Last year, 10,839 people died because of alcohol-related car crashes.
Although this number declined 7.4 percent from 2008 to 2009, none of these deaths ever should have happened. And even a single death due to drunk driving is one too many.
This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Centers for Disease Control met with members of the Governors Highway Safety Association for a National Ignition Interlock Summit. This was a full-day work session to help state safety professionals figure out how to get a handle on drunk driving.
Impaired driving is involved in 32 percent of all crashes on American roads. But an ignition interlock system that blocks a convicted drunk driver's vehicle from starting when that driver is impaired can prevent many of those crashes and save lives.
But that covers only a small percentage of the 1.4 million drunk drivers arrested last year in the US.
Today, all states except Alabama and South Dakota have laws that authorize ignition interlock use for at least some offenders. Yet we know that one-third of those 1.4 million arrests involve repeat offenders, and we know that many fatal drunk driving crashes also involve repeat offenders.
That's why 13 states have passed mandatory ignition interlock laws for all drunk drivers--including first offenders.
And that's why DOT is providing technical assistance and support to help states move toward increasing their interlock use and strengthening their laws and interlock programs.
As I said in September, when I announced the drop in drunk driving deaths, our roads are the safest they've ever been. But, to make America's roads even safer, we are committed to continuing our vigorous fight against drunk driving. Ignition interlock systems are a critical part of that fight, and I urge states to make the best use of this valuable tool.