Friday, December 25, 2009

Federal DUI bill to compel states to require ignition interlock device for all convicted drunk driving folks

Federal bill which will make MADD unneeded is proposed to compel states to require alcohol ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk driving offenders, with threat of losing federal funding. Is this a joke? Maybe. But the threat of losing federal highway funds is a powerful inducement to enact a safety change, and two U.S. senators, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Tom Udall of New Mexico, joined MADD representatives Monday to announce their bill will use this tactic for DUI ignition interlocks.

Lautenberg wrote the law that lowered the legal blood-alcohol limit to 0.08 from 0.10 in all 50 states and also the law that set 21 as the legal minimum drinking age. He said U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn., has included language to accomplish the bill's goal in the transportation reauthorization bill. Lautenberg and Udall serve on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

"New Mexico was the first state to attack the epidemic of drunk driving by implementing an aggressive ignition interlock penalty program for all offenders," Udall said. "The strategy has helped take drunk drivers off the roads and save lives. I believe enacting it nationwide would have the same positive and resounding effect."

This will probably put MADD out of business, and that's not so bad. "We know that 50 to 75 percent of drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license because they can," MADD National Board Member Jan Withers said. "With an ignition interlock, DUI offenders can still go to work, school, or anywhere else they need to go. They just can't drive drunk."

IIDs are about the size of a cell phone, attached to the starting circuit of a vehicle. A driver must blow into the device, which prevents the vehicle from starting if the driver has measurable alcohol (set to a predetermined level) in his of her system.

10 states currently have laws that require an ignition interlock for all DUI / drunk driving offenders: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Utah, and Washington.