New Jersey DWI News: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Jump Into Ignition Interlock Fray

Poised to testify in Trenton before the State Legislature’s Assembly Appropriations Committee, representatives from the anti-drunken driving group, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, will state the case for pending legislation that could make ignition interlock devices (IIDs) mandatory for all convicted drivers regardless of prior convictions. The presentation by MADD is scheduled for tomorrow and is expected to echo those who have been pushing for changes to current state law to include the mandatory use of IIDs.

The proposed legislation, A 1368, which was introduced by Assemblywoman Linda Stender, would require ignition interlocks for every convicted drunk drivers, even first-offenders. While IIDs can be inconvenient and potentially embarrassing when installed on an individual’s vehicle, the legislation reportedly also includes changes to the license suspension requirements for those convicted of DWI.

As Garden State drunk driving defense attorneys, my colleagues and I know very well the serious burden that New Jersey’s current DWI-DUI statutes places on those individuals convicted of drunken drivers by requiring mandatory suspension of driving privileges for three months or more, depending on the number of prior convictions. Many argue that having a mandatory IID installation for every convicted offender is a small price to pay for NOT losing one’s driver’s license.

The reason this new legislation is so important, and somewhat divisive as well, is that holding a valid driver’s license is almost a necessity in this modern age. Even here on the East Coast, where public transportation is more or less well established, the freedom that personal transportation offers an individual is almost taken for granted, at least until the right is taken away. It is interesting to note that similar laws are already in place in nearly half the states all across the U.S. New jersey’s time is likely on the way.

From the standpoint of the MADD organization, mandatory IIDs for all drunken driving offenders is one of the better solutions to curbing intoxicated driving. Some critics have suggested that the proposed law essential gives convicted first offenders a “pass” without any serious punitive measures, save the usual fines, fees and increased insurance premiums. On the other hand, being endorsed by MADD may be the best thing that has happened to this legislation, expect for statements by the centers for Disease Control (CDC).

On that matter, the CDC has already presented data that indicates mandatory IIDs contribute to the prevention of fatal DWI accidents. According to the CDC, the use of these devices has been proven to be effective in cutting down the number of repeat DWI offenders by reducing recidivism by about 67 percent. Furthermore, research coming out of that federal agency found that license suspension in and of itself really does not do a good job at preventing repeat DWIs. This is borne up by data that apparently shows more than half of all convicted drunk drivers continue to drive even while under a suspended license.

An interesting aside to all of this is that the CDC’s research reportedly indicates that there is no true “first-time” drunk driving offender. Based on data collected over the years, researchers found that many so-called first-time DWI offenders actually have driven drunk dozens of times before, but have only recently been arrested for the first time. The average number of drunken driving episodes prior to the first DWI arrest, according to CDC researchers is somewhere around 80 times.

Here in New Jersey, current law calls for the installation of an IID for all repeat offenders, as well as first offenders who have been convicted of DWI with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 percent or higher. If the new legislation is made into law, a convicted first offender with a BAC of 0.08 to 0.14 percent would be required to have an ignition interlock device installed on his or her vehicle for a duration of three months to one year. As currently written, the proposed law would also require a driver to maintain a violation-free record during the final third of the IID installation period; if not, then the installation period would be extended.

The upside to the proposed law, as many DWI-DUI defense lawyers would likely concur, is that convicted offenders would be better able to continue driving to work, making a living and providing for their families. It is hoped that in the end, A 1368 will slowly change driver behaviors and perhaps reduce drunken driving in the long run. As usual, experience will help to decide if this proposed law makes a difference in the number of drunk drivers; however, one thing is certain, this is a change whose time has certainly come for New Jersey motorists.

MADD Testifies in Favor of Lifesaving Ignition Interlock Legislation, TheJerseytomatoPress.com, June 21, 2014