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House bill proposes mandatory ignition interlock devices

A law went into effect in California on January 1, 2019, that requires that repeat drunk drivers and first-time DUI offenders who cause injuries have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles. California is one of almost 30 states to have such a law on their books, but a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on January 11 proposed a far more sweeping regulation. If passed, the Abbas Stop Drunk Driving Act would require auto manufacturers to fit interlock devices on every new passenger vehicle sold in the United States.

The Michigan lawmaker who is championing the legislation believes that making ignition interlock devices mandatory safety equipment could save thousands of lives each year. When the devices are fitted, drivers must pass a breath test before starting their vehicles. The legislation is named after five members of a Michigan family who were killed in early January when the car in which they were traveling was struck head-on by an intoxicated truck driver who crossed the center line.

While H.R. 514 faces an uphill battle in a Congress adverse to new regulations, safety equipment already offered on many new vehicles is designed to prevent the kind of drunk driving accident that took the lives of the Abbas family. Lane departure warning systems, which warn drivers when their vehicles begin to stray into oncoming traffic, and autonomous accident prevention systems, which brake and steer cars automatically in emergencies, are already widely available.

Drunk driving accident victims often suffer debilitating injuries that require months or even years of medical treatment and physical therapy. Sometimes they are often unable to work and earn a living for prolonged periods. When preparing lawsuits on their behalf, experienced personal injury attorneys may consult with doctors and specialists to ensure that the damages being sought are enough to cover their long-term health care costs and compensate them for their lost income.

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