Editorial: Switched off

Bill to require ignition locks for DUI offenders deserves support
Feb. 14, 2013 @ 12:25 AM

Far too many offenders are still behind the wheel despite convictions for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Of course, laws don’t keep people off the road who are determined to drive despite their condition or history. But tougher laws could be a deterrent to some behavior.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is joining with some state legislators in support of legislation aimed at curtailing drunken driving. House Bill 353 and Senate Bill 670 require the use of ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers. The bill has a number of co-sponsors, but none representing Sevier County. That’s regrettable, but maybe they’ll still support the bill.

Seventeen states require interlocks for all convicted drunken drivers. Ignition interlocks are critical to eliminating drunk driving, MADD insists, as an estimated 50-75 percent of convicted drunken drivers will continue to drive on a suspended license. Laws alone will not stop these idiots from getting behind the wheel while drunk. When they do, it can affect all of us who share the road with them.

“Requiring convicted drunk drivers to use ignition interlocks has been proven to reduce drunk driving, save lives and prevent injuries,” said Jan Withers, MADD national president.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), requiring interlocks for all convicted drunken drivers saves lives and is effective in reducing drunken driving recidivism by 67 percent. States that are enforcing all-offender ignition interlock laws, such as Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico and Louisiana, have cut DUI deaths by over 30 percent, largely due to comprehensive interlock laws requiring all drunk drivers receive the device, MADD says.

In December, the National Transportation Safety Board and AAA came out in support of requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunken drivers. These are some powerful, influential and concerned organizations joining behind this effort to give law enforcement and the courts an effective tool to keep drunks off the highways.

Yes, there is an expense to implement this, as well as the time to install and monitor the devices. Can a price really be put on driver safety? Is the cost of controlling a habitual offender any comparison to the cost of the ignition lock? Let’s get behind this effort by MADD and get a law passed in Tennessee to require ignition locks for most convicted drunken drivers.