Raleigh, NC- It’s the holidays so drunken driving is foremost in the minds of law enforcement and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has renewed their push to toughen drunk driving laws across the country. The federal agency is once again ramping up the pressure on state lawmakers to make ignition interlock devices mandatory for first offenders.

Past studies have shown that approximately 50 percent of first time DUI offenders will repeat their offense.  This fact along with the high number of fatal accidents caused by intoxicated drivers is the reason behind this renewed push. Data from the NHTSA shows that traffic fatalities increased 4.6 in 2012, after years of decline, and the majority of those crashes were caused by repeat drunken drivers with blood alcohol levels twice the legal limit. During the 2012 Holiday season, 830 people were killed by drunken drivers.

All 50 states use ignition interlock devices, which prevents a car from starting if the driver’s blood alcohol limit is over the legal limit. However, in each state the rules regarding these devices vary. Some states only require these devices for repeat offenders. Other states only require these devices of the offender’s BAC reaches a certain limit. Judges can also use their discretion and require some first offenders to have these devices installed in their vehicles.

Only 20 states require ignition interlocks for all DUI offenders. The NHTSA is hoping to change that and wants state lawmakers to pass legislation that will make ignition interlocks mandatory for first offenders across the board.

The agency released their guidelines this week which require ignition interlock devices for all DUI offenders even if their BAC is barely over the legal limit.

“With the help of our law enforcement partners, we’re sending a message across the country, today and throughout the holiday season – Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx Anthony in a press release “And this year, with the release of our model guidelines for ignition interlock programs, we’re helping states improve their efforts to enforce safe driving among convicted offenders, which is crucial to ending these unnecessary deaths.”

The NHTSA cites previous studies which show that ignition interlock devices are 75 percent effective in preventing repeat drunken driving offenses. Offenders who attempt to start their cars when they are over the legal limit can be subjected to additional penalties.

The NHTSA guidelines highlight program features which are effective at curtailing drunken driving including legislation, education, program administration, and implementation.

“It is unacceptable and downright offensive that anyone would get behind the wheel drunk, let alone at twice the legal limit,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “I urge the states to adopt our new guidelines to protect sober motorists and ensure that individuals convicted of drunk driving learn from their mistakes.”

If you are charged with a DUI, an ignition interlock device, while troublesome, is the least of your worries. You could face a jail sentence, costly penalties and the risk of having this charge on you permanent record for years. Hiring a Raleigh DUI attorney can help you negate some of the effects a DUI charge in North Carolina can have and possibly avoid conviction.