Senate passes Ignition Interlock Bill as DUI deaths rise in New Jersey
On Thursday, 27th of June, the bill requiring installation of ignition interlock devices in vehicles of convicted DUI drivers was passed by the New Jersey Senate with 34 Yes votes, which are in favor of this bill and 2 No votes.
The number of fatalities and accidents caused by driving under the influence have decreased nationwide but in New Jersey, the number of crashes related to drunk driving are increasing day by day. In 2009, the number of deaths caused by drunk driving were 10,759 which decreased 7 percent in 2011 and the number of DUI fatalities in 2011 was 9,878 nationwide but in New Jersey, the number of drunk driving deaths increased from 152 in 2009 to 193 in 2011 according to Mothers Against Drug Driving (MADD).
Bill 2427 (S-2427) was sponsored by Senator Nicholas P. Scutari as “lifesaving legislation to stop drunk driving”. Mothers Against Drug Driving had called on New Jersey senators to push forward Senate Bill 2427.
Attorney Steven Benvenisti, spokesperson for MADD New Jersey said, “S-2427 is the solution to the problems caused by repeat offender drunk drivers. States that have required ignition interlock devices for all offenders have seen as much as a 46 percent reduction in fatalities”.
Ignition interlock devices are critical to stop drunk driving, as a large number of convicted DUI drivers will continue to drive even with a suspended driver’s license said MADD.
An ignition interlock device is a machine similar to a breathalyzer that is installed on a motor vehicle’s dashboard. Before starting a motor vehicle, the driver of the vehicle has to exhale and give his/her breath sample into the device; if the breath-alcohol concentration is above a predetermined level, the device prevents the engine of the vehicle from starting. Breath samples of the driver are required after short intervals of time. If a significant level of alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath, an alarm will sound to warn the driver to stop driving, park the vehicle on the side of a road and turn off the ignition.
In 18 states, the installation of interlock devices is mandatory for all convicted drunk drivers. From 2010 under the Ricci’s Law, ignition interlocks are required for repeat and 1st time DUI offenders with a BAC level equal to 0.15 percent or above. The bill S-2427 will strengthen Ricci’s Law to require ignition interlock devices for all 1st time convicted DUI drivers for a period of at least 3 months.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, making the installation of interlocks mandatory for all convicted drunk drivers can save lives and decrease drunk driving recidivism by 67%. States like Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico, and Louisiana are included which are enforcing all-offender ignition interlock laws, and they have seen their DUI related fatalities decrease by more than 30% and it is due to the laws requiring all DUI convicted drivers to receive the interlock device.
Mr. Benvenisti said, “As a survivor of a pedestrian crash caused by a repeat offender drunk driver, I know firsthand the devastation that can be caused by a repeat offender”. He added, “Being that MADD has been aggressively supporting S-2427 since its inception, by appearing in Trenton for Senate testimony, along with other measures; it is particularly gratifying to see this crucial bill advance further. I am confident that once the bill becomes the law of New Jersey, there will be a significant reduction of fatalities on our roadways”.
MADD regards the New Jersey Senate vote as a significant victory for its Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving and to decrease the number of crashes and deaths caused by it.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization working to protect families from drunk driving, its dangers and underage drinking.