Washington: Installing a built-in blood alcohol level tester in every new car in the US that keeps intoxicated drivers from getting behind the wheel could prevent 85 per cent of drunk-driving deaths in the country over the next 15 years, a new study has found.
Researchers at the University of Michigan Injury Center and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute 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 per cent 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, the team reported in a paper published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Another 1.25 million non-fatal injuries would also be prevented, the researchers calculated, as the nation would see a reduction of 84-89 per cent.
All these lives saved and injuries prevented would save US society USD 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 closest to the legal drinking age would likely be the most significant beneficiaries of alcohol interlocks.
Among drivers age 21 to 29 years, 481,103 deaths and injuries would be prevented, nearly 35 per cent of total deaths and injuries for all age groups.
Drivers less than 21 years old who engaged in drinking while driving would also benefit substantially, with 194,886 deaths and injuries potentially prevented.
"We knew our modelling would yield significant results, but the sheer numbers of preventable fatalities and serious injuries were surprising," said lead-author Patrick Carter, an assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the U-M Medical School and core faculty at the U-Michigan Injury Center.
"Our analysis clearly demonstrates the significant public health benefit and societal cost savings associated with including alcohol ignition interlock devices as standard equipment in all new cars," Carter said.