Last week, the Connecticut House unanimously passed a bill that strengthens the state’s current all-offender interlock law. Although Connecticut has required ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers since 2011, objections from the DMV prevented the law from going into effect for some DUI offenders.
Currently, first-time drunk driving offenders are not required to install an ignition interlock, as a first offense is different from a first conviction in Connecticut. Upon a first DUI offense, eligible offenders can participate in an alcohol intervention or substance abuse treatment program before their trial under the state’s Pretrial Alcohol Education Program. If the offender successfully completes the program, the DUI charges will be dropped. However, drivers who commit a subsequent DUI offense will face a first-time conviction.
Many first-time offenders opt to participate in the education program, thus avoiding interlock installation. However, the new legislation would extend ignition interlock installation to include even those first-time offenders who participate in the program. The bill requires all first-time DUI offenders to install the device for six months. Repeat offenders would install the device for a year, and third-time offenders would install the device for two years.
Rep. Gerald M. Fox III introduced the bill because interlock use has proven to save lives and change driving behavior, as he told the Connecticut Post. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), whom Fox credits for encouraging him to introduce the bill, interlocks have reduced drunk driving deaths by 33% to 46% in states with an all-offender interlock law. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) further reports that the devices reduce DUI re-arrest rates by 67%.
The bill has already been approved by the senate and now heads to the governor for signing.