State se­na­tor pro­poses ig­ni­tion in­ter­locks for DUI of­fend­ers

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - STATE - By MICHAEL P. RELLAHAN

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.

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