New Jersey Considers Ignition Interlock Legislation
State Looks to Expand Use of Ignition Interlock
Citing multiple studies nationwide, New Jersey legislators have introduced a bill that would expand the use of ignition interlock devices for individuals convicted of drinking and driving. New Jersey already mandates that repeat offenders found guilty of driving with a blood alcohol content of .15 or greater must have such a device installed.
The proposed legislation would apply to first-time offenders with a BAC of .08(the legal threshold) to .14, and would allow them to drive with an ignition lock for 3-12 months in lieu of having their license suspended. The proposed law gives judges discretion, however, to reject the use of an ignition interlock and suspend an offender’s driving privileges, based on the specific facts of the case. If the offender attempts to drive a vehicle and triggers the interlock device, penalties may be extended under the new law.
According to lawmakers, at least half of the people convicted of drinking and driving ignore their license suspensions and continue to drive, and one in every three DWI arrests involves a repeat offender. Studies also show that repeat offenders are four times as likely to be involved in a fatal traffic accident as first time offenders. Legislators contend that simply taking away driving privileges will have little impact on individuals who drink and drive.
With an ignition interlock system, the driver must blow into a device and test negative for alcohol use, or the vehicle will not start. The use of ignition interlocks for all DWIs, they say, will save lives and teach responsible driving.
The proposed law was passed by the New Jersey Assembly in 2014, and the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee has approved it. It awaits a vote of the full Senate, and signature by the governor.