A Bill To Stall Drunk Drivers

By Sarah Birnbaum

Oct. 27, 2011

ignition interlock

Ignition interlock devices like this one keep a car from starting if the driver's blood alcohol level is too high. (Rsheram/Wikimedia)

BOSTON — At the State House Thursday, families of drunk driving victims and the group Mothers against Drunk Driving rallied in support of a bill they said will stop drivers under the influence from getting on the road.
The bill would require convicted drunk drivers to install ignition interlock systems in their cars after their very first DUI offense.
The interlock device works like a Breathalyzer. If it detects alcohol on the driver’s breath, the car won’t start. Currently, Massachusetts requires these devices only for repeat offenders.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Robert Hedlund of Weymouth, said the measure would save lives.
“This device actually prevents people from getting back on the road. It is proven to work,” he said.

Hedlund is also the author of an amendment to the casino bill that would lift the 1984 ban on restaurants and bars serving free and discounted drinks. That amendment angered many of the same people attending the ignition interlock rally.

But Hedlund didn’t see a contradiction, saying, "What we’re talking about with the interlock bill — there are statistics that are before us that would demonstrate clearly that it's had a positive impact on this issue."
Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer Peter Elikann often defends drunk drivers and thought that targeting first-time offenders was excessive.
“These are people who may not have a propensity to drink a lot. They certainly have only been in trouble one time,” he said. 
The interlock bill is pending before the Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee.

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