The Senate Judiciary Committee approved key legislation this week to curb drunk driving which requires the use of ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers. In 2011, 257 people were killed in Tennessee in alcohol-related crashes, which is approximately 27% of all traffic fatalities in the state.
Senate Bill 670, sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) decreases, from 0.15 percent to 0.08 percent, the breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that is considered an enhanced offense for purposes of issuing a restricted driver license. The bill also requires the interlock device be capable of taking a photo, to ensure that another person does not provide the sample for a convicted offender.
Interlock devices are small pieces of equipment attached to the steering wheel of a car with a tube that the driver must breathe into in order to allow the ignition to start. The newest ignition interlock technology makes it easier for courts to require DUI offenders to utilize the device, including cameras to ensure that the person tested is the correct driver.
“Ignition interlocks are critical to eliminating drunk driving, as 50% to 75% of convicted drunk drivers will continue to drive on a suspended license,” said Senator Beavers. “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), requiring interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers saves lives and is effective in reducing drunk driving recidivism by 67%.”
In December, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and American Automobile Association (AAA) came out in support of requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers. The NTSB’s recommendations follow the July 2012 enactment of Surface Transportation Reauthorization legislation, known as MAP–21, which includes a number of drunk driving reforms, including providing incentive grants to states that adopt all-offender ignition interlock laws.
“The average first offender has been on the road 80 times drunk before their first arrest,” said Millie Webb, Tennessee native and former President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), who testified before lawmakers in favor of the bill. “This lifesaving legislation is a solution to a deadly problem.”