New Jersey bill would mandate ignition interlocks

| 6/25/2009

The penalty for driving under the influence in New Jersey would get tougher if a bill moving through the statehouse becomes law.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee approved a bill that is intended to increase the use of ignition interlock devices for drunken drivers. The measure – A3073 – now awaits clearance to the Assembly floor for further consideration.

Interlocks are hooked up to the ignition of vehicles. Once such a device is installed, a driver must blow into a mouthpiece, which measures the amount of alcohol on a person’s breath. If the driver blows clean, the car will then start; if not, it won’t budge.

In addition, the devices often require drivers to re-blow in the machine after a designated period of time, to ensure that they have not convinced someone else to blow into the mouthpiece for them or that they haven’t been drinking since getting behind the wheel.

Advocates for stricter drunken driving rules cite statistics that show drivers who are convicted on driving while intoxicated usually have driven drunk between 80 and 100 times before being caught.

There are 46 states that require the devices in some cases. In New Jersey, judges have authority to require use of ignition interlocks for repeat offenders or to order the person to hand over the vehicle registration and license plates for two years.

The bill would require all people convicted of driving while intoxicated to have interlocks installed on their vehicles.

First-time offenders would be required to have the devices installed for six months to a year. Repeat offenders would have the devices for one to three years.

“We need to send a message loud and clear to both habitual and would-be drunk drivers: the party’s over,” Assemblyman Nelson Albano, D-Cape May Court House, said in a written statement.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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