State senator proposes ignition interlocks for DUI offenders
HARRISBURG — A hearing on legislation introduced by one of Montgomery County’s state senators that would greatly expand the use of ignition interlocks in drunken driving cases will be held this week in Harrisburg.
The state Senate Transportation Committee, which is chaired by Sen. John Rafferty (R-44th Dist.) of Collegeville, will hold the hearing on Rafferty’s legislation, SB 1036, which would require all drivers convicted of the crime to install ignition interlocks in their automobile.
Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, which named Rafferty as one of its 2013 Legislative Champions for introducing the bill, is urging residents to con- tact their representatives in Harrisburg to ask them to support the legislation.
“Currently, Pennsylvania law requires ignition interlocks only for repeat offenders,” said MADD President Jan Withers last week in an e-mail. “SB 1036 will strengthen the law to require ignition interlocks for first-time convicted drunk drivers with an illegal blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater for at least six months.”
Withers noted that 20 states have similar interlock laws in place. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, interlocks have been shown to reduce repeat offenses by 67 percent, compared to license suspension alone.
“States that are enforcing all-offender ignition interlock laws, such as Arizona and Oregon have seen a reduction in DUI deaths by 43 to 42 percent, largely due to these comprehensive laws requiring all drunk drivers to receive an interlock,” she said.
The law would do away with the current provision that requires only those convicted of drunken driving whose license is suspended for one year or more to install the devices. First-time DUI offenders face mandatory use of the devices if the legislation sponsored by Rafferty becomes law.
“This will prevent people who are pulled over and convicted of DUI from getting onto the highway again and be able to harm someone,” Rafferty said last fall. “I am hopeful this will awaken first offenders that they may have a problem.”
An ignition interlock is a small handheld breath-testing device that is installed into the steering column of a car. It requires an individual to provide a sober breath sample before the car’s ignition will function.
Random breath samples are also required periodically while the car is in motion to prevent a sober friend from starting the vehicle. Failure to provide a sample or a sample over a certain blood alcohol content (typically 0.03 percent) will result in the sounding of alarms.
The legislation has also drawn supported from county District Attorney Tom Hogan, whose office has taken an aggressive stand on repeat drunk driving offenders.
Rafferty’s senatorial district includes municipalities in Chester County from Coatesville to North Coventry and parts of Montgomery and Berks counties.
“Drunk driving offenders, and particularly recidivist offenders, are somebody’s death waiting to happen,” Hogan said in a statement Friday. “Tools like the ignition interlock will help us save lives. Drunk drivers will try to think up ways to get around the interlock device, but the game of adapting to stay one step ahead of criminals is the story of law enforcement.”
The Senate Transportation Committee hearing will be held Tuesday.
A similar bill has been introduced in the state House of Representatives.