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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

MADD Urging Expansion of Interlock Laws

Interlocks 90% Effective in Reducing Repeat Drunk Driving Offenders

The legislative season has begun, and momentum has been picking up in the hallowed halls of state capitols, where sanctions for drunk driving offenders are being carefully reviewed by many states.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), in conjunction with transportation safety officials and local victims/survivors, are marshalling support for interlocks. When installed in a drunk driver's vehicle, ignition interlocks are 90 percent effective in reducing repeat offenses.

Bill HB 1442, requiring all first-time offenders convicted of drunk driving to operate a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock, was introduced by Virginia House Delegate Sal R. Iaquinto.

The bill passed the House Committee for Courts of Justice on January 30 and is now being considered by the House Appropriations Committee. MADD testified in support of HB 1442. According to the bill's provisions, all first-time drunk driving offenders must have ignition interlock devices installed for a period of no fewer than 6 months, at the court's discretion.

To urge the passage of two key bills, MADD, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, and local law enforcement recently held a rally to reduce drunk driving through the use of sobriety checkpoints and to include ignition interlocks for all drunk driving convictions. MADD's presence was felt alongside key leaders and victims/survivors.

The rally was assembled after Governor Chris Gregoire called for sobriety checkpoints in Washington state, one of the 11 states that currently does not allow them. The U.S. Supreme Court dictated that checkpoints are not unconstitutional, but each state has some flexibility concerning their privacy and search and seizure laws.

"We're going to get tough by increasing prison time," said Washington State Representative Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland). "And we're also going to get smart by ensuring that ignition interlock technology is widely used. Let's keep working together to save lives."

Missouri Governor Matt Blunt is one of many other legislators and governor's offices joining interlock discussions. Blunt has spoken out in support of a bill that would improve interlock enforcement. Maine State Senator Lynn Bromley’s proposed interlock legislation caught the attention of Maine Governor John Baldacci. This season, Mississippi, Colorado, Nebraska, and Tennessee also have first-offender ignition interlock bills.

Florida's two companion interlock bills are moving through the House and Senate. Both HB 369, sponsored by Representative David Simmons, and SB 456, sponsored by Senator Stephen Wise, demand mandatory installation of ignition interlocks for offenders convicted of drunk driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or above.

Recently, the Orlando Sentinel printed an opinion piece penned by MADD National President Glynn Birch. Making an impassioned plea for mandatory ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenses in Florida, Birch shared his story and highlighted the effectiveness of interlocks in preventing drunk driving. Read the editorial here.

Hawaii is leading the charge with 12 bills that have recently been filed by both senators and representatives in time for Hawaii’s legislative deadline. House Bill #3377, signed by 27 representatives, including the Speaker of the House and three key committee chairs, meets almost every condition on MADD’s list for creating an ideal interlock bill.

MADD is working closely with California state legislators and the California Highway Patrol to write a comprehensive interlock bill for consideration this session.

Furthermore, Michigan legislators will soon vote on a bill package that would increase provisions in drunk driving laws, including stricter sanctions for drivers with a high BAC, greater use of ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers and stronger requirements for treatment to reduce repeat offenses. A first-offender interlock bill has also been introduced in Alaska.

Many states are confronting drunk driving with stronger enforcement and heavier penalties. Law enforcement officials in Indiana have continued their successful holiday crackdown implementation through the month of January.

"We will eliminate drunk driving," said Birch.

Schools, parents and communities can learn more about driver education and safety at America's Driver License Headquarters Try a Free DMV Practice Test online!

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