Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

DUI fatalities drop sharply in wake of recent law

July 20, 2012, 12:18 a.m. Updated July 20, 2012, 8:39 a.m.


When lawmakers passed legislation in 2011 requiring an ignition interlock for those convicted of their first drunken driving offense, one of the main goals was cutting down on alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

After a year, it appears the law is working, according to preliminary data released by the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Between July 1, 2011 — when the state’s new DUI ignition interlock law went into effect — and June 30, 2012, the state recorded 59 alcohol-related traffic fatalities, compared with 125 and 137, respectively, for the previous two years during the same timeframe.

“I think it’s exciting news,” said Greg Benefiel, a Douglas County assistant district attorney who served on the Kansas DUI Commission, which helped craft the legislation. Douglas County Sheriff Ken McGovern also served on the commission.

Kansas had lagged behind the country in reducing alcohol-related fatalities, seeing increases in recent years as numbers dropped across the country. Alcohol-related traffic fatalities averaged 116 a year between 2000 and 2010 in the state.

Kansas drivers with a DUI conviction now must install an ignition interlock — which requires drivers to blow into a device to show their blood-alcohol level is under .04, half the legal limit — before their vehicle will start.

Under the new law, first-time DUI offenders must use an ignition interlock for a year; drivers with multiple DUI convictions must use it longer.

Kansas joined 14 others states in enacting a first-time offender ignition interlock law. Most states have some form of ignition interlock law, but some only apply to repeat DUI offenders.

Pete Bodyk, traffic safety manager for KDOT, was also on the commission, and cautioned that the preliminary numbers will probably go up some, but he still expects the data to show a significant decline in fatalities since the law was enacted.

While there’s no way to know for sure if the drop in alcohol-related fatalities was a direct result of the new law, Bodyk said “that’s the only thing that’s new. ... Hopefully we’ll see a trend.”

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Kansas Alcohol-Related Traffic Fatalities

Chart depicts the number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in Kansas, from July 1 to June 30 of each year. Data Provided by the Kansas Department of Transportation. The most recent year data is preliminary.

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Alcohol-related traffic fatalities

Alcohol-related traffic fatalities decreased between 2010 and 2011, according to data from the Kansas Department of Transportation. The average between 2000 and 2010 was about 116.


onthebreeze 2 years, 5 months ago

Has the fatality occurrance dropped in the other 14 states which also adopted the law?

shaunepec 2 years, 5 months ago

I don't have the breakdown for the 14 states, but nationally they've dropped, from about 40k deaths to about 32k between 1995 and 2010.

In Kansas, the number was consistent, about 116 alcohol-related traffic fatalities between 2000 and 2010.

otto 2 years, 5 months ago

So what you are saying is you drink and drive on a regular basis and it is ok because cars are safer?

chootspa 2 years, 5 months ago

Suddenly? If safer cars got the credit, I'd expect a steady decline in the rate. There may be some other factor involved, or it may be a fluke, but it makes a lot of sense that this particular change would have a dramatic result.

jfmrn 2 years, 5 months ago

As a mother whose only daughter was killed by a drunk driver and volunteer for MADD, I am very proud to say that I went to Washington DC and lobbied for this law in Kansas and was so pleased when it passed. More work to be done but it is a step in the right direction.

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

There are some nice colored charts with the article that should help you with that.

shaunepec 2 years, 5 months ago

Sorry for the confusion. We compared the years between July 1 and June 30, so we had apples to apples, and could look at the year since the interlock. So, the previous two years are for the July 1 and June 30 timeframe. The first chart depicts that, the second one is for just the year.

That make sense?

kusp8 2 years, 5 months ago

If he's reading it on his cell the charts don't appear

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

Ah - my bad.

I'm an old dinosaur - the idea that somebody might be reading it on their phone didn't even occur to me :-)

JackMcKee 2 years, 5 months ago

So the old penalties, social stigma, lawyers fees, court costs, alcohol treatment costs and diversion costs weren't enough. Now, all of the sudden, because of the interlock, people are saying to themselves "whoa, I better not drive drunk tonight, I might have to pay for an ignition interlock device if I get caught".

Right. Correlation does not equal causation. Some of you must have never passed a basic class in statistics.

JackMcKee 2 years, 5 months ago

Almost forgot, loss of drivers license for a year. Possible jail time. The list goes on and on. The only thing this law did was add one more drop in the bucket to the overwhelming list of penalties that one is already subjected to for imbibing and driving.

rockchalker52 2 years, 5 months ago

If you take another look, it seems it has also REDUCED DRUNK DRIVING DEATHS!

JackMcKee 2 years, 5 months ago

Exactly. I'm not sure how that's even a remotely possible conclusion any intelligent person would presume.

To get to that point they are first assuming that fewer drunk driving deaths equals fewer drunk drivers. This kind of reasoning could only come from a group with an agenda.

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

The correlation is striking - in the first year following the law, drunk driving fatalities decreased by about 50%.

It's possible that other factors are involved, but there's a strong likelihood, in my mind, that the law had a lot to do with it.

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

The fact that correlation can't absolutely prove causation doesn't mean it's not a sign of likely causation.

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

No it didn't.

It used the word "appears", and also the term "there's no way to know for sure".

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

I guess if you don't read the article, and just the headline, you might come to that conclusion.

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

More likely that when first time offenders have to install interlock devices, it makes it harder for them to drive drunk in the future.

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

I wonder why you're so insistent on trying to ignore the information presented - do you like to drink and drive on a regular basis?

The law was passed requiring an interlock device for one year, and during that first year, drunk driving fatalities were essentially cut in half.

JM made some sarcastic comments, and I offered a more likely explanation - folks who have to use an interlock device are less likely to drive drunk, because it makes it harder to do so.

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

It's a fine article, if you actually read it, and not just the headline.

If you really think that interlock ignition devices don't make it harder to drive drunk, and therefore are likely to reduce drunk driving, and associated accidents, I can't help you with that.

Since you didn't answer my question, I'll assume you like to drink and drive - if that's the case, please stop doing so, it's very dangerous, both for you and everybody else on the road.

JackMcKee 2 years, 5 months ago

Possible, but that is a presumption based on this articles very limited data. From a statistically meaningful perspective, this article is nothing short of garbage. You cannot draw any conclusions from the facts, as presented.

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

It's not a "presumption", it's a likely reason that interlock ignition devices reduce drunk driving.

Are you another drink and drive guy? If so, please stop.

JackMcKee 2 years, 5 months ago

Where did the idea for this story come from? Let me guess, either a neo prohibitionist teetotaler group like MADD or an ignition interlock industry lobbyist. This story lacks even the remotest bit of common sense.

shaunepec 2 years, 5 months ago

We've been following the DUI interlock law since last year, and have been following up on the effect of such laws, with article like this. We'll keep following up with other articles, looking at other angles, such as local drunken driving arrests.

Here's the link to the first of this series we ran:

JackMcKee 2 years, 5 months ago

I don't think I would just proclaim the cause of the reduction is the interlock law, Shaun. No offense.

JackMcKee 2 years, 5 months ago

Maybe "proclaim" was too strong a word, let me rephrase, I wouldn't imply that there is causation.

onceajhawkalwaysajhawk 2 years, 5 months ago

I was one of the first people involved with this technology back in the 80's and there were many holes to the program. ( Which I won't mention in detail in case they are still possible) But the technology when used as a tool to provide DUI offenders a mode of transportation for work, counseling and other basic daily requirements. It is not the answer to the problem of drinking and driving. DUI offenders need to be randomly tested and attend counseling through out their sentence.

RoeDapple 2 years, 5 months ago

I wonder how many wait to drink until the car is under way . . .

joes_donuts 2 years, 5 months ago

Mine requires you to randomly blow while driving (probably more distracting and dangerous then answering a call on your cell phone). If you don't pass or blow in time, it will shut down your car and the only way to start it back up is to call a technician (who charges you about $100) to come reset it.

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

I imagine it has therefore cut down on your ability to drink and drive, as it was intended to do?

otto 2 years, 5 months ago

I have never seen one that makes your car quit running - what brand of device do you use?

otto 2 years, 5 months ago

Absolutely not true - every device(brand that I am familiar with will only prevent you from starting your car at initial start up under certain conditions and will never cause your car to quit running while going down the road. Do a little research before you spout off about something you know nothing about.

otto 2 years, 5 months ago

If you fail a retest a violation is recorded - your car will not shut off.

otto 2 years, 5 months ago

KansasLiberal1 hour, 29 minutes ago

Are you illiterate or just ignorant?

Who is the ignorant one -------

Deb Engstrom 2 years, 5 months ago

I'm not sure of the brand, but the one my friend had was exactl like the one described above. Yes, you have to call a technician to recalibrate the device, but also it constitutes a violation and is reported to the court. Could result in house arrest or jail time and no more driving.

RDE87 2 years, 5 months ago

I do not condone drinking and driving, but if you've ever had to deal with this system you will learn right away that these laws are in place for states to make money, not to prevent drinking and driving.

rockchalker52 2 years, 5 months ago

That is probably true, but that doesn't bother me. I like the potential life-saving tradeoff.

Onasis 2 years, 5 months ago

I would think the reduction in drinking and driving comes from those offenders getting caught and having to use the interlock system right out the gate. I do not believe they are saying it 'scares' people out of drinking and driving. I don't care if it saves 2 lives, sounds like a law that is WORTH IT.

JackMcKee 2 years, 5 months ago

One possibility among among about 100 others. It is no better or worse explanation than any other.

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

Of course it's better.

What is your explanation of the great reduction in the first year that the law has been in place?

pace 2 years, 5 months ago

Sounds like a reasonable law, and probably does account for some of the decrease in deaths and accidents. The price of gas, the heat, less people driving, also might account for less fatalities. We should combine this with more tickets for people running yellow or red lights, speeding, reckless and inattentive driving. Most of us have lost loved ones to the road. I also think a lower national speed limit would save both life and energy.

Orwell 2 years, 5 months ago

Well, yeah, lower speed limit = less fossil fuels consumed = less profit for Kochs et al. Why do you think Sam and the wingnuts in the legislature raised the speed limit to 75?

juma 2 years, 5 months ago

OK, here is a thought. If MADD was founded to stop deadly DUI (a good idea to stop these, agree) and their motive was to raise the drinking ager to 21 as a means to stop DUI (not sure on that logic?) So, now there is conclusive proof that interloc systems do, without argument, reduce DUI fatalities ; then why not remove the Federal Highway Fund blackmail (imposed by two housewives in DC; Nancy and Elizabeth) and let each State determine drinking age with the caveat that the interloc law is in effect.

SeaBee 2 years, 5 months ago

"Texas marksman" fallacy.

Should have learned that in any higher level statistics course.

JHOK32 2 years, 5 months ago

Just one more example that laws & regulations which make plain common sense can improve the quality of life for communities, states, & the entire nation. The Bush's & Brownback's of this country want to bombard Americans with misguided information & scare tactics that all laws & regulations are all a part of Obama's communistic master plan to turn our country into a "socialist state." The truth is that had common sense laws, written during the depression to keep the insatiable greed of Wall street & the banking industry in check, not been repealed in the 1990's, our country would not be in the unbelievable economic disaster we are in today. Common sense laws & regulations can save people's lives & the life of the American economy. Bush sat by & watched as the greed on Wall street literally did more damage to our country than any terrorist could have ever done & then his answer to fix the burning building, after it had already burned to the ground, was to throw our taxpayer money by the trainloads to the very a**holes who caused this unbelievable mess & brought our economy to the brink of total destruction. Please remember this next election day.

duisamurai 2 years, 4 months ago

Post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Are we to assume that half of the fatalities last year were caused by recent first-time offenders who were not required to have interlocks, and that the drop is caused by requiring interlocks for such people? This article is shockingly ignorant.

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