Support needed for ignition-interlock bill

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is urging New Jersey lawmakers to take a stand to save lives on New Jersey’s roads. Assembly Bill 1368, introduced by Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union), requires the use of ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers for a period of at least three months.

A1368/S385 is MADD’s top legislative priority in New Jersey. S385 is pending in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, and A1368 passed the Assembly on June 26.

Ignition interlocks for all offenders are an effective countermeasure to reduce driving under the influence (DUI) recidivism. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), requiring or highly incentivizing interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers reduces drunk-driving recidivism by 67 percent.

Currently 22 states require ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, including all first-time offenders. Recently, New Hampshire lawmakers sent legislation to the governor, making the state the 23rd to enact such a law.

In New Jersey, ignition interlocks are required for all repeat and first-time convicted drunk drivers with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 or greater.

Under A1368, a first-time convicted drunk driver with a BAC of 0.08 to 0.14 would be required to use an ignition interlock for a period of three to 12 months unless a judge determines that aggravating factors dictate that a license suspension would be more appropriate.

The last third of the time of the interlock must be violation-free, while on the interlock or the offender will have the time on the interlock extended. These provisions within A1368 will help change behavior and teach sober driving to convicted drunk drivers and allow interlocked offenders to keep their jobs, keep providing for their family and, at the same time, keep the public safe.

First-time offenders are rarely first-time drunk drivers. Conservative estimates show that a first-time convicted DUI offender has driven drunk at least 80 times prior to being arrested. A1368 will save lives in New Jersey as similar laws have in other states.

Since New Mexico’s interlock law was implemented in 2005, drunk-driving fatalities are down by 38 percent. Since Arizona and Louisiana implemented their interlock laws in 2007, drunk-driving deaths have decreased by 43 and 35 percent, respectively. In Oregon, as a result of the 2008 interlock law, DUI deaths are down 42 percent.

MADD supports A1368 because research shows that 50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers will continue to drive even with a suspended driver’s license. License suspension alone is no longer a practical way to deal with drunk drivers. Ignition interlocks allow a convicted drunk driver to continue driving, but in a way that will protect families and other motorists.

Ignition interlocks are paid for by the convicted drunk driver. Under current law, offenders who are unable to afford an interlock would have the device provided at a lesser cost. Interlocks are proven to save lives and protect the public, while giving DUI offenders the opportunity to continue driving.

This legislation will be taken up when the session reconvenes in the fall.

Jan Withers
National President
Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Irving, Texas