths attributable to alcohol-involved motor vehicle crashes during the 15-year implementation period. That would mean preventing more than 59,000 deaths. Another 1.25 million non-fatal injuries would also be prevented, they calculate, as the nation would see a reduction of 84-89 percent. And when it comes to dollars, all these lives saved and injuries prevented would save U.S. society $343 billion over 15 years. In fact, the cost of installing the devices would be recouped after just three years.
Though the injury prevention benefit was apparent for all ages, drivers who are closes to the legal drinking age would likely be the most significant beneficiaries of alcohol interlocks.